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    #Grape harvesting has begun in some parts of #Virginia and will continue through October, Virginia's #Wine Month. @orecul13 gathered this bounty for #canning purposes. Anyone for some locally made juice or jelly? #loveva #vawine #waynesboro #countryliving #photooftheday #jelly #vafood
    Is everyone excited for the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion next month? Some of the performances will be taking place here, at the Paramount Center for The Arts on State Street. This #theater was built in 1931 and restored to its original splendor in 1991. #oldschoolva #loveva #virginia #vatravel #theatre #photooftheday
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    If you haven't notice, fields of #sunflowers are in bloom throughout the state. This one calls Lickinghole Creek Craft #Brewery it's home in Goochland. This is both an awesome photo and tasting op. 😉 #loveva #virginia #vabeer #vacraftbeermonth #sunflower #photooftheday #drinklocal #craftbeer Photo creds to @lickingholecreekcraftbrewery
  • Archive for the ‘Locals’ Category

    Best places to find an over-the-top hot dog

    by Stefanie | Posted on June 30th, 2014

    The hot dog is one of the quintessential American culinary staples. When you think of these delicious franks, nestled perfectly in their bun, ketchup, mustard and relish follow shortly behind. What about some pineapple or guacamole? Check out any of these hot dog joints, and you’re in a unique meat-lover’s dream.

    City Dogs

    City Dogs

    CITY DOGS, Richmond
    City Dogs, with two locations in Richmond, offers more than 10 unique dogs on its menu. As one frequent patron boasts, “The Santa Fe Dog, with fresh guacamole, fresh jalapeños and tortilla strips keep you coming back for more. The Honolulu Dog, with pineapple and rich BBQ, and the Carolina Dog with BBQ and coleslaw on top of the dog are also awesome picks. Plus the wait staff is friendly and very helpful.” And to wash down the hot dog, great drink specials are always available to enjoy. After getting your hot dog fix, Richmond offers countless historic excursions for visitors, from the Richmond Slave Trail, to breathtaking Maymont, and everything in between.

    DIPDOG, Marion
    A rags to riches and rags to riches again, DipDog Stand in Marion has been in business since 1957, powering through redirection of passing roads, management transition and more. The Stand stood the test of time, thriving off their unique, affordable menu. The family-owned business has hosted a number of events and has also had Aerosmith pass by! DipDog has been listed in Southern Living magazine and has also been voted best overall restaurant, best hotdogs, best service, and more. While you’re in Marion, take in a show at The Lincoln Theatre and spend a weekend at Hungry Mother State Park.

    THE GAP DELI, Fancy Gap
    As you’re making your way through the Blue Ridge Parkway, stop by The Gap Deli and try one of two hot dogs that veer off the beaten path. The General Lee Smack Down Dog is a quarter-pound, all-beef dog, wrapped in cheese and slices of bacon; topped off with chili, red onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, banana peppers, yellow mustard and coleslaw. Feel like a more traditional dog, but with a twist? Try the General Grant Chow Down Dog, topped with tomatoes, dill pickles, sweet relish, banana peppers, red onions, yellow mustard and sprinkled with celery salt. Both are served on a delicious toasted French roll.

    Goochland Drive-In

    Goochland Drive-In

    GOOCHLAND DRIVE-IN, Hadensville
    Have you ever heard of this one? The Gooch Dog, a hotdog topped with mac n’cheese, with a special/secret sauce piled on top. The Goochland Drive-In, a family-oriented, classic drive-in establishment, offers its patrons new release movies and unique American concessions, such as the Gooch Dog. It’s worth a visit for a night of family fun.

    HAUTE DOG & FRIES, Alexandria & Purcellville
    “Keep it simple. Everyone loves a hotdog.” That’s the motto of Haute Dog & Fries, located just outside Washington, D.C., as well as Purcellville. Choose from one of their 15 dogs on the menu, or make your own custom creation (including rainbow sprinkles!). Try out the District “D.C.” Dog, complete with bleu cheese, BBQ sauce, yellow mustard, chopped onions and a dill pickle. Or how about the classic Haute Dog? Dressed with homemade warm house onion relish, yellow mustard, mayo and celery salt. All hotdogs are natural, all-beef franks; as well as gluten, dairy and sugar-free. Pair your hotdog with Haute Dog’s signature fries and you’re good to go!

    DOUG’S HOT DOGS, Norfolk
    Doug’s Hot Dogs, located in Ocean View in Norfolk, is known for its BBQ hot dog, complete with authentic pulled pork BBQ. Arrays of other topping options are available, including the bacon-cheddar dog and their foot-long. 

