There’s no question Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia have a dynamic food scene—but do you know the full story? There’s the booming farm-to-table movement, an amazing selection of wines from the 40-plus wineries located along the Monticello Wine Trail, a diverse variety of cuisines, and now, a growing number of Black-owned restaurants.
Whether you’re looking for classic soul food, barbecue, pastries, or experimental Southern cuisine, these are the can’t-miss Black-owned restaurants to visit.
After nineteen years as the human resources director of a local Charlottesville hotel, Angelic Jenkins was ready for change. She could not have anticipated it would arrive in the form of a vibrant, yellow food truck purchased by Jenkins and her husband, Charles, in 2018. Growing up as a young girl, her mother would take her to festivals where Jenkins recalls vignettes of brightly colored trucks, outdoor tents, and Southern soul food—memories she channeled into a growing new business, Angelic’s Kitchen.
Today, Jenkins participates in more than twenty festivals during the spring and summer months while operating her brick-and-mortar Soul Food Eatery year-round within Charlottesville’s Dairy Market. Inspired by the inclusivity and diversity of central Virginia’s first food hall concept, Jenkins serves up Southern favorites like mac and cheese, collard greens, crispy tenders, and her signature fried fish. Take home Jenkins’ exclusive seafood breading and grab a t-shirt while you’re at it.
MarieBette Cafe & Bakery
As the heart of a community, every local bakery must satisfy a basic human need: good bread and a place to gather. Conceived by International Culinary Center graduates Jason Becton and Patrick Evans, MarieBette Cafe & Bakery has both. The hybrid cafe-bakery-restaurant’s Virginia sourdough bread—with a perfect bien cuit crust and nuanced flavors of the Albemarle County terroir—shines alongside classic pastries and original masterpieces.
Inspired by their studies in France and Spain (at l’Atelier de Jöel Robuchon and Michelin-starred Casa Marcelo, no less), Becton and Evans dreamed of opening their own slice of Europe in historic Charlottesville. It was only fitting that they name it with their daughters, Marian and Betty, in mind.
Crafted from fresh ingredients and simple-but-beautiful presentations, a cream-filled or chocolate hazelnut praline brioche feuilletée is impossible to refuse—but a slice of MarieBette’s signature flourless chocolate creation quite literally takes the cake. Visit their second location, Petite MarieBette, just a block away from the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall.
A Charlottesville institution, Mel’s Café has served hungry C’ville locals for decades. Chef Mel Walker greets guests himself from his kitchen behind the counter, where he’s whipping up home-style soul food recipes from his grandmother’s kitchen, where he taught himself to cook as a child. His classic Meta burger (pronounced “meet-ah”) was named after one of Walker’s longtime customers at his first restaurant in Earlysville—stacked on grilled rye bread with swiss cheese and grilled onions, it’s a sentimental homage and a testimony to Walker’s care in every dish.
Patience is a necessity if you’re in the mood for fried chicken, as Walker takes no shortcuts: He won’t even think about starting the fryer until a guest orders this southern staple. From the fried fish submarine to the bologna and egg sandwich, it’s easy to see why Mel’s has been consistently named one of the most popular destinations in Charlottesville.
The Pie Guy
Keith Groomes Jr. was serving vegan and vegetarian dishes from a stall on the historic pedestrian Downtown Mall in 2015 when he met his new neighbor, The Pie Guy: Charlottesville’s first savory hand pie company. During the summer festival season, he joined as a member of the event staff, and within three years was promoted to operations manager before acquiring sole ownership of the company in 2019. What began as a mobile food cart has now blossomed into a full-service catering business operating out of its first official location—Pie Guy Coffee—on Main Street, near the University of Virginia.
Local ingredients like premium grass-fed beef and free-range eggs contribute to menu items named for various regions and states. Try the Virginia Morning breakfast pie with smoked bacon, sharp cheddar, and egg, or the Sun Valley with mild Thai green coconut curry, chicken, and vegetables. Don’t miss out on the famous baked macaroni and cheese or spicy sausage rolls on the side, and take a cup of Pie Guy’s locally roasted fairtrade coffee to go.
Located within The Draftsman, an Autograph Collection boutique hotel, the Ridley is Charlottesville’s destination for upscale-casual dining and fresh seafood offerings in the heart of the city. This addition to Charlottesville’s culinary scene pays homage to Dr. Walter N. Ridley, the first Black student to graduate from the University of Virginia and receive a graduate degree from any major historically white public university in the South. A percentage of this Black-owned restaurant’s annual profits benefits the Ridley Foundation to support Black students at the University of Virginia.
With floor-to-ceiling window views onto West Main Street downtown, the interiors represent a modern architectural statement complemented by an urban landscape. Chef Will Anderson proudly creates menus based on experiential southern cuisine, best expressed as “seafood forward with a Southern touch.” Our favorite example? The scallops accompanied by a spicy grit cake and chow chow relish; or, for brunch, cornflake-crusted French toast drizzled with strawberry compote. Take your pick from the well-curated beverage list of original cocktail creations, beers, and wines—there are no wrong answers here.
Sliced. Cake Bar
You may have heard of a beer flight—a term used to describe a curated assortment of beer samples, deriving from the word’s original use to describe a group of birds. Central Virginia’s Sliced. mobile cake bar, known as the “Home of the Cake Flight™,” takes to the air with their own version. A flight of three sample-sized cake flavors of our choice? Consider us confectionary jetsetters. With just six flavors on the menu—lemon, strawberry, confetti, chocolate, chocolate salted caramel, and carrot cake—Sliced. keeps things simple, but sophisticated. Craft a personalized cake flight combination or request a made-to-order cake for private events or special occasions.
This veteran-, minority-, and female-owned family business can be found at the Charlottesville City Market on Saturdays, or at local wineries, pop-up markets, and festivals in and around central Virginia. Co-owners Megan and Rock Watson take pride in the organic ingredients found in each cake slice, cake pop, and spirit-infused cake truffle—and soon, the Watsons plan to experiment with local spirits in buttercream shots.
Ralph Sampson’s American Tap Room
Ralph Sampson has been busy since his retirement from professional basketball in 1995. Now, the prominence of Sampson’s collegiate career with the University of Virginia Cavaliers (followed by his 1984 NBA All-Star Game MVP win with the Houston Rockets) is rivaled by the upscale sports bar experience he has created in his very own Ralph Sampson’s American Tap Room. Conveniently located in Charlottesville’s Barracks Road shopping center, the full indoor bar is not the only place to catch the big game—grab a seat on the outdoor patio to cheer on the Cavaliers with a cold one in hand.
Sip on a signature cocktail, or enjoy “Ralph’s Big Juicy,” the legend’s citrusy IPA collaboration with nearby Three Notch’d Brewing Company. Don’t forget the “frickin’ good” chicken sandwich with garlic dill sauce and pickle chips on a brioche bun, or the Coach Bennett ribeye steak, named for the Cavaliers’ 2019 NCAA Championship coach who still rules the university’s John Paul Jones Arena.
Now that you’ve gotten a taste, there’s plenty more to discover. This list only scratches the surface of the Charlottesville area’s many Black-owned restaurants and businesses. For more, pick up the Black Cville Digital Passport, which encourages visitors to stop by multiple locations on the trail and check in to receive a free prize—a Discover Black Cville hat. There are also discounts and details to be had at visitcharlottesville.org/black-cville
Plan your visit today at visitcharlottesville.org
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