Local buffet: Food tours, fancy lunches, and cheap eats

Starting in October, you'll be able to go on guided, themed  "food tours" of Downtown Charlottesville, courtesy of a new start-up company called, appropriately enough, Charlottesville Food Tour. With the purchase of a ticket, you'll go on a two to three hour tour (with 2 to 10 people) and visit five to nine restaurants, sampling food and drink, chatting with chefs and business owners, learning about Charlottesville history, architecture, and culture along the way as well. Final prices on the tour haven't been determined yet, but those are expected to come out in the coming weeks.

Newcomers Rachel and Peter Sengenberger came up with the idea after going on their own food tour, because they couldn't find a food tour service in town.

"Since there wasn't an official tour, we spent an entire Saturday downtown," says Rachel Sengenberger. " We started at the Farmer's Market, went into every shop on the Downtown Mall, and stopped at different restaurants and food shops along the way. It was an incredible day. Pretty soon after that we decided to start Charlottesville Food Tour."

Beyond having a lot of fun and meeting new people, one of the primary reasons the Sengenbergers decided to start Charlottesville Food Tour was to become a part of the community; to be active participants in Charlottesville.

"Charlottesville is a foodie's oasis," says Sengenberger. "Our hope is that Charlottesville Food Tour will benefit the community by encouraging people, both locals and out-of-town guests, to visit the amazing restaurants and food retailers that downtown Charlottesville has to offer. We also want people to be more aware of the architecture and history of the Downtown Mall."

Again, expect these food tours to start up in October, in the meantime, keep track of the progress at www.cvillefoodtour.com.

Keswick for lunch?
Looking for an out-of-the-ordinary lunch experience? How about the buffet at the Villa Crawford at Keswick Hall? Seriously, in this luxurious setting you can lunch on things like herb marinated beef tenderloin, poached baby asparagus, aromatic brined Rock Barn pork loin, homemade apple sauce, and Mediterranean seafood soup, all for only $19, which includes a served soup and salad. There's also a cold salad bar that includes cheeses, cold meats, crab salad, and lox. Oh, don't forget a selection of desserts, fresh fruit, and cookies. Sit out on the terrace, or poolside, and inside as well, and feel free to go back for seconds or thirds.

Octoberfest at Horse & Hound
Once again, Horse & Hound Gastropub on West Main Street is gearing up for its annual Octoberfest celebration, complete with a special German menu and specialty draft beers. Also, during Octoberfest, you can buy a beer stein and get discounted refills every time you use it. It all starts on September 14 and goes until October 31, and there will be happy hour specials every day from 5-7pm, gifts, prizes, and a line-up of musical performances on the patio in the evenings. Follow Horse & Hound's Facebook page for announcements about daily deals and specials. 

Family-friendly night out
If you're reading this on Thursday, September 5, there's still time to check out the First Thursday Chill'n & Grill'n event at the Vinegar Hill Café in the Jefferson School City Center on Fourth Street downtown, featuring a budget-friendly grill menu for $10 that includes BBQ ribs and chicken, hamburgers, and a choice of collard greens, baked beans, coleslaw and homemade cornbread, plus live music and a craft table for the kids. For details go to www.vinegarhillcafe.org.