    Skeeter's, E. N. Umberger Store

    Skeeter’s, E. N. Umberger Store

    SKEETER’S “WORLD FAMOUS” HOTDOGS, Wytheville
    Home of the Skeeterdog, Skeeter’s has served nearly nine million dogs since 1925. As one visitor boasts, “My favorite Skeeterdog is the “All the Way.” The All the Way dog comes buried under chili, mustard and ultra-creamy slaw that’s almost more of a sauce, and super finely diced fresh onions. The buns are steamed behind the counter and arrive at the table nice and soft. Skeeter’s has been named Hot Dog of the Week by seriouseats.com.

    DONKEY DAWGS, Virginia Beach
    If you’re visiting Virginia Beach, you have to take a stop to Donkey Dawgs, just a few miles from the coastline. Serving hot dogs, Carolina BBQ, burgers, salad, homemade soups and daily specials, there’s something that is sure to please any palate.

     



    Food, Locals | 12 Comments

    Hot? 26 Places to Chill Out with a Great Milkshake

    by Casey | Posted on June 19th, 2014

    It’s hot and getting hotter, so where can you find the best milkshakes in Virginia to help you cool off? Our trusty locals have come through again, this time with 26 appealing shake spots across Virginia.

    Fenderz

    Fenderz

    Have an affection for peanut butter? So do our locals, it seems. When evaluating the favorite flavors and specialty shakes offered across the Commonwealth, peanut butter rose to the top. Here’s what our friends had to say …

    “Chocolate Peanut Butter- Just the right mix of sweet and salt,” wrote Tonya of Abingon’s Ellis Soda Shoppe. She also noted, “The shop is in an old drugstore and much of Abingdon’s history is told on the original oak shelving and on the tables.”

    Stacy’s favorite at Fenderz in Collinsville is the “Peanut Butter Hot Fudge milkshake made with Homestead Creamery chocolate soft serve ice cream and peanut butter hot fudge.”

    Brian gives a word of caution, but this shake from George Bowers Grocery in Staunton sounds like it was made especially for men. Or any bacon lover, for that matter. He writes, “Calorie counters be forewarned … The Heartbreaker! Artisan vanilla gelato is blended with local Polyface bacon and Falling Bark Farm hickory.”

    Hob Nob Drive-In is located in Gate City. Penny gives a nod to the Nob and her favorite shake, “Reese’s … Thick, rich, and good! The Hob Nob has been a locally family owned drive in since the 1950′s. They are one of the oldest drive-ins in our region. The Hob Nob is THE place to go.”

    The Burger Bar in Bristol received several mentions for their milkshakes. Dave, James and Carol all enjoy the Chocolate Peanut Butter shake. Carole wrote, “the almost-sinfully flavorful choices are beyond your imagination and worth every spoonful!”

    Gail let us know of Front Royal’s Facebook vote for their favorite milkshake, writing, “Spleunker’s won hands down. Peanut Butter was the favorite.” If an entire town rallies behind a milkshake, you know it has to be the bomb.

    Summertime calls for fruity shakes. Oranges and berries are the cream of the crop when considering traditional summer milkshake flavors.

    Anne wrote “it tastes like summer,” when describing the strawberry shake at Carl’s Frozen Custard in Fredericksburg.  ’Nough said.

    In Kilmarnock, Stevie’s Ice Cream offers delicious fruit shakes, making it hard to choose just one. Susan wrote, “Black Raspberry gets the nod for its fruity taste. It’s so ultra thick, you’ll pull the straw shut getting it out!”

     Noelle has a favorite at Kline’s Dairy Bar in Harrisonburg. Her recommendation? “The best shake on the menu is the Orange Creamsicle. It tastes just like the old days of an orange cream float.” Thomas picked “Black Raspberry. It’s made with a thicker, creamier ice cream is really just to die for.”

    Doumar's Cones and Barbeque

    Doumar’s Cones and Barbeque

    Wright’s Dairy Rite in Staunton has an orange offering of its own. Sheryl wants you to try a drink freeze, which is “your favorite drink blended with rich vanilla ice cream. It’s much like a milkshake but they use soda instead of milk. The Orange Fanta tastes like a dreamsicle.”

    Along the same lines, Anthony suggests you try the Orange Freeze at Doumar’s in Norfolk, which also tastes like a dreamsicle. He adds, “All the ice cream is handmade and has been for 100 years.”

    Richmond Magazine rated The Dairy Bar as offering the Best Local Milkshake. Julianna wrote, “The Dairy Bar Restaurant uses ice cream from Blue Bell Creameries as the base for their milkshakes, and they offer over 20 different flavors!” Dreamsicle is one tasty flavor, but then also try the Cookies N’ Cream or the Rum-Raisin.

