We first discovered the C&O in the early 1980s, when its end of town by the old C&O train station was pretty lonely and beat up. I remember there were still baggage carts rusting on the platform across the street from the restaurant, left years before after the last passenger train had rumbled through.
Back then it was hard to find the C&O because it was not identified by any sign on the 19th century brick facade or doorway of the old commercial building in which it is located. You had to know it was there.
Back then, C&O mashed potatoes were a marvel: very garlicky, intentionally lumpy with a green leafy ingredient (parsley? I forget ....) mixed in. This was all kind of revolutionary at the time, amazingly enough, and I believe the recipe was requested by a reader and appeared in Gourmet magazine. (RIP.) We had it at home regularly and always thought fondly of enjoying it first at the C&O.
The restaurant appears to have transitioned from that trendy insider's hot spot to something of a fine and reliable stalwart among C'Ville's top restaurants. But it has not gotten stale. The rabbit special I had the other night was memorable and different and delicious: lightly breaded and rolled with mushrooms with a light fondu sauce. I started with a tomato (including a green one) chevre tart that was excellent. My wife was in the mood for a light meal and had a side of spicy corn (which I erroneously listed for her in my recent review of nearby Fleurie .. sorry; can't go back and edit these things) and fettucini with just butter and cheese instead of the listed pasta entree.
Service was top notch, with a knowledgeable, efficient and courteous server. We ate in the bistro, or downstairs barroom, and found it lively and fun, with a small group of young people at the bar and a lighted fish tank on one end and a Dutch door onto the street off the other end.
In recent years we've been seated in what they call the mezzanine and felt a little left out ... it's a sort of brick hallway off the main entrance. It was fine but not what we remembered fondly about the C&O, where years ago we were always seated in a pleasantly clean, neat and spartan upstairs room with large old windows. Not sure they still use that room. There's also outdoor seating in a kind of backyard enclosure.
We asked to be seated somewhere other than the mezzanine, only because we've eaten there our last two trips to C'Ville. It appears to have been totally redone since our last visit in 2012 and looked a lot more inviting and a lot less like a brick-lined shoebox.
A restaurant can't last this long unless it's got a lot going for it and its owners and chef know how to adapt as the years go by. We're very happy to know they are so smart and that the C&O is there for us whenever we visit wonderful old C'Ville.