Virginia has always loved its pork; look no further than the country ham, one of the state’s culinary calling cards, for evidence of that.
But it was more than ham that was eaten. In the first salvo of the Snout To Tail movement in English-speaking America, colonists ate just about every part of the pig they could, and what wasn’t eaten fresh was salted and smoked to preserve for a future meal.
Bacon was no stranger to early Virginians; the cut is one of the oldest in meat history, and the English who came here in 1607 (pigs came to the Jamestown Colony, too) were already intimately knowledgeable with it. Bacon was meat for the masses as it was easy to produce and affordable.
And it is still loved today. In fact, since 2000 the Saturday before Labor Day has been observed as International Bacon Day.
We can’t think of a better occasion than to plan a trip across the commonwealth to try some bacon-centric dishes (some of our favorites are listed below) and grab a rasher or two from folks who cure their own to take back home and enjoy.
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THESE RESTAUANTS ARE MAKIN’ BACON
Looking for a bacon fix? Here are some of our favorite dishes which incorporate that sinful, sultry, salty flavor in the mix:
APPLE BUTTER & BACON MILKSHAKE
A creamy concoction of complimentary flavors like rich and complex apple butter and salty, savory bacon
216 Plume St., Norfolk
BACON-WRAPPED TATER TOTS
Cheesey housemade tater tots are wrapped in bacon and served up sizzling hot with housemade chili ketchup.
Want to try these at home? Still chef/owner Mike Farrell shares his recipe with us below.
Still Worldly Eclectic Tapas
50 Court St., Portsmouth
also offered at Still’s sister restaurant, The Public House:
The Public House Victuals & Libations
1112 Colley Ave., Norfolk
B. E. L. T.
This bountiful brunch sandwich features bacon, an over-easy egg, lettuce, and a fried green tomato on toasted brioche
480 King St., Alexandria
CHICKEN ‘N WAFFLE
Crispy fried chicken topped with a fried egg adorns a bacon-studded waffle and a dressed bed of salad greens, then served with Kim Kim Hot Sauce (a Virginia’s Finest product) and maple syrup
25 W. Main St., Charlottesville
GRILLED CORN & CRAB BISQUE
A rich bisque made with grilled corn, crab and hickory-smoked bacon from Virginia artisan butchery The Rock Barn
115 E. Beverley St., Staunton
THE ELVIS BURGER
Decadent is an understatement; burger topped with peanut butter, mayonnaise, applewood-smoked bacon and cheese
Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint
80 S. Main St., Harrisonburg
210 Market St. Roanoke
This fiery sandwich features bang bang bacon, fried mac-and-cheese, Thai dragon pepper salad and ghost pepper sauce
102 Martinsburg Ave., Gordonsville
THE HOG DOG
Bacon-wrapped jumbo beef hot dog, deep fried, and topped with hand-pulled pork, barbecue sauce and cole slaw
9503 West Broad St., Richmond
HOUSE MADE NOODLES
A brothy dish of housemade noodles with house-cured bacon lardons, mustard greens and a potlikker broth comprised of greens, vinegar and pork; topped with freshly-grated pecorino cheese.
416 E. Grace St., Richmond
MAC DADDY SPECIALTY PIZZA
Oven baked mac-and-cheese topped with cheddar and bacon and olive oil parmesan sauce
Fork in the Market
32 Market Square, Roanoke
OVER-THE-TOP MAPLE BACON CUPCAKE
This tall, cylindrical sweet is comprised of a Virginia maple syrup cake stuffed with a maple cream filing and topped with milk chocolate icing and bits of caramelized brown sugar-pepper bacon. It is available on Saturdays and Sundays.
