From a recent trip to the Charlottesville area:
Barbecue Exchange (Gordonsville)
Two of us had: BBQ Lovers 4 Meat platter with ribs, pulled pork, chopped brisket, sausage, collards and mac and cheese. We also got an order of hush puppies, which come six per order. This was almost too much for two of us. But we managed...
The pulled pork was the best of the meats. I would describe the "chopped" brisket more as pulled and it came pre-sauced with a tangy, tomato based sauce, which I wasn't expecting. The ribs were good and I would probably think more highly of them if the ribs and the dry rub from Martin's in Tennessee weren't so recent in my memory. The sausage had an overwhelming smoke flavor and snappy casing.
The collards were excellent, in my opinion. (The BF didn't like them as much as I did.) Well balanced in terms of smoky, tangy and sweet flavors. The mac and cheese was good, but the cheese sauce wasn't as smooth as it should be. The hush puppies had excellent flavor and were not too dense.
Miller's - Downtown Mall
We stopped in here after a concert at the Pavilion, choosing this location mainly because 1) the kitchen was open and 2) there was available outdoor seating. The draft beer menu included a decent selection of local drafts and a 10 ounce pour option. We wanted the cheesesteak (they were out) but ended up with the roasted red pepper soup and blackened chicken sandwich. The soup had the tiniest amount of spice to it, which was nice. It also came with a large piece of toasted bread. The only thing it could have used was some sort of garnish. The chicken sandwich was a solid version of a chicken sandwich you'd expect to get from a bar. The big flaw I found with it was the potato roll, but I know I'm in the minority on hating potato rolls.
I probably wouldn't recommend Miller's as a place to get food, but it is nice to be able to sit outside, have some beers and know that the bar food you'll inevitably order might actually taste okay sober too.
Bluegrass Grill - Downtown
On Sundays (maybe Saturdays too?), go early or expect to wait. I added our name to the list, expecting the wait to be about 45 minutes to an hour, but were able to grab seats at the first come-first serve counter after about 30 minutes. The waiting list is not managed by anyone and is posted on the wall just inside the door.
We had Joan Marie's Omelet which includes herb cream cheese, spinach, swiss cheese and tomatoes. The omelets are made by folding very thin cooked egg around the fillings like a burrito, not your typical half circle shape. We ordered the omelet with cheese grits (garnished with fresh dill...an odd choice) and a biscuit, adding a side of gravy for the biscuit. We also ordered the Southern Belle Benedict from a paper specials menu. It was pimento cheese, bacon and tomatoes on an English muffin, topped with eggs over easy and a jalapeño hollandaise. I think there was a bit of confusion here (maybe just on my part?) because I assumed that a benedict would automatically come with poached eggs, but the eggs over easy produces the same runny yolk effect. The benedict came with home fries. The benedict was excellent because all of those things are good, but what really stands out are the home fries because they so far exceeded expectations. They were seasoned well, with onion and a small amount of garlic and rosemary, in addition to salt and pepper. The balance of soft and crispy potatoes was perfect.
I had been once or twice before, six to eight years before; the BF had never been. After getting a little cranky while waiting for a table, he later commented that the food was definitely worth the wait and commented that I didn't fight hard enough for it when we discussed going elsewhere. The food was excellent and exactly the brunch food that I was in the mood for, but what struck me was how nice all of the servers were, even under the brunch crush. And they let us take coffee refills to go.
