University students don't have to travel to Greece to dine on excellent Mediterranean fare. Located on the Corner, Cafe Europa combines the quick service of a fast food establishment with the authentic taste and pleasant aura of an upscale restaurant.
Inside the intimate cafe, light blue tables with colorful purple and white flower centerpieces add to the simple, yet classy look of the restaurant. The cafe serves a distinct and flavorful blend of Mediterranean and Greek dishes.
The restaurant opened in 1993 with two owners. Fotis Vavelidis, the current owner, moved to Charlottesville 13 years ago. Originally from Greece, he later met Theoni Greka at a local Greek church and the two decided to start a business. Neither one of them had experience in the restaurant business, but it's clear they made the right choice, because business has been booming ever since.
"When we opened in 1993, we only had five or six employees, now we have close to 20," Vavelidis said. "We chose a restaurant because the previous owner said that it was the only type of business that would thrive on the Corner."
And students flock to the Mediterranean mecca.
"Cafe Europa provides a culture and unique taste that feels like home," fourth-year College student Candice Cook said.
Since each dish is homemade, diners easily can find something tasty to eat. The menu has everything from croissants and fresh baked cookies to chicken pitas. The most popular dish is the souvlaki, which can be ordered with lamb or chicken topped with fresh lettuce, tomato, onion and tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic sauce). Specialty sandwiches like the Mediterranean (mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, tomato, and olive oil on baguette) and the Roma (vegetarian sandwich with artichoke hearts, alfalfa sprouts, tomato, cucumber, mozzarella with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and oregano on baguette) are also big hits.
"It has the best tomato basil soup in Charlotteville," a frequent patron said.
The cafe also serves a variety of beverages including espresso, cappuccino, cafe au lait, mocha and herbal teas. Red and white wines and beer are also available. The restaurant even has a message line so diners can call to get the specials for the day.
Catering mainly to University students and hospital staff, Cafe Europa is also a great place to socialize, especially around lunch and dinnertime. It's the kind of place that one can sit and talk for hours with a friend. Many professors and even President Casteen can be seen eating there from time to time.
Even with high quality food and an intimate atmosphere, the prices are very reasonable - the most expensive single dish is just $6.25. In addition, the wait staff is friendly and hospitable.
Students who want to escape the dining hall and eat well can't do better than Cafe Europa. It offers a delicious option for those who want to experience an authentic, flavorful Mediterranean or Greek-style dish.