The Virginian celebrated its 100-year anniversary with hourly raffle giveaways, a lunch special and much more this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.. Replete with a caricaturist, a photo booth, limited edition anniversary themed merch, a D.J. and 1920s cocktails, the Virginian made sure the party went on throughout brunch, lunch, dinner and late night bites despite the tropical storm raging outside.
Open since 1923, The Virginian is the oldest restaurant in Charlottesville and one of the few restaurants on the Corner to stand the test of time despite endured challenging moments in history, including Prohibition and World War II. The Virginian — affectionately nicknamed “Virg” by students — is open seven days a week. Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. with special brunch hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
For its 100-year celebration, golden balloons and confetti decorated the entirety of the restaurant, and the waitresses were dressed in flapper-style dresses that complimented the 1920s vibe. Despite its narrow interior, The Virginian’s wooden booths provide a comfortable fit alongside plenty of bar space to accommodate plenty of guests.
Andy McClure, owner of The Virginian, said that he wants the restaurant to continue to be an approachable and welcoming place that is always available to the University and Charlottesville community. McClure knows that lasting 100 years is a rare feat, especially in the restaurant industry.
“It's that homey sort of place [where] I think you can always find a good time,” McClure said. “Those booths become such a relationship builder. You're in this historic space, but you really have your own little nook, no matter where you are in the restaurant.”
Before he took over the restaurant in 2001, McClure worked there as a server during his college years while earning a Commerce degree. Over the past 22 years, he’s noticed that restaurant patrons usually return to the Virginian long after they’ve graduated from the University and left Charlottesville, illustrating the establishment’s enduring impact.
“When you're in one of those booths, that's your spot,” McClure said.
it's like your little plot of land and you can create this amazing experience… People come back all the time and say ‘Oh my gosh, I can't believe what happened in that booth.’”
The Virginian’s close ties to Charlottesville history make it a cool place to check out with friends. Their classic American-style cuisine and bustling atmosphere contribute to the distinctive vibe of The Corner, and my first time visiting The Virginian was certainly noteworthy.
The Virginian offered one special for the day of the 100th anniversary, the option to add tomato soup as a side for an order of the grilled cheese sandwich. I felt as though for a very special occasion such as celebrating 100 years, there was so much potential for fun and 1920s-themed specials which the Virginian did not quite capture.
The grilled cheese was not particularly special — priced at $10, I found it was not quite worth the cost. It had a great cheese pull and was not over-stuffed, but it did leave quite a bit of grease on my fingers. I chose to order a side of fries with this instead, since tomato soup is generally not a favorite of mine due to its acidity.
I also ordered their steak and cheese sandwich which was served perfectly warm and is at a fair price point of $14. Their seasoned fries are a great side and I appreciate the moderate portion size that was served. The sandwich appeared somewhat small when first placed at the table but was very rich and satisfying. The meat was well-cooked and I really enjoyed the balance of meat, onions and cheese.
My boyfriend ordered the buffalo chicken sandwich with fries and ranch, priced at $13. In stealing a few bites, I enjoyed the ultra-crispy chicken, but would have liked a little more than a drizzle of buffalo sauce. If I do head back to The Virginian for another lunch, I would take a note from my boyfriend and order the buffalo chicken sandwich.
When it came to a sweet treat to end the night, I found The Virginian has a rather limited dessert menu. I opted for a classic root-beer Float which was unfortunately significantly underwhelming. A partially-filled pint glass served with a single scoop of vanilla ice cream did not quite hit the spot for me — I felt that the $5 price was a bit excessive.
I did opt to pay an extra $3 for a restaurant-branded pint glass, which is a nice souvenir to take home. Despite the underwhelming food, I quite like the pint glass. Decorated with a 100-year celebration design, it feels like I’m bringing home a small token of Charlottesville history.
Overall, The Virginian’s food reflects the restaurant’s American history but is rather heavy for my liking. I enjoyed spending lunch with my boyfriend in the lively atmosphere of The Virginian but likely will not be back anytime soon. It’s a fun place for small parties of friends and family, and their 100-year history certainly enriches the experience — when it comes to food alone, though, I prefer a lighter meal.