Coming into fourth year, I made a list of things I wanted to do before graduating from the University. Arguably, the most important component of that list was the subsection that included a checklist of restaurants I had to try before leaving Charlottesville. I’ve been slowly checking restaurants off my list, but high up on that list that I had yet to try was Passiflora, located at 422 E. Main Street on the Downtown Mall.
Replacing the former location of the Commonwealth Skybar and Restaurant in fall 2020, Passiflora features a Baja-Mediterranean inspired menu. Passiflora is Latin for “passion flower,” and the interior of the restaurant clearly matches that definition of a fresh and vibrant flower.
When I walked into the restaurant, I was impressed by the cozy, beachy atmosphere of the interior. The warm mood lighting gave off a calming vibe, and the nature-inspired mural on one of the walls made the restaurant feel like it was tucked away in its own separate corner of the Downtown Mall.
I dined with a group of five, including three of my friends and my friend’s mom, who was visiting for the weekend. My friend deemed Passiflora as one of the must-try restaurants in Charlottesville, so we walked in around 6 p.m. on a Saturday night, and were seated within 10 minutes without a reservation.
Once we were seated, we were greeted with tortilla chips and salsa. We decided to supplement our complimentary appetizers with guacamole, queso dip and street corn. The guacamole was tangy and delicious, breaking up the creamy cheesiness of the queso dip. The street corn was equally as appetizing, coated with cotija cheese, garlic aioli and Tajin.
Given the restaurant’s well-known tropical rum and tequila cocktails, we decided to try some of the drinks, settling on the Margarita Royal. In contrast to the Margarita Classic, the Margarita Royal included dry curacao and orange, adding a bit of a citrus kick to the drink. The drinks were strong but delicious, garnished with an orange peel.
While it was difficult to pick whether to order tacos or fajitas as my main entrees, I ultimately decided on the fajitas, preferring the sauteed peppers and onions to the less decked-out tacos. I like to try to order things that I am less inclined to cook myself at home, so although I had the choice between chicken, steak, shrimp or mushroom, I decided to order the steak fajitas.
The fajitas were a popular choice amongst the group, with two of my friends ordering the steak fajitas as well. The other two entrees we selected among the choices of fajitas, enchiladas, tuna tostada and ribeye were the chicken fajitas and the steak tacos.
Served on a cast iron fajita skillet on top of a wood tray, the steak, sauteed peppers and onions were still steaming when they were placed in front of me. The fajitas were served with pico de gallo, sour cream, shredded cheese and tortillas.
The steak was tender and juicy, and the sauteed vegetables were a nice addition to the dish — I assembled my fajitas with a layer of sour cream, topped with the steak and vegetables and layered with a healthy serving of shredded cheese.
I thoroughly enjoyed my fajitas, and the portion sizes were large enough such that I had some leftovers to take home with me to enjoy the next day. Admittedly, I am a huge leftover girl, so I thought the next day fajitas were just as good as fresh off the skillet.
My friend’s mom enjoyed the restaurant as well, inquiring with the manager as to whether it would be possible to make a reservation at Passiflora for graduation weekend. The manager kindly passed along his email, stating that he would be happy to host her family for graduation weekend.
Overall, my visit to Passiflora was worth it. I enjoyed the ambiance of the restaurant just as much as the food and drinks. I will definitely be returning again to try out their tacos and some of their other signature cocktails.
Be sure to check out Passiflora during your next visit to the Downtown Mall — it is open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.