Coming to Charlottesville, VA and need a dinner idea? From casual to fancy and downtown to countryside, here’s my list of recommendations for the best restaurants for dinner in Charlottesville, Virginia. Looking for lunch too? Check out this post.
Best Restaurants For Dinner In Charlottesville
Since moving here over a decade ago I have received countless (hundreds?) of emails and DMs asking me for recommendations for a family visit, bachelorette party, or romantic getaway here in Charlottesville.
It’s a popular place for a weekend visit, especially with the University of Virginia here, and we have some fabulous restaurants to enjoy during your visit!
People in Cville love to go out to dinner, and we have a vibrant food scene. Outdoor dining is particularly popular, especially on the downtown mall which is great for people watching.
Most people are dressed in their everyday clothes – you don’t see too many sequins or stilettos. While we don’t have quite the diversity or scale of a big city, we have a little something for everyone.
Here are my favorite restaurants for dinner grouped by the vibe of your evening.
Nice Dinners On The Downtown Mall
Zocalo has been near the top of my favorites for years because the chef makes two of my favorite entrees in town – the black bean and roasted corn stuffed chile relleno with smoked tomato grits and a buttermilk sauce (!!) and the salmon with goat cheese couscous. As a bonus: the scallops with a vanilla-carrot sauce are amazing too!
Try the margarita flight (including a jalapeño one!) and the fritters with pepper jelly sauce. They also have some great juicy wines on the menu.
There is lots of patio seating that makes this a good choice for a group and people watching.
The Zocalo Black Bean + Corn Chile Relleno is my favorite entree in town! I could eat it seven days a week : )
The best Mexican in town, including some amazing cocktails! I love Yuli’s Quesadilla, the tacos, and the Huarache. Be sure to try my favorite drink: Donde Estan Mis Pantalones? Mezcal + rum with thyme and tropical fruit!
This trio of restaurants are all connected by the same owners, so you can cross order on the menus. Everything is good! F
rom its cozy vintage dining room to the outdoor patio, Bizou is a great restaurant for people watching.
They have vegetable-heavy small plates like Butternut Squash Fritters and a few salad choices to “classic Virginia entrees.”
Have happy hour or a nightcap at Crush Pad Wines across the mall. Crush Pad has small plates and a great wine list and you can also buy bottles there from there extensive shop area and open them with a small corkage fee.
You can also dine at Crush Pad and order from the Bizou or Luce menus. Luce is a takeout window with amazing pizza and homemade pastas. We love all of their options and the kale salad.
Asian-inspired tapas-style small plates and huge martini menu. Also lots of vegetarian options.
Try the coconut rice, General Tso’s Cauliflower, and the Afterglow martini (ask for it if it’s not on the menu!) Good spot for a girls night. There’s a nice patio out back if the weather is nice.
One of our favorite bars for a drink with a mix of comfort food and classics. Patio seating fills up fast.
I love the fried chicken with honey over the kale caesar. Their cocktails are wonderful. Other menu highlights include the pork chop, street corn, and fried chicken sandwich.
A Charlottesville classic, C&O is a great celebration spot or romantic date night.
The upstairs restaurant is formal and fancy, but the downstairs bar is casual and cozy (it’s where Thomas and I had our first date!)
On the menu you’ll fine high-end entrees that will exceed expectations: Strip Steak, Duck, Halibut.
Nice Dinners Near Downtown
West Main Street Neighborhood:
Farm-to-table small plates. Very fresh and local! The inside atmosphere is very cool open-garage door vibe and outside features picnic tables and a lovely patio with picnic table style seating that is under a tent in the summertime for shade and protection from rain.
Vegetable based plates, like Charred Carrots and Beets with Quinoa, are mixed with hearty wood-fired pizzas, fried chicken, and glazed fish.
One of our favorites serving amazing Southern food. I love the fried catfish and crab cakes and you can choose from sides likes cornbread and mac and cheese.
The pimento cheese fritters are also great! Good for a group because they have plenty of indoor seating.
A cozy spot for amazing Italian food, Orzo has a great menu with pastas and seafood – plus excellent wine. I love their hummus to start.
Their pastas are made in house, and you’ll definitely want to order one with a velvety glass of red wine. You can’t go wrong with Bolognese or Risotto here! Sadly they are no longer open for lunch.
One of my favorite restaurants because I love raw oysters and seafood! This is one of our favorites in the summertime because of the patio. They have a great happy hour before 6pm to get $1 off the raw oysters. Try the mussels and Belgian fries (so crispy). The steampot is my older son’s favorite entree in town. Also: best key lime pie.
There aren’t a ton of seats inside, so reservations or the summer patio is a good idea.
When the weather is perfect, the Quirk Rooftop is where I go! There is both indoor and outdoor space to dine or have drinks. The menu has small plates, pizzas, salads, and apps. Great cocktails too! But go for the views.
