13 to Eat: Restaurants Just Off I-81, Part One

Let’s be honest. Interstate 81 can become congested. The lure of something good to eat is just one reason to hit the exit ramp and leave the traffic behind for a while. These restaurants are less than five miles off of Interstate 81 between Clear Brook and Lexington, and they’re four-star rated on Yelp. Try them out and let us know.

ALSO SEE: 20 to Eat: Restaurants Just Off I-64, Part Two


Jordan Springs Market – 4.5 stars – Barbeque, Delis – $ – 3.4 mi. Exit 321 in Clear Brook

“Best brisket you’re going to find anywhere.” Justin G.
“Definitely quality food and delicious! We left happy, full, and impressed!” Alesha R.
“If you’re driving through Appalachia, make a detour through here. Trust me.” Roger F.

Jordan Springs Market is a family owned and operated stop for some more of the best BBQ in the state. Voted in 2010-2013 as the “Best BBQ in the Valley,” they are open seven days a week and are known for creating everything from backyard grill BBQ to elegant buffets. With classic breakfasts and lunches, including sandwiches and subs, there is no end to comfort or flavor. Check out their daily specials and taste the Carolina style or Texas styled pork and briskets. And remember to wash everything down with a southern style sweet tea or lemonade. Jordan Spring’s Market is where you’ll find great “Beef, Beer, BBQ, and Bluegrass.”

ALSO SEE: Five Out-of-the-Way Places to Explore Off Interstate 81


Sake Sushi – 4.5 stars – Sushi Bars, Asian Fusion – $$ – 1.7 mi. Exit 307 in Stephens City

“Amazing service! Very friendly staff, delicious and quality food!” Neylyn M.
“They are consistently friendly, fast, healthy, and truly dedicated to their customers.” Florentina D.
“Very thoughtful, and fast, with great food and a serene atmosphere.” Dave S.

This comfortable and casual style stop is the perfect place for large portions and major flavor. Sake Sushi is the place locals and visitors are equally excited about. With specials for lunch and dinner, taste some of the many flavorful and vibrant options on the long menu. Taste for yourself their vegetable hibachi, chicken and shrimp, or steak hibachi. Have two or three rolls for lunch, and choose from six different tempuras and noodles. Be sure to check their menu for what they have that is spicy or even the most popular so you can taste out for yourself what other visitors have loved.

ALSO SEE: From “George” to “Martha,” The Historic Hotels of I-81 Have Returned to Their Glory


Nana’s Irish Pub – 4 stars – Irish Pub – $$ – 1.1 miles Exit 302 in Middletown

“Great food, great atmosphere and a must stop.” Walt T.
“Our new favorite place in the valley.” Jenn M.
“Give this place a try.” Jaclyn B.

Creamy Carrot and Parsnip soup with Irish soda bread fresh out of the oven is just the beginning of all that lies in store at Nana’s Irish Pub. Here is where you can find pub classics right next to new favorites on the menu. Try the Irish sausage soup or caramelized onion and blue cheese soup. Visitors love their corned beef hash and with lunch specials each day there’s no reason not to stop in. This pleasant gem is a home for great dinners and wonderful people. Try out this comfy and casual stop to meet great people, enjoy a warm meal, and find a new favorite dish.

Nana’s Irish Pub with the beautiful @jowens214 A photo posted by Trent Lane (@trentlane1997) on Mar 30, 2015 at 3:41pm PDT

ALSO SEE: A Route 11 Road Trip: Clear Brook to Bristol      


Italian Touch – 4 stars – Italian, Pizza, Sandwiches – $ – 0.7 mi. Exit 302 in Middletown

“Awesome food and service.” Andrew S.
“Lunchtime in Middletown takes me to Italian Touch!” Dawn R.
“I love this restaurant. The staff is friendly, their lasagna is amazing.” Sarah K.

Taking pride in their exceptionally prepared and quality meals is Italian Touch. Using only the freshest ingredients here, seasoned foods meet master techniques to create dishes that reflect years of Italian cuisine experience. Italian Touch is known as fast service for busy people with lunch specials like Pasta de Brereton or Lobster Ravioli. Try the amazing New York Sicilian and Specialty pizzas, with pizza dough made fresh daily and served piping hot. Here the finest grains are precisely cooked to pasta perfection. With a goal to give visitors complete satisfaction with food and service, come let them prove it to you.

