The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Clifton Inn

Clifton Inn Reborn


One of Charlottesville’s most acclaimed fine dining destinations is loosening its tie. The restaurant that Craig and Donna Hartman launched in 1992 went on to become not just a breeding ground for many of Charlottesville’s best chefs but also one of our town’s go-to spots for a special occasion meal. With some recent changes, though, Clifton Inn hopes to to be considered for a bite any night of the week.

After closing briefly in January for renovations, Clifton has reopened with an updated look and a new approach. Former Tavola chef Aris Cuadra now heads the kitchen and has introduced a menu of food he hopes guests will find more accessible. There’s pimento cheese with house crackers; bistro fries; caramelized onion soup with oxtail and Beufort; and, a Mediterranean riff on Shrimp n Grits, with lamb sausage, goat cheese, and mint oil. Don’t worry, though, there’s still sticky toffee pudding. Check out the full menu here.

“Our approach is to make Clifton Inn a little more approachable, less of a special occasion restaurant, more of place where people will come out a few times a month as opposed to a couple of times a year,” says Cuadra. “The food is non-intimidating . . . but still maintaining the reputation of quality and locally sourced ingredients Clifton is know for.”

If you want to see for yourself, now’s a good time because through the end of March there is a “Four for Two” promotion. Sunday through Thursday, groups of four receive 50% off their meal.


Local beets with chevre, grapefruit, pistachio, and endive


Slow roasted grouper with Peruvian potato and oxtail, truffle jus, onion ring


Bistro fries with black garlic aioli


Five Finds on Friday: Karen Fiedler


Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Karen Fiedler, chef of Tin Whistle Pub, among ten restaurants competing in tomorrow’s Soupapalooza charity event at Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar, from 12 pm until 4 pm.  A $10 ticket buys guests tasting-size samplings of all of the entrants’ soups, including restaurants like Clifton Inn, Public Fish & Oyster, and Parallel 38.  Guest also receive happy hour specials and a full bowl of their favorite of the soups.  Tin Whistle’s entries will be Nantucket Clam Chowder and Mole Cactus Andouille. Purchase tickets here.  Fiedler’s picks:

1) Tacos de Lengua at El Tesoro Mexican Deli.  “El Tesoro is a small family owned restaurant in Palmyra. The tongue tacos are incredibly tender and authentic.”

2)  Crispy Duck Confit Leg and Sweet Potato Waffles at Rapture.  “Wonderful take on a southern classic. Skin was perfectly crispy and the meat moist and tender. I love sweet potatoes, and the waffles were a perfect accompaniment.”

3)  Dakota Bread from Great Harvest Bread Company.  “Right balance of wholesome with a touch of sweet. Filling and perfect breakfast toast.”

4)  Chocolate Croissant from MarieBette Cafe & Bakery. “Can’t go wrong with any of their pastries, but the classic French croissant is one of the best.”

5)  Kinda Vegan Burger at Citizen Burger Bar.  “While I love meat, I appreciate a place that can make a great vegetarian/vegan burger, and this is one that I want to stuff my face into.”

Clifton Inn Names Fayolle Executive Chef


No restaurant in Charlottesville has a lineage of chefs quite like that of Clifton Inn, one of just sixty in the country to earn Relais & Chateaux status.  The men and women who have risen to Executive Chef at Charlottesville’s most decorated restaurant have gone on to do big things in Charlottesville and beyond, owning places like the C & O, Maya, Cakes by Rachel, Eljogaha, and The BBQ Exchange.  When Mitch Willey bought the property in the early 1980s to turn it into an inn, he could hardly have imagined that it would become such a breeding ground of great chefs.

Last week, another chef joined the lineage. “It’s extremely exciting for me,” says Yannick Fayolle, the new Executive Chef of Clifton Inn. “I’m very happy to be part of the Clifton history.”

While the transition of one Clifton chef to the next has often been seamless, barely noticed by guests, Fayolle does plan some changes.  A native of Mauritius, Fayolle expects more international flavors on the menu. “From my background in Mauritius, I have a different style,” says Fayolle, “drawing on African and Asian influences.” The spices, “bring joy and light to the plate,” says Fayolle, a culinary school graduate who has cooked at such diverse places as Dubai’s One and Only Royal Mirage, Geneva’s Grand Hotel Kempinski, and, right here in Charlottesville, Farmington Country Club.

Fayolle 1

Fayolle 2

But while Fayolle’s international influences may distinguish him from his predecessors in the kitchen, there is one way in which he stands out even more.  He is the most ripped.

Fayolle competes this weekend in his first ever body-building competition, the Blue Ridge Classic.  Held Saturday at the Paramount, it is a national qualifier, and Fayolle hopes to qualify.  Not short of confidence, in fact, Fayolle says he is in it to win it.


While body-building and cooking might seem a tough combination, Fayolle sees a natural fit.  Fayolle has always brought a healthy, farm-to-table approach to cooking.  When he was growing up, his father grew his own vegetables, which struck Fayolle as the only way.  Clifton Inn likewise has its own garden, and sources many of its ingredients from local farms. With a fitness fanatic taking over the kitchen, the inn touts a new “farm-to-nutrition-to-table” approach.

Still, life as a chef does bring challenges to body-building.  For one, long hours in the kitchen make it difficult for Fayolle to keep up his demanding workout schedule: two hours a day, six days a week.  Plus, Fayolle says, chefs must taste things all day long, and the frequent snacking can throw off metabolism. To cope with the nutritional challenges, Fayolle says it has been indispensable to have the help of his trainer and nutritionist, Trent Anderson of NuEnergy. “I couldn’t have done it without him,” says Fayolle.

Fayolle first joined Clifton earlier this year as sous chef.  Now that he has become Executive Chef, guests can expect a new menu soon.  Stay tuned.

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