The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Tag: Charlottesville restaurants

Palladio Receives James Beard Invite


Chef Melissa Close-Hart. Photo by Jackson Smith.

The national spotlight continues to shine on Charlottesville area food.  Just a week after news broke that Parallel 38 will cook at New York City’s The Beard House this August comes news of another area restaurant being invited there: Palladio Restaurant at Barboursville Vineyards.

Of course, this type of attention is nothing new for Palladio, or its chef Melissa Close-Hart.  In her 14 years at the Italian fine dining destination, Close-Hart has won more national acclaim than any other area chef, with four James Beard nods as a semi-finalist for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic.  And, while it is special for a restaurant to receive even just one invitation to cook at The Beard House, this will be Palladio’s fifth appearance there.  Yes, fifth.  “It’s such an honor to be asked to bring the Palladio crew back to the Beard House,” said Close-Hart, who previously cooked there in 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2012.

Scheduled for February 24, 2015, Palladio’s dinner will be a multi-course affair, paired with Barboursville wines, that will celebrate Virginia’s bounty of wonderful produce, like Rappahannock River Oysters, Caromont Farm Cheese, and Border Springs Lamb.  “We have a talented team here,” Close-Hart said, “and I’m ecstatic to go to New York and showcase what we are accomplishing here in Virginia. We are still working on the menu, but I plan on focusing on Virginia products paired with Luca Paschina’s great wines! ”

Congratulations to Melissa and the rest of the Palladio team.


Don’t Miss Al Carbon

Al Carbon

For several months now, we have been enjoying the excellent food at Al Carbon, the chicken rotisserie that opened in February on 29N.  Then, this week Kate Collier of Feast!, an Al Carbon fan herself, reminded us that we might actually want to tell folks about it.  Oh yeah!  That’s sort of what we’re all about – shining a light on the great food of Charlottesville.  Thanks, Kate!

Al Carbon’s menu is built around rotisserie chickens, which are marinated for 24 hours before being slowly roasted in a green charcoal oven imported from Peru.  Our Peruvian friends insist that Al Carbon’s chicken may not be quite as “authentico” as you might find at legendary Northern Virginian rotisseries like El Pollo Rico.  And, admittedly, Al Carbon’s aji sauce, the Peruvian condiment we often find addictive, is not their strong point.

But this is just quibbling.  Whatever Al Carbon’s food is, it sure is delicious.  The chicken can be ordered in many shapes and sizes, but one of our go-to orders is La Familia – a whole chicken with three sides from choices like fried plantains, fried yucca, grilled jalapenos, and green poblano rice.  At $17.95, it’s a great way to feed the family.

Also good are the sandwiches, called cemitas, which are served on sesame seed bread with avocado, adobo chipotle peppers, fresh Oaxacan cheese, and red onions.  Owners Myriam and Claudio are from Mexico, so these traditional Mexican sandwiches are right in their wheelhouse.  You can choose from chicken, chorizo, carne asada, or ham, but our favorite is the traditional filling of milanesa de res – pan-fried, breaded beef.


Also worthwhile, particularly if you’re not watching calories, is the “De la Feria” section of the menu, which loosely translates as food you’d find at a fair or carnival.  Choripapas are french fries with chorizo and green onions.  Elote con mayonesa is corn on the cob served on a stick with mayonnaise, rolled in cotija cheese, and sprinkled with chili powder and lime zest.  And frijoles charros, which some consider a hangover cure, are pinto beans with chorizo, bacon, roma tomatoes, and serrano chilis.

Finally, don’t sleep on the churros.  Extruded and fried to order right in front of you, they are outstanding.  A churro-loving friend of ours considers them the best churros he’s ever had.  That’s high praise given that he is chef of one of the top restaurants in town.

Five Finds on Friday: Ben Thompson

On Fridays we feature five food finds selected by local chefs and personalities.  Today’s picks come from Ben Thompson of the pork butcher The Rock Barn.  A trained chef, Thomspon may be the only man in town whose resume includes Per Se and The French Laundry.  You can enjoy The Rock Barn’s products at top restaurants all over Charlottesville, or buy directly from The Rock Barn at area farmers’ markets.  Better yet, try a Porkshare, where each month you get a different selection of cuts, plus expert tips and recipes on what to do with them.  Thompson’s picks:

1)  The Gyro at The Ivy Inn.  “This is not always on the menu, but just pop in the back door and tell the guys to stop service and make you one.”

2)  Bellisima Pizza at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie.  “See all previous mentions.  Everybody else already said it.”

3)  Steel Wheels ESB from The Barrel House of Blue Mountain Brewery.  “Great balance of drinkability and complexity. My ‘go to’ when it is available. Growlers or cans.”

4)  Citra Hops Kombucha from Nugget’s Raw Kombucha.  “Straightforward. Gets you right. Brings you back.

5)  The Rock Barn Bratwurst at Beer Run.  “Shameless plug. Proud to have my sausage in their hands. They do a great job.”


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