This weekend, my family drove down to Charlottesville for the day and they ended up arriving at the perfect time for brunch. It was my task to scour Yelp to find a great brunch spot and decided to visit The Nook at the Downtown Mall, persuaded by the classic breakfast options on the menu. Ultimately, I found that The Nook offered a satisfying dining experience with a comforting fall touch. It’s the perfect spot to indulge in a long-lasting brunch with family and friends — complete with good food, lively conversation and a homey ambiance.
Established in 1951, The Nook has a long history — almost 72 years! — of serving classic diner food to Charlottesville residents and visitors. They have a relatively diverse menu, thus ensuring there are plenty of meal options for everyone in the party. Highlights include variations of pancakes, french toast, omelets, benedicts, sandwiches, burgers, salads and more. The Nook also offers an interesting selection of cocktails, ranging from a spiced apple mimosa to a ginger-pear bourbon smash.
When my family and I arrived at The Nook early Sunday afternoon, the majority of tables — both inside and outside the restaurant — were filled with people, and since they do not take reservations, our wait was around 30 minutes. However, the pleasant fall weather made the wait time go by quickly, and we were seated before we knew it.
The interior of the restaurant captures the charm of this quaint, local Charlottesville breakfast and lunch spot. Specifically, the brick walls and wooden booths contribute to the homey, cozy atmosphere of The Nook. The restaurant itself is pretty small and narrow, but the outdoor seating is a perfect option for when you wish to enjoy your meal while basking in the sun during beautiful fall days.
To start, my family and I ordered the fried pickles, a dish that immediately caught my attention after opening the menu. The tangy, briny pickle flavor came through with each bite and the crispy breadcrumb coating provided the perfect textural contrast. To round out the dish, the fried pickles were served with a creamy, rich buttermilk ranch dipping sauce, which I heavily piled onto each bite.
For my entree, I decided to go with a stack of pumpkin spice pancakes after noticing the seasonal menu advertised on a sign right outside the restaurant. Given my pumpkin obsession — especially during the fall season — ordering this dish was an obvious choice.
Although I held high expectations, the pancakes managed to not only meet but exceed them. First, they were exceptionally light and fluffy, served with a huge dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of crushed almonds and walnuts that offered a satisfying textural crunch. Second, the pumpkin spice flavor was the star of the dish. I tasted distinct notes of cinnamon and other spices with each bite. Lastly, the pumpkin itself contributed to the moistness of the pancakes, in addition to providing a touch of sweetness and that comforting, fall flavor. Overall, this stack of pancakes was delicious.
My family was equally pleased with their dishes. My mom ordered the Berries & Cream Stuffed French Toast, my dad went with the Eggs Chesapeake — which consisted of two crab cakes, breakfast potatoes, eggs and a biscuit — and my younger brother ordered their Brunch Burger — a classic burger topped with a fried egg and slices of bacon. After stealing a few bites of the french toast from my mom’s plate, trying some breakfast potatoes from my dad’s dish and snagging some fries from my brother, I can confirm that it is practically impossible to order “wrong” at The Nook.
These dishes were both reasonably priced, with the pancakes and fried pickles costing around $16 and $8, respectively. Additionally, although the service was relatively slow, likely due to the ongoing lunch rush, our server was very friendly, adding to the charm of The Nook.
The cozy ambiance at The Nook and its delectable breakfast and lunch selections make it a must-try for all University students and their families. Referred to on their website as “Charlottesville’s original diner,” this longtime restaurant at the Historic Downtown Mall offers an inviting atmosphere and delicious food.
The Nook is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mondays through Sundays — if you have a free day, I highly recommend stopping by for a leisurely, fall brunch with friends and family. Stay awhile, enjoy the company, soak in the scenery and make sure to order the pumpkin spice pancakes.