As all UVA students know, Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. It's hard to forget. He's constantly at the forefront of everyone’s minds. People wear TJ costumes to basketball games, professors quote him, and students whisper goodnight to his statue after streaking the Lawn.

But, one thing that isn’t exactly common knowledge is that Thomas Jefferson was one of America's original foodies. In fact, he is credited with popularizing ice cream, french fries, coffee, mashed potatoes, “Johnny Cakes”, and mac n' cheese in the United States.

I’d like to think that if Jefferson was alive today, he would be proud of the fast growing food scene here in Charlottesville

So, with that, here are 17 of Thomas Jefferson's favorites you can find here in Charlottesville: 

1. Coffee

Stroll into the Starbucks in Nau Hall and you’ll find one of Jefferson’s most famous quotes: “Coffee—the favorite drink of the civilised world.” One thing’s for sure: coffee now makes us civilized.

I love my Starbucks drink just as much as the next girl, but I'm particularly impressed Grit Coffee's commitment to selecting only beans with the fair trade, Rainforest Alliance, and organic stamps of approval.

Choose from a variety of specialty drinks, local bakery goods, or classic drip coffee. Trust me, if TJ were looking to get caffeinated during exam week, you would definitely find him sipping on a steaming cup from Grit.

2. Corn

Is there anything more American than eating corn on the cob on a hot summer night? Well, you have TJ to thank for that. 

Just as Jefferson was known for experimenting with different types of corn at Monticello, chefs Andrew Silver and Ivan Rekosh took a risk in bringing cultural spice to Charlottesville’s southern charm. Their Latin American restaurant, Zocalo, is a favorite among students.

I highly recommend ordering the Black Bean and Corn Relleno. Resting on smoky tomato grits, sprinkled with pico de gallo, and laced with a cilantro-buttermilk honey, this dish is a must-try classic.  

3. Fried Eggplant

Squeezed between the Paramount Theater and ChapsSal's is the UVA Italian restaurant. The outdoor patio in the middle of the pedestrian walkway is the perfect place to people watch, one of Jefferson's favorite pastimes.

Sal's serves up family-sized portions of perfectly cooked pasta and crispy, cheesy pizza — everything you look for in an Italian restaurant. But, their specialty is the eggplant parmigiana, served as an appetizer or a sandwich. 

Jefferson dined on fresh eggplant fried to golden perfection, but Sal's brings it to a new level with a gracious amount of their house-made tomato sauce and creamy mozz. Yum, I know.

4. French Fries

While Jefferson definitely can’t be credited with inventing the French fry, he most certainly did bring the recipe back from France for deep fried, thin cut potatoes. However, he put his own, personal twist on the classic French dish by cutting them into what he called “rounds.”

Though this nacho-centric restaurant just opened, they’ve already won my heart with  “Lucky Cho’s.” Think waffle fries topped with bacon, sharp white cheddar beer cheese, chives, and horseradish creme.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you have the option to add ground beef, shredded chicken, or beef short rib. I don’t think TJ would’ve skimped on the extra meat, so neither should you. 

5. Gumbo

Rapture is one of my favorite spots on the Downtown Mall. From date function venue to trendy brunch spot, this hotspot is a great place to take your friends and parents alike. Whether you're looking to drink the night away or cure your wicked hangover, Rapture is a definite must-try.

Their menu features country classics, international flavors, and cajun specialties, like Chicken & Oyster Gumbo. Featuring the perfect combination of spices and veggies, TJ would love this use of one of his favorite veggies: okra.

6. Vanilla Ice Cream

Jefferson famously said, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” 

But, if we can’t agree that Chaps is a C-ville classic, it’s a different story. Serving up homemade scoops for more than 70 years, this old-fashioned diner on the Downtown Mall is the perfect indulgence.

TJ’s vanilla ice cream recipe is one of the few recipes preserved from his estate. He is credited with personally developing it, but I don’t think Jefferson would hesitate to stop by Chaps for their wide variety of delicious flavors. 

7. Johnny Cakes

Brunch: the epitome of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson adored Johnny Cakes, which are a variation of thick pancakes, and I, like TJ, adore the ones from Oakhurst Inn. This weekend hotspot reinvigorates classic breakfasts with fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Their shortcakes, another form of thick pancakes, are smothered in a fruit reduction that changes seasonally. TJ would have also loved the other topping bonus, a big dollop of freshly-whipped cream.

Does brunch get much better than that? I think not.

8. Ketchup

Ketchup is most commonly associated, as a condiment, with fried foods and low quality meats. However, it can be so much more than that.

TJ liked to switch it up at his dinner table, combining classic French style cuisine with American comfort food.

That’s why I wholeheartedly believe Jefferson would approve of Bizou’s homemade meatloaf, an infamous American classic, with chipotle ketchup, an innovative and delicious twist on this American condiment

9. Macaroni and Cheese

The award for the best mac n' cheese is arguably the greatest democratic debate on Grounds. But, if I had to choose a classic, it would be The Virginian

Jefferson first had macaroni in Italy and France and, upon returning to the United States, even created his own macaroni-making machine.