    Adult milkshakes. Have you considered one? These might pique your interest …

    Station 2 in Richmond has a Girl Scout reference on their shake menu, and Juliana recommends it! She wrote, “For the adults: Naughty Girl Scout – made with vanilla ice cream, Irish cream, creme de menthe, creme de cacao and chocolate chips! Station 2 has fantastic regular milkshakes, but they are really known for their popular ‘adult’ milkshakes.”

    Patty had a few recommendations for Lexington’s Sweet Things Ice Cream Shoppe, but the one that caught our eye (a la Station 2, above) was the Chunky Irish Girl Scout, which Patty described as “Thin Mint cookies mixed with Bailey’s Irish Cream.” Sign me up!

    Another suggestion for Kline’s in Harrisonburg is Shami’s favorite, the “Coffee Malt Shake – custard style ice cream without the egg! It’s deliciously good and refreshing on a hot summer day!”

    Maureen wrote to us, “Residents and visitors alike flock to the iconic ice cream cone sign at Colleen Drive-In in Arrington.” One of the favorites is the Mocha milkshake.

    An anonymous tip was received about Bristol’s Blackbird Bakery‘s milkshakes. Our tipster wrote, “Blackbird Bakery’s new milkshakes are made from over 15 ounces of Homestead Creamery ice cream. Blackbird offers six base flavors and two seasonal flavors, all of which can be turned into one of their fantastic milkshakes … wonderful sauces and syrups [are] available [and] Blackbird’s coffees can be added to your shake.”

    Sweet Things Ice Cream Shoppe

    Sweet Things Ice Cream Shoppe

    So what about classic milkshake flavors? Get ‘em here …

    Danelle keeps it simple when mentioning Goolrick’s Pharmacy in Fredericksburg. “Chocolate milkshake. [It] has been around since 1863.”

    Though we’ve mentioned Doumar’s for their Orange Freeze, Julie loves the chocolate shake in particular. She wrote, “Chocolate milkshake: real milk, real ice cream, plenty of chocolate — yummy!”

    Walton & Smoot Pharmacy in Woodstock has a claim to fame, which Barbara pointed out when she wrote, “Jackie O (Onassis) had a chocolate shake there!!” Barbara’s favorite, however is the “Vanilla shake!” Josh also likes Walton & Smoot, but recommends the Strawberry. He adds, “All are good because they come from a vintage fountain.” Heather votes for the Chocolate shake, while Jenna calls it “very nostalgic!!”

    Christina found a nostalgic spot in Mathews – Richardson’s Cafe. She wrote, “The best shake on the menu is the Mint Chip! Sweet, cold and refreshing. I love to enjoy it while sitting at the old soda pop counter watching reruns of ‘I Love Lucy’ in this former Rexall drug store.”

    In Williamsburg you’ll find Shorty’s Diner and Retro’s Good Eats, both serving delicious shakes. Vivian said of Shorty’s, “Chocolate is my favorite. They also offer their old fashioned malts.” She added of Retro’s, “For me, Chocolate is the best! They also offer their real custard milkshakes in Vanilla, Swirl Chocolate Cherry and Dreamsicle.”

    Looking for more great shakes? Consider these as well.

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    Food, Locals | 3 Comments

    Eat Local! 16 Dishes with Fresh, Local Flavor

    by Casey | Posted on April 18th, 2014

    “Fresh, not frozen” is the mantra of many, but you’re invited to really taste the difference when you dine at some of Virginia’s farm-to-table restaurants. Of note are these 16 locally-sourced dishes that were nominated by locals as their favorite meal. Perhaps one sounds palate-pleasing for your next out-and-about Virginia excursion?

    Braised Shenandoah Lamb Shoulder. BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier.

    Braised Shenandoah Lamb Shoulder. BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier.

    1. Traditions, inside the Williamsburg Lodge in Williamsburg, cooks up a Fennel Dusted Virginia Coast Shrimp and Scallop Dish that utilizes Dave and Dee’s Sedley, Virginia-grown oyster mushrooms, local farmers’ produce, and cured Virginia bourbon bacon.

    2. BRABO by Robert Wiedmaier is located in beautiful Old Town Alexandria. Just as beautiful is their Braised Shenandoah Lamb Shoulder served with hand-rolled pappardelle, dill, pearl onions, glazed parsnip and a natural jus.

