Our most recent weekend getaway was to Charlottesville, a college town in Virginia that also happens to be a prime tourist destination due to its central location for visiting wineries and the Blue Ridge mountains. I’d also heard that it has an impressive food scene, and I’m always game for investigating such claims. So we left on a Friday afternoon and were eating at The Shebeen (247 Ridge-McIntrye Road) by evening.
The Shebeen is one of the few restaurants downtown that has its own parking lot, making it a valued destination as my local friend informed us. It serves a mix of South African and pub cuisine. You get that strange combination even in the décor because it looks like a pub at face value, but there are rich colors, textures, and lighting throughout the space, and it feels more like a nice restaurant.
It was vacation, so I started with a drink—who am I kidding? I’d start with a drink whether it was vacation or not.
The Ginger Square was purported to be a South African favorite, but curiously enough, there’s a different South African cocktail listed as a favorite on their online menu. It was made with dark rum, bitters, ginger beer, lime juice, mint, and cherries and tasted like a remarkably good Dark and Stormy.
Ben and I split their Stellenbosch sampler and an entrée for dinner, and it was plenty of food. The entrée included delicious Brinjal fries, Zambezi chicken satay with red curry seasoning in the coating, and samosas with a very thin but flavorful layer of ground beef inside.
The Brinjal fries are battered eggplant, and even Ben, an avowed eggplant hater, had a few. The peanut sauce served with the satay was a stand-out condiment. The banana ketchup was not quite as impressive.
Our entrée was their peri-peri half-chicken served with a side of our choice. We went with the meali pap that was essentially an amazing, creamy portion of cheddar grits.
The chicken was fairly flavorless; the spices in the coating were perhaps too delicate although they were crushed bird’s eye chilies. The basmati rice was dry, too, but that meali pap was totally worth going to The Shebeen, and I’m sure there are other great items on the menu to discover.
After dinner, our friend took us on a stroll through the Downtown Mall, Charlotte’s pedestrian shopping center that takes up a few brick-lined blocks with storefronts and eateries galore.by