While The Virginian doesn't make their own pasta, they certainly know how to throw together an incredible mix of carbs and cheese. Their mac n' cheese is loaded with pepper jack and topped with a potato cake.

I'd even argue that Jefferson, if he were still around, would make this the official food of UVA. Yes, it's that good.

10. Mashed Potatoes

Jefferson pioneered and popularized mashed potatoes, but Brazos, our little Tex-Mex heaven, has taken this classic side dish to a whole new level: Potato. Egg. Cheese. Breakfast. Taco. Cue the mariachi band and avocado wedges then throw on bacon for the mashed potato taco of your dreams.

Even if you aren't in the mood for mashed potatoes, Brazos is still the place for you. Though TJ may not have brought Mexican food to C-ville, he definitely would approved of this indoor-outdoor dining experience.

11. Olive Oil

TJ first encountered olive oil in Europe and was immediately fascinated with its flavor in addition to the symbolic significance of the olive branch. If you've ever studied anything about The Lawn, you'll know that he was all about the symbolism.

Jefferson loved the freedom of options, and I know you'll love the choices at Feast!. Drop by this food market and try some of their olive oils with freshly baked bread.

You can also send gourmet gift boxes to friends and family with anything from wine to cheese and, of course, olive oil.

12. Peanuts

Unlike most of his favorite foods, Jefferson picked up his love for peanuts here in America, and we don’t blame him.

There’s something so satisfying about picking through a big basket of unshelled peanuts and popping the tiny rewards into your mouth every few seconds.

Stop by The Whiskey Jar and crack open some peanuts the same way TJ would’ve while he waited for his drink from the bartender and some old-fashioned American comfort food from the kitchen. The Whiskey Jar is a classic here in C-ville and would've definitely impressed TJ's palette.

13. Parmesan Cheese

After falling in love with Parmesan while abroad, TJ tried to recreate this salty treat when he returned to the States. Apparently, Jefferson was so disappointed by his futile attempts to replicate authentic Parmesan that he gave up...

Then he had upwards of 100 wheels imported for his own personal use.

Thankfully, nowadays, Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria imports many of their cheeses, olives, and antipasti meats directly from Italy. When you get Parmesan grated fresh on your salad or wood oven fired pizza, you know it’s exactly as TJ would’ve liked it. 

14. Potato Chips

Thomas Jefferson is famous for bringing new, sometimes a little odd, flavor combinations to America for his friends and family to try. When a happy accident left a chef with too thin, too crispy French fry rounds, TJ was quick to jump on the soon-to-be most addictive snack of all time: potato chips. 

There is no doubt in my mind that TJ would’ve frequented Take it Away to curb his cravings because of their extensive potato chip selection.

They even recently added a limited edition sriracha and honey flavored chip to their repertoire making this sandwich hotspot a must-try on the Corner.

15. Produce

Greens to Grounds is a student run group that sells fresh, local produce to UVA students for $10. Heads up first-years, you can use your plus dollars here. Also, be sure to check out their snack boxes, which are often stuffed with local granola and fresh baked bread from MarieBette

Jefferson, a lover of both fresh produce and commitment to the University community, would have loved Greens to Grounds. Their devotion to the UVA community and to sustainable agricultural practices makes G2G a valuable asset to the University. Definitely TJ approved.

16. Pumpkin Pie

It's no secret that Thomas Jefferson had a serious sweet tooth. From his childhood home to Monticello to the White House, he made sure that a trail of pastry chefs followed him with an endless array of classic and innovative desserts. 

Word has it that come autumn, Jefferson simply couldn’t resist a large slice of pumpkin pie.

For a wide range of pies that would definitely be TJ approved, stop by The Pie Chest on the Downtown Mall.

Your warm slice of pie will be served on traditional china with an antique silver spoon, and you can undoubtedly write this trip off as a history lesson if anyone asks. 

17. Sweet Potato Pie

I may be a little biased because I think my sister makes the best sweet potato pie, but at least I can get a little taste of home with the sweet potato pie pizza at Threepenny Cafe

Adorned with maple roasted sweet potatoes, peppery arugula, and aromatic sage, this pizza is just the right mix of sweet and savory. Parmesan, another TJ favorite, ties the whole pie together. 

Another Jeffersonian theme you can find at Threepenny? Farm-to-table cuisine with seasonal and local specialties. Sweet potato pie, Parmesan, and seasonal cuisine. Could TJ get much happier?

Want to continue to channel the spirit of TJ in your every day life? And maybe acquire a little of his wisdom while you're at it?

Grow a garden. Experiment with new recipes. Don't be afraid to order that dish you've never tried before. Use food to learn about the world around you. Explore and learn something about yourself. 

(Yeah that’s right, philosophical plug.)