06 June 2012
This is a column that I have been thinking about for a long time. With the arrival of spring, it is especially inviting to stroll the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville and enjoy your lunch under the shade of trees. The pedestrian mall is a great place to bring out of town guests for a taste of Charlottesville before or after a visit to a local historical site. And it is a wonderful place to meet friends for lunch before a movie or shopping.
My list includes places that are really inexpensive (serving on paper or Styrofoam) to those that are just a little pricey (expect linen napkins). But what they all have in common is food that is fresh, flavorful and especially enjoyable because of the special character of the mall - brick walkways, small shops, art galleries and kiosks. All the restaurants below with a Main Street and York Place address are located on the downtown mall.
Let me start with The Flat, which is more of a stand than a restaurant. Located next to Live Arts on 111-A East Water Street (978-3528). They are open from 11a.m. every day except for Sunday and Monday and only accept cash and checks. The Flat describes themselves as a Sweet and Savory Takeaway Creperie and what you need to know is that everything they make is placed in a warm crepe that are individually made for each order. Their lunch crepes range from $4 to $7 and include any combination you can imagine. Examples include eggs, cheese, veggies, avocado, chicken, roast beef, and local sausage. These are large enough to share if you have a smaller appetite. And then there are the dessert crepes with ingredients like Nutella, apples and dulche de leche, even crepe suzette. Dessert crepes range from $2.50 to $5.50. You might want to try one of their interesting specialty lemonades (ginger, lavender, rosemary) which change daily. Seating is extremely limited. My suggestion is to go off hours or phone ahead and pick up your order on your way home.
Christians Pizza is right across from the Downtown Regal Movie Theater at 118 W. Main Street (977-9688) and are open every day at 11 a.m. I think they have the best pizza in the area. They make 30 different pizzas, which you can order by the slice or as a whole pie and they are all freshly made, delicious and filling. My favorite is the fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella. Prices range from $2 for a slice of regular cheese pizza to $3.50 with a slice with chicken topping. There is seating inside and a few tables outside. You can also call ahead and order a pizza pie to go.
Marco and Luca Noodle Shop
Marco and Luca Noodle Shop is just a few stores away from Christians Pizza at the end of York Place (295-3855). They are open every day from 10:30 a.m. My favorite and everyone else’s are their dumplings which are crisp and tasty. You get six or seven pork filled dumplings in a Styrofoam bowl for $3. I also like their sesame noodles which have thin slivers of cucumber resting on top of thin cold noodles and a sauce that has a nutty flavor. It is so good that children and some adults (okay, me) can be seen drinking the sauce from the container when the noodles are gone. Other menu items include sweet and spicy hot noodles, and hot and sour soup. Prices range from $2 to $3.50 and they only accept cash and checks. Marco and Luca now have two indoor eating spaces and outside seating that they share with Café Cubano, next door.
Eppie’s at 412 E. Main Street (963-9900) is about midway on the Downtown Mall and they are open Monday - Saturday from 11:30 a.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. They are best known for their jerk chicken and their lemon pepper chicken, hot pastas, big salads, soups and sandwiches. Everything is made from scratch and their veggies and delicious sides change every day, so take a good look at what they are offering. One day I ordered corn pudding as a side and I ate it as dessert. Prices range from $4.13 for a half size salad to $10.55 for a half of chicken with two sides and cornbread. Eppie’s makes it easy to tailor your meal to your appetite and pocketbook. Don’t be put off by a long line as it moves quickly. To avoid the crowds, I suggest getting their early or after one for lunch.
Hamilton’s at First and Main is located at 101 West Main Street (295-6649) and is open for lunch Monday - Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a more upscale restaurant that is lovely on the inside and has lots of outdoor tables as well. Think linen napkins, pretty blue glasses, excellent service. Their menu is always changing and the food is outstanding, fresh and well seasoned. Entrées range from $10 to $14. Soup of the day is $3 for a cup, $5 for a bowl. Reservations are recommended for dinner but not necessary for lunch.
Petite Pois (little pea) is located at 201 Main Street, near the Paramount Theater, (979-7647) and is open Monday - Sunday from 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 a.m. This is French cuisine bistro style. The indoor space is tiny but the outdoor space is lovely, set back a little from the main walking thoroughfare and behind a fountain. In addition to tree shade, there is often a cloth overhead to block the sun as well as heaters when it is a little chilly. Entrees run from $9 to $12 and everything is se magnifique. Expect linen napkins, little pots of greenery and warm bread with butter on the tables. This is excellent French food at moderate prices. Petite Pois shares owners with the more expensive Fleurie French restaurant, also on the Mall. Reservations for larger groups is a must and not a bad idea for small groups.