Let’s be honest. Interstate 81 can become congested. The lure of something good to eat is just one reason to hit the exit ramp and leave the traffic behind for a while. These restaurants are less than five miles off of Interstate 81 between Clear Brook and Lexington, and they’re four-star rated on Yelp. Try them out and let us know.
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Jordan Springs Market – 4.5 stars – Barbeque, Delis – $ – 3.4 mi. Exit 321 in Clear Brook
“Best brisket you’re going to find anywhere.” Justin G.
“Definitely quality food and delicious! We left happy, full, and impressed!” Alesha R.
“If you’re driving through Appalachia, make a detour through here. Trust me.” Roger F.
Jordan Springs Market is a family owned and operated stop for some more of the best BBQ in the state. Voted in 2010-2013 as the “Best BBQ in the Valley,” they are open seven days a week and are known for creating everything from backyard grill BBQ to elegant buffets. With classic breakfasts and lunches, including sandwiches and subs, there is no end to comfort or flavor. Check out their daily specials and taste the Carolina style or Texas styled pork and briskets. And remember to wash everything down with a southern style sweet tea or lemonade. Jordan Spring’s Market is where you’ll find great “Beef, Beer, BBQ, and Bluegrass.”
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Sake Sushi – 4.5 stars – Sushi Bars, Asian Fusion – $$ – 1.7 mi. Exit 307 in Stephens City
“Amazing service! Very friendly staff, delicious and quality food!” Neylyn M.
“They are consistently friendly, fast, healthy, and truly dedicated to their customers.” Florentina D.
“Very thoughtful, and fast, with great food and a serene atmosphere.” Dave S.
This comfortable and casual style stop is the perfect place for large portions and major flavor. Sake Sushi is the place locals and visitors are equally excited about. With specials for lunch and dinner, taste some of the many flavorful and vibrant options on the long menu. Taste for yourself their vegetable hibachi, chicken and shrimp, or steak hibachi. Have two or three rolls for lunch, and choose from six different tempuras and noodles. Be sure to check their menu for what they have that is spicy or even the most popular so you can taste out for yourself what other visitors have loved.
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Nana’s Irish Pub – 4 stars – Irish Pub – $$ – 1.1 miles Exit 302 in Middletown
“Great food, great atmosphere and a must stop.” Walt T.
“Our new favorite place in the valley.” Jenn M.
“Give this place a try.” Jaclyn B.
Creamy Carrot and Parsnip soup with Irish soda bread fresh out of the oven is just the beginning of all that lies in store at Nana’s Irish Pub. Here is where you can find pub classics right next to new favorites on the menu. Try the Irish sausage soup or caramelized onion and blue cheese soup. Visitors love their corned beef hash and with lunch specials each day there’s no reason not to stop in. This pleasant gem is a home for great dinners and wonderful people. Try out this comfy and casual stop to meet great people, enjoy a warm meal, and find a new favorite dish.
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Italian Touch – 4 stars – Italian, Pizza, Sandwiches – $ – 0.7 mi. Exit 302 in Middletown
“Awesome food and service.” Andrew S.
“Lunchtime in Middletown takes me to Italian Touch!” Dawn R.
“I love this restaurant. The staff is friendly, their lasagna is amazing.” Sarah K.
Taking pride in their exceptionally prepared and quality meals is Italian Touch. Using only the freshest ingredients here, seasoned foods meet master techniques to create dishes that reflect years of Italian cuisine experience. Italian Touch is known as fast service for busy people with lunch specials like Pasta de Brereton or Lobster Ravioli. Try the amazing New York Sicilian and Specialty pizzas, with pizza dough made fresh daily and served piping hot. Here the finest grains are precisely cooked to pasta perfection. With a goal to give visitors complete satisfaction with food and service, come let them prove it to you.
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Cristina’s Café – 4.5 stars – Sandwiches, American (Traditional) – $$ – 2.9 mi. Exit 298 in Strasburg
“We couldn’t have found a more charming, friendly place with delicious fresh coffee and fantastic food.” Jason I.
“What a find! We felt like we were having lunch at a friend’s home.” Shanda A.
“I will definitely be back.” Myrna S.
