c&o - 19Whenever parents come into town or there’s something to celebrate, I go all Pavlov’s dog and start salivating for C & O’s Artichoke Paté. That’s the great thing about C & O: yes, it’s an institution in this town. But it’s that rare institution that continues to produce good, inventive food, and I think it’s hard to beat for a special night out.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside (especially during the day before the torches come out) but the charmingly incongruous Pepsi sign outside marks one of the most charming interiors in town. The back patio feels far removed from the downtown scene, the Mezzanine is as cozy as can be with a wood burning stove, and the downstairs bar/bistro… forget about it. Old school, comfortable, awesome.

c&o - 06This place has been around for over thirty years but they do a great job of continuing to deliver on the classics while coming up with new and interesting dishes. On our most recent visit with Jed’s family, the group ordered classics such as the Artichoke Paté (served with toast, pepperoncinis, and pickles), the Steak Chinoise, and Cuban Steak, three of the only constant staples on the menu. The Steak Chinoise can be inconsistent at times, but when it’s good, it’s one of my favorite meats in town. The ginger and tamari sauce is amazing, and the flank steak is tender. As with all staples in this town, there’s a Dave Matthews association (supposedly he served it at his wedding – I don’t know if this is actually true).

I love the classics but appreciate C & O for constantly changing the menu with new gambles. I chose the Vegetarian Pave on our last visit, with included Pimento Cheese Soufflé, Black Bean and Cabbage Lasagna, Eggplant Brioche, and Gazpacho Sorbet. There aren’t many places in town where you can find such interesting menu choices, especially vegetarian selections. Sometimes the newfangled stuff doesn’t quite deliver, but the creative approach keeps me coming back. Factor in the friendly service and the late night menu, throw in a goosehound, and I’m a believer.

Jed says: “I’ll go to pretty much any place that has flaming torches out front.”

award_star_gold_3 16Rating: Erin: Jed:

thumb_up 16 iconPros: Some of the best food in town, seasonal menu, great ambience, late night menu.

thumb_down 16 iconCons: Food can be inconsistent, need reservations for peak times.

money_dollar 16 iconPrice: Pricier but worth it. Apps $4-12, mains $20-30.

car famfam 16 iconParking: Their lot on Water Street fills up quickly.

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