Oakhart Social - Main Street
Late-ish dinner on a Sunday night. There were tables inside, but we chose a table outside, between a propane heater and small fire pit, on a crisp autumn night. I wasn't too hungry after beer and cider tasting on what some people are apparently calling Alcohol Alley (Route 151 between Wintergreen and 250) so we ordered fairly light:
Brussels Sprouts with Korean chili flake aioli and crispy shallot
Proveletta - Caramelized Provolone and goat cheese with harissa tomato, cippolini and lemon, served with grilled bread
Hanger steak with patatas bravas, chimichurri and aioli
The brussels sprouts came out first, which I didn't prefer. They were good, although I expected the aioli to be a little hotter. I wanted to save some to eat with the steak, but because of the outside temperature, they were cooling off quickly. Next came the provoletta, which was served in a small cast iron dish, which going back to the description makes sense. But I was expecting something more like a pre-assembled bruschetta. The flavors of this worked well; the creamy, salty cheese with the tangy lemon and spicy (not hot) harrissa. The menu indicated this was cooked in a wood oven. Not sure if they mean the dish or the toasts... The hanger steak came out last and was pre-sliced and served on thin slices of potatoes, which were on top of the aioli. There was some sort of micro green garnish along with the chimichurri. It didn't occur to me until we got it, but we were not asked how we wanted the steak cooked; it was rare-medium rare. Which was fine for us. I thought the plate was a little heavy on the aioli, but that was easy enough to avoid.
Overall, the food was good and I liked the setting, and would probably say the same if we had sat inside. I thought the service could use some improvement both in terms of the order the food came out and staff. If the menu doesn't explicitly say that food comes out whenever it's ready, shouldn't the server ask if we have a preference? Because I probably would have indicated the provoletta first, then the sprouts with the steak. I think the restaurant was coming off a busy Sunday night and the chef/owner's wife was with a group outside (I know this because one of her friends would announce the fact to anyone and everyone), so maybe our server was feeling some pressure because of it? This seems like a great place to go with friends, drink wine (they have wines on draft in quarter, half and full liter sizes) and order some plates to share. But based on the service I got, I'm not sure I'd feel that comfortable doing that. But I will definitely give it another chance next time I'm in town.
Bodo's - Preston Avenue
A more emotional pick than anything else. Sausage, egg and cheese on an everything bagel. The everything bagel at Bodo's has salt, which I don't think is the norm. Also, they don't toast their bagels, even if you're not getting a bagel sandwich.
Carter Mountain Orchard - Charlottesville (near Monticello)
We picked up some apples to take home, but had a few apple cider doughnuts and hot apple cider at a picnic table out back.
A bit outside of town, we hit:
Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub - Roseland (other nearby attractions have a Nellysford address)
We (accidentally, I swear) tasted all of the beers they had on tap. They do flights in specified groupings (standard, seasonal, experimental.) We ordered the standard (six beers) to start, then asked for the experimental grouping. They brought the seasonal instead but let us keep it when the corrected their mistake. Because of the extra beers, we decided we should get some food before we could safely continue on. We ended up with an order of wings. Everything else seemed too heavy. We got the order split between hot and dry rub (the two flavor options.) The hot had a good flavor outside of the heat, but I preferred the dry rub, which was smoky, salty and a tiny bit sweet. I thought it was kind of weird that the order had been split so that the drums were all the dry rub flavor and the flats were hot.
Greenwood Grocery - Crozet
We picked up sandwiches, some Route 11 potato chips (dill pickle flavor!) and drinks for a picnic on Skyline Drive. We got:
Devon - roast beef with horseradish-chive spread and arugula on focaccia
Wessex - ham with brie and apple chutney on ciabatta
The Devon was good, but I didn't taste too much horseradish. (Admittedly, I like a LOT of horseradish on roast beef sandwiches.) The focaccia was not overly dry or greasy, both of which can be a problem with focaccia.
The Wessex was really good, but the chutney was weird. It didn't seem like it was apple based; there was some fruit in it that looked like reconstituted golden raisins. The fruit was raisin-sized and kind of light in color which is the only reason I'm saying that. I honestly have no idea what it was. But it was not apple. The chutney had an overwhelming flavor of what tasted like tamarind to me.
They had a small selection of prepared foods outside of sandwiches and a variety of other foods. About a third of the store is dedicate to local wine, beer and cider.
Throughout the few days we were in the area, we hit: Castle Hill Cider, Potter's Craft Cider (popup tasting at Greenwood Grocery), Bold Rock and Keswick Vineyards.