22 Places to Eat Like a Local

by Casey Higgins | Posted on August 16th, 2013

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.

Central Virginia

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!”

Other great places to eat like a local in Central Virginia:


Southern Virginia


The Horseshoe Restaurant's Pimento Cheeseburger

The Horseshoe Restaurant’s Pimento Cheeseburger

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.”


Blue Ridge Highlands

Burger Bar

Burger Bar

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 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.

Other great places to eat like a local in the Blue Ridge Highlands:


Coastal Virginia

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!”


Northern Virginia

Tim's Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse

Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse

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.


Shenandoah Valley

Texas Tavern

Texas Tavern

Have you ever heard of a Liars Table? I had not and so inquired with our local about his recommendation of Hi Neighbor Country Restaurant in Strasburg. He mentioned the Liars Table as one of the main draws and I had to know why. He wrote, “The Liars Table is one of those things that really make a small town local restaurant.” He elaborated, naming names, to tell me that groups of “local characters” keep one particular table full all day long from about 5:30 a.m. until closing. One group coming in after the next, shooting the breeze, talking “local politics, news, etc.”

I imagine that Hi Neighbor, a community staple since 1949, serves great food along with warm hospitality. What to eat? Our local says the “homemade biscuits with homemade sausage or chipped beef gravy are awesome,” but notes that the burgers and sandwiches are, too.

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.”

Other great places to eat like a local in the Shenandoah Valley:

Where is your favorite place to eat like a local? Leave a comment to let us know!

Leave a Reply


Candi says:

Hi-Neighbor in Strasburg is closing for good at the end of this month….Sals Italian Bistro is ok….I’ve lived here for 13 yrs, I’ve been there maybe twice. A few more “eat like a local” places in the area are in Woodstock (3mi north of Edinburg). Bens Diner at the North end of town is a local favorite! The food is homey, good, and cheap. Woodstock Cafe/The Other Place, across from the courthouse has awesome paninis and soups! They’re also the place to go for wine and hard to find beer :)

Michele Wright says:

The Country Cafe near The Homestead in Hot Springs absolutely must be added to your restaurant list. Locally owned and serving three meals every day except Monday. All their home made pies are amazing!

Kim says:

What a shame for “MS” commenter below. Northern Virginia has such a great array of restaurants — there’s really something for everyone. We even have a fair-share of gluten-free restaurants here in Reston, VA (or at least restaurants with gluten free menu items), making it a lot easier for diners like me to go out.

MS says:

I’ve been living in the wrong part of VA (South-Eastern Hampton Road area). I’m a transplant and have been here over 10 years and I admittedly say that the local cuisine is sub par. It is very difficult to find good eatery and when you do the cuisine is not local. In looking at your list, I am not surprised that this area was not included.