An Unexpected Gem in Charlottesville
Heading down to Charlottesville, VA, for a wedding last month, we weren’t expecting greatness. Of course, Charlottesville is a nice city with a beautiful promenade in the middle of downtown, but nothing we had heard or read had lead us to believe there was anything in the city that would stand up to what we could get in Philadelphia from walking three blocks from our home in any direction. It was a great surprise, then, to find Citizen Burger Bar, only open for a few months, that quite easily does just that.
We waited for a seat outside, as it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, even though there was plenty of space in the deceivingly large inside of the restaurant, weather at the many booths lining the wall or the absolutely massive bar that stretched almost the entire restaurant. Said bar offered 10 draft beers in addition to a well-rounded and extensive bottle list.
The food at Citizen Burger is a locavore’s delight, with the beef coming from a farm five miles down the road and the chicken only 30 miles away. All the produce is grown locally, the restaurant uses Virginia cheese, and if you’re there long enough you can see the buns being walked in fresh from Albemarle Baking Co., literally blocks down the road. The draft list as well followed the local paradigm, containing seven local offerings from the likes of Blue Mountain, Devil’s Backbone, Port City, Wild Wolf, and the new-to-Philly Starr Hill.
The staff was the trifecta of enjoyable, helpful and informative, with manager Fintan Horan helping us expertly navigate the local beer scene. I agreed with his assessment that the best local beer they had on offer was Blue Mountain’s Evil 8 Belgian dubbel, followed closely by Devil’s Backbone’s Azrael, a Belgian strong pale that was especially deceptive about its 7.8% ABV. The other locals were lighter offerings, but with the styles—Wild Wolf had a Pils and Devil’s Backbone also offered a Vienna Lager—the Virginian breweries were hard-pressed to stand up to Philadelphia’s German beer quality and heritage. It was also refreshing that the staff wasn’t too blinded by the locals to suggest something else—when I asked how one of the local’s double IPAs was, a passing server commented, “Get the Green Flash!”
The food, of course, lived up to the beer. The selection of burgers and sandwiches is large enough to offer something for everyone, but also abbreviated enough that you know the kitchen is able to perfect everything they’re putting out. And aside from the burgers, the appetizers were a great surprise—none more so than the fried pickles, which actually gave local favorite Memphis Taproom’s a run for their money, with my wife and I split on which establishment’s were better.
Citizen Burger Bar was well worth the trip to downtown Charlottesville, and the combination of friendly people, great good, great beer and perfect weather made it hard to leave when it came time to ready ourselves for the wedding. But, had we not, I don’t think anyone can argue with a delicious burger and a full beer as a reason for being late for anything.