“It is so hard to say which of the dining rooms is the most romantic!
I think you have your first date in the bistro, fall in love on the mezzanine, and get engaged and celebrate all of your anniversaries upstairs.” –
Dean Maupin, Chef/Proprietor of C&O Restaurant
When you first approach the entrance to C&O, you may think, as I did upon my first visit many years ago, that the structure housing this well-known restaurant, that the building itself, with its beautiful historic bricks, tucked away entrance, and torches lighting the way, exudes romance and mystery and warmth. You just know that there is an amazing dining experience happening beyond that front door and that you have brought your sweetheart to the perfect place for Valentine’s Day or any day you want to be extra special.
Of course, a couple of reasons that C&O made this list are amazing service and awesome food.
The staff is friendly and welcoming, with just the right amount of attentiveness for a couple’s date night. There is an extensive wine list, and the sommelier is more than happy to make suggestions based on your meal choice or your favorite varietal.. For your first visit there, you may also request dinner suggestions from your server. You will find that the staff is very passionate about the food they serve, and their detailed descriptions may make your mouth water. From the Steak Chinoise to the Scottish Salmon, everything is made to perfection. C&O sources their products mostly from local markets and farms, leading to words in reviews like “fresh and delicious.” So, any suggestion is the right suggestion.
As incredible as the food and service is at C&O, it can’t be denied that the ambiance is one of the things that sets this place apart from all the rest. Each dining area (there are six) is charming and seems to have a story to tell. And as long as I have lived in this beautiful city and as many times as I have been to C&O, I have to admit, I have never heard those stories. So, I thought I would go right to the source. I asked Dean Maupin, Chef/Proprietor of C&O Restaurant, if he could share some stories about the history of the building, about which room seems to be the most romantic, and a story about the most memorable table they’ve served.
On the history of the building:
“The building dates to around 1900 but looks and feels a bit older than its actual age. Much of the wood that was used to build out the dining rooms in the 1970s was taken from a much older farm house in the county. Some of the boards still have the old hand forged square nails that probably go back to the 19th century. The building has three stories, but the entrance is on the second level which leads to what we call our Mezzanine dining room. This is probably the coziest and most intimate dining area. The exposed brick, old barn wood floors, copper patching and Tulikivi wood stove are total hygge.
From there you can either head up to our more formal dining room or down to our more casual bar area, what we call the Bistro. In the 1920s, in what is now our bar area, there was a little diner that catered to passengers and workers from the C&O train station that was located just across Water Street. The station building is still there but was converted to office space in the 1980s. CSX and Amtrak still use the rail lines, and trains still pass by several times a day. When the bar was built out in 1976 it was modeled after old European pubs. The walls are made from reclaimed wood and feature an eclectic mix of art and photography from local artists and friends of the restaurant. The wooden bar and stools were hand crafted by local artisan woodworker, Barry Umberger. He is responsible for most of the little wood detailing around the restaurant that adds to the unique style of the place. This is the the perfect first date or casual dinner-with-friends spot.
The family that ran the diner lived above the bar in what is now our upstairs dining room. The walls in this dining room are covered in beautifully understated cream colored beadboard. Artwork is by local artist Edward Thomas and features nature and architectural scenes from around Charlottesville. Windows look over Water Street and the rails where diners can catch a glimpse of passing trains or watch the snow fall during the winter months.”
On the most romantic dining area:
“It is so hard to say which of the dining rooms is the most romantic! I think you have your first date in the bistro, fall in love on the mezzanine, and get engaged and celebrate all of your anniversaries upstairs.”
On one of the most memorable (and romantic) tables they’ve served:
“We’ve had lots of really sweet couples get engaged at the restaurant over the years. One engagement story that really sticks out was this couple visiting from out of town; the boyfriend planned this special weekend trip to Charlottesville to propose to his girlfriend and asked us to help him make it memorable. While they were dining upstairs one of our managers, who is also an amazing graphic artist, snuck out to the Freedom of Speech Wall that is located just a few feet from the restaurant on the downtown mall. It’s a huge chalkboard where people are free to write whatever they want. Our manager made a beautiful chalk mural with the words “Will you marry me?” The boyfriend was so nervous all through dinner. It was so cute! After dinner they went for a walk on the mall and a couple of us crept behind to get pictures for them, trying to stay far enough behind that she wouldn’t notice. She said yes! And we were able to document the moment for them. They actually came back in for drinks at the bar after and were so lovely and appreciative that we had gone to such trouble to help make it memorable.”
Get your Valentine’s reservations in early for C&O, as those spaces fill up fast: https://www.candorestaurant.com/cando-reservations/
And don’t forget, Stay Charlottesville is offering a 15% off discount for our premier properties for Valentine’s Day and weekend.* Use code LOVECVILLE2019 at checkout. *Offer valid 2/13/2019 – 2/17/2019. Some restrictions apply. Not valid with other specials or discounts.