The Cavalier Daily
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The Ivy Inn boasts family-friendly atmosphere

Fourty-five-year-old restaurant remains a Charlottesville staple with an elegant atmosphere

<p>The Ivy Inn's regularly changing dessert menu usually includes classics like the crème brûlée.&nbsp;</p>

The Ivy Inn's regularly changing dessert menu usually includes classics like the crème brûlée. 

The Ivy Inn Restaurant has been around for decades. It’s a sort of Charlottesville staple — the kind of establishment that was around when our parents were young and will hopefully be around for our kids. It’s the perfect place for Family Weekend, an option which far outranks the University’s other offerings of frat parties or bars. It also provides students with a golden opportunity to scam their dear old moms and dads out of a nice, classy dinner.

I was recently afforded the chance to have dinner there with my own parents. My mother remembers it as one of her favorite places from her time at the University, so for me, the Ivy Inn had some high standards to live up to. It did not drop the ball.

The atmosphere was on the classier side — the décor was pleasing, and the restaurant was full but not crowded and busy but not noisy, so it allowed for a comfortable flow of conversation. The service was appropriately prompt, but not aggressively so. 

The wait staff was organized and kind, and the interior of the building had a very subdued — but still well-thought-out and beautiful — feeling. The menu was relatively expensive, with my main course costing around $30, but was not outrageous.  It is more befitting of a rare family outing, date or classy night out than a casual trip to grab some dinner. Some small touches lessened my offense at the price — including a complimentary chef-selected amuse-bouche of rich polenta cheese on toasted crackers before our appetizers. 

There is a parking lot right next to the restaurant, which is also only a five-minute drive from the Emmet-Ivy Parking Garage. This makes it a reasonably accessible place, especially for parents who bring cars. Reservations can be made every weekday for seatings from 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., online or by phone and are definitely recommended.

The dinner menu changes daily to keep abreast of seasonal availabilities, so when I ordered the burrata to start, it was incredibly fresh. The caramelized onions and sundried tomatoes that went on top were sweet and paired well with the cheese. I chose the beef tenderloin for my main course, and I can honestly say I have never had a better steak — the portion was not overly seasoned and was cooked perfectly. There was not a single bite that hinted of gristle or fat, and the side potatoes were both cheesy and satisfying without becoming too heavy.

I am often aggravated by an imperfect ratio of side dish to protein, so I was very pleased to find that the Ivy Inn did not let me to suffer in that department.  There were exactly the right number of bites of scalloped potatoes to go with the meat. I was also happy with the overall serving of the dish. At first glance it seemed rather small, but it left me feeling perfectly satisfied. Most restaurants today aim for a Thanksgiving-level portion, and I was glad to not feel sickly full at the end of my main course.

Ivy Inn also has a seasonal dessert menu, which generally contains both the classics — chocolate cake, crème brûlée and key lime pie — and some different, more exciting choices like the lemon meringue ice box cake. I chose the crème brûlée, although the other options all seemed equally enticing. My pick was both creamy and not overly sweet — the perfect end to a perfect meal.

The restaurant once again showed its value after the check was paid. My parents and I were not only left in peace to finish our conversations — I particularly dislike being pushed out of a restaurant with undue haste — but were also treated to a small offering of fresh, house-made brownie bites. I was almost too full to eat mine, but then I remembered that there is no such thing as full when a brownie is in question.

All of these touches added to an atmosphere of elegance. The restaurant, the food, the company — everything was perfect. I would be very glad to spend another evening at the Ivy Inn. 

On the whole, the restaurant is definitely worth trying or recommending. It was a lovely experience that left both me, a second-year College student, and my parents, two well-aged lawyers, satisfied. It has not faded with time, as some places do, but rather has gracefully maintained its charm for the past 45 years.  

Lindsay Smith is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at