    3. In Staunton, try Zynodoa’s locally-sourced Autumn Olive Farm pork entrĂ©e, which includes Meadow Creek Dairy’s Mountaineer cheese bruleed cornbread, and Harvest Thyme Herbs’ corn shoot salad.

    4. Shrimp is served atop locally-sourced Andouille sausage and stone-ground grits at Wild Wolf Brewing Company in Nellysford. Pair this dish-with-a-kick with one of their homemade brews for a divine lunch on the patio.

    Gunness Ayrshire Beef Stew. Hunter's Head Tavern.

    Gunness Ayrshire Beef Stew. Hunter’s Head Tavern.

    5. Upperville is home to the English pub,  Hunter’s Head Tavern, where Ayrshire Farm’s certified organic, humane, heritage-bred beef is the main ingredient in their Guinness Ayrshire Beef Stew. It’s slow-simmered with red wine, stock and Guinness stout, and finished with carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes.

    6. New Leaf Pastry Kitchen in Harrisonburg offers a filling Bruschetta that’s perfect for a quick lunch. House-made rosemary focaccia is split and spread with herbed goat cheese before being filled with roasted Portobella mushrooms, onions, Polyface Farms’ sausage, and shredded smoked Gouda. It’s served hot with a Parmesan crisp and Dijon crĂšme fraiche.

    Crispy Skinned Chesapeake Bay Rockfish. Lemaire.

    Crispy Skinned Chesapeake Bay Rockfish. Lemaire.

    7. Inside the famed Jefferson Hotel in Richmond is Lemaire, where a Crispy Skinned Chesapeake Bay Rockfish is a popular local dish. The Rockfish is served with stewed white beans, semi-dried tomatoes, Manakintowne Specialty Growers’ field arugula, smoked Surry County sausage, and truffled mushroom broth.

    8. A historical dessert in honor of Thomas Jefferson, the Jefferson Brandied Peaches & Vanilla Ice Cream dessert that you’ll find at the Old Mill Room at Boar’s Head in Charlottesville includes raspberry sauce, meringue, locally-grown peaches, and Jefferson vanilla ice cream. Dessert first? Yes, please!

    9. More dessert? You betcha! The Heartwood Cobbler at Heartwood in Abingdon is simply sugar, self-rising flour, Duchess Dairy milk, butter and fresh fruit from the farmer’s market topped with Homestead Creamery vanilla ice cream. Which type of cobbler you find on the menu depends on which fruit is fresh and in season.

    10. Created from all local ingredients, the Bratwurst Pizza with Apples and Onions from Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton includes Double H Farms’ bratwurst and local apples. The dough includes Ashland Farms’ whole wheat flour and is infused with herbs, olive oil and Hungry Hill Farm honey.

    The Savory Grain, Richmond.

    The Savory Grain, Richmond.

    11. Roanoke’s Local Roots Restaurant serves a Hollow Hill Farm’s Bison Pastrami sandwich topped with cheddar cheese, house sauerkraut and house barbecue sauce. It’s served atop a Breadcraft Bakery sesame seed bun.

    12. Timbercreek Organics’ beef is slow cooked with whole grain mustard spaetzle, roasted Sharondale Farms’ mushrooms, braised red cabbage, and bleu cheese. You can find this fine dish at Fossett’s at Keswick Hall in Keswick.

    13. The Savory Grain in Richmond serves a Roasted Quail stuffed with a nine-grain cranberry pecan medley and finished with Bold Rock Cider roasted red pepper and ginger jus. Beautiful and delicious.

    14. A perfect farm-fresh egg is served on garlic-rubbed ciabatta and served with mixed baby greens topped in balsamic vinaigrette, Virginia country ham and Parmesan cheese at Foti’s Restaurant in Culpeper.

    15. Fresh catfish is served with creamed farro, Surry County sausage, butter beans, hominy, and mustard cream at The Roosevelt in Richmond.

    16. Also in Richmond is Rappahannock, serving a beautiful dish of braised Border Springs Farm lamb with a crispy cake of Arborio rice, fregola sarda and lentils, fermented vegetables, pea tendrils, and a blood orange vinaigrette.

    What’s your favorite locally-sourced dish? Tell all about it by leaving a comment!

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    Food, Locals | Comments Off

    22 Virginia Small Towns You’re Going to LOVE

    by Casey | Posted on February 27th, 2014

    Virginia’s small towns are treasure troves of great food, warm hospitality, immense history, and Southern charm. Antiquers and outdoor enthusiasts equally will be at home in these 22 destinations promising all of the above and more. Map out a weekend and see what you’re missing.

