Whether your Virginia town has just a few restaurants or more than 100, there is always an eatery that is a favorite spot for locals because it utilizes regional flavors to create unbelievably tasty dishes. This is the place that they will always suggest to visiting friends and family, and when home cooking seems like too much of an effort, this one restaurant is the first place they think to visit. We asked Virginia residents which places they favor for a local bite, and these 32 places topped the list. Stop in to these restaurants around our great Commonwealth and see what all the fuss is about!
The Shack started with a simple idea – to serve the highest quality food with as little pretense as possible. Located in Staunton, Virginia, the restaurant is in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley, an area that provides a quarter of Virginia’s farm product, from out of the ground to hoof and beak. It is easy to “Eat Like a Local” at The Shack where chef Ian Boden finds inspiration in Appalachia and the greater South, and serves a constantly changing menu with dishes that highlight the full bounty of his home state. From working with local farmers such as Deirdre and Phil Armstrong at Harvest Thyme Herb Farm to bring back the whippoorwill, an old heirloom field pea, to serving Virginia beers and wines, chef Boden’s philosophy at The Shack truly embodies the local food movement.
Black Bear Bistro—Warrenton
Located on Main Street in the heart of Old Town Warrenton, The Black Bear Bistro offers a variety of menu items for both casual and fine dining. Guests can dine upstairs in the more casual dining area, downstairs by the cozy fireplaces, and in good weather, outside on the patio. Guests may also choose to enjoy the bar upstairs, or the quieter Sweeney’s Bar downstairs. On many weekends, there is even live local music to entertain customers during dinner or drinks.
Dudley’s Bistro specializes in local fare, using Virginia products whenever possible, including Virginia wine, beer, artisanal cheeses, pork products, eggs, poultry, beef, vegetables, hickory and maple syrups, grits, and so much more. They acquire their ingredients from a variety of local farms and suppliers, such as mushrooms from Dave and Dees Mushrooms and line-caught local fish from Sam Rust Seafood of Hampton. These farm-to-restaurant relationships are nothing new at Dudley’s; for instance, they have purchased fresh blue crabs from Bill Forrest Seafood of Poquoson for over 21 years. With such an ingrained sense of community, Dudley’s Bistro has gained a huge following from the Williamsburg region.
Once inside The 616, your senses will come alive with the eclectic design, the state-of-the-art entertainment venue, Neapolis LIVE!, and the sumptuous Copper Bar. With a focus on creating a modern Southern style menu, Chef Chris and his staff draw inspiration from local providers and treats their products with the utmost of respect. The path from small, local farm to your plate is reflected in the freshness and quality of your meal.
Led by General Manager Boni Web and Chef de Cuisine, Shawn Gearhart, Alexander’s continues to set the standard as Roanoke’s go-to destination for food and wine lovers. Whether ordering a local grass fed Burger at lunch or the Pan Seared Virginia Rockfish with Citrus Meunière & Fried Capers at dinner, the emphasis at Alexander’s is on sourcing the best fresh ingredients- whether local, regional and nationwide. Many of the herbs, vegetables, berries, and honeys come from our own 7Hills Farm and from a collective of farms and dairies in Floyd County. The vintage 1880s storefront creates a relaxed, sophisticated atmosphere where the art, furnishings, lighting, and fixtures are all restored pieces of Roanoke’s storied architectural history.
Amoos serves up traditional Persian dishes as well as a modernized fusion menu. The executive chefs take Persian cuisine to a whole new level by using high-quality, fresh meats and ingredients. With award-winning entrees, the chefs at Amoos have something to please everyone’s palate. As a community favorite restaurant, they pride themselves in creating exquisite Persian food.
Locally sourced ingredients have been a mainstay of Chef Blake’s culinary vision since establishing Bistro Bethem in 2004. Seasonal dishes will often feature Snead’s Farm asparagus (Fredericksburg), Glenburnie Farm micro greens (Spotsylvania), Earth Mother mushrooms (Fredericksburg), Canning Farms eggs (King George), and Dragon Creek oysters (Montross). The menu changes daily to include carefully selected regional ingredients that enhance our modern American bistro with a Southern flair.
