The City of Charlottesville in Virginia basically consists of two main centers. There is the Historic Downtown, an area centered on the amazing pedestrianized Downtown Mall, which is, incidentally, one of the longest pedestrian streets in the United States. I happen to live within easy walking distance from downtown Charlottesville, so I’ve been spending quite some time trying to find the best Historic Downtown Charlottesville restaurants.
The second center is the area around the University of Virginia in the west, which is home to many quirky eateries, nightclubs, bars and busy cafés as well. Those two urban centers are linked by West Main Street, also lined with a selection of stores, bakeries and cafés.
The Downtown Mall extends for no fewer than eight blocks, from the fantastic Sprint Pavilion on its eastern end to the intersection with Market Street and West Main Street at the western end. The mall alone features about 30 restaurants and more than 120 shops. It is considered to be one of America’s finest urban parks—I can only agree with that.
Below, I have compiled a list of what I think are the best Historic Downtown Charlottesville restaurants.
Note: In addition to the Downtown Mall, I have included Downtown Belmont, a small separate historic area just to the southeast of the mall, within what I refer to as “historic downtown Charlottesville.”
The Best Historic Downtown Charlottesville Restaurants
Lampo lies just across the Belmont Bridge from the Sprint Pavilion. This is a remarkably small establishment, so you will either need to make reservations or have to wait outside (if you do choose to wait, you can hop over to Champion Brewing Company just across the road for a drink). Consistently winning awards for its food, Lampo is truly one of the best Historic Downtown Charlottesville restaurants—it is my absolute favorite. Their pizzas are exceptional. Desserts aren’t too bad either.
Southern: The Whiskey Jar
Located at the very western end of the Downtown Mall, The Whiskey Jar serves dozens upon dozens of various whiskeys and bourbons. Their cocktails are delicious. Food-wise, it serves classic southern fare, such as barbecued meats and mashed vegetables, all prepared with locally sourced ingredients.
Sophisticated classics: Bizou
Bizou is located on the western end of the Downtown Mall. This classy bistro-style restaurant has a great outdoor patio and serves upscale classics, prepared with fresh ingredients. Bizou is a fantastic place to go for an extensive lunch. Save some room for dessert: the fried banana bread with hot caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream is to die for.
Tapas: Mas Tapas
Downtown Belmont may be super-small, but it is packed with award-winning restaurants. Mas Tapas is one of the absolute best Historic Downtown Charlottesville restaurants —overall, not just in the tapas category. This Spanish restaurant has a spacious, always-filled outdoor street-side patio and a two-floor indoor seating area. Its menu consists of various tapas dishes, from cheese boards to meatballs, shrimp and grilled vegetables.
French: Petit Pois
Lovers of French cuisine are encouraged to try Petit Pois, situated more or less in the middle of the Downtown Mall. It features a cozy interior and a large outdoor seating area shaded by tall trees. Its dishes are prepared with local produce and ingredients, its food selection complemented by an extensive offer of excellent wines.