108 2nd St. SW . Charlottesville, VA . (434) 296-5003
Why The Alley Light?
In every respect — food, drinks, and experience — The Alley Light is a sensation. In 2015, it made history by becoming the only Charlottesville restaurant ever to be named a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for best restaurant in the country. The Washington Post, The Washingtonian, and one of the leading culinary educators of our time have also heaped praise. While some of that came during the tenure of Jose de Brito, the restaurant has barely missed a beat under current chef and co-owner Robin McDaniel. Behind the bar, meanwhile, is author and mixologist Micah LeMon, whose ever-changing cocktail menu combines carefully chosen liquors with his own tinctures, infusions, tonics, and more.
The Alley Light is not just excellent. It is one-of-a-kind. Before it opened in February 2014, it was hard to realize how much Charlottesville could benefit from this grown-up lounge with serious food, perched in an intimate second-story space off the downtown mall. Now, it’s hard to think of Charlottesville without it.
What to Order
Our favorite way to eat at The Alley Light is to ask the kitchen to send out whatever it likes. It’s never failed to yield a wonderful meal. For specific suggestions, below are our picks, the chef’s picks, and appearances in Five Finds on Friday, where a local chef or personality has named an item from The Alley Light as one of the best in town. Because the specials menu changes weekly, not all of the dishes below will always be available.
The bone marrow warrants special mention. It was our 2014 Dish of the Year.
- Roasted Bone Marrow parsley crust, braised escargot
- Roasted Chorizo chickpea puree, toast
- French Green Beans grated foie gras, almond-shallot vinaigrette
- Carrots herbs, yogurt, cumin-lemon-orange vinaigrette
- Pork Belly braised and roasted, apple, celery
- Scallops (in any form)
- Stuffed Quail porcini mushrooms, brioche, red wine sauce, turnips
Rabbit Wrapped in Prosciutto, sweetbread, chestnut, mushroom, mustard sauce
Cod, Mussels, Lobster, Scallop Boudin, saffron-vanilla broth
Guinea Hen, celery root, leek, foie sauce
Seafood Charcuterie Board
- Mr. Rech hazelnut macaron, praline parfait, hot chocolate sauce
Five Finds on Friday Picks
- Roasted Bone Marrow and Escargot — Eric Nittolo (formerly, Threepenny Cafe); Vinnie Falcone (formerly Red Pump Kitchen); Jeff Deloff (formerly, Threepenny Cafe)
- Cured Salmon — Linda Steiner (Duner’s)
- Mushroom Crepes — Michael Shaps (Michael Shaps Wineworks)
- Risotto — Ellen Searcy (reader)
- Seafood Charcuterie Board — Kirk Smith (formerly, Commonwealth Restaurant & Sky Bar)
- Carrots — Christian Johnston (formerly Tavola Cichetti Bar, The Alley Light)
- Rabbit Rillette — Jake Busching (Michael Shaps Vineyard, formerly Grace Estate)
- Mushroom Soup — Elizabeth and Tony Smith (Afton Mountain Vineyard)
- Vegetable Board — Elizabeth and Tony Smith (Afton Mountain Vineyard)
- Passionfruit Cheesecake — Stephanie Williams (La Vache Microcreamery); Kit Ashi (Monsoon Siam)
- Cocktails — Shelby Park (formerly, Tavern & Grocery, Trump Winery)
- Nelson County Gentleman — Liberty Kalergis (MAS)
- Gazossa — Leah Peeks (The Whiskey Jar)
- Ramos Gin Fizz — Ian Glomski (Vitae Spirits)
- Pimms’ Cup — Nick Moon (formerly, Brasserie Saison)
- Paramount Bramble — Kathryn Matthews (IRON Paffles & Coffee)
- Bourbon Fruit Punch — Reggie Calhoun (Commonwealth Restaurant & Sky Bar)
- Cherry Choke — Andrew Cole (Lampo)
- Dealer’s Choice — Ben Jordan (Early Mountain Vineyards; formerly, Michael Shaps Wineworks); Brian Geiger (Cville Pie Fest)