21 Places to Eat Like a Local

by Casey Higgins | Posted on August 16th, 2013

Comments: 86 Comments

We’ve asked and received recommendations for the most amazing Virginia breakfasts, highly acclaimed BBQ, comfortable patio dining, best places to enjoy a craft beer and favorite ice cream spots. All of these recommendations came from locals in the know. Yet, there was one more thing we had to ask:

Where is the best place to eat like a local, regardless of the time of day or menu specialty?

It turns out that some familiar names popped up. In addition, local pride and loyalty made appearances. Read on.

Millie's Diner

Millie’s Diner

By a wide margin, Millie’s Diner in Richmond was the most recommended place to eat like a local. What’s more, Millie’s was also one of the most recommended establishments for a great breakfast. Why so hot? “One word — scallops — the best in the U.S.” Or more words, if you’re not a fan of scallops:

– “The most delicious place to eat in all of Richmond, hands down. I have ordered things there that I never would have tried anywhere else, just because I know that there is NO WAY it wouldn’t be absolutely delicious coming from Millie’s kitchen.”
– “I live in Reston, VA and make it a point to eat at Millie’s EVERY time I am in Richmond.”
– “It was the place I chose to pop the question a couple years ago.”
– “I ate there every Sunday for two years … they saved a stool for me at the end of the counter. Now THAT is local.”

So what’s good to eat at Millie’s?

– “Thai Shrimp! I ordered it every Friday night the first year Millie’s was open, then decided the rest of the menu was probably good as well (and it is). We have been eating there for 25 years.”
– “Any one of the messes, though my favorite is Castro’s Mess.”
– “Devil’s Mess, Cajun Mess, or anything really. Especially the Bloody Mary.”
– “Love their vegetarian selections!”

More local eats:

The Horseshoe Restaurant in South Hill is a classic diner operating since the 1930s. Southern eats like pimento cheese and fried pickles are daily offerings, as are stories of Roy Kelly (“Second Machine Gun Kelly”) and his arrest at the restaurant. The front page of the South Hill Enterprise dated December 31, 1938 stretches across one wall of the restaurant and features Kelly peering from behind bars. It’s just one of the cool pieces of this historic establishment that feeds the locals and travelers alike.

What to eat at The Horseshoe?

– “The Fried Green Tomato BLT is the best sandwich. Peanut Butter Pie and Chocolate Walnut are both out of this world.”
– “Everything on the menu is awesome.”

Wytheville loves their skeeterdogs. What’s a skeeterdog? A “World Famous Hot Dog” from Skeeter’s Restaurant, operating in historic downtown since 1920. Skeeter’s shares space in a building that was also the birthplace of First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson. Presidential hot dogs, perhaps?

Burger Bar

Burger Bar

Burger Bar is an authentic Bristol original. A mainstay since 1942, it’s been long-said that Hank Williams enjoyed his last meal here. Pair your country music history with a classic burger and you get menu items like “Hey Good Looking,” in honor of one-time devoted customer Ernie Ford. The locals love “Oh My Cheese!,” two grilled cheese sandwiches with a burger between them.

More local eats:

Ham is a typical Virginia staple and you can enjoy a fresh ham biscuit on the front porch at Edwards Ham Shoppe in Surry. One local suggests you “wash it down with a cold, old-fashioned bottled soda” for a true local experience.

Smitty’s Better Burger has been a local favorite in Hampton since 1956. A true drive-in with car hops, Smitty’s is a classic Old School experience that one local says is used “to impress visitors from out of town.” We do like to show off the things that are quintessentially “ours,” don’t we? Recommended menu item is the Better Burger, of course, “with cheese, fries and a drink!”

It’s a neat little historic tavern, but what you really want to know about Amy’s Cafe in Fredericksburg is what one local said: “The ribs are to die for!” Find Amy on West Cambridge Street and tell her someone really loves chef’s baby back ribs.

Waterside dining at Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse is beautiful. Find Tim’s in Dumfries. The restaurant sits at one of the widest points of the Potomac River, offering sweeping views that are incredible from inside or out. The tiki bar is a great place to hang out and enjoy a beer with your seafood, burger or sandwich.

Don’t be deterred by the name. Old Town Caterers & Deli in Manassas offers a diverse menu with international flair. The local favorite is the shrimp bisque.

Texas Tavern

Texas Tavern

In Roanoke, the name Texas Tavern dates to 1930. This love-worn establishment has been in the same family for four generations and is acclaimed for “Best Chili,” “Best Hot Dogs,” “Best Local Hamburgers,” and “Best Late-Night Dinner” by readers of  Roanoker magazine. Saunter up to the counter and enjoy home-cooked food 24 hours a day.

Sal’s Italian Bistro in Edinburg is best summed up by the local B&B owner who wrote, “Sal, the owner, is the ‘real deal’ from Naples, Italy. The food is authentic and fabulous. Huge portions. We send all our B&B guests there.”

Staunton’s Mill Street Grill offers a variety of menu items, but the one thing our local raved about was the ribs (look out Amy!). “Ribs are fall off the bone excellent. I’ve yet to have something that wasn’t excellent.”

More local eats:

Where is your favorite place to eat like a local? 

Leave a Reply


Kaye says:

Pigs R Us (The Checkered Pig) in Martinsville. Great food and service.

Tom says:

Paul’s Deli, Williamsburg….best pizza and pitchers around!

Connie says:

Dixie Bones in Woodbridge. Old part of town, little hole in the wall place, in a shopping center. Been there for years. it is the best BBQ in our area.

kelly says:


Bill says:

SPLUNKERS in Front Royal should be on this list……..Come on……..

Sarah kimble says:

Something Different in Urbanna Va!! Hands down a must visit!

Hasan says:

Triangle Fried Chicken that is located in Dumfries, VA is not on this list?? Maybe you haven’t been there before. Show some love for Northern VA and lets get some diversity on this list! Not just the average hotdogs, burgers, and fries..

addawn says:

I have been wondering about that place! Thanks for the info!

Connie says:

Triangle Fried Chicken is great. We eat there often. Great home cooked side dishes.

Deborah Fox says:

Thank you for including Roanoke ‘ s Texas Tavern! However, I must point out that the proprietors spell “chile” with an “e” and one of the best parts of the experience is the staff hurling “insults” at the diners who get to play along and do their best to compete with those comic professionals! The TT is a riot! Great food for cheap! Classic diner decor. Worth a trip!

Kristy says:

What? Town Kitchen and Provisions in Bedford not on your list ? It must be corrected!

Janie says:

Damn can’t believe Riverside in Charlottesville (or Gus’s White Spot) weren’t on this list.

Deborah Fox says:

Riverside! I moved away from Cville in ’98 but I can still taste the burgers YUM!