Come by Cristina’s Café for a mix of home cooked love and sweetness. Owned and operated by two sisters who are passionate about good food, Cristina’s Café offers a wide variety of eats and experience. Come for great new live music that is sure to blow you away and stay for delicious homemade fruit tarts. Stay a while longer and taste for yourself their banana whole grain pancakes with Brittany’s wet nuts and real maple syrup or try their special stuffed French toasts. With events happening year round, this is no place to miss. Inspired by the beautiful surroundings of the Shenandoah Valley, in 2009 Cristina’s café became the first certified green restaurant in Shenandoah & Frederick counties proving they know how to make true connections with their home and with people.
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Woodstock Café & Shoppes – 4.5 stars – Cafes – $ – 2.2 mi. Exit 283 in Woodstock
“The Woodstock café is one of the most delightful places I’ve encountered in the Shenandoah Valley.” Nanette S.
“This is a vital stop for anyone needing a hot beverage or delicious lunch!” Anna L.
“Best food in the valley. Very sweet servers.” Jenny S.
Found in historic Woodstock, VA, Woodstock Café & Shoppes can be found across the street from the oldest continuously operating courthouse west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Come for a relaxing cup of coffee in the morning and enjoy a “window seat on Woodstock” where you can relax or work and they are happy to bring snacks and lunch when needed. As a great location for group meetings and even church group gatherings, there is enough seating for everyone in the Café. Be sure to check out their special evening events they host throughout the year as well including Wine Tasting, live entertainment, and even Cabaret Dinner Shows. It’s an experience you can’t miss.
Woodstock Cafe & Shoppes
Carmella’s – 4.5 stars – Cafes – $$ – 1.3 mi. Exit 279 in Edinburg
“What a wonderful find!” Kathy F.
“The meatball sub was amazing!!!” Kelsey R.
“Great! Good friendly service and great food.” Ralph R.
Specialty subs are what Carmella’s is known for. Taste the deli sandwiches or fresh salads made daily. Specialty desserts also hit the list of things that you must try and just what makes Carmella’s of Edinburg a must stop restaurant on your trip on I-81. With Vegetarian options the menu is made to please and it does just that the more you read. Carmella’s offers 40 wines to choose from as well as 53 types of beer. Their children’s menu is perfect for the kids and the outdoor seating provides a great view while you relax and eat. Known to have the best meatball sub and cheese cake around, Carmella’s is the place to stop. And you can even try The “Edinburger” or the Crab Cake Sandwich while you’re around.
Jalisco Mexican Restaurant – 4.5 stars – Mexican – $$ – 1.2 mi. Exit 264 in New Market
“Absolutely loved their food, prices, service, and margaritas!” Danielle F.
“We will be back.” Joe P.
“Overall an awesome and delicious restaurant. Can’t wait to go back!” Antima C.
Started in 1996 as a family owned business, Jalisco Mexican Restaurant has always given their guests the best Mexican food in the Shenandoah Valley. They cook only fresh, made to order meals with a Happy Hour every day. With vibrant spices and flavors that cover the table, lunch specials are available and visitors say you just have to try their signature coleslaw made fresh daily. Their handmade tamales are prepared in the traditional way as Jalisco continues to focus on using fresh, high-quality ingredients to prepare made-from-scratch Mexican cuisine. Come stop in and see for yourself what they mean when we describe Jalisco’s as full plates and full bellies.
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Southern Kitchen – 4 stars – Southern, Diners – $$ – 1 mi. Exit 264 in New Market
“Great fried chicken and southern hospitality.” Carl W.
“So glad we stopped here. The people were so nice. Prices were very reasonable.” John D.
“Quality service. Charming location. Highly recommend.” Jared T.
Open daily from 7 to 9, Southern Kitchen is a new take on old memories. With an atmosphere reminiscent of the 1950s diner look, guests can find American classics served with wholesome, home-made touches. Taste favorites like Lloyd’s fried chicken, their vegetable soup with its own original recipe, or even country ham which is rugged and salty delivering depth of flavor like nothing else can. Available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with made to order dishes. This is comfy and home style at its best and most original. And don’t forget to stop by the jukebox while you’re there.
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Bella Luna Wood Fired Pizza – 4.5 stars – Pizza – $$ – 1.9 mi. Exit 247B in Harrisonburg
“Nice place. Great pizzas. Great dough and cooked spot on.” Darren A.
