A picture of a plate of fried brussel sprouts.

Charlottesville’s Newest Restaurant is The Ridley

 

The Ridley, Charlottesville’s newest restaurant, located in The Draftsman Hotel, comes with a distinguished background. 

 

The Name

 

The Ridley is named for Walter Nathaniel Ridley, who in 1953 became the first African American to earn a doctoral degree from UVA. He received that degree with high honors from the School of Education and went on to lead a long and distinguished career in higher education. In 1998 he was awarded UVA’s distinguished Alumnus Award. The Ridley Scholarship Fund was established in 1987 for exceptional African-American students from Virginia, and in 2020 Ridley Hall was named in his honor.

Warren Thompson is the name behind the name. An ‘83 graduate of UVa’s Darden School of Business, his company, Thompson Hospitality, owns over 24 restaurants, including Matchbox Cville in Stonefield. Thompson also handles food services for universities, medical centers, hotels, and corporate centers. He has been credited with “literally transforming the way we eat in airports.” He is a past member of the UVA Board of Visitors, and an important donor to The Ridley Scholarship Fund. For Thompson, The Ridley represents his fulfillment of a lifetime’s commitment.

“When I was young I made my father a promise that I would work to make a difference at UVA as it relates to diversity, “ he says. “This is why I spent time serving on the Board of Visitors, and I view The Ridley as an extension of this promise.”

“My vision for The Ridley is that it will offer a safe space to have these critical conversations, at this moment in time, while honoring trailblazers who broke color barriers and paved the way for future students.”

We have both names—Ridley and Thompson—to thank for an excellent addition to the Charlottesville dining scene.

The Setting

The Draftsman, which opened at 1106 West Main in the Fall of 2018, is among Charlottesville’s swankiest hotels. Its modern facade rises 10 stories and stands beside another shiny building, UVA Health’s Battle Building. Together the buildings make a handsome architectural statement for a modern university in a modern town. 

This is the front door of an enterprise zone where the pace of progress moves briskly and with purpose. The Ridley is The Draftsman’s signature restaurant and fronts West Main with floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto and welcome the street’s energy. Patrons of The Ridley are rewarded with a front row seat onto some of the best people watching in town. Whether seated indoors or out, you’ll view a non-stop parade of town and gown as it jogs, bikes, and motors by. 

Jazz and contemporary music are complemented by a stylish interior and attentive service that create an elegant atmosphere and set the table for an elegant outing. 

The Cuisine

Characterized as “Black-owned experiential Southern Cuisine and Crafted Cocktails,” The Ridley offers a unique and satisfying culinary experience. An ample selection of wines, craft beers, and cocktails complement a menu that departs from the ordinary. Chef Will Anderson calls his kitchen “seafood forward with a Southern touch,” and starters include several oyster, shrimp, and crab dishes alongside savory options such as fried brussel sprouts, fried green tomatoes, gumbo, and jalapeno cornbread. Simple courses, called “Quick Bites,” include a Shrimp Po’Boy or Lobster Roll. Also tempting are more substantial entrees like a delectable shrimp & grits dish or a vegan sweet potato hash. All together, The Ridley’s kitchen confirms our conventional wisdom that no one makes savory like the South.

While pricey, the servings are generous. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Ridley is an excellent choice for special occasions. 

The Irresistible

The Ridley stands out as an exciting new entry into Charlottesville’s dining scene. Its central location, inside a prestigious hotel in the heart of an urban enterprise zone pulsing with the pace of students and professionals, makes for an invigorating dining experience with relaxed Charlottesville formality. This distinctive restaurant, named for a distinctive man and Virginian who persevered and prospered in challenging times, has arrived at precisely the right moment in a city and at a University, who hold his example in high esteem.

 

See our Complete Guide to Charlottesville Dining here.