We love funky finds, especially if there’s good food to be had. Check out these old filling stations with new purpose: serving great food and drink in a fun, quirky, cute atmosphere.
The Art of Coffee in Montross is a coffeehouse and art gallery neatly tucked into an old three-bay service station on Kings Highway. The folks here serve up made-to-order breakfast and lunch with a range of gourmet coffees to accompany. Menu finds range from crab omelettes to blueberry pancakes; there’s surely something to please your palate.
As far as the art goes, co-owner Holly Harman displays her original watercolors and welcomes other artists to display as well. You’ll find jewelry, pottery, photography, and more at The Art of Coffee. The perfect accompaniment to this very interesting destination? Open mic for poetry readings and live music. When the evenings are nice, the bay doors roll up to stretch the indoors out. Very nice.
The Art of Coffee
Crosby’s Crab Company has not lost the authentic look of its gas station home on Route 234 in Manassas. In fact, they’ve embraced it, adding coastal flair to match their fare: seafood. Family owned and operated since 1980, Crosby’s calls themselves “a fresh seafood market like you’d find at the beach only not at the beach.” The family catches, selects, and sells only the finest, freshest seafood. Actually, it’s common to find alligator and frog legs for the taking, too. Louisiana crawfish are available after Mardi Gras, Alaskan Halibut and wild Salmon can be shipped in fresh, and Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab (hard and soft shell) are available just about all of the time. The range of fish and shellfish is wide, so just ask. Perhaps ye shall receive.
Crosby’s Crab Company
It might take you a minute to see what was once Ritchie’s Mobilgas when you approach The Bistro at Market and Grove on North Market Street in Old Town Petersburg, but it’s there. The dining room sits inside the garage. Just look up and see that the owners chose to keep the steel girder for the engine hoist. As for the menu at The Bistro, it’s been described as hip and unconventional, but delicious, with entrees like honey-glazed duck and shrimp crostini. The taste is fresh and local, thanks to area farm-raised produce.
The Bistro at Market and Grove
Right along the beaten path of Route 13 on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is The Machipongo Trading Company, which promises to be “the Eastern Shore’s finest coffee and gourmet snack shop.” Don’t let the “snack shop” part fool you; they’re selling themselves short. Rather, you’ll find a menu filled with breakfast sandwiches and burritos, and a lunch menu overflowing with wraps, salads, and paninis. There are even vegan and vegetarian options. Their gourmet coffee and espresso is locally roasted, and you’ll find old-school sodas in the drink cooler. In fact, the front half of the building is filled with specialty foods and treats – most, if not all, locally crafted. It’s a fantastic combination of old meets new, both with the eats and drinks, and with the business and building. The Machipongo Trading Company made its home in an old Texaco station in 2008.
The Machipongo Trading Company
Ivy Provisions is “Charlottesville’s finest food and beverage outfitter,” meaning, it’s a great place from which to source your next meal. They’ve got the hook up with all of the top-notch gourmet and local products you’re looking for, whether it’s catering or just building your own picnic. They’re also a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, and feature tea and coffee specials. Love craft beer and wine? They have those, too. Heck, they even create events around them.
When you know the humble beginnings, you won’t believe what they’ve done to the place. Ivy Provisions made its home in what was a Citgo service station. When asked about the turn-around by a Facebook inquirer, the page admin replied, “We still serve fuel, it’s just fuel for ya belly!” Go check ’em out.
For 70 years, the corner of Route 29 and Maury Avenue in Charlottesville was home to a full service filling station, but that changed in 2011 when the building was overhauled from Fry’s Spring Service Station to create Fry’s Spring Station. The claim to fame here is the 22-pie brick oven. When it’s a fresh pizza you’re after, this is the place to go, but that’s not all you’ll have to choose from. Serving lunch and dinner, the Italian menu includes a variety of salads, light sandwiches, and hearty pastas, as well as gluten-free options.
