Hearty Comfort Food to Beat the Winter Chill

by Casey Higgins | Posted: Jan 26, 2015 | Updated: Apr 17, 2018

Comments: 6 Comments

When it’s cold outside there’s nothing better than something steaming hot to knock off the chill. At home, it might be chili or soup, but when traveling through Virginia, these are some go-to’s that our friends recommended. When you find yourself in the neighborhood, swing on by for some of these toasty warm ups.


Shrimp and Grits, Haywood's

Shrimp and Grits, Haywood’s


Virginia’s towns often have so many delicious places to choose from that it’s really hard to make a decision. It’s always helpful to ask a local when you’re looking for something specific, so that’s what we did.

Shrimp and GritsHaywood’s, Lexington
“On a cold winter day, we love to warm up with Haywood’s shrimp and grits. Shrimp and grits are a Haywood’s southern staple, which changes seasonally. During the winter months, Chef Chris Jack brings the heat with bourbon bacon barbecue glazed pan seared shrimp with sautéed peppers and onions over roasted red pepper grits. Served with apple jicama slaw and harvest thyme corn shoots. Comfort food at its finest.” – Sydney B.

Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese, Monk’s BBQ, Purcellville
“Monk’s BBQ, a great family owned BBQ restaurant, obviously features a delicious barbeque menu, but it also has mouth-watering sides as well like their smoked gouda mac & cheese. The smoked gouda, results in a creamy texture and a slight smokiness. It’s made in shells because the shape lends itself to scooping up big gobs of cheese sauce in every bite.” – Kelsey C.

The Port Ruby, Grilled Cheese Mania, Harrisonburg
“Sauteed baby portabella mushrooms, sauerkraut grilled up with sweet onions and swiss cheese piled onto hearty fresh rye bread that has been covered with 1000 island dressing. and then it is grilled with butter until golden brown and delicious.” – Kathleen M.

Baked Artichoke and Spinach Chicken Salad, White Oak Tea Tavern, Troutville
“This dish is served hot in a Paesano Italian bread bowl and topped with parmesan cheese. You have the choice of dipping your bread into honey or balsamic-vinaigrette (or both!) ” – Katie C.

Cheese Steak, Jolly Ox, Lexington
I love cheese steak from The Jolly Ox! For me it is a fantastic comfort food. Nobody makes a cheese steak like John Trovato! I love it with onions and peppers and mustard … yes, mustard! I am a little weird. Add french fries and I am set!” – Teresa Z.

Baked Artichoke and Spinach Chicken Salad, White Oak Tea Tavern

Baked Artichoke and Spinach Chicken Salad, White Oak Tea Tavern

Shrimp and Grits, Food for Thought, Williamsburg
You can taste the love & skill in the dish. So good! When I crave it, I have to find a reason to get in the car for the hour drive to fill my belly!” – Andy P.
>> by reader vote: “Best Comfort Food in 2012,″ Virginia Living Magazine 

Pimento Cheese, Julep’s, Richmond
The pimento cheese is served warm, yes warm and gooey and scrumpdilicious with warm toasted bread!” – Robin M.

Three Cheese Deluxe, Pop’s Ice Cream, Roanoke
Pop’s describes their gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches this way — “Grilled on our 1958 Toastmaster sandwich press & served on your choice of today’s freshly baked organic breads with seasons popcorn & a smile.” Sounds delicious enough, but which of the 13 to choose?? I asked my friend Tubby, who said, “Three Cheese Deluxe!,” which is an ooey-gooey swiss, provolone, cheddar mash-up with lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo. Delish!



You don’t have a to be a guest to enjoy the delicious menu items at Virginia’s resorts. In fact, we had friends speak up to tell us about their favorites at a few resort destinations.

Classic Risotto at Piedmont’s Table, Lansdowne Resort, Leesburg
“The comfort food we love on a cold winter night is classic Risotto. In this dish, the Chef infuses the creamy Arborio rice with shallots, white wine, and a mix of wild mushrooms. He then tops the whole dish with an aged Parmesan cheese; nutty and salty, the perfect combination to finish this dish. This is perfect on a cold winter day as you are overlooking the golf course and the moonlight glistening off the Potomac River with the reflection of the fireplace keeping you warm and cozy.” – Daniela Z.

Vegetable Mac and Cheese at The Copper Mine Bistro, Wintergreen Resort, Wintergreen
“A sophisticated blend of cheddar and gruyere provide a creamy sauce for pasta, broccoli and asparagus. And what is mac and cheese without a buttery break crumb topping!” – Betsy D.


Turkey Pot Pie, Wild Wolf Brewing Company

Turkey Pot Pie, Wild Wolf Brewing Company


You might be headed out for a tasting, but don’t forget there’s often excellent restaurants on-site at Virginia’s wineries and craft breweries. In fact, we received a few recommendations of menu items you’ll find.

Habeñero Vegan Chili or Turkey Pot Pie, Wild Wolf Brewing Company, Nellysford
“Vegan chili is made with locally sourced ‘Lucky Moon Farm’ green and red peppers, fresh corn, black beans and red onion in a tomato sauce, simmered low. This ‘comfort food’ can also be considered ‘heart-healthy food’ – warms the soul and boosts the body!”
“A crock filled with farm fresh turkey from ‘Tall Cotton Farm’ in Nelson County, a cream sauce with garden fresh celery, carrots, onions and parsley topped with a home-made warm puff pastry ~ Simply Delicious! ” – Kimberly R.