ALSO SEE: Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley Kids Trail      


Cristina’s Café – 4.5 stars – Sandwiches, American (Traditional) – $$ – 2.9 mi. Exit 298 in Strasburg

“We couldn’t have found a more charming, friendly place with delicious fresh coffee and fantastic food.” Jason I.
“What a find! We felt like we were having lunch at a friend’s home.” Shanda A.
“I will definitely be back.” Myrna S.

Come by Cristina’s Café for a mix of home cooked love and sweetness. Owned and operated by two sisters who are passionate about good food, Cristina’s Café offers a wide variety of eats and experience. Come for great new live music that is sure to blow you away and stay for delicious homemade fruit tarts. Stay a while longer and taste for yourself their banana whole grain pancakes with Brittany’s wet nuts and real maple syrup or try their special stuffed French toasts. With events happening year round, this is no place to miss. Inspired by the beautiful surroundings of the Shenandoah Valley, in 2009 Cristina’s café became the first certified green restaurant in Shenandoah & Frederick counties proving they know how to make true connections with their home and with people.  

  frappe date with my babe ❤️❤️❤️   A photo posted by miranda waters (@mirand0wl) on Jun 22, 2014 at 1:05pm PDT

ALSO SEE: A.T. Hikers Find Warm Welcome in Virginia Communities


Jalisco Mexican Restaurant – 4.5 stars – Mexican – $$ – 1.2 mi. Exit 273 in Mt Jackson

“Absolutely loved their food, prices, service, and margaritas!” Danielle F.
“We will be back.” Joe P.
“Overall an awesome and delicious restaurant. Can’t wait to go back!” Antima C.

Started in 1996 as a family owned business, Jalisco Mexican Restaurant has always given their guests the best Mexican food in the Shenandoah Valley. They cook only fresh, made to order meals with a Happy Hour every day. With vibrant spices and flavors that cover the table, lunch specials are available and visitors say you just have to try their signature coselaw made fresh daily. Their handmade tamales are prepared in the traditional way as Jalisco continues to focus on using fresh, high-quality ingredients to prepare made from scratch Mexican cuisine. Come stop in and see for yourself what they mean when we describe Jalisco’s as full plates and full bellies.

ALSO SEE: College Game Day: Favorite Eats


Southern Kitchen – 4 stars – Southern, Diners – $$ – 1 mi. Exit 264 in New Market

“Great fried chicken and southern hospitality.” Carl W.
“So glad we stopped here. The people were so nice. Prices were very reasonable.” John D.
“Quality service. Charming location. Highly recommend.” Jared T.

Open daily from 7 to 9, Southern Kitchen is a new take on old memories. With an atmosphere reminiscent of the 1950s diner look, guests can find American classics served with wholesome, home-made touches. Taste favorites like Lloyd’s fried chicken, their vegetable soup with its own original recipe, or even country ham which is rugged and salty delivering depth of flavor like nothing else can. Available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with made to order dishes. This is comfy and home style at its best and most original. And don’t forget to stop by the jukebox while you’re there.

Current Mood. #dolekemp96 #blessed A photo posted by @andrewchayes on Jun 26, 2015 at 6:09pm PDT

ALSO SEE: Eight Virginia Caverns to LOVE


Johnny Appleseed Restaurant – 4 stars – American (Traditional), Southern – $ – 1 mi. Exit 264 in New Market

“The fritters were amazing and the waitress was attentive…we will definitely be back!” Rayna L.
“Cute little eatery.” Katy H.
“What a wonderful, delicious experience.” Vicki M.

Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Johnny Appleseed has over 25 years of experience in serving some of the tastiest home-style eats around. This full service stop is where you can enjoy a southern style meal in a relaxed country atmosphere. Try their southern fried catfish, Johnny’s fried chicken, and even the best crab cakes in the Shenandoah Valley. Baked fresh hourly are their homemade buttermilk biscuits served with apple butter and as soon as you sit down you’ll be met with their complementary apple fritters for every meal. You’ll find their specials on Friday and Saturday, but a great meal to remember every day.

Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed

ALSO SEE: Natural Area Preserves: Shenandoah Valley to Blue Ridge Highlands


The Shack – 4.5 stars – American (New) – $$$ – 2.6 mi. Exit 222 in Staunton

“So unassuming, such a great place.” Daniel B.
“All this food, and such a fantastic, satisfying experience.” Tammy R.
“Bottom line, you need to add this to your itinerary when you are in Staunton, or you’ll be missing out.” Mark P.

