IF GIVEN the choice of where to go to eat with their parents, most UVA students would go for the C&0 or the Boar's Head Inn. But since most parents can't be persuaded to spring for that much money except at graduation, it's a good thing that Charlottesville has plenty of good, moderately priced restaurants, many within walking distance of the university.
The most popular are the dozen restaurants on the Corner (anywhere along West Main or University Avenue, between Rugby Road and 14th Street is "on the Corner," including Elliewood Avenue).
Halfway down Elliewood is an ordinary-looking white house housing the far-from-ordinary Martha's Cafe, where you want to order promptly, because sometimes the menu changes during the meal (and at other times the entire staff may rush outside to take deliveries). Sometimes the menu only changes daily; call 971-7530 to find out what's probably being served most of that day. The food's sort of Continental, depending on how the chef feels that day.
Near the end of Elliewood is K.L. Christie's, formerly Graffiti's, where there's live entertainment on weekends, and dining on good but not plain American stuff under the arbor in good weather.
The Virginian, at 1521 West Main, is a tad pricey and not much more than a booth wide, but it's always crowded with students and faculty, not all of whom are eating quiche.
Littlejohn's, 1427 West Main, is a New York-style deli serving good subs -- known locally as grinders -- great cheesecake and a score of different beers. It's also open round the clock, which makes it the place to go after closing down a club or party.
There are so many sandwiches on the menu at Macado's, 1505 West Main, that it may be possible to go from matriculation to graduation without ordering the same one twice. Below the restaurant is a well-stocked wine cellar and gourmet shop that should be avoided by anyone on a diet.
The College Innnm, 1511 West Main, has some of the best subs in town, and is the choice for carryouts to cure the late- night munchies.
The Rising Sun Bakery, 109 14th Street, isn't a restaurant, but can't be left out. The bakers use all natural ingredients, and you should taste what happens when they deal with the concept of the brownie.
Just beyond the Corner is The University Diner, home of the Grillswith, which is two fried donuts and a scoop of ice cream -- nothing tastes better after a Tuesday night out.
That night out might very well be at Leon's Mineshaft Cellar, 1106 West Main, listening to the music of Speidel, Goodrich and Goggin, who play acoustic guitars and sing everything from Elvis Costello to Elvis Presley. (They'll be at Washington's Friendship Station February 8).
U.S. 29 North, which becomes Emmet Street in Charlottesville, isn't quite as close to the Grounds (which at Virginia Tech would be called the campus) but has convenient bus service. Closest to the university on 29 is La Hacienda (400 Emmet), home of the best Tex-Mex food in town, reminiscent of the original Speedy Gonzales in Arlington.
You can't miss The Tavern at the corner of Emmet and Barracks Road because of the huge white legend on the roof: "Where Students, Tourists and Townspeople Meet." Students know it as Sarge's, never mind why. The atmosphere at The Tavern stays warm and friendly even when the furnace breaks down, and since they serve breakfast all day, it's the place to go after a hard night of studying or partying. The double-yolk eggs will snap your eyes open.
On 29 North just south of the U.S. 29-250 bypass is the Ming Dynasty, where it's hard to spend as much as $15 for an excellent meal including drinks, appetizer and dessert plus generous tip. But it's fun to try.
Farther out 29 North is Curly's Garage, across from Fashion Square Mall. It has great ribs and the best nachos in Charlottesville. The old-time auto decor is nicely overdone.
Four years is a long time to wait for the Boar's Head Inn, and there's a way to entice parents there even when tuition payments are due: The Sunday brunch, served from 10:30 to 2, is just $11.50. If you don't like any of the dozen selections on the buffet when you arrive, sit down and have a mimosa (champagne and orange juice, $1.75); by the time it's gone, everything on the table is likely to have changed. There's also plenty of fresh fruit and desserts. On U.S. 250 a couple of miles west of town. 804/296-2181.
And don't feel too bad about missing the C&O Restaurant. Charlottesville's most expensive eatery is good, but it's not that good. Housed in an old warehouse hard by the railroad tracks on the edge of the historic district, the C&O would be a delight if the prices were reasonable. The service is great bu the food's just not good enough to make you forget the prices; does anybody make a bowl of soup worth $6? A number of local wines are offered at around $10. Only the desserts are truly outstanding, but a $5.25 parfait loses something when served with a spoon from the Three Chefs. At 515 Water Street. 804/971-7044.