A Few Soups and Wines:


Fried Chicken, Graves' Mountain Lodge

Fried Chicken, Graves’ Mountain Lodge


Let’s say you’re out for a Sunday drive and don’t have a particular destination in mind – just drive. Well, meander the back roads long enough and you may stumble across something awesomely delicious. Or maybe you should just take a drive for a great bite to eat anyway. This is comfort food just for the sake of a nice drive with something warm waiting at the end.

Fried Chicken, Graves’ Mountain Lodge, Syria
“Graves’ Mountain Lodge’s Fried Chicken is my favorite comfort food.  … Hand-bread and hand-fry it in a big cast-iron skillet over a hot stove, so the chicken comes off tender, juicy, and crackling-crisp on the outside.  It’s served with the most flavorful mashed potatoes and gravy I’ve ever tasted, corn pudding, house-made yeast rolls, and plenty of sides and salads.” – Sarah H.

French Onion Soup, Pink Cadillac Diner, Natural Bridge
At the Pink Cadillac Diner , they had AMAZING french onion soup. It was cold when I was passing through from a roadtrip to West Virginia. The broth was deep and rich, the bread on the bottom just melted & the cheese on top was crispy , gooey and SO good!!!” – Kym I.

Apple Stackcake, Heartwood

Apple Stackcake, Heartwood

Old Fashioned Appalachia Apple Stackcake, Heartwood, Abingdon
“There is no cake — perhaps no recipe — more rooted in Appalachia mountain culture. Many thin layers of sorghum sweetened cake married with layers of dried apples that has to “cure” for two days before its ready to serve. Great as a dessert … even better with a cup of strong coffee in the morning.” – Jassen C.



If you don’t use Yelp for help in finding great dining recommendations, you might think about doing so. Active, dedicated users leave great reviews, so we tapped a few to show you some acclaimed comfort food.

Fried Catfish with Creamed Spinach and Squash Casserole, Comfort, Richmond
“The catfish was delicious and had just the right amount of saltiness … and that crunch? Perrrfect. The creamed spinach and squash were both equally delicious … all in all, it was a meal composed of comfort foods and it made my tummy very very happy.” – Jessie T.

Appetizer Sampler, Comfort

Appetizer Sampler, Comfort

Truffled Goat Cheese Ravioli, Tuscarora Mill, Leesburg
“I opted for the Truffled Goat Cheese Ravioli in a mushroom sauce. I KNOW. You had the option of adding pulled short rib, which I did, and holy mother of pasta, it was DELICIOUS. So incredible rich but light, and the truffle with the mushrooms with the goat cheese with the cream sauce with the short rib… oh man oh man oh man. At this point, I was pretty much stuffed to the brim (and I still wanted to leave room for a bite of dessert!), so I only ate half, and I had literally NEVER BEEN SO EXCITED TO EAT LEFTOVERS in my entire life.” – Gretchen P.

BBQ Sammich, My Mama’s Kitchen, Norfolk
“I had the  BBQ samich (YES that’s the name) and it was amazing. It had pulled pork, beef brisket and bacon cut from the slab. The bacon was thick and crisp while the other meats melted in your mouth with a mound of melted Swiss cheese and smokey meat flavors. The fries were pretty grand as well.” – Tony C.

Fried Chicken and Catfish, Mama J’s, Richmond
“The fried chicken was so juicy-even the white meat-and the breading was so good.  But the catfish. The catfish. The catfish. The catfish. Even now, I think of it with longing.  Beautiful breading with a just a lil’ kiss of pepper. Perfectly cooked. Perfectly. And while it didn’t need it at all, a few squirts of pepper sauce shot that fish into food heaven.  It’s one of the best dishes I’ve had all year, and traveling as much as we do, we eat out at least once a day.” – James M.

A Little of Everything, Just Like Grandma’s, Winchester
“Over the course of my weekend stay in Winchester, I ate there four times, and there wasn’t a bad bite in the bunch. I had homemade chicken and dumplings, curried chicken salad, and a “bouncing betty” burger (with a fried egg on top… gloriously messy!), along with fabulous french fries (try them with Perry’s special Mumbo Sauce) and really good greens (collards and kale).” – Welmoed S.


YOUR TURN! What’s your favorite comfort food and where can we all get a bite?? Leave a comment!



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Connie D
Connie D

The Bank by Kahills in Emporia! I literally haven’t had even a mediocre meal there. Fave app is the Big Bang Shrimp; sweet, spicy and delish!! Fave entree is probably the blackened tuna with basil rice, although it’s hard to narrow it down to one. Their prime rib is to die for as well! I appreciate your efforts here, btw- love the armchair qback type critique, but no response to your replies. *insert eye roll here*

Vickie B
Vickie B

Too bad you can’t seem to drive west of Roanoke. We have some great restaurants, vineyards and scenery throughout the western part of the state and we are a part of Virginia.


You need to try Eppie’s in Charlottesville, on the Downtown Mall.


Great job, Casey! Lots of great places and foods to try…let’s get started 🙂