Oh boy – one of the best spots for pizza in town! We always get the same things: the orangey olives, the small but mighty kale salad, the Hellboy pizza (if they have it!) and the Prosciutto pizza with preserved lemon and arugula. These are so good!! They also have sandwiches and an amazing wine list.
At Tavola you’ll find rustic Italian meets farm to table with super fresh ingredients.
The burrata with sun-dried tomatoes and pesto is to die for, and I am partial to the capellini “gamberi’ with shrimp and gorgonzola!
Seating is very limited and popular, but there’s a bar in the back where you can order apps and wait for a table.
Next to Tavola is The Local which serves local farm to table food. Menu highlights are the Crab Soup, Bison Empanadas, and Crispy Fried Trout.
They are also a good spot for private events with multiple dining zones you can rent off.
One of Cville’s longest-running popular spots, Mas specializes in Spanish tapas from small plates to large shareables (like paella).
Favorites include the bacon-wrapped dates (a must!), the hot-smoked roma tomatoes (omg!), artichoke hearts with garlic aioli, and carne asada, served rare, with smoked tomato aioli.
Specializing in Cajun and Creole cuisine, Southern Crescent is as authentic Louisiana as it gets being this far north. The ambiance is equally lovely, as the restaurant is in an old house with a big front porch and gardens that house the bar and outdoor seating.
They have gumbo and poboys, and tons of southern small plates. I love the tropical cocktails too – the Felina with mezcal and passionfruit is my favorite!
Specializing in Oaxacan dishes, Conmole is a smaller restaurant next to Southern Crescent with big flavors. The menu features mole sauces that are to die for, tamales, carnitas, empanadas, and ceviche.
A hip destination in a historic renovated 19th century textile mill, The Wool Factory houses Selvedge Brewing, Broadcloth Restaurant, and The Workshop coffee + wine bar.
Great for a group with lots of space.
These two sister restaurants have the same chef: Tucker Yoder.
Go to Selvedge for a casual setting and beers named after textiles (Herringbone, Denim, Seersucker) plus farm-to-table pub food.
Go to Broadcloth for a fine dining small-plate experience in a historic setting. Read my review here.
If this name is not obvious, this is a great spot to go for whiskey!
At the far end of the downtown mall, there is plenty of seating indoors and a festive wooden bar inside.
The menu features southern favorites like fried chicken and catfish, plus mac and cheese and cornbread. One of my favorites for the Blackened Catfish and the cornbread with sorghum butter.
Sliders at Three Notch’d
A family-friendly Cville favorite, this huge brewery serves tons of food and beer in a sports-loving, big group atmosphere.
I love getting a beer sampler, and favorite beers are the Hydraulion Red and Minute Man IPA.
The Pretzel Bites are amazing (like fried balls of dough) and the fries are awesome.
We love the sliders for kids and grown-ups alike. Good place to watch sports if you’re in town for a game. I love that they have nonalcoholic beer on the menu!
Another great beer hall with good food and lots of space for groups. Order at the counter and have your food brought out makes it easy to split checks.
Great brats and fries! Lots of games for kids, including a nice outdoor bocce area.
Head across the street to pick up bagels from Bodos to make a breakfast sandwich in the morning.
Where the best burgers are made from local grass-fed beef!
Delicious burgers, huge salads, amazing sweet potato fries and truffle fries.
I love the roasted beet salad and the Little Bleu burger. It can be hard to get a table so go early.
In The Country
Blue Mountain is about 30 minutes outside of Charlottesville and worth the drive!
They have beautiful views of the blue ridge mountains, tons of outdoor seating and games, and really good big square pizzas. Oh and beer!!
The Local Sausage Pizza is our favorite.
Not really in the country, but on the way out of the west side of town, Vivace is a great spot for Italian classics.
With an old world vibe, they have favorites like Spaghetti Carbonara and Ragu alla Bolognese with homemade tagliatelle (Thomas’s favorite).
The bar gets packed before UVA games, so it’s great spot to hit for an early pre-game dinner and round of beers. Shout out to our friend Landon who is the chef!
The Clifton is a boutique hotel (you should stay there too!) about 10 minutes from downtown Cville. The grounds are beautiful (why we loved it for a wedding!) and the back porch is a beautiful setting for an outdoor dinner when the weather is nice.
The dishes are farm-to-table, and have always been impressed with the creativity.
Salad on The Clifton porch!
Another of Charlottesville’s well-known special occasion restaurants, the Ivy Inn’s garden setting will make you feel like you’re in the country – but you’re really quite close to town! Inside you’ll find cozy white tablecloths and an American menu with a focus on local ingredients.
From grilled quail to bison short ribs, you’ll find interesting twists on classic entrees. I also loved the key lime pie!
Located in the heart of Ivy (just west of town) you’ll find the Cville classic Duner’s.
Known for their extensive menu (and the crabcakes!) the menu changes frequently. It’s a great spot for a casual date night or if your parents are in town.
I wanted to focus on our very favorite restaurants in Charlottesville, but of course there are many more great spots in town!!
Those of you who have visited before and my local friends, what was your most memorable dinner?