Hot Plate! 24 New Restaurants that Tempted Tastebuds in 2014 – Part 1

by Patrick Evans-Hylton | Posted: Dec 29, 2014

Comments: 10 Comments

In autumn 2014, Josh Ozersky, an editor-at-large of Esquire magazine and a James Beard Award-winning food writer, named Virginia the food region of the year.

He ponders, “Look at Virginia on a map. How is it not an established food paradise? The oldest region in the county. One of the biggest … The Old Dominion has seemingly overnight exploded into one of the country’s greatest gastro regions.”

My good Mr. Ozersky, we wholeheartedly agree. This is America’s First Food Region; the Birthplace of American Cuisine. We hold a stack of culinary calling cards in our hand, each as tasty as the next.

One of the driving forces in shaping Virginia’s place on the culinary map are our restaurants, and in 2014 many opened across the commonwealth, serving up a wide range of eats.

Here we look back at our pick of 24 new offerings that tempted our tastebuds, and a glimpse at what’s ahead in 2015.

This is the first of a three-part series.

 

The Alley LightTHE ALLEY LIGHT | CHARLOTTESVILLE

The Atmosphere

Folks at The Alley Light, located just off Charlotteville’s Downtown Mall, say they offer “classic French shared plates, craft cocktails and small grower wines in a casually elegant atmosphere.” The Alley Light opened under Will Richey, restaurateur behind such C’ville eats as Revolutionary Soup and The Whiskey Jar.

The Eats

The Veal, Foie Gras & Sweetbread Terrine, with pear and blackberry preserves, has caught our eye, as well as the classic cocktail, Negroni, with Campari, Contratto Rosso, Bombay gin and orange peel.

 

FOO DOGFoo Dog | RICHMOND

The Atmosphere

Foo Dog promises to bring Richmond “some of the best Asian-inspired dishes the city has ever seen” with “genuine street food inspired from all four corners of Asia.”

The Eats

The Bao Wow, two pork belly bao sliders with cilantro, red onion, plum sauce drizzle and a sprinkling of cashews has our attention; so does the Malaysian Ramen with red miso and curry broth with bean sprouts and scallions.

 

GraffiatoGRAFFIATO | RICHMOND

The Atmosphere

From superstar Chef Mike Isabella comes his second Graffiato (the first is in Washington, D.C.) offering seasonal small plates inspired by Mediterranean cuisine and the dishes he enjoyed from his Italian-American grandmother while growing up in New Jersey.

The Eats

Drool-worthy dishes include Carrot Gemelli (a spiral pasta) with Lamb Sugo (sauce), Mint Pesto and Pecorino Romano; Charred Octopus with Blackberry Mostarda (a fruit and mustard-based condiment), Chicory and Lemon; and the Goodfellas pizza with meatballs, tomato, provolone and chili flakes.

 

HAIR OF THE DOGHair of the Dog | VIRGINIA BEACH

The Atmosphere

The casual atmosphere is the backdrop for a comfort food heavy menu with a focus on breakfast offerings and a wide selection of bloody marys , mimosas and a 100 bottle beer selection.

The Eats

We’ve loved the Malibu Pancakes, made with Malibu rum, toasted coconut and pineapple, and a side of cheese grits smothered in a creamy gouda sauce, as well as the spicy black bean Veggie Burger with artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers served with sweet potato fries.

 

homeGrownHOMEGROWN | PORTSMOUTH

The Atmosphere

Taking advantage of a weekly farmers market just across the street and a public looking for local eats, homeGrown offers regional fare in salads, sandwiches, entrees and even on pizza from their tidy shotgun dining room.

The Eats

It doesn’t get much more seasonal than The homeGrown, a sauté of local fresh vegetables that changes weekly, based on what’s at the market. We’ve enjoyed the pizza here, too, like the Farmer with local bacon, spinach and caramelized onions.

 

LAGER HEADS Lager Heads | VIRGINIA BEACH

The Atmosphere

Open, airy and fun, offers scores of beers, including 20 on tap, augment other offerings with a focus on hand-crafted burgers. Outdoor seating along the Boardwalk, just feet away from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront surf and sand, is a must in season; fire pits help keep the chill away.

The Eats

The crabcakes are fabulous, but the burgers have our tastebuds on overtime. We love the Cowboy Burger with cheddar cheese, tobacco onions, whisky-laced barbecue sauce and sweet pickles on Texas toast; the Green Chili Burger with roasted ancho chili peppers, guacamole and pepper jack cheese on brioche, and the Hangover Burger topped with a fried egg, bacon and Texas Pete hot sauce.

 

LampoLAMPO NEAPOLITAN PIZZERIA | CHARLOTTESVILLE

The Atmosphere

Some folks dream in color, others dream in pizza. “A dream that grew into an obsession over numerous long road trips in search of true Neapolitan pizza, pizza that relies on quality ingredients, proper technique and heat,” was the inspiration to open Lampo, they say. That dream also included a 3-ton brick oven, handcrafted in Naples and shipped to Charlottesville.

