The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: The Virginian

The Corner: The Virginian

Virginian

Photo by Hajung Yoo.

Note: This post is part of our guest series, The Corner, by digital media students at The University of Virginia.  Today’s student contributor is Hajung Yoo.

The Background

If you’ve been in Charlottesville for more than a week, chances are you have heard of The Virginian. Established in 1923 by University of Virginia Alums Billy Gooch and Ellis Brown, it is the oldest restaurant in Charlottesville.

Current owner Andy McClure took over shortly after graduating UVa Comm ’01. And, in running a restaurant that once had to convert to a soda fountain during prohibition, McClure has always been mindful of the need to strike a balance between preserving history and forging ahead.

The Experience

Thus, while The Virginia is designed to be a modern, attractive bar, the décor looks to the past, evoking nostalgic feelings of all-American comfort. Dark vintage wooden booths and dim lights recall a low-key speakeasy, and the vintage photos and wall décor reinforce the visual throwback. The menu also skews to Americana, with comforting options like chicken, burgers, salads, crab cakes, pasta, and sandwiches.  Modern touches include wine and draught beer lists that are exclusively Virginian.

With three other restaurants in town (The Biltmore, Citizen Burger Bar, and West Main), McClure is fiercely proud of Charlottesville. “I think Charlottesville is outrageously unique…we do a ridiculous job in terms of food options, the experience and quality of chefs and style.”

What to Order

The Virginian’s most popular menu item is the Stumble Down Mac N’ Cheese – creamy, cheesy pasta with pepper jack under a cheddar potato cake. It’s one of Dean Groves’ favorites, too, who also likes The Rachel, which is essentially a turkey Reuben. But, if you ask the expert what to get, McClure will tell you his favorite is the steak and cheese, with thinly sliced steak, grilled onions, and American cheese on a toasted sub roll. A close second, he says, is the gourmet grilled cheese, with cheddar, provolone, and Swiss, on sourdough, grilled to a golden brown.

Two for Tuesday: Allen Groves

Groves

Note: This post is part of our guest series, The Corner, by digital media students at The University of Virginia.  Today’s student contributor is Ali Donaldson.

Tuesdays during The Corner series feature two favorite Corner food items selected by a different University figure each week. First up is Allen Groves, Dean of Students at the University of Virginia, a graduate of the UVa School of Law, and Guiness world record holder for most high fives in an hour. Dean Groves’ picks:

1) The Rachel and a side of Stumble Down Mac ‘N Cheese at The Virginian. “The Virginian is one of the few restaurants on The Corner that was around when I was a student. They have a special on Wednesdays called ‘The Rachel’ which is essentially a turkey Reuben. But, anytime I go in there, I ask them for the Rachel even if it’s not a Wednesday, and they’ll make it for me. The Virginian is also known for their side dish mac and cheese, which is a wonderful little pot that has macaroni and cheese and on top of it a spicy potato cake. So you put that combination together, and it’s incredible.”

2) Fried Egg and Cheese Sandwich with Grits at The Pigeon Hole. “I’ve been there now three times with students. It’s incredible. The grits are really good, not that soupy kind – real grits.”

Five Finds on Friday: Andy McClure

Andy

On Fridays, we feature five food finds selected by local chefs and personalities.  Today’s picks come from Andy McClure, owner of Citizen Burger Bar, The Virginian, West Main, Three Restaurant, and The Biltmore.  “Loving the idea of this,” said McClure, “and owning five restaurants in town, I thought it best to exclude my own places from contention. So here goes the list of my 6th through 10th favorite places I would dine at or visit throughout the day.”

1) Eggs and Grits at The Pigeon Hole. “This relatively new Elliewood Avenue spot on the Corner is kitschy, fun, and cozy. The food is good, the people are good, and it’s a great addition to the Corner. It feels like one of those ‘been there forever’ breakfast joints in the Low Country.”

2) “Grab and Go” Sandwiches at Feast!. “They are all fast and easy and oh-so-good (they only make like 3 or 4 types), and the store itself is awesome. The amazing level of staff product knowledge at the cheese and meat counter is enough to make any restaurateur question their training program.”

3) Flat-top Burgers at Riverside Lunch.  “Grease everywhere, crispy edges, thick raw white onion, gooey American, and they’re served blazing hot.  When they’re on their game, they’re the best greasy spoon burger around. Plus I never really recommend getting gourmet burgers (or any large burger really) to go. Old school flat-top hamburgers travel really well . . . and sometimes gorging at home is all you want.  True burger lovers know that small diner-style burgers and large gourmet burgers aren’t really in the same universe, but they both can be perfect depending on one’s mood, and Riverside always helps my mood.”

4) Steak at the Downtown Grill.  “I love Mas…and I love TEN…and I love Continental, but sometimes you just need a giant steak, some raw oysters, and potatoes done 10 ways.  Gimme a bar stool, a well-cooked piece of meat, and a big red wine and I’m quite content. I can’t wait to see their renovations. In addition, I consider our little city so lucky to have a downtown area like we do, so an after dinner stroll on the mall is hard to beat.”

5) Late Night Cheese Breadsticks from The College Inn.  “The Corner is overlooked too often. It’s one of the oldest areas of town and offers the best bar crawl in the city. Though it has many food and drink staples, there’s nothing better for soaking up the booze after a night of excess than a nice delivery of cheese breadsticks with ranch from College Inn.”

“Now start a diet the following day.”