When perusing the list of participating restaurants for Charlottesville’s 2023 Restaurant Week, Mockingbird Southern Cuisine immediately caught my eye as a bird lover. As I poked through their restaurant week and regular menus — which have some overlap but are still rather different from each other — I was pleasantly surprised by their variety of dishes. With attention to detail in the menu and availability of dishes that cater to a range of dietary requirements — including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options — Mockingbird is a restaurant that is welcoming for all.
With a flat fee of $35 for an appetizer, entree and dessert during Restaurant Week, it is a great place to check out with friends and family — and just a 12-minute drive from Central Grounds located on Monticello Road.
Upon arrival, the warm lighting on the deck and unique array of plants added a hint of magic to the ambiance. My favorite aspect of the outdoor decor is a small hanging bird cage near the outdoor seating area which enhanced the charm of the restaurant.
My mom and I were greeted warmly by the hostess who seated us right away. We sat closer to the main entrance with a view of the outdoor seating area and a quaint brick wall but the other side of the restaurant also offers more seating with a street view through expansive, beautiful windows. The eclectic music playing in the background contributed to Mockingbird’s cozy yet refined atmosphere making it a great restaurant to bring visiting family and friends.
The waitstaff was kind, honest and knowledgeable about the food offered. My mom opted to order the fried okra as a starter and we both selected cream sodas to complement our meal. The fried okra is not one of the included appetizers in the Restaurant Week menu but is still available from the regular menu at an additional cost during the event. Some appetizers on the Restaurant Week menu include goat cheese salad and crawfish beignet. Personally, I am not an okra fan simply due to its slimy texture, yet since it is a unique menu item, I decided to give it a chance.
The outer crust of the okra was perfectly crisp and golden. The appetizer was assembled beautifully on the plate with a cluster of fried okra in the center topped with sprouts and a creamy buffalo-like sauce. The okra came in a large portion perfect for sharing, yet my mom and I were unable to finish it before our entrées arrived at the table. Larger groups would certainly be able to polish off the plate of fried okra with room to spare for the rest of the meal.
For my main course, I ordered the vegetable pot pie which looked small but turned out to be incredibly filling. While not available on the Restaurant Week special menu, it is one of the various vegetarian options they offer. Served warm in the small white dish in which it was cooked, I admired the thick, flaky crust sitting atop a smooth vegetable filling. The dish is heavy on the tomato, which I was not a fan of but it was delicious regardless.
Served alongside the pot pie is a small, honey-drizzled quinoa salad containing arugula, pumpkin seeds and dried fruit. This was my favorite part of the dish because it balanced out the hearty pot pie with its sweetness, texture and cooler temperature.
Finally, for dessert I ordered the Mississippi Mud Pie, which is not one of the two Restaurant Week featured desserts. Served in a jar, the presentation of this dessert — and many others available on their menu including the banana pudding, which is a Restaurant Week dessert — reinforces the Southern-inspired atmosphere of Mockingbird and is certainly Instagram-worthy. I could see each layer of the sweet filling through the clear glass of the jar.
The base consisted of house-made brownies including the tang of sour cream native to Southern baking that beautifully balanced out the sweetness from the above layer of chocolate custard. The custard was sweet and smooth, topped with whipped cream and crushed oreos billowing out the top of the jar.
With online reservations and a parking lot behind the restaurant solely for guests, Mockingbird has streamlined two major stressors when it comes to dining out. There are many ways to access the main entrance — a stairway leading up from the parking lot as well as a smooth wheelchair-accessible passage around their wrap-around deck from the main street side.
At the end of the night, I left satisfied and impressed with my first experience dining at Mockingbird. With their cozy yet refined atmosphere and wide range of tasty dinner options — Mockingbird is a great place for a delightful dinner out with family and friends. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary or graduation — or simply catching up with friends — Mockingbird is certainly a place to enjoy.