The Old Mill Room at Boar’s Head Inn—Charlottesville
The Old Mill Room at Boar’s Head Inn was built from the timbers of an abandoned gristmill along the banks of the Hardware River and dates back to 1834. It is distinguished as the only restaurant in Virginia to have retained AAA’s prestigious Four-Diamond award for 28 years in a row. The Executive Chef and seasoned staff create culinary masterpieces that infuse local flavors while captivating the eye and delighting the palate. Guests relish superb wines, imaginative cuisine, and impeccable service in an intimate setting.
JJ’s Restaurant and Sports Bar—Abingdon
At JJ’s, the emphasis is on quality food at a reasonable price. Southern classics abound, but think of it as country cooking with creative flair. Whether it is catfish or cornbread like your grandma used to make, or burgers and wings for the big game, there’s something for everyone at JJ’s.
Dutch & Co.—Richmond
The motto at Dutch & Co. is “Regional, Seasonal, Delicious”, and each dish served up at this Church Hill staple clearly reflects this, but the chefs should also consider adding “Unique” and “Unbelievable” to the words that describe their cuisine. Interesting combinations abound on the seasonally refreshed menu, like the Rockfish, made with lentils, sweet potatoes, parsnip, coconut milk, and curried yogurt or the Grilled Skirt Steak that is topped with an avocado mousse, bacon-olive ragu, chickpeas, lemon preserve, and chimichurri. These mixtures shouldn’t work, yet they do. In fact, they create tastes that make Richmond natives come back again and again.
Claire’s at the Depot—Warrenton
Claire’s at the Depot has a passion for locally and seasonally infused cuisine. Proud of their Virginia roots, they source a plethora of fresh ingredients for their seasonally changing menus. From a nightly oyster selection to a fresh fish of the day option, they always strive to highlight the best Virginia has to offer.
The philosophy at FOODE is simple. They believe that the freshest, cleanest ingredients make the best dishes. They also believe in supporting the local community by highlighting the products grown and harvested right here in this region. They have fantastic, organically grown vegetables from Washington’s Birthplace, heirloom produce from Spotsylvania County, organic beef, free-range chickens, and hormone-free eggs from Gladys, along with other great ingredients from across Virginia that they proudly serve every day at the restaurant. On any given day, they source between 85% to 90% of the food that is served at Foode from the local farms and merchants.
Front Porch Market & Grill—The Plains
The Front Porch Market & Grill is so popular, they have their own verb in the local vernacular. When you’re heading to the restaurant, you’re “porchin’ it.” The seasonally-driven menu is uncomplicated and dreamy all at the same time. Pan-Fried Chicken and Waffles is a crowd favorite, but the Brown Sugar Lamp Chops get high marks too – and an all-day breakfast has one local celebrity (who shall remain nameless) HOOKED. The market is host to tons of unique finds from around the U.S., including specialty foods, gifts and an extensive selection of fine wine, and their happening bar is THE spot where locals and travelers in the know wind down and catch up almost every day come 5pm.
Harper’s Table opened July 31, 2012 in Suffolk, Virginia, and ever since they have aimed at creating unforgettable hospitality and dining for guests. They focus on bringing you high quality cuisine, reasonable prices, and exceptional service. When the food arrives at the table, you are presented with unmistakably Southern fare, made with ingredients like fresh-caught seafood from the Atlantic Ocean and only the finest meats from nearby farms. If you’re a fan of pork, don’t miss out on Harper’s Pork Belly Biscuit.
Established in 1983, the goal at Duner’s has always been the same: to serve great food in a warm and inviting atmosphere. The portions are generous, the ingredients chosen are only the best, and the staff treats everyone that walks in the door as if they were a valued “regular”. The menu at Duner’s changes daily, allowing the chefs to use seasonal, fresh ingredients.
Jordan Springs Market—Stephenson
Locally owned and operated since 2008, this husband and wife BBQ Market and Catering business serves up some of the best and most authentic barbecue and homemade sides in the Shenandoah Valley. Each sauce, side and dish is made with love from scratch, using recipes from the Pit-Master’s Texan heritage combined with 100% authentic Carolina-style Pork barbecue, Alabama chicken, and so much more. The key to their delicious barbecue is not only well smoked meats, but the incredible homemade sauces. “Low and slow” is their motto when it comes to cooking their raved-about barbecue. Named by Northern Virginia Magazine as having the “Best Pork BBQ” in 2015, they keep it simple, make it local, and always know your name at Jordan Springs Market.