The Eats

Antipasti, charcuterie and cheeses, salads and panuozzi (a stuffed sandwich made with pizza dough and cooked in a pizza) are offered, but the pies are the star.

 

LeGrand KitchenLEGRAND KITCHEN | NORFOLK

The Atmosphere

LeGrand calls itself a “finer diner” and we agree. In this tiny 16-ish seat restaurant, fabulous things come from the grill. They say, “LeGrand Kitchen is inspired by two things: good food and rock ‘n’ roll (LeGrand was a pioneer rock record label based in Norfolk.) The food is truly fresh, local and ever-changing with the seasons.”

The Eats

The offerings often change, but we’ve grooved on the Seasonal Salad with local lettuce and other vegetables, radishes, carrots and wheat berries in a buttermilk vinaigrette; Pimento Cheese smeared thick on toasted potato bread and topped with shaved radish; and Confit Chicken.

 

Le YacaLE YACA | WILLIAMSBURG

The Atmosphere

Although Le Yaca is not a new restaurant, this is a new location with a larger footprint and additional menu offerings. The new location, closer to the College of William and Mary and Colonial Williamsburg, presents the perfectly prepared French cuisine of chef/owner Daniel Abid amid elegant, relaxed surroundings.

The Eats

We always start with Les Escargots – some of the finest we’ve had. A half-dozen plump snails are presented in wells filled with rich, melted garlic and parsley butter and tomato concassee with bread ready for dipping. The Poached Filet of Fresh Scottish Salmon with Fresh Herbs, Lemon and Capers is a delight; light, fresh and delicious.

 

L'OpossomL’OPOSSUM | RICHMOND

The Atmosphere

The fun and whimsical atmosphere is a perfect compliment to a menu that is written along those same lines. But even fun and whimsical can be serious, and this faux-French restaurant is that; chef/owner David Shannon is classically trained and has the likes of Inn at Little Washington on his resume.

The Eats

These dishes have out mouthwatering, starting with the Les Escargots A’ La Ham Biscuit with Sweet Garlic Beurre Blanc as an appetizer – escargot on greens with a salty Virginia ham biscuit on the side. Another: Whole Fried Baby Chicken on Mashed Potato Waffles with Pan Gravy, Kale, Pickled Okra and Fire Ball (yes, the candy Fire Ball) Butter.

 

LUCY’SLucy's | RICHMOND

The Atmosphere

Lucy’s says they are a “quaint neighborhood restaurant featuring local Monrovia Farm beef and vegetarian options” with a “simple, straightforward menu.” We love the commitment to local (Monrovia Farm is on the Northern Neck) and an uncomplicated approach to good food. 

The Eats

In addition to a Monrovia Farm house cut, dry-aged beef of the day offering and a burger made with Monrovia beef, there are several other entrees that caught our eye, including the Southern Lamb – black eye peas and stewed tomatoes over spinach topped with a peppercorn-crusted lamb loin.

 

Big Whisky GrillMCCORMACK’S BIG WHISKY GRILL | RICHMOND

The Atmosphere

A creative menu – many items with a Southern flair – and an impressive whisky list of some 700 bottles, greet diners at this open, airy, contemporarily-appointed restaurant. Located at Regency Mall, McCormack’s Big Whisky Grill comes from Richmond restaurateur William “Mac” McCormack and Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler.

The Eats

We’re excited about the Nashville-Style Hot Fried Chicken sandwich with pickles and coleslaw and the Bison, Andouille and Chorizo Meatloaf, served with gravy, sautéd mushrooms and braised greens. We’re also saving room for the Elvis Empanada for dessert.

Patrick Evans-HyltonPatrick 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

 

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10 Comments on "Hot Plate! 24 New Restaurants that Tempted Tastebuds in 2014 – Part 1"

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Nicole
Guest

There are amazing places to eat in VA Beach. I work at a hair salon on Shore drive, right next to a place called “Hot Tuna” and that place is always hopping. Speaking of which, if you ever would like to drop in for a haircut or color, we would love to have you Casey : ) Shearblissvb.com come check us out. I’ve been a long time lurker of your blog but this is the first time I have posted. This one just reminded me of the hot tuna. : ) check it out : )

Barb
Guest

What happened to Newport News and Hampton?

Casey Higgins
Member

What are the great new restaurants there? Feel free to share! 🙂

Scott Johnston
Guest

Nothing in NOVA? Really?

Casey Higgins
Member

This is a three part series; there are more coming!

Lia Sierra
Guest

I don’t see NOVA yet…when will they be listed here?

debbie Vaccarelli
Guest

Please don’t forget all the “Mom and Pops” restaurants!!!!!!!

filippo Giambanco
Guest

Check out The Giambanco’s Italian Grill in mechanicsville va , same family also own Roma Ristorante Italiano on staples mill rd in richmond va,
Everything made from scratch family owned and operated since 1976
Thegiambancos.com
Romasstaplesmill.com

Casey Higgins
Member

These are locally owned and operated restaurants.

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