You’ll be hard-pressed to decide where to dine. On cooler days and evenings, it’s the outdoors that will call. At the same time, the warm but industrial interior of exposed brick and reclaimed hardwood is quite comfortable. Perhaps you’ll be there when they roll up the bay doors and you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Fry’s Spring Station
Jake’s Place in Ashland is not new to us (though it is brand new as of this year), in fact we just included them in 13 to Eat: Restaurants Just Off I-95 thanks to their Yelp four-star rating. What we didn’t mention in that piece is that Jake’s resides in a 1926 filling station on Route 54. Let the video below show you the amazing transformation. Where the food is concerned, go for the pulled pork. Or the fried green tomatoes. Or the pimento cheese sandwich. Truly, their t-shirt says it all: “Good food, good meat, good Lord, let’s eat!”
At 481 North Main Street in Kilmarnock, one used to pass a Shell convenience store and car wash. Today’s passersby should stop for the Car Wash Café, a restaurant and car wash. Open for breakfast and lunch, it’s a steady TripAdvisor favorite with comments like “Always a smart choice for a meal, don’t be scared by the building,” and “Don’t let the exterior fool you – this place knocks it out of the park!!!!” left by reviewers from Washington, DC and Boston, Massachusetts. Make a pilgrimage and see for yourself what the hype is about.
Car Wash Café
You never know what you’ll find at Bonnie Blue Southern Market & Bakery in Winchester. This cute-as-a-button one-time Esso station is chock full of local wares and often has produce and plants for sale. But you’re looking for the good food, right? They’re known for several things, but their pulled pork and homemade pies rise to the top. Oh, and if you have a hankering for a biscuit, you better get there early.
Bonnie Blue Southern Market & Bakery
An old Pure Oil gas station at the bottom of Main Street in historic downtown Lexington has had quite a few lives, but its current life is probably its finest. Pure Eats focuses on locally sourced ingredients to serve you pure goodness. Locals scramble for their house-made doughnuts, but just as loved are the burgers. Top off a great lunch with a Homestead Creamery milkshake and then take a stroll up Main Street to walk it off. You can thank me later.
Cute as can be, Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton sits in a 1920s Esso station. Sticking with the vintage theme and feel, the business is so named for the owner’s 1954 F-100, a red truck from Tommy Hilfiger’s Connecticut farm. You’ll probably see the sweet antique ride sitting out front when you visit.
When considering the food at Red Truck, consider this: Washingtonian called it the “best country-drive food destination.” Why? Perhaps it’s the fresh seasonal pies (their mincemeat was featured in Esquire) or the cookie-of-the-day. Or perhaps it’s the handcrafted chicken salad sandwich made with farm-raised chicken, fresh eggs, homemade relish, and homemade wheat bread. Those are in demand and a limited number are made daily. Get one while you can.
Red Truck Bakery
This charmer is very well disguised. Did you know Berret’s Seafood Restaurant & Taphouse Grill in Williamsburg sits in what used to be a Ford dealership and Esso station? That was the building’s 1930s life. Today you’ll be welcomed with a menu filled with fresh seafood choices, steaks, chicken, and lamb. The outdoor seating of Taphouse Grill is a great place for those who love a low-key vibe with fantastic food. Berret’s is just a block from Colonial Williamsburg. Make it a key dining destination on your next vacation.
Berret’s Seafood, Then and Now
Salt Artisan Market is near Monticello in Charlottesville. The one-time 1930’s Esso gas station has seen life as a farm store, general store, and now a farm-to-table café and market. The big thing at Salt is picnics. Plan a special day out with your sweetie that includes fresh, local, tasty wares. If you’re passing through on the Monticello Wine Trail, pop in for breakfast or lunch. You’ll be delighted to find sandwiches that include spicy andouille with sweet peppers and onions, and croque-monsieur with Dijon, Gruyère, and Kite’s Happy Ham.
Do you know of other places like these? Please let us know by leaving a kind comment.