Charlottesville has more than 300 restaurants -- so many that locals brag they have more restaurants per capita than any city in America. For a complete rundown, pick up a copy of Bites & Sites, a free restaurant guide supplement to C-Ville Weekly (www.c-ville.com), at the visitor center. There are also lists and reviews in The Hook (www.readthehook.com), the other free newspaper found in boxes all over town.
This area's finest and most romantic (and most expensive) dining is in the Old Mill Room at The Boar's Head and at Clifton, Keswick Hall at Monticello, and the Silver Thatch Inn; reservations are strongly recommended at all.
The Corner neighborhood opposite the university has several restaurants catering to the college crowd. Most are on University Avenue, including The Virginian Restaurant (tel. 434/984-4667; www.virginianrestaurant.com), which has been serving traditional fare since 1923, and the Greek-Italian College Inn Restaurant (tel. 434/977-2710; www.thecollegeinn.com), which has been around since 1950. More are on Elliewood Avenue, a block-long, alleylike street off University Avenue, including the inexpensive Buddhist Biker Bar & Grill (tel. 434/971-9181).
I seldom go farther in search of a good meal than along East Main Street on the Downtown Mall, which has restaurants to suit every taste and pocketbook. All of them post their menus outside, so you can pick and choose depending on your own tastes.
For a caffeine fix, I drop into The Mudhouse, 213 W. Main St. (tel. 434/984-6833), a quintessential college-town coffeehouse. You'll find me having a more substantial breakfast at The Nook, 415 E. Main St. (tel. 434/295-6665), which has been serving inexpensive meals for more than half a century. Also still going strong is the soda fountain in Timberlake Drugs, 322 E. Main St. (tel. 434/295-9155), which has been in business since 1890.