As both UVa students and locals know, Charlottesville’s number of highly rated restaurants is overwhelming. Like many other UVa students, I am constantly seeking out new restaurants to try in Charlottesville; there just doesn’t seem to be an end to the list.
When pondering where to take my family out to dinner on their monthly dinner visit, I remembered the high recommendations I was given about The Shebeen Pub and Braaí. I was intrigued by the South African menu, having never tried South African food before. The online menu mentioned dishes like bobotie and sosatie that grabbed my attention.
I settled on my decision, and I soon found myself outside The Shebeen, looking at a quaint restaurant covered with large shrubbery and string lights. There was even a veranda area for outdoor dining fit with swings and string lights.
The lobby was full of comfortable couches, a book shelf and a welcoming staff. The walls were covered with South African art, and each table was set beautifully with fresh flowers. The staff was prompt in taking our order and bringing warm baskets of sweet dinner rolls.
After carefully reviewing the menu, we settled on the zambezi satay, or chicken skewers, as an appetizer. This dish is Malaysian inspired, and the best part about it was the mango chutney and peanut sauces that came on the side for dipping.
This appetizer was focused on quality over quantity, delivering rich tastes without making us too full for our entrées.
I settled on the vegetarian polenta dish that consisted of parmesan polenta cakes covered in a buttery lemon beurre blanc sauce. The cakes were topped with lots of sugar snap peas, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach and eggplant.
The balance of the creamy polenta cakes and fresh vegetables made this a dish that I would definitely order again.
My mom also ordered off of the vegetarian menu. Her dish, the West African ground nut stew, was the overall favorite of the table. The garbanzo beans, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, kale, crushed peanuts and various spices and basmati rice made for an extremely filling dish.
The different flavors all combined to make a satisfying stew… let’s just say I convinced my mom to let me keep her leftovers.
Even for those picky eaters out there, The Shebeen also offers American foods for people like my sister that are scared by things like lamb and curry. She ordered a cheeseburger that was cooked perfectly and came with spicy sambal mayo and basmati rice to give it a little bit of the South African influence.
The Shebeen is a place where you should not skip dessert. The dessert menu includes both traditional South African desserts like malva pudding and koeksisters and classics like crème brûlée and bread pudding. Once again, this restaurant delivers a high quality over quantity with their desserts.
Being a South African restaurant, The Shebeen serves all of the traditional South African plates and more. South African cuisine has influences from the indigenous tribes along with Indian, Moroccan and Malaysian influences that make for flavorful and unique dishes.
For example, basmati rice is often served on the side and curry dishes are common on South African menus, both having Indian origins.
This restaurant is not just limited to lunch and dinner. The Shebeen brings a unique twist to their brunch menu with foods like boerwors, a popular South African sausage, in addition to classic items. Frittatas, omelets, blueberry ricotta pancakes, French toast and the rest of the familiar brunch items can be found on the menu. Brunch is served daily.
Whether you are looking for great quality food or looking to be a more adventurous eater, The Shebeen should be your next stop in the Charlottesville food scene. It is conveniently located right off of Main Street and the outdoor seating areas make it ideal for a summertime outing.