    The Martha Hotel & Spa, Abingdon, Virginia

    The Martha Hotel & Spa, Abingdon, Virginia

    Abingdon is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, making it the perfect destination for outdoor activities. The Virginia Creeper Trail begins in downtown Abingdon and is great for biking, walking, jogging or horseback riding. The historic downtown district begs for a walk along the cobblestone sidewalks, and delicious finds aren’t far away. Get pampered with a spa treatment at The Martha Hotel & Spa, dine at a tasty restaurant serving locally-grown menu items, catch a play at the famous Barter Theatre, or grab a craft brew and listen to live music at Wolf Hills Brewing Co.

    Bristol, Virginia. Image by Malcolm Wilson.

    Bristol, Virginia. Image by Malcolm Wilson.

    With its wonderful music heritage — as the site of the 1927 Bristol Sessions, recognized as the “Big Bang of country music” — and its historic charm, Bristol is the perfect destination for music lovers and history buffs. And it will only get better with the opening of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in August 2014. Bristol’s downtown offers live music every night in a variety of venues, along with many music events throughout the year. As a designated Arts & Entertainment District, Bristol is home to art galleries featuring local artists, live dance and theatrical performances, and numerous arts events. You can also find wonderful local dining spots that you won’t find anywhere else. From the Burger Bar, Brooklyn Grill and Eatz to Alfredo’s and Shang Hai, there’s something for every taste.

    Downtown Culpeper, Virginia at Dusk

    Downtown Culpeper, Virginia at Dusk

    Culpeper, a National Trust 2012 Great American Main Street, is home to some great wineries and Virginia’s only legal moonshine distillery, Belmont Farm Distillery. Along with great dining options (It’s About Thyme Markets’ brick oven pizza or Foti’s uniquely inspired farm to fork creations),  shop for one-of-a-kind items (global treasures, earth friendly gifts, antiques, original art, and handcrafted-in-the-USA items). Just a short drive out of town, find Culpeper’s well-preserved Civil War battlefields at Cedar Mountain, Kelly’s Ford and Brandy Station for a self-guided or guided tour.

    Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia

    Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia. Image by Jason Barnette.

    Damascus is known as Trail Town USA thanks to the seven trails that intersect there, namely the Appalachian Trail and  the Virginia Creeper Trail, which connects to Abingdon. Damascus is a gateway to the 191,000-acre Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Virginia’s highest peak. The Damascus Old Mill is a historic staple in the center of town. Located on the banks of Laurel Creek, the mill overlooks the grist mill waterfall, while ducks and geese float peacefully on the mill pond. It serves as an inn, restaurant and local watering hole. Damascus is for vacationers who are tired of sitting in traffic, waiting in long lines, and spending lots of money in crowded, hectic conditions.

    Adventure Park at Sandy River Retreat in Farmville, Virginia

    Adventure Park at Sandy River Retreat in Farmville, Virginia

    In Farmville there are  plenty of family fun activities. High Bridge Trail State Park offers hiking and biking while the Appomattox River offers a historical story and a relaxing float. There are outfitters to assist with your recreational needs. Just a few minutes outside of town is the Adventure Park at Sandy River Retreat, a high ropes course with zip lines, perfect for adventure seekers looking for a challenge. Main Street offers antiques, accessories and furniture shopping at the renowned Green Front Furniture, as well as a Belgium bakery, sweet shop, fabrics, bridal stores and more. When it’s time to eat, head to Charlie’s Waterfont Cafe on the river.

    Historic Fincastle boasts southern charm and is deeply rooted in historical significance. Fincastle is a designated Lewis and Clark community, having ties to both Andrew Lewis and William Clark prior to and after their western expedition. There is a self-guided walking tour that leads visitors to many of the town homes and buildings, some dating back to the late 1700s and early to mid 1800s. Stay in one of the two bed and breakfast’s in the historic district, perfect places to sit back, relax and enjoy the simple comforts of home and southern conversation. Stop in to the Heritage Family Market for fresh deli meats and cheeses, the perfect take-home taste of Fincastle.

    The Exchange Hotel, Gordonsville, Virginia

    Civil War Museum at The Exchange Hotel, Gordonsville, Virginia

    When in Gordonsville, spend time walking in the steps of extraordinary history, and then take a stroll down Main Street to enjoy timeless charm and great food traditions. During the Civil War the elegant Exchange Hotel became a receiving hospital for more than 70,000 troops. Today it has been restored to its grandeur. Downtown, find quaint shops and galleries that combine modern styles with antiques and country sensibilities. Don’t miss contemporary gems like Pomme, where acclaimed French Chef Gerard Gasparini has brought a taste of Paris to the heart of Virginia. Looking for a taste of traditional country cooking? Don’t miss the annual Gordonsville Famous Fried Chicken Festival! Gordonsville is recognized as “the chicken-leg center of the universe” because of how the history of the southern staple traces its roots to women serving the treat to 19th century train passengers.