1220-C Richmond Rd., Williamsburg
A classic rendition of the venerable favorite: oysters in the half-shell topped with a rich mixture of bacon, cheese and spinach then baked until golden crowned and bubbling
Rockafeller’s Restaurant on Rudee Inlet
308 Mediterranean Ave., Virginia Beach
A sweet and savory addictive snack of bacon coated and cooked in maple syrup, cayenne and raw sugar
2000 Busted Rock Rd., Meadows of Dan
CLASSIC STATION 2
This wonderfully crafted burger starts with 100 percent Virginia-grown beef from Buffalo Creek Beef in Lexington chargrilled to order and placed atop an artisan bun baked with spent grain from Virginia brewer Devils Backbone. Garnished with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle chips and a choice of cheese, the icing on the cake is – you guessed it, crispy bacon.
2016 East Main St., Richmond
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BRING HOME THE BACON
Here’s a list of places to bring home the bacon; the Virginia bacon, in fact.
These smaller producers craft their edible works of art right here in the Old Dominion.
Some places you may just have to go in and order right from the counter, while others ship. Some produce a good amount of quantity, while others do so on a smaller scale, meaning supplies may be limited.
15 N. Belmont Ave., Richmond
From this artisan butchery comes –
BB Bacon: house-cured and slow smoked over hickory
Beef Bacon: house-cured, slow smoked boneless rib plate
Canadian Bacon: a brined and smoked cut from ham
Blue Ridge Meats of Front Royal
2391 Guard Hill Rd., Middletown
Using no-hormone meat locally-grown and house processed comes –
House smoked bacon
3149 Riverview Dr., Toms Brook
Producing meats in the Shenandoah Valley since 1962 comes –
Edwards of Surry
11381 Rolfe Hwy., Surry
800-222-4267 | 757-294-3688
A number of bacons in various cuts and styles are offered, including –
Sliced Berkshire Bacon: dry-cured by hand from pasture-raised, Berkshire hogs
Bacon Steak: extra-thick hickory smoked bacon
Jowciale: smoked and peppered hog jowl
Assortment boxes: The Big Bacon Box, Virginia Bacon Sampler
RM Felts Packing Company
35497 General Mahone Blvd., Ivor
Under the brand name Felts Genuine Southampton comes –
3957 Wolftown-Hood Rd., Wolftown
From this Blue Ridge meat packer comes –
Thicker-sliced country-cured bacon
The Rock Barn
2387 Oak Ridge Rd., Arrington
From this field-to-fork artisan butchery comes –
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Bacon-Wrapped Tater Tots with Chili Ketchup
Are you licking the computer screen yet? We thought so.
Sate your Virginia bacon desire immediately with this pork-fect recipe from Executive Chef Michael Farrell of Still Worldly Eclectic Eats in Portsmouth; they are a staple on his menu.
4 medium-to-large potatoes
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
16 strips bacon
Preheat oven to 425F. Thoroughly wash potatoes and prick with the tines of a fork.
Place potatoes on a baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour, or until tender. Set aside to cool completely.
Once cool, grate them using a medium grater and mix in cheese, garlic, salt and pepper.
Lay out a long piece of plastic film wrap and place potato mixture in the middle and press to form a log. Roll the film over the log tightly to form a cylinder. Let the mixture set and rest about 45 minutes.
Unwrap the potato cylinder and cut into 1-inch pieces about an inch or so in diameter.
Lay out the bacon and cut each strip in half. Place one tot on the bacon and wrap, then secure with a skewer.
Cook tots in a fryer with oil at 350F (or in hot oil in a skillet on the stove top) until the bacon is crispy and the potatoes are golden, about 3-5 minutes. Serve with Chili Ketchup.
Makes about 32 pieces.
Chili Ketchup: in a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup Asian chili garlic paste (like Sambal), 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons Asian chili hot sauce (like Sriracha), 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Let chill in the refrigerator about an hour before serving. Makes about 1 cup.
Patrick Evans-Hylton, a Johnson & Wales University trained chef, is a Norfolk, Va.-based food journalist, historian and educator. His work has appeared in print, television, radio and social media since 1995. Evans-Hylton calls his cookbook, Dishing Up Virginia, his love letter to the state’s foods and foodways. He blogs at PatrickEvansHylton.com.