Since 1951, The Nook has been serving up classic and creative diner fare in a historic building from the 1880s—adorned with mahogany booths, welcoming outdoor seating, and vintage charm inside and out. The pages of Nook's breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu are lush with tempting selections, such as thick apple-wood-bacon-covered burgers ($6.95), homemade twice-baked meatloaf ($9.95), chili-cheese-drenched fries ($5.95), turkey-stacked club sandwiches ($7.95), syrup-slathered pancakes ($4.95), and other meat-melded comfort fare. If an item can be made by hand, it is, and if a guest's tongue appears parched, the staff quickly whips up a sip—such as freshly squeezed juice, a thick and quick shake, or one of many artistic cocktails.
Rapture's gourmet variations on soul-food themes put the spotlight on organic and locally sourced ingredients. The lunch menu's specialty sandwiches elevate noontime dining to an edible art, with combinations such as country ham and gruyere cheese with apples ($8) and the portobello and choice of cheese in the quasi-burger ($8). The dinner menu embellishes classics with creative flashes of gustatory genius, such as the shrimp and grits gussied up with goat cheese and thyme ($11) and a hearty, bourbon-marinated pork loin garnished with frosty sugared blackberries and andouille-sweet-potato hash ($15). Brunch your way into the weekend with classic eggs benedict, served over a buttermilk biscuit or english muffin alongside fresh fruit and choice of grits or homefries ($8).
Siips—a cozy, wood-finished bistro—boasts a comprehensive selection of more than 75 wines and champagnes, most of which are available by the glass nightly. These bubbly and waft-worthy beverages accompany lunch and dinner menus brimming with fresh Mediterranean fare. Sidle up to the granite-topped bar with a silky smooth Bonny Doon syrah (3 oz. for $7; 6 oz. for $13), and soak up the creamy tannins with savory morsels of antipasto piled high with cured meats, cheeses, and olives ($16.95). Celebrate a special occasion with a crisp glass of Gloria Ferrer bubbly (3 oz. for $7; 6 oz. for $12) that soothes and smoothes the palate just in time for an artfully arranged plate of wine-sautéed escargot ($9.95).
The Downtown Hot Dog Company sates meaty appetites with a menu of unexpected gourmet delectables. Wielding an arsenal of 100% Vienna-beef dogs in a variety of incarnations, including the bacony Downtown BLT and the tropical hawaiian, where passion fruit mustard relaxes with pineapple relish ($4.50 each), expert chefs uncover unknown taste sensations, such as Umami and pickle. Those with artistic inclinations can customize their own bun-embraced choice of polish sausage ($4.25), quarter-pound dog ($4.25), or Yves veggie dog ($4.50). Combine free helpings of pickle relish and A1 steak sauce with sophisticated additions such as wasabi, banana peppers, and encyclopedia pages to concoct a tailored masterpiece ($0.25 each).
Balkan Bistro & Bar has the exposed beams and wood-and-khaki palette of a tudor cabin, but it's also filled with plush booths, cloth-swaddled tables, and bouquets of fresh-cut flowers. This contrast of quaint and contemporary also marks the upscale Mediterranean cuisine, which chef-owner Anja describes as "food from the heart, with an accent." Balkan Bistro & Bar started as a stand at the Charlottesville City Market; but within two years, it expanded into a restaurant where the aromas are universally welcoming, even if portions of the menu seem exotic. A Croatian spice called vegeta, for example, lends to Istrian- and Dalmatian-style mussels, and the more familiar local lamb chops topped with housemade pesto simmer near cabbage stew with organic beef medallions. Chalkboard menus list cocktails at the bar, where rows upon rows of uniquely displayed wine bottles climb so high they require a ladder or a tall stack of books about ladders.
Brixx gratifies its guests with a menu of casual but carefully constructed fare highlighted by a selection of artisanal pizzas. Begin the belly-filling fun with an appetizer of bruschetta ($5.95), which forces garlic crostini to shoulder a load of marinated roma tomatoes, fresh basil, and feta (add blackened shrimp for $4). Or kick things off with the savory triple shot of wood-fired pita chips with three varieties of hummus ($5.95), providing the taste-bud equivalent of getting three birthday presents from the same forgetful grandparent. An array of finger-friendly sandwiches and a quartet of pastas set the stage for a variety of pizzas.
The Carving Board Cafe serves up a scrumptious menu of soups, salads, and sandwiches layered with heaping mounds of house-roasted, -smoked, and -baked deli meats. Silence empty-belly rumblings with one of the deli's delectable sandwiches, such as the crustacean-centric crab melt, loaded with lump crabmeat, tomatoes, and provolone, and nestled inside the downy bosom of sourdough bread ($5.95). Handheld fare includes the South West roast beef sandwich, a tummy-appeasing foodstack that swaddles tongue buds with lettuce, tomatoes, spicy mayo, and a slice of pepper jack cheese shaped like a 10-gallon hat ($4.95). A fleet of made-from-scratch soups and salads are also available, and include options such as hearty seafood chowder ($2.20–$3.85) or sesame asian salad tossed with fresh veggies, honey-toasted almonds, and chinese noodles and dressed in the deli's signature sesame vinaigrette ($4.95).