This chic stop is one that Staunton just can’t stop raving about. The Shack is where color and flavor meet perfectly. With a chef that has a passion for his art and creating some of the most beautiful and tasty dishes around, try the grilled leg of lamb, Wagyu oyster steak, or maple quail. And be sure to save room for the delectable sweet potato fry pie or even the fresh buttermilk ricotta with honey comb and vanilla toast. The Shack was found in The Culture Trip, 2014 as one of “Shenandoah Valley’s 10 Best Restaurants,” and raved about from Esquire to The Washington Post and more. Hosting local and favorite events year round, be sure to keep up with the excitement at The Shack.

The Shack

The Shack


Taste of India – 4 stars – Indian – $$ – 4.5 mi. Exit 220 in Staunton

“We were quite pleasantly surprised to find such a good Indian place in a small town like Staunton.” Maria K.
“This is a great addition to Valley dining.” Jerry C.
“Lovely staff, excellent service, great food.” Sujatha S.

Fragrant, zesty, and warm are how we would describe Taste of India. Taste their Boti Kebab, Chicken Tandoori, or Chicken Curry. Here vegetarian options are available. With so many lamb and seafood options covering the menu, it may just be too hard to decide what to try first. But no matter what, save room because with these fine dishes there are tasty desserts to follow up. Taste of India welcomes you to taste their exotic flavors of authentic Indian cuisine. They have delicacies and special spices exported from North and South India. These subtle tastes are accompanied by flavors that pull through.

Indian night!

A photo posted by Leah G. (@dank_dienasty) on Jun 17, 2014 at 7:19pm PDT


Frank’s Pizza Pasta & Subs – 4 stars – Sandwiches, Pizza – $ – 1.8 mi. Exit 200 in Fairfield

“It’s very simple with good pizza.” R R.
“Love this place!!!” Great food.” Amanda J.
“Definitely an easy and convenient stop if you are in this area.” Blake B.

Fairfield is home to Frank’s Pizza Pasta & Subs. Open since 1989, Frank’s has become known for the best pizza in Lexington and Fairfield. Their daily specials include fresh cannoli desserts and garlic knots made fresh and hot. Hamburger combos are even available and you’ll be sure to tell your friends about their calzones. Taste out one of the many pasta dinners or subs. Be sure to stop in for their weekly specials and check out their website to see what fun new and exciting things they are doing. Follow them on their Facebook to keep up with the fun and to see the great dishes available.


Salerno – 4 stars – Pizza, Italian – $ – 3.6 mi. Exit 191 in Lexington

“Good and local food.” Emma B.
“The pizza options are large and varied! All in all a good place to grab a meal.” Nicole W.
“With comically big subs and calzones, this seemingly ordinary neighborhood Italian joint is cranking out huge flavor.” Mike B.

While passing through Lexington be sure to stop by Salerno’s. These big dishes are for a big hunger. The fresh and bright colors reflect the flavor in the fresh ingredients. Try their subs, salads, or pizza slices. Specials like Panini Caprese with tomatoes and roasted red peppers smothered in fresh garlic and melted mozzarella cheese, are available daily. Using only fresh basil and seasonings, the homemade Italian bread is a perfect addition to an already tasty meal. There are many baked dishes as well as options to create your own pastas. Open Monday through Saturday, stop by Salerno’s next and try for yourself.


Mano Taqueria – 4.5 stars – Mexican, Latin American – 4 – 3.6 mi. Exit 55 in Lexington

“Finally a burrito I love in this town.” Jonathan C.
“Everything we had was delicious…you won’t go home hungry and the flavors are phenomenal.” Beth M.
“Absolutely delicious!” Renzo B.

Mano Taqueria is Lexington’s quick service, modern Latino restaurant. Their fresh designed favorable menu is full of tacos, burritos and more. Featuring seasoned deshebrada beef, slow roasted pork, and chorizo, Mano Taqueria is open Tuesday through Saturday. Here the food speaks for itself. Using locally sourced meats and suppliers from local farms, their local ingredients make the best and freshest dishes. With great sides and house-made sauces there is no way that this will not be your new favorite place to grab a bite along with the rest of Lexington.


About the Author: Kemry Johnakin is an English Major at Brigham Young University-Idaho, hopes to write the next great American novel, and is greatly unsettled by the lack of oxford commas used in government paperwork.


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We are FUN! We are RVA! We support local business and charities! Life is good!