La Petite Auberge—Fredericksburg
A family owned and operated business, La Petite Auberge in Fredericksburg has been a local favorite and a staple in the region’s dining scene since 1981. They specialize in French cuisine, but also serve up many authentic Virginia favorites. They take full advantage of wonderful local delicacies, like Shad Roe. Softshell Crabs, and Rockfish. Produce is purchased from local Fredericksburg farmers during the growing season, and the menu is changed almost daily according to seasonal offerings.
Maple Ave Restaurant—Vienna
Maple Ave Restaurant serves eclectic American Cuisine in the heart of Vienna, blending American with Asian, Latin American, French flavors and techniques. Chef and Owner Tim Ma emphasizes the importance of using fresh, local ingredients. Maple Ave strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible. They turn used oil into bio diesel, use recycled bags, and encourage customers to bring their own reusable bag for carry out orders. They have change all lights to energy saving lights and are one of the few restaurants in the area that is fully committed to recycling. Even though they are a small family restaurant, they strive to make a difference in environmental conservation.
Market Table Bistro—Lovettsville
Market Table Bistro in historic Lovettsville will change the way you think about dining out and raise your expectations by focusing on quality cuisine, personalized and friendly service and reasonable pricing. They have partnered with local growers, vintners, and culinary artisans to offer locally produced items direct to their customers.
Me2: Market & Eatery—Charlottesville
The father and daughter duo owns and operates the fantastic Charlottesville spot known at Me2. The restaurant looks like just another country store from the outside, but the exterior hides a treasured local gem. Fresh and made from scratch, the food created at Me2 uses locally sourced ingredients whenever possible to create Virginia classics like Brunswick stew, barbecue, and crab cakes. They are committed to supporting local farmers, and in addition to buying local, they also donate leftover perishables back to those farmers as feed for livestock or composting materials.
Authentic Southern fare is featured at breakfast and lunch at Old Chickahominy, and the house specialty in the morning is the plantation breakfast, which features real Virginia ham with eggs, biscuits, cured country bacon, sausage, grits and coffee. At lunch, Miss Melinda’s special is Brunswick stew, Virginia ham on biscuits, fruit salad, and homemade pie, all washed down with homemade sweet tea. Not only do they serve great southern food, but the three-story antiques/gift shop has furniture, lamps, pictures, mirrors, jewelry, and other unique gift items, giving you a place to browse or buy while waiting for a table or after your excellent dining experience.
The Red Hen—Lexington
Since 2008, the Red Hen has been at the forefront of the movement to celebrate the bounty of the Shenandoah Valley. Their award-winning chefs bring guests an unparalleled dining experience in a warm and intimate setting. Each day, they craft a new menu centered on locally sourced ingredients, whether it is a steak obtained from the Potter family farm in nearby Collierstown or beets from Rancho Calixto. Their dedication to local food preserves the intricate flavors of the land, revealing rich dishes that the locals love.
Located in an unassuming building off the main Norfolk strip, Shipwreck Sally’s is famous for serving up some of the best eggs benedicts in the Hampton Roads region, but there is so much more to their menu that a standard brunch favorite. Locals often go with the Surf & Turf or the Corned Beef Reuben, and while the dishes are reasonably priced, they surprise with tons of excellent flavor. This Norfolk restaurant has a no-frills, beach vibe that attracts locals and visitors alike.
Spencer Devon Brewing—Fredericksburg
Spencer Devon Brewing is a veteran owned, family friendly brewery in the heart of downtown Fredericksburg. The brewery opened in April of 2015 and has already claimed awards for their craft beers. They maintain eight to ten rotating taps of hand-crafted beer to include everything from Milk Stout to IPAs to Brown Ales. The key is balance and depth in every beer. Enough about the beer, though. They have an exceptional kitchen that makes everything down to the ketchup in-house using 80% local ingredients. This means that they know not only where the food comes from but how it was raised. They give the spent grain used in the brewery to their farm partners to feed to their chickens and pork, with helps complete the local food chain and prevents excess waste. They take community very seriously and insist on creating only the highest quality dishes at Spencer Devon Brewing.