    Kilmarnock is a quaint, pedestrian friendly, small town close to the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Boutique shopping, a variety of restaurants and signature events make it a relaxing, weekend destination and a great jumping off point for enjoying the history of the area, like the Mary Ball Washington Museum & Library, the Steamboat Era Museum or the Kilmarnock Museum. After a day of relaxing or touring, grab an ice cream at Stevie’s – a tiny location but with a large variety of offerings.

    Downtown Lexington, Virginia

    Downtown Lexington, Virginia

    Lexington has an exceptional concentration of museums, historic sites, art galleries, music, theaters, and other cultural and outdoor offerings. With strong connections to Civil War and military history, visitors often enjoy carriage rides through historic downtown. Don’t miss a stop at Lee Chapel where General Robert E. Lee is buried. Steps away, museums and historical sites such as Virginia Military Institute, George C. Marshall Museum, Stonewall Jackson House and Memorial Cemetery—where General “Stonewall” Jackson is buried—chronicle stories of the U.S. military. Lexington also features attractive shops, hotels, businesses and top-rated restaurants.

    Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia

    Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia

    Luray, is a charming small town with BIG prospects for all varieties of travelers. “Choose your Level” is the mantra, referring to the mountains, river valley and underground topography. Home to Luray Caverns, Shenandoah National Park and the Shenandoah River, the area has become a hub of outdoor recreation. Lodging options include a restored Jazz Age-era hotel, a number of B&Bs and hundreds of vacation cabins and country homes, making it the “Cabin Capital” of Virginia. Many dining choices ensure every palate finds its complement. Visitors may relax at the local winery, enjoy live music or theater, or browse Main Street, where shop owners offer locally-made artisan goods, outdoor equipment or bargain-priced estate sale finds.

    Dining in Old Town Manassas, Virginia

    Dining in Old Town Manassas, Virginia

    Known for Civil War history, Manassas originated in 1852 at the junction of two railroads which linked Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. with the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond. It features a wonderful museum system and charming Old Town historic district, perfect for a day trip. Explore Old Town Manassas where family owned shops and restaurants line picturesque streets. Have lunch at Okra’s Louisiana Bistro for Creole and Cajun with a patio setting. Open year round, the farmers’ market sells seasonal produce, breads and more. Stroll down to Opera House Gourmet and pick up a bottle of wine or visit Creative Brush Studio where you can buy a painting right from the artist.

    View of the Occoquan River in Occoquan, Virginia

    View of the Occoquan River in Occoquan, Virginia

    Home to America’s first automated grist mill, the quaint town of Occoquan is situated on the banks of the Occoquan River. Rich in history, it is just 11 miles from our nation’s capitol and is home to more than 60 boutiques and restaurants. The streets are filled with unique shops from jewelry, art, a Scandinavian spa, to gourmet treats, it offers something for every visitor. Have a Virginia wine tasting at the Olde Dominion Wine Shoppe, then enjoy lunch on the water at Madigan’s. Take the kids to the Pink Bicycle Tea Room to enjoy an afternoon tea-tasting. For Dinner, sip on Belgium brews at Cock & Bowl and hear live music while dining on European fare.

    Kayaking from Onancock, Virginia

    Kayaking from Onancock, Virginia

    Captain John Smith called the area of Onancock “the Gem of the Eastern Shore” in the 1600s. Budget Travel called it “The Coolest Town in the South.” Others have said its “a town with heart.” Who can disagree? Onancock has a live theater, world class award-winning restaurants, and an old time movie theater that hosts an International Movie Festival. The art scene is unparalleled with renowned artists, craftsmen, sculptors, actors, dancers, musicians, glass blowers … you name it. The natural beauty and wildlife is astounding. Take a kayak trip to a local winery or to the site of an old Indian village to experience the serenity of the shore. Even in a state as rich in history as Virginia, Onancock stands out.

    Historic Orange Train Station in Orange, Virginia

    Historic Orange Train Station in Orange, Virginia

    The Town of Orange is a true old-fashioned small town experience, with a few special twists. The Historic Orange Train Station on Main Street is surrounded by an eclectic and historic downtown commercial district with local shops, homes, the 19th century County Courthouse, historic churches and sites, and local restaurants with affordable to fine dining options. Don’t miss the James Madison Museum, the first to commemorate our fourth president, called the Father of the Constitution. Modern amenities mix with home-spun style at places like the stately federal-style Holladay House. Year-round you will find unique experiences in Orange, but whenever you visit, you are sure to be welcomed like a local, fed like a farmer, and sleep like baby in comfort and style.

