Simon Davidson, an attorney and Charlottesville restaurant writer who earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Virginia, started “The Charlottesville 29” as a side project dedicated to two of his favorite things: Charlottesville and great food.
Each year, Davidson names 29 great restaurants in Charlottesville, a reference to the U.S. 29 thoroughfare. This year, he is using that platform to raise thousands of dollars for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank by auctioning off unique restaurant experiences.
The food bank serves 25 counties and eight cities in the Blue Ridge area, feeding about 106,000 people each month. According to its website, every $1 donated provides about four meals, meaning that something like Davidson’s auction – which raised $80,000 when he last held it in 2016 – could provide hundreds of thousands of meals.
Each of the 29 restaurants created an experience for the auction, ranging from a 29-course tasting menu at popular Belmont tapas spot Mas to a traditional Indian feast for 50 at Milan or a year’s worth of meals at student favorite Revolutionary Soup. A new auction rolls out each day; each one lasts 30 days.
UVA fans will likely be drawn to options including a tailgate party at Maya on West Main Street or, on the heels of the spring’s NCAA championship, a Bodo’s lunch and John Paul Jones Arena tour with UVA men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett.
“The restaurants created these really incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” Davidson said.
Participants bid online, with the winner donating the amount of their bid – often totaling several hundred or thousand dollars – to the food bank.
The restaurants, Davidson said, are excited about the mission.
“There’s a great synergy there; what really motivates a lot of folks in food is the idea of nurturing people,” he said. “In reality, though, restaurants do not get to do that for large portions of the population, because many people cannot afford to go out to eat. This gives them a chance to help.”
He was full of praise for Charlottesville’s bustling restaurant scene and the people behind it.
“So many people in the industry do this because it’s truly their passion,” he said.