Sydney Meers’ Contemporary Southern cuisine is accompanied by fine wines in this whimsical little place on Detroit Street. A Hampton Roads Magazine “Top 10″ Platinum Award Winner in 2008, Stove is one of the most popular spots in Portsmouth (because of this, we definitely suggest reservations). Meers serves up what he calls “Neo-Southern, Mid-Atlantic” meals, and his inspired cuisine has even been nominated for the prestigious James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic area.
The Caboose in Ashland believes in coming together as a community to celebrate well-crafted and locally-sourced food and drink. Local craft beers on tap and wine by the glass accent a menu that changes with the seasons as they utilize ingredients from local farm vendors to create fresh dishes. They offer the friendly service you would expect to find in a small town, but their dishes speak of big city aspirations.
From C&O Restaurant’s beginning in 1976, it has enjoyed the high praise of some of the nation’s most notable food writers and critics. The C&O staff is peppered with enthusiastic crafts people who are passionate about their work. The kitchen crew works tirelessly cultivating relationships with local farmers, cheese makers, vintners and ranchers bringing you the best of what’s around. The wait staff is knowledgeable, attentive but unobtrusive with a keen eye for warmth and hospitality.
The Grilled Cheese Bistro—Norfolk
The Grilled Cheese Bistro is a beautifully cozy eatery offering tasty comfort foods, house-made beverages, and craft beer and wine options. The menu features a wide variety of grilled sandwiches, all of them made with quality cheeses, freshly baked specialty breads, and local produce consisting of farm-to-table, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Their creations show a unique twist on everyone’s childhood favorite. You’ll also find some mouthwatering salads and desserts, all with one common ingredient… cheese! Walk in to the Grilled Cheese Bistro, take a seat, and enjoy uncommonly good food, outstanding service, and a welcoming atmosphere.
The Little Grill Collective—Harrisonburg
The Little Grill has been a restaurant in Harrisonburg’s North End since the 1940s, but they have stayed relevant over the years, catering to today’s diverse taste buds with vegan, vegetarian, and meat menu options. The restaurant is owned by the very people that work it, and currently has more than a dozen owners that believe in working together to create wholesome meals from locally sourced goods. Their wide variety of delicious and healthy home-cooked meals brings the locals back again and again.
The Regency Room—Roanoke
Hotel Roanoke is a favorite among business travelers, vacationers and Roanoke weddings alike. Dine in the award-winning Roanoke restaurant, The Regency Dining Room, where they offer delicious hotel breakfasts and luncheon buffets, sophisticated dinners and wine selections, and one of the finest Sunday Brunches in the Roanoke Valley. For a more casual atmosphere, the Hotel Roanoke Pine Room Pub features a warm ambiance, with a cozy fireplace and billiard table, and serves fine food and libations daily.
In the heart of historical Abingdon, you will find the beloved Tavern restaurant. The Tavern was built in 1779 and is one of the oldest buildings west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In addition to being a local favorite eatery, the Tavern is also the oldest bar in the state of Virginia and is among the oldest in the United States. The featured culinary staple on the menu is the Stuffed Filet -Eight ounce filet, made with a stuffing of shrimp, bacon, ricotta and herb cream cheese, and then breaded and glazed with a Marsala reduction.
Two Drummers Smokehouse—Toano
Two Drummers Smokehouse provides great food, service, and atmosphere at a reasonable price. They pride themselves on their barbecue, serving up pulled pork, ribs, and brisket, along with other Southern favorites like catfish, meatloaf, and Brunswick stew.
The Virginia Diner is the oldest roadside diner in the state of Virginia, and for nearly ninety years, the restaurant has serviced some of the finest home cooked meals available. During World War II, service men and women leaving Virginia ports for points around the world would stop at the Virginia Diner for their last meal stateside, and often when they returned, the restaurant served them their first meal home. For Breakfast, try the Virginia Country Ham on Buttermilk Biscuits or one of their signature omelets. Lunch and dinner selections include Southern Fried Chicken, Homemade Meatloaf, Pork Chops, Barbecue, Seafood Platters, and much more. And don’t forget to save room for a slice of the diner’s world famous Peanut Pie!
While every community in Virginia has a spot that the locals love, these spots were the ones most raved about in the 2016 Culinary Challenge Call for Nominations. Tell us, what is the local hot spot in your Virginia town?
© pkeppel for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2016. |