    Scottsville is situated on America’s founding River – the James – and is a town with deep historical roots and an ever encompassing vision for the future. In a return to its agricultural roots, Scottsville offers Thistle Gate Vineyard and James River Brewing, which is located in the downtown district.

    Smithfield Station Waterfront Inn Restaurant in Smithfield, Virginia

    Smithfield Station Waterfront Inn Restaurant in Smithfield, Virginia

    Smithfield is perpetually stuck in the weekend. It has a slower pace, there is always something going on, and it constantly smells of bacon. There are plenty of towns that have historic buildings, kooky museums, and unique eateries, but, when it comes to the best of all of them, one needs to look no further. Waterfront dining complete with sunset? Smithfield Station. Regional, national, and international musical acts and performances? Smithfield Little Theatre. Locally grown fresh produce? The farmers’ market on Saturday. Unwind and have a few ham biscuits at the Smithfield Inn, there’s no rush.

    Staunton Trolley in Staunton, Virginia

    Staunton Trolley in Staunton, Virginia

    Staunton boasts arts, history and fantastic dining.  The American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse offers four of five shows each week and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum includes Wilson’s Pierce-Arrow limousine. If you love Victorian homes, there are quite a few to admire up and down the streets of Staunton. Many restaurants and coffee shops give you plenty of dining options while a bakery and chocolate shop satisfy your sweet tooth.

    Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Troutville is the only designated Appalachian Trail Community in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. Troutville’s location along Route 11 makes it an ideal choice for thru-hikers on the trail, as well as day hikers. With access to a town park that includes restrooms and shelters, hikers are able to camp within the park grounds. If camping is not a preferred choice, there are more than five hotel properties within a short walk. The Town of Troutville is also home to Botetourt County’s fine dining restaurant, Pomegranate Restaurant and Gathering Place. Offering a wide variety of menu items, from steaks and seafood, to wine, beer and spirits, Pomegranate hosts bands on the weekend to provide entertainment to the entire area.

    Warrenton is in the middle of everything you could possibly want. Old Town Warrenton is filled to the brim with local artisans, shopping and restaurants. Not far from town are mountains to hike, caves to explore, Civil War battlefields, wineries, and polo matches. Truly, there is something for everyone. Whether you’re 100 or 10, you’ll feel at home.

    The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia. Image by Cameron Davidson.

    The Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia. Image by Cameron Davidson.

    The very first Washington is a sweet place indeed, and you may have heard it called Little Washington. There’s no doubt you’ll fall in love with the world-renowned restaurant, superb bed and breakfasts, and a wealth of artisans to delight your eyes and ears. Take in a show at The Theatre at Washington, Virginia or sip fine wines at Gadino Cellars or Little Washington Winery and Vineyards; the countryside and all its awaiting treasures are yours.

    Nestled in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, Woodstock has a charming downtown with interesting shops and good restaurants, and a brewery on the way. Woodstock is the fourth oldest town in Virginia, home to Revolutionary Peter Muehlenberg, and boasts many historic homes and churches, not to mention the County courthouse designed by Thomas Jefferson.

    Located at the intersection of  Interstates 77 and 81, Wytheville provides the best in small town living and natural beauty. Known as the crossroads of Virginia, Wytheville is home to a regionally known dinner theatre, wineries, scenic drives, a butterfly house, historic B&Bs, museums, and First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson, wife of President Woodrow Wilson. The New River and the Big Survey provide countless outdoor opportunities for nature enthusiasts.

    Which Virginia small town is your favorite? We asked that question of our “locals,” who contributed content to compile this list. Feel free to comment with your pick below!

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    Locals, Travel Ideas | 42 Comments

    10 Pies Worth the Drive

    by Casey | Posted on November 8th, 2013

    Have you ever loved a specific dish so much that you drove well out of your way just to enjoy it? My parents did that for a cup of coffee once, and my mother-in-law drove across the Commonwealth to get a hot, fresh Smithfield ham biscuit once, too. I’m convinced a renowned slice of pie will garner the same craving and willingness to go. Let’s try it out!

    Old Chickahominy House

    Old Chickahominy House

    Our trusted source of “locals” have filled us in on their favorite places for pie, and we’d love to hear about yours, too. Let your mouth water and then leave a comment.

    Updated July 17, 2014 to include more pies! Scroll down!

