When they craft their seasonal menu, the cooks at AVA Restaurant and Wine Bar aren't looking to impress diners with unfamiliar dishes. Instead, they wow taste buds with rich, robust flavors, roasted duck breast to meatloaf kicked up a notch by chipotle cream sauce. For vegan and vegetarian visitors, AVA's culinary team draws on organic and local fruits, veggies, and grains to create meals such as vegan chicken and waffles. Meatless or not, each feast can be accompanied by pours from an award-winning wine list curated by the eatery's onsite sommelier. Bartenders also serve plenty of beer, as well as custom, exotic tea blends.
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).
Timberwood Grill's attentive staff outfit grins with a menu of hand-sculpted meats, made-from-scratch soups, and other fresh American eats served in a casual dining room and an airy patio. The Chuck Norris burger conquers appetites and any saltshaker that crosses it with a one-two punch of barbecue sauce and swiss cheese tucked under coleslaw and a jumble of fixings ($8.95). A brie-sherry cream sauce seeps into the flank steak au poivre's sizzling layers, stacked atop a foundation of mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and onions ($16.95). Patrons can customize a bowl of drunken noodles with szechuan pork, chicken, or tofu infused with mild, medium, or hot spice levels ($13.95), and broiled tilapia looms over house-made crab cakes like a disappointed parent scolding a child for not being born with a side of tartar sauce ($16.50).
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.
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).