Fifteen Virginia Foodie Towns to Try – Part 1 of 2

by Patrick Evans-Hylton | Posted: Jan 28, 2015 | Updated: Jan 19, 2017

Comments: 62 Comments

It’s a new year, and many resolutions are made, only to go unfulfilled.

We’ve got one, though, that you’re sure to make happen: explore some of the tasty offerings across the state.

Here are 15 foodie towns across the commonwealth and a few deliciously researched recommendations to help you make the new year one you – and your tastebuds – will remember.

This is the first of a two-part article.

These are just some of our favorites from our journeys across Virginia to whet your whistle – please list your fabulous food findings as you make your way across the Old Dominion in the comment section below.

 

— ABINGDON —

The Tavern, AbingdonThe Vibe:

Abingdon is small town Americana tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia. Look for a mix of gourmet offerings and traditional Appalachia food.

Must Eat/Must Drink:

– Visit the Abingdon Olive Oil Company and sample dozens of varieties of olive oil and balsamic vinegars. You are bound to buy a bottle or six.

– Take an afternoon to sample wines at Abingdon Vineyard and Winery; we like the Royal Blend, a vintage of barrel-aged Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin.

– We crave the Fried Green Tomato BLT with sweet potato fries at The Peppermill. The piquancy of the tomato, the smokiness of the bacon, the crispness of the lettuce all work in glorious unison.

– The charming The Tavern, around since 1779, has one of the best racks of lamb (served in a heavenly mint-lavender sauce) we’ve enjoyed. We licked our plate. Honest.

– Evenings wind down beautifully in the clubby lounge at The Martha Hotel & Spa sitting in a big leather chair and sipping a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.

 

— ALEXANDRIA —

Todd Thrasher at PX
The Vibe:

This charming colonial seaport belies the fact that it is just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. Expect sophisticated offerings with an eye towards international eats but still firmly rooted in Virginia.

Must Eat/Must Drink:

Cheesetique, located in Del Rey, is an amazing cheese emporium with countless offerings to grab-and-go for a picnic or party, or sit and relish in the Mac ‘N Cheesetique, named one of the best by Food & Wine

– A stunning cocktail from master mixologist Todd Thrasher at the speakeasy PX Lounge is a great way to celebrate 5 o’clock. Your tastebuds will thank you.

– The Farm Table menu from Chef William Morris at Vermilion delights; offered twice monthly and by reservations only, get it on your calendar

– Stop by for a pint of handcrafted beer at Port City Brewing Company; we love the American Porter, one of neighbor George Washington’s favorites.

 

— ARLINGTON —

The Vibe:

Arlington, located just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C., has a fresh, vibrant urban feel. Look for a number of upscale eats and international flavors.

Must Eat/Must Drink:

Jaleo– We’ve long loved the exotic, Middle Eastern vibe of Lebanese Taverna; try an assortment of mezzas (small bites) like fried artichoke hearts, lebneh, baba ghanoush and kibbeh

– Celebrity chef Jose Andres’ Jaleo, excites the palate with Spanish flavors. Order one of the paellas. A Spanish wine shop is adjacent to the eatery to enjoy with a meal or to take with you

– Chef Tim Ma offers approachable, delicious upscale New American cuisine at Water & Wall; how does duck leg confit with Brussels sprouts, maitake and maple gastrique sound for dinner?

– Cheers to continuing education. At Washington Wine Academy a number of fun and informative one-hour classes on wine, beer and spirits is offered

The Liberty Tavern has a vibrant Happy Hour scene to enjoy, relax and drink like a local. We recommend the Wilson Boulevard: rye, Grand Marnier, dry vermouth and flamed orange peel

 

— CHARLOTTESVILLE —

The Vibe:

Thomas Jefferson stands tall over Charlottesville, and his influence is felt in many ways, including a love of good food and good living. In this quaint college town look for creative, local-centric foods and foodways.

rp_CN13052902U_030.jpgMust Eat/Must Drink:

– Tour Barboursville Vineyards, one of the state’s oldest wineries, and enjoy the bucolic setting and a glass of award-winning wine; the Pinot Grigio is a favorite white, and we love the Octagon, a Bordeaux-style red blend.

– Just outside of town is Crozet Pizza, known far-and-wide for their pies since 1977. Try one and you’ll see. We start drooling at the thought of The Southern Thing: pulled barbecue chicken, bacon and red onion.

Feast! Is a fabulous food store that we love to wander through and look at the specialty foods and extensive cheese and charcuterie offerings. Grab a sandwich and explore the other shops in the Main Street Market.

– We love the large selection of oysters on the raw bar at Public Fish and Oyster.

The Ivy Inn Restaurant serves up understated elegance along with their changing, seasonal, local American menu.

 

— FREDERICKSBURG —

The Vibe:

A bit like Alexandria, Fredericksburg is a mix of old (as a colonial town) and new (as a vibrant part of Northern Virginia). The cuisine scene reflects that, too, with quaint dining spots and sophisticated eateries all in the same zip code. 

Must Eat/Must Drink:

HyperionBistro Bethem, an American bistro with southern flair, has a daily-changing menu based on fresh, seasonal ingredients; we love that. A recent menu offered a mouthwatering Brown Sugar-Chili Salmon over ricotta polenta and with a local shiitake mushroom ragout.

– We like to get caffeinated at Hyperion Epresso, a creative downtown java joint. The White Chocolate Mocha is a decadent treat.

