From the Culinary Backstreets to the Community Hubs
It is said that you can’t truly understand a culture until you know their language and have tasted their food. Even for the intrepid weekend traveler—the one who ventures not outside of their country, but simply outside of their city—the sentiment is still true. For many, Charlottesville brings up images of UVA football games, laps around the historic downtown mall, and the breweries and tasting rooms that pepper the perimeter of the eight-block pedestrian walkway. While those activities do make for a fun-filled, joyous weekend, there is something to be said for veering off of the well-trodden footpath for a little while. Get to know the culinary backstreets and community hubs that help define Charlottesville’s culture.
Eastwood Farm & Winery
Just minutes outside of downtown Charlottesville, but seemingly a world away, is the 77-acre Eastwood Farm & Winery. Owned and operated by Athena Eastwood and two of her daughters, Eastwood Farm & Winery grows pears, apples, blueberries, and raspberries on-site—ingredients that fuel their cider that’s made and fermented in-house. It’s a delightful crossroad between a dry cider that Virginia is often known for and the sweet ciders that make for easy drinking on a warm day. Also offered is Eastwood’s limited but reliable menu of house-brewed beers, ranging from a crisp lager and an IPA that is more balanced than overtly hoppy and a chocolate stout that feels like a true indulgence.
But what Eastwood Farm & Winery is most known for is their Virginia Governor’s Cup–winning wine. Customers flock to their horse-barn-turned-stunning-tasting-room to sample from an impressive menu of Virginia classics like the viognier and petit manseng and their Bordeaux varieties like merlot and meritage. For a festive treat, their blanc de blanc, served in a stunning coupe, is delightfully crisp and effervescent with notes of almond and lemon zest.
Eastwood is family-friendly as well—in fact, it’s encouraged to bring children and dogs in tow. Alongside a full tasting and food menu, Eastwood also offers non-alcoholic beverages that are ideal for those who don’t drink or for the littlest ones in the group. Children can even order their own juice tasting flight where they can sample from apple juice, fruit punch, lemonade, and grape juice. They can also order their own special charcuterie board, complete with fruit snacks, animal crackers, string cheese, and dried apricots.
Eastwood Farm & Winery isn’t a “stop along the way” type of place—it’s where friends and families gather for hours-long conversations while they sip on some truly delectable beverages.
The Wool Factory
Just 12 minutes away from Eastwood Farm & Winery, but in an entirely separate part of town, is The Historic Woolen Mills. Located at the confluence of the Rivanna River and Moores Creek, the expansive warehouse complex was once nationally known for its production of woolen textiles. The textile mill closed its doors in 1962, after 100 years in operation, but it now has new life and purpose as a gathering space for locals and travelers alike. Inside of the warehouse footprint are office spaces, Selvedge Brewing, The Workshop, and Broadcloth—all names paying homage to the building’s history.
Selvedge Brewing offers a chance to grab a quick bite and a beer before dinner while The Workshop offers a full-service coffee shop, complete with locally roasted beans, and the opportunity to shop for a special bottle or two of wine to take home.
Just next door to Selvedge Brewing is Broadcloth, a unique dining experience where Chef Tucker Yoder guides guests through the current season with culinary ingenuity and poise. With the option of a four-course, six-course, or chef-tasting menu, and optional wine pairings to match, diners may find themselves indulging in dry-aged duck with smoked beets or roasted spaghetti squash in a browned butter sauce so perfectly nutty and golden. As the menu changes every week, however, guests will always have a surprise in store when they visit.
After an indulgent day, of course, an indulgent night is in order. The Quirk Hotel is unassuming from the street. Built upon two 19th-century homes that currently house the Quirk Gallery and Quirk Cafe, the interior of the hotel itself is expansive. Entering through the front doors, guests are introduced to a light-filled lobby with a sweeping ivy-like art installation lining the wall that draws the eye forward and upward, where it inevitably finds the ceiling of rolling arches high above.
Art and beauty are the story of the Quirk Hotel, and it’s evident from the lobby bar and hallways through to the spacious rooms and rooftop bar with 180-degree terrace views of the city. No matter where a guest may go or look, they will find something beautiful to look at.
Cou Cou Rachou
Every early morning deserves coffee on a cozy patio with a delicious cup of something to keep warm. Cou Cou Rachou, a classically French bakery run by a Le Cordon Bleu–trained pastry chef, is tucked into a modest shopping plaza. Walking through the front doors, you’re hit with warmth from the ovens and an intoxicating aroma from the lineup of perfectly glazed and sugar-dusted pastries. Deep brown canelé, mildly tart Meyer lemon financiers, and buttery, flakey pain aux chocolats draw guests in, beckoning them to hover over the glass case to choose which pastry (or two) will be their morning treat.
A coffee menu perches just above the pastry case, where guests can choose creamy cafe au laits, sweet and salty maple lattes, or simply a delicious cup of black coffee.
IX Art Park & The Looking Glass
Charlottesville isn’t just indulgent food, of course. The creative thread that runs through the city’s culinary experiences extends throughout its public spaces, as well. The IX Art Park is a nonprofit outdoor art gallery that is brimming from sidewalk to sky with murals, art installations, sculptures, and community. The IX Art Park is home to free festivals, weekly events, and a weekly farmers market that welcomes around 3,000 hungry shoppers every Saturday morning.
The IX Art Park also provides free art kits (from Thursday to Sunday) including watercolors, paint sticks, chalk, and more to visitors of all ages. They also host Arts From Underground, which is a free weekly series that provides adults with an opportunity to make art and explore their inner creativity.
Just inside of the building space that serves as a backdrop to the Art Park is The Looking Glass, Virginia’s first and only immersive art space. The Looking Glass is an extension of the IX Art Park, though it is a ticketed experience. At first entry, guests are greeted by a painted bookcase and mirror that contain the most clever of secrets: Hidden doors that lead them through an enchanted woodland scene, through the glowing, neon belly of a caterpillar, and into a cozy gnome cottage. Everything within the space is meant to be touched or interacted with, for an art experience that is truly for all senses.
At Tonic, Chef Emerson Ross has created a masterful menu with ingredients sourced from local farmers and growers. The snackboards, designed to share with the table, feature in-season produce that have been pickled, fermented, whipped, or marinated, culminating in a customizable appetizer that clues your taste buds in on the journey ahead. The entrees—which Chef Ross and owner Courtenay Tyler both agree are also best when shared amongst the table—continue the local story. Mushrooms from nearby Sharondale Mushroom Farm are piled high on freshly baked sourdough bread. Bloody butcher grits from Wade’s Mill—Virginia’s oldest continuously operating grist mill—meet shaved brussels sprouts in a dish that’s so unbelievably creamy that you’d be shocked to learn it’s vegan. A plate-sized katsu-style pork chop sits atop smoky local carrots for a bite that’s stunningly balanced thanks to a drizzle of sauerkraut aioli, which the chef makes with his mother each year using locally grown cabbage.
Tonic prides itself on creating an “unpretentious” atmosphere, and that’s a promise you can count on whenever you step through its doors. Diners are encouraged to eat family-style with their companions for good reason—there is a tearing down of walls and an invitation to conversation that naturally happens over a shared plate of delicious food.