When you first walk through the doors of the Blue Moon Diner, it can feel as if you’ve gone back in time. In fact, if it wasn’t for the screen of your phone reminding you that it’s 2019, it would be easy to believe you were back in 1979 when Blue Moon first opened.
Located on West Main, Blue Moon Diner reopened last month after closing for renovations in May 2017. While the diner repainted its exterior and expanded its rooms to accommodate more customers, it wasn’t long before it returned to its iconic ways with its laid-back atmosphere, smiling servers, collectable-covered walls and vinyl tunes.
Blue Moon has served out of the 1800s-era Hartnagle-Witt House since it first opened. The diner originally operated as the Waffle Shop in the 1950s and has been owned by several people since then. Its current owners, Laura Galgano and Rice Hall, took over in 2006 and have successfully carried on the Blue Moon legacy.
Blue Moon is a Charlottesville staple and self-proclaimed community hub overflowing with character and history. Through food, music and customer appreciation, the townies bring life to the diner — and the diner brings life to the townies.
In 2018, Class of 1989 alumnus Rich Tarbell published “Regarding Charlottesville Music,” a 300-plus page book of portrait photographs and interview quotes detailing the history of Charlottesville’s music scene, which included a lengthy section designated to Blue Moon.
In the book, former Blue Moon owner Mark Hahn described the diner as a “community unto itself” that attracts a “very varied, eclectic group of people from all walks of life.”
Siân Richards, a Charlottesville theater artist and co-owner of Market Street Wine, whom Tarbell also interviewed, mentioned the unique crowd that can be found at Blue Moon. One evening she recalled looking around the diner and being amazed by the variety of people she saw. She was surrounded by parents and children, professors and painters, musicians and actors and scientists and activists.
“For so many of us, artists, activists, laborers, fancy asses and weirdos alike, it is an extension of our homes and families,” Richards said in an interview with Tarbell.
What consistently draws this diverse crowd to Blue Moon is the music. Whether it’s one of the hundreds of records spinning on the turntable or a live artist serenading the diners, Blue Moon always has music playing. In “Regarding Charlottesville Music,” owner Laura Galgano disclosed to Tarbell the musical roots of the Blue Moon Diner, though the scene has changed over the years. When Buzzy and Allison White first opened the diner, all Blue Moon had was its now-legendary jukebox.
“Live music really started to happen in the late 80s or early 90s when Mark Hahn and Rob Gustafson owned Blue Moon,” Galgano said in an interview with Tarbell.
Live music soon became one of the diner’s signatures. According to Hahn, if there was an available night, anyone was more than welcome to move a booth, set up in a corner and play some music.
One of Blue Moon’s long-time performers is Charlottesville’s “favorite country gentleman,” Jim Waive, who plays every Wednesday night and has done so regularly since 2006. While performers primarily make money through tips, the diner also offers a stipend. The first time I dined at Blue Moon, Waive was performing. His soft, folk music played soothingly behind the sound of my friends’ laughter as we ate omelets and pie. The combination of Blue Moon’s delicious food and cozy atmosphere with Waive’s music made for a night that left me smiling long after I walked out the door.
According to Hahn, the music at Blue Moon has never been about wanting to showcase songs or make money. He’s always seen it as an extension of the Diner’s community.
In an interview with Tarbell, Hahn explained the reasoning behind Blue Moon’s live music. The establishment’s regulars had expressed interest in sharing their musical talents with the diner. He only mentioned the financial benefit in passing — the real benefit came from the hidden gem music that could be shared at Blue Moon.
Although the music is often what brings people to the diner, the food and amazing menu are what keep townies coming back year after year. Blue Moon serves all-day breakfast, as well as a complete list of burgers, sandwiches and numerous other entrees. Many people — myself included — recommend the diner’s extensive and tasty food selection.
Tara Bossi, Charlottesville local and long-time Blue Moon waitress, said their most popular dishes are the Skip Burger and the Grills-With. The Skip is a $12.00 cheeseburger with a fried egg and bacon, and the Grills-With is a $6.00 grilled Krispy Kreme donut with Chap’s vanilla ice cream and Hershey’s syrup. Her personal recommendation, though, is the Grit Bowl. These local ground grits are $11.00 and topped with feta, arugula, red pepper, black olive and one fried egg.
Larry Mueller, assistant dean of global advising in the Darden School of Business and Class of 1989 alum, recalled going there frequently with friends when he was an undergraduate student.
“It was our favorite Saturday brunch spot,” he said. “We would all get the Huevos Bluemooños.”
The Huevos Bluemooños still exists as one of the diner’s signatures today. Priced at $9.00, the dish comes with two eggs over home fries with melted cheddar and house salsa.
Blue Moon is a Charlottesville must for many reasons. The food will leave you ready to order more, and the music will leave a smile on your face. And from personal experience, I can say that the people will leave you with a desire to come back again and again. Eat at Blue Moon to become a true “townie”— it will reaffirm your love for Charlottesville and reason for being here.