– Browse the well-stocked gourmet store The Kitchen at Whittingham for everything from small appliances to cookware to gourmet foods to utensils and take a cooking class at the in-store kitchen.

Zum Rheingarten is delightfully festooned in Bavarian décor and offers great flavors from Germany; the sauerbraten is outstanding.

 

— HARRISONBURG —

The Vibe:

Harrisonburg is a charming Shenandoah Valley town with the hubbub of James Madison University next door. Food here is fresh and local, approachable and cultured.

Local Chop and Grill HouseMust Eat/Must Drink:

– Get acquainted with the food scene with Rocktown Bites! Downtown Food Tours. We had a blast walking through town, nibble here and there, trying some craft beer and chatting with area chefs.

– There are almost two-dozen food trucks in town to sate the desire for meals from wheels. Look for trucks that specialize in grilled cheese sandwiches, wings, tacos and other Mexican dishes, lobster rolls, southern cooking, barbecue, Korean food and small batch coffee, among others.

– We love stopping by Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint for, well, a good craft beer and burger. Our fave? The Elvis burger topped with peanut butter, mayo, applewood smoked bacon and cheese.

The Joshua Wilton House is a relaxing, upscale restaurant located in a gorgeous Victorian house with refined farm-to-table offerings like grilled duck breast over sweet potato puree with bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts.

Local Chop and Grill House always pleases our palate. In the former produce exchange building, rustic wood beams accent off exposed brick, setting the scene for fresh, local, approachable but polished meat-centric dishes crafted with creative rubs and presented with delicious sauces.

 

— LYNCHBURG —

The Vibe:

Old Virginia appeal is found in this south-central town just at the cusp of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Time honored foods and foodways meet a dash of panache to form a tasty dining stage.

Must Eat/Must Drink:

Lynchburg Community Market– Take time to stroll through and explore the Lynchburg Community Market, in operation (although the location has changed) since 1783. In addition to an artist gallery, a traditional farmers market with produce, meats and cheeses and an assortment of restaurants and gourmet shops are offered.

– Sate a sweet tooth at Cao Artisan Chocolates; delectable morsels handcrafted from the bean include bars, truffles, fondue, gelato, drinking chocolates and more.

Magnolia Foods is a market offering specialty grocery items, wine, beer, prepared foods and more. Grab a bottle of Virginia wine and a couple of The #8 sandwiches (tarragon and raisin chicken salad with green leaf lettuce on multigrain bread) for a fabulous picnic.

– Celebrate being well south of the Mason-Dixon Line with barbecue from Pok-E-Joe’s; the Messy Pig sandwich, a heap of pulled pork with cole slaw, pickles, onions and ‘q sauce, has our attention.

– Classic American bistro fare from burgers to grilled steak is served up at {RA} Bistro. An affordable three-course, chef-driven prix fixe dinner is a good way to enjoy fresh offerings.

 

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. 

 

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62 Comments

christine litwa says:

Where is that picture taken with the people swimming and iceskating ? Looks incredible!

Casey Higgins says:

That’s the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs. It IS incredible!

Gigi W. says:

Looking forward to part 2!

Many great restarant mentioned…..I think you forgot Richmond! Maybe we have so many, you didn’t know where to start!

Thank you! Richmond is coming up in Part 2, which should be online this week – look for it! What are your favorite places in RVA?

Cathy Huggins says:

Completely agree with your choice of Zum Rheingarten. In fact, we have reservations for dinner there this evening. I’ve traveled to Germany numerous times and never had a bad meal. I can say the same of this authentic German restaurant. It’s located just South of the Quantico Marine Base main gate on Rt 1. Would definitely make reservations. Every time we go it’s crowded.

Also in Abingdon: 128 Pecan (which is also the address) and Rain on Main St. Always yummy!!!

Double D says:

Check out Bella Luna the next time you’re in Harrisonburg. Wood fired pizza and specialty pasta in a former turn-of the-century livery stable downtown.

The Bistro at market and Grove in Petersburg is a good one. So is Saucy’s BBQ worth the taste. http://saucyswalkupbbq.blogspot.com/ Their beef brisket sandwich literally melted in my mouth. And Ninja GoGo in Cesterfield, Virginia (where I live) made me a fan with the chicken bowl I ordered for delivery. http://www.ninja-gogo.com/

Rachel Snead says:

Must try these two restaurants in south central Virginia! Molasses Grill, Main Street, Halifax and Bistro 1888 Main Street, South Boston.

Rachel, thank you so much for your comments – we love to get all sorts of tips from our foodie friends! We’ve got Molasses Grill and Bistro 1888 on our must-try list next time we are down Southside!

Becky says:

Absolutely try Bistro 1888 and Molasses Grill in Halifax County. People come from far away to visit them regularly!

They sound wonderful Becky – thank you for the recommendations! We’ll check them out next time we are in that neck of the woods!

Dallas says:

I live in fredericksburg. I’m sad to see the Foodie did not make the list but Hyperion Epresso did. We had a horrible experience at Hyperion when we brought our preschool children and will not go back, was not impressed with anything special except decent prices.

Thank you for your comment – this list is just to whet your whistle, like we said in the introduction, and we love getting additional finds from our readers; we’ve got Foode on our radar.

JB says:

Ouch, Artfully Chocolate closed a little while ago.

Casey Higgins says:

No, there are two locations. One closed and the other is open.