In Virginia, there’s no shortage of amazing, award-winning restaurants. Simply pick a direction and start driving to find yourself indulging in an incredible afternoon of wine-tasting, scrumptious, fresh seafood, and wonderful, local ingredients (sometimes from the very farm where the restaurant sits!). Here are 15 of the best restaurants for any trip through Virginia, some off the beaten path, all sure to make any meal a delicious memory.
The Beach Pub has been a Virginia Beach staple for over 35 years. Featured on a 2011 episode of Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives," this hidden Virginia gem offers fresh, local seafood and wonderful breakfast options. A map near the entrance stands out like a colorful constellation chart, boasting thousands of different colored pins to show where customers have traveled from all over the world. About five minutes away from the ocean, the Beach Pub is just far enough off the beaten path to avoid major tourist lines often seen at the oceanfront, but not too far away to be inconvenient. Come early on Sunday, before the church crowd gets out, for the delicious crab omelet.
Whereas the Beach Pub flourishes in delivering breakfast, lunch, and dinner staples in a family friendly, traditional environment, the Little Grill Collective in Harrisonburg embraces its college town roots and isn't afraid to experiment. As a worker-owned collective, employees at the Little Grill are also owners and have an equal say in menus, décor, and which live bands to book for their intimate space. The vegetarian and vegan-friendly menu is a breakfast favorite for James Madison University students and Harrisonburg locals. Open for breakfast and lunch, Little Grill's ambiance is a feast for the eyes: every inch is covered in an artifact, begging to tell its tale. The Little Grill is a proud hippie mecca (they say so themselves), and well worth a visit.
About 20 minutes away from Sandbridge Beach in southern Virginia, Pungo Pizza and Ice Cream boasts of "the best pizza south of New York City." Kid friendly and always packed, Pungo Pizza has the advantage of a beautiful environment, surrounded by gorgeous farms and horse ranches. For a date night away from the bustling Hampton Roads area, or a quick stop-off on the way home from the shore, Pungo Pizza can't be beat. Never afraid to try new things, the bacon cheeseburger pizza is excellent (although my personal favorite is anything topped with broccoli - another Pungo Pizza topping staple). The sizable menu includes Italian favorites as well as a sizable craft brew selection. The desserts are to die for.
Speaking of desserts, no trip to the Hampton Roads area is complete without a stop off at Doumar's. Touted as the originator of the waffle cone, original owner Abe Doumar's curb service diner has delighted customers since 1904. Guy Fieri made a stop-off here, too, to marvel at the world's first ice cream cone machine and the plethora of shakes and sundaes. The cheeseburgers and BBQ pork sandwiches, delivered right to your car, goes perfectly with their signature limeade.
Voodoo practitioner, artist, and James Beard nominated chef Sydney Meers delivers a one-of-a-kind dining experience in the Hampton Roads area. Reservations are a must for this 10-table eatery, but are worth the extra effort (the restaurant credits you $4 on your bill if you had to go through the Elizabeth Tunnel toll to get to Portsmouth). The menu is an artist's take on good ol' southern cooking, with dishes like the house made 'pork o rama,' which is homemade sausage, sys'd PoNo shrimp and grits, and TheDumbwaiter 'ole classic spicy etouffee' (jumbo shrimp with house made ham).
L'Oppossum has had no shortage of praise from critics and peers in the food industry - and for good reason. Led by another James Beard nominated chef, Matt and Ted Lee sum up the experience perfectly in their article, 10 Unmissable Restaurants in the American South: "Imagine that Liberace, Andy Warhol, and Nick Cave collaborated on a college-town tavern and you have L'Opossum." Situated minutes away from Virginia Commonwealth University, this one-of-a-kind eatery is as much a viewing experience as it is an eating one. The walls are decorated with any number of unique paintings, illuminated by beautiful, hanging lights of all kinds. The food itself is playful yet sophisticated, offering unique takes on French cuisine. A Richmond must.
Not in the mood for French cuisine? What about good old fashioned American BBQ? While you're in the Richmond area, it would be criminal not to check out Alamo BBQ. Offering Texas-style BBQ, tacos, and veggie options, this no-frills joint is home-style cooking at its finest. Order at the window and eat on the patio. You can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but I'd recommend starting with the half rack and two sides before moving on to pick off your significant other's BBQ platter. Be warned: you'll find yourself coming back to historic Church Hill more often than you'd think just for another taste.
Richmond city-life not for you? No problem. Take a jaunt to the James Beard nominated restaurant at Patowmack Farm and enjoy the beautiful scenery as well as the locally-grown, organic, and seasonal cuisine. The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm offers fine dining and an extensive wine list. Not only is the food fresh, coming from the very farm the where the restaurant sits, but the views are spectacular.
The Cheesetique is a cozy cheese and wine shop with three locations, one in Alexandria, and two in Arlington, that specializes in - you guessed it - cheese! Stop by for a unique experience and enjoy lunch in the restaurant section. Cheese is the MVP of this menu, with the award winning Mac 'N Cheese Arancini a must. With six different grilled cheeses and four different mac and cheese options, there's no better way to indulge in your cheesy dreams.
Enjoy fresh seafood right where "the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean!" Sit right on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and enjoy the Chesapeake Bay Lump Crabcakes. The menu is huge and includes gluten-free options. Save Waterman's for a special occasion and be sure to make reservations for this Virginia Beach favorite.
Jack Brown's offers unique burgers and craft beer in their six locations all over Virginia. The menu is straightforward: burgers and beers are their bread and butter. Try the Greg Brady, with mac n' cheese on top, or the jalapeño popper, with cream cheese and pickled jalapeños. Every day offers a special daily burger, such as the Monday Chili Verde, a burger topped with roasted poblano chilies and jack cheese. Their draft beers are in constant rotation, so there's plenty of reason to check out each of the locations!
The Mill Street Grill restaurant in Staunton makes new use out of a turn of the century flourmill. The unique atmosphere makes for a fun dining experience in charming downtown Staunton. Known for their baby back ribs, their primary goal is consistency: everything you order is delicious, and the service can't be beat. Take a walk afterwards to the Split Banana just a few blocks away for an after-dinner gelato.
Virginia boasts a huge variety of farms and vineyards, which Grandale Vintner's Table, like Patowmack Farms above, uses to their full advantage. Offering local farm-to-fork food, Grandale Vintner's Table is also one of Virginia's top wineries. The food is upscale, but worth the expense. Start with the Prawn Chermoula before diving into the Filet Mignon. Not only is the restaurant wonderful, but Grandale Vintner's Table is a go-to choice for weddings and other special events.
Ray's the Steaks is a carnivore's dream. To no great surprise, their specialty are their steaks, each served with endless homemade mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. The space itself can be quite bustling, so make sure to get here early or make a reservation to avoid a long wait. The seafood is nothing to scoff at, either.
Don't let the humble exterior fool you: Namaste's traditional Indian and Nepalese specialties provide a one-way ticket to foodie nirvana. Located in Alexandria, Namaste has quickly become a local favorite when looking for something a little more exotic. The food is healthy and authentic. Get anything: you can't go wrong!