    The Old Chickahominy House in Williamsburg has been serving southern breakfast and lunch specialties since 1955, but it’s the homemade chocolate pie that Terri raves about. She says it’s “the creamiest, chocolatiest filling in a flaky crust that’s the most delicious pie you’ll ever put into your mouth.”

    Visit to try a slice. If you love it, place an order for Thanksgiving. Choose from coconut, buttermilk, chocolate, apple crumb, “no sugar added” apple, cherry crumb, pecan, and sweet potato.

    If you find yourself in Abingdon (which I hope you do), put JJ’s Restaurant and Sports Bar on your list of “musts.” They call themselves “Abingdon’s classiest little dive,” but Tenille’s note really says it all. “They serve chocolate, coconut, butterscotch, and peanut butter. Their pies are homemade by a 70 year old lady, who makes them everyday fresh and ready to eat. These are the pies that your grandmother made but never gave you the recipe.

    Tenille didn’t stop there. She has another pie hot-spot in Abingdon, Chick-N-Little. She says this family-owned restaurant offers great food at a cheap price, plus “they have the BEST homemade pies.”

    Mom's Apple Pie

    Mom’s Apple Pie

    “This was the best sour cherry pie that I’ve ever had,” proclaims Jane in regard to Mom’s Apple Pie in Leesburg. Jane learned that the owner grows her own fruits for the purpose of crafting amazing pies. With Thanksgiving in mind, Jane assures, “You can buy about 15 flavors daily, either by the slice or whole. I recommend buying the whole pie … or even five!!!”

    River City Grill in Radford offers breakfast all day, plus lunch and dinner. Deb promises they’ll serve you the “most amazing chocolate chess pie ever, rich and decadent.”

    Meringue lovers, Betsy has found your heaven. Pat’s Kountry Diner in Lebanon is named for, well, Pat. She makes a mean coconut pie with “piled high meringue,” according to Betsy, that’s pure “melt in your mouth goodness!”

    The Cabin Point Mercantile in Spring Grove specializes in the sweet stuff. They’re a bakery creating homemade brownies, cakes, fudge, cookies, and of course, pie! Kimberly is a fan of the cheesecake pies, writing, “cheesecake pies are amazing, pie crust with a layer of cheesecake topped with all types of flavors – pineapple, cherry, peach, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry! Amazing!”

    Proper Pie Co.

    Proper Pie Co.

    The Horseshoe Restaurant in South Hill is no stranger to our local recommendations. It was mentioned in the 14 Places to Enjoy Fall Foliage in Virginia, as well as one of 22 Places to Eat Like a Local. In the 22 Places article, the peanut butter and chocolate walnut pies were touted. For this article, it was the chocolate walnut that rose to the top again. All of the desserts at Horseshoe are made from scratch daily.

    With a name like Pie Gourmet, one would expect top-of-the-line pie. Fortunately, Pie Gourmet in Vienna delivers just that. In fact, Washington Post calls it “a gem among local bakeries.” Enjoy a range of fruit pies, cream pies, cheesecake, dessert pies, and even dinner pies, like lasagna.

    Relatively new to Richmond’s food scene is Proper Pie Co., serving New Zealand-style savory pie as well as sweet pies. Think Mince & Cheese finished with a slice of Blueberry Apple.

    Hill High Country Store in Round Hill has a lot to offer, including more than 30 fresh-baked pies daily. You’ll find local foods, produce, wine, and an all-day deli with chef specialties. Take the trip for lunch and top it off with a great slice of pie.

    ********** MORE GREAT PIES! **********

    Red Truck Bakery, Warrenton

    Red Truck Bakery

    Red Truck Bakery in Warrenton was highlighted in Esquire for their mincemeat pie. Additional mentions have come from the likes of The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, Garden & Gun, and Southern Living, among others.

    Virginia is known for peanuts and one of the best peanut dishes to try is the Peanut Pie at Virginia Diner in Wakefield. Guy Fieri visited for his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show on Food Network (Regional Favorites episode).

    As Jane commented below, the Blue Door Cafe at Draper Mercantile in Draper has a very special day of the week you won’t want to miss. Fridays are Pie Day! They’re happy to take your request for a particular pie and reserve it for you. Fruit and cream pies are $12.95 ($2.95/slice) while pies with nuts or quiches are $13.95 ($3.25/slice).

    Of Southern Kitchen in New Market, Linda wrote that her husband “absolutely loves their coconut cream pie.” Give it a try the next time you’re traversing the Valley!

    Share your favorite pie! Leave a comment and spread the love.

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    Food, Locals | 3 Comments