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Brunch Charlottesville French

15 Things To Love About L'Etoile

1) Rustic roots
I’ve gotten a few questions in the past about where to dine in Charlottesville, but I’m normally not much help. Unless it’s to visit my friends or family, I only find myself down in Charlottesville for skyline drive, wineries and football. L’Etoile, located a few blocks away from UVA is a charming French restaurant that first opened in August 1993 as a ‘Tea Room Cafe’. Now, Chef Mark Gresge can be seen teaching french culinary techniques through cooking classes, or cooking lunch and dinner daily with locally sourced ingredients from their favorite farmers. I’ve heard great things about their dinner menu, but I haven’t had a chance to try it. After stopping by last Sunday afternoon during a visit to see my brother – I’d say L’Etoile is a must try for brunch.
2) Delicate details
I love the tiny, intricate details of antiques and old things. Everything from the brick walls, the hard wood floors to the old fashioned silverware with floral detail had me head over heels for the decor. I kind of wanted to live there…
3) Fan of local artists
L’Etoile supports Charlottesville’s local artists by displaying painted landscapes and portraits across the walls in each dining room.
4) Full Nelson
The beer list shows off the best of Charlottesville’s many local breweries like Star Hill, Blue Mountain Brewery and Legend Brewing Co. The one pictured above is Blue Mountain’s Full Nelson – a pale ale with floral undertones and the raw bitterness of ample hops.
5) Fresh centerpieces
Probably shouldn’t have been doing this, but I was fascinated with the purple fuzzy buds in the flower pictured above (I think it’s lavender..). It was obviously real, fresh, and even smelled like perfume when I rubbed it between my fingers.
6) Foggy Ridge Cider
I just discovered this delicious hard apple cider that’s made in Dusgspur, VA. Foggy Ridge Cider won Cooking Light’s Taste Test Award this year, six different flavors. The Foggy’s Handmade is light, refreshing and tastes like green apple flavored champagne.
7) Pouring sunlight & bottomless mimosas
L’Etoile has massive windows that pour sunlight on to their painted hard wood floors, reflecting warm light into every room during brunch and lunch hours. On Sundays, they also pour mimosas and bloody marys during brunch for $6 per glass.
8) The Star Breakfast
I love grits… so when my brother offered me a bite of the grits that came with his breakfast, I nearly ate all of it when I realized how creamy and buttery it was. I don’t know how they made it that way, but I’ve never had grits like that before, and if there’s one thing I would go back for, it’d be for the local stone ground grits.
9) Biscuits & Gravy
This dish is something my dad used to make for my brother and I every Sunday morning when we were younger… ok, well he wouldn’t make it, but we would drive to McDonald’s every weekend for their breakfast when they still served biscuits and gravy. Does anyone remember that?
10) Shrimp & Grits
I went through a phase where, if shrimp and grits were on the menu – my eyes would stop skimming the menu. I did this until I got sick of the combo and stopped ordering it completely. I haven’t had this dish for three years, so when my mom offered me a bite I didn’t take it at first. Big mistake. I finally had a bite when she was nearly done with her meal. The grits were soft and creamy, and the shrimp and vegetables were equally delicious.
11) Poached Eggs Cassoulet
This was the dish that I ordered. I picked it because it was the only thing on the menu I hadn’t had before. ‘Cassoulet’ is french for ‘casserole’, and at L’Etoile, the cassoulet is made with white beans, sausage, vegetables and topped with two poached eggs. It’s one of the healthier options on the menu, but is still tasty and filling. Although, I did pretty much eat all of my brother’s grits along with my breakfast, so… you may want to consider one of their sides (biscuits, hasbrowns, or grits).
12) Kites Country Ham Eggs Benedict
Eggs benedict is normally my go-to when it comes to breakfast. I will pour hollandaise on just about anything, and popping the yolk of each egg to smear with buttered bite size pieces of english muffins makes me giddy. It’s also my dad’s go-to, I noticed. At L’Etoile, the poached egg sits under a blanket of hollaindaise, and on top of a slice of country ham, but over a warm, buttery biscuit instead of the usual english muffin.
13) Bourbon Apple Bread Pudding
I’m always a little skeptical when restaurants try to infuse bourbon or whiskey with a perfectly fine traditional recipe to make it a bit more interesting – but I like the bourbon and apple combination, and after skipping breakfast before our 2 hour road trip – I still had room for dessert. Unfortunately the bread pudding came out cold, and not as soft or moist as bread pudding should be.
14) Complimentary truffles
Normally, you can expect a few handfuls of mints or hard candy (or nothing at all) when you receive your bill, but sometimes restaurants surprise you with hand-made complimentary bites. I love when restos go the extra mile to do things like roll their own hand-made truffles to end each meal on a sweet note. At L’Etoile, the truffles you receive at the end of your meal are pretty wonderful. Dusted in cocoa with an outer layer of soft fudge-y chocolate, and a creamy center.
15) Creme Brulee
This dinner really made me realize how alike my family and I are when it comes to food. After my dad ordered my breakfast go-to, and after my mom ordered a dish I was once obsessed with – my brother and I both got a little over excited and said ‘Creme brulee!’ at the same time after we skimmed the dessert menu. At L’Etoile, the creme brulee is perfect, creamy, and has that perfect shell of caramelized sugar you can tap with your spoon. I just wish they gave us more.

817 West Main Street, Charlottesville, VA; 434.979.7957; www.letoilerestaurant.com.

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