“Pizzas were excellent the meatballs were excellent…if I’m in the area I would definitely go back.” Jim T.
“The food (especially the pizza) was out of this world and some of the best I have had in years.” Hayden C.
Known as the first farm-to-table pizza restaurant in Harrisonburg, these Neapolitan-inspired dishes are the perfect mix of flavor and heat that you are looking for. These thin-crusted pizzas are made in a traditional wood-fired oven allowing the chefs to create a unique crust with textures and flavors visitors fall in love with over and over again. The dough is hand-mad fresh daily and the high heat the oven is kept on allows a very short time to cook. These perfect pizzas are accompanied by hand-made pastas, salads, and appetizers that feature house-made mozzarella and sausage. The cheese and meats used are delivered daily from family farms in the Central Virginia and Shenandoah Valley area. This rustic atmosphere creates the refined pizza locals rave about.
Bella Luna Wood-Fired Pizza
The Shack – 4.5 stars – American (New) – $$$ – 2.6 mi. Exit 222 in Staunton
“So unassuming, such a great place.” Daniel B.
“All this food, and such a fantastic, satisfying experience.” Tammy R.
“Bottom line, you need to add this to your itinerary when you are in Staunton, or you’ll be missing out.” Mark P.
This chic stop is one that Staunton just can’t stop raving about. The Shack is where color and flavor meet perfectly. With a chef that has a passion for his art and creating some of the most beautiful and tasty dishes around, try the grilled leg of lamb, Wagyu oyster steak, or maple quail. And be sure to save room for the delectable sweet potato fry pie or even the fresh buttermilk ricotta with honey comb and vanilla toast. The Shack was found in The Culture Trip, 2014 as one of “Shenandoah Valley’s 10 Best Restaurants,” and raved about from Esquire to The Washington Post and more. Hosting local and favorite events year round, be sure to keep up with the excitement at The Shack.
Taste of India – 4 stars – Indian – $$ – 4.5 mi. Exit 220 in Staunton
“We were quite pleasantly surprised to find such a good Indian place in a small town like Staunton.” Maria K.
“This is a great addition to Valley dining.” Jerry C.
“Lovely staff, excellent service, great food.” Sujatha S.
Fragrant, zesty, and warm are how we would describe Taste of India. Taste their Boti Kebab, Chicken Tandoori, or Chicken Curry. Here vegetarian options are available. With so many lamb and seafood options covering the menu, it may just be too hard to decide what to try first. But no matter what, save room because with these fine dishes there are tasty desserts to follow up. Taste of India welcomes you to taste their exotic flavors of authentic Indian cuisine. They have delicacies and special spices exported from North and South India. These subtle tastes are accompanied by flavors that pull through.
Frank’s Pizza Pasta & Subs – 4 stars – Sandwiches, Pizza – $ – 1.8 mi. Exit 200 in Fairfield
“It’s very simple with good pizza.” R R.
“Love this place!!!” Great food.” Amanda J.
“Definitely an easy and convenient stop if you are in this area.” Blake B.
Fairfield is home to Frank’s Pizza Pasta & Subs. Open since 1989, Frank’s has become known for the best pizza in Lexington and Fairfield. Their daily specials include fresh cannoli desserts and garlic knots made fresh and hot. Hamburger combos are even available and you’ll be sure to tell your friends about their calzones. Taste out one of the many pasta dinners or subs. Be sure to stop in for their weekly specials and check out their website to see what fun new and exciting things they are doing. Follow them on their Facebook to keep up with the fun and to see the great dishes available.
Salerno – 4 stars – Pizza, Italian – $ – 3.6 mi. Exit 191 in Lexington
“Good and local food.” Emma B.
“The pizza options are large and varied! All in all a good place to grab a meal.” Nicole W.
“With comically big subs and calzones, this seemingly ordinary neighborhood Italian joint is cranking out huge flavor.” Mike B.
While passing through Lexington be sure to stop by Salerno’s. These big dishes are for a big hunger. The fresh and bright colors reflect the flavor in the fresh ingredients. Try their subs, salads, or pizza slices. Specials like Panini Caprese with tomatoes and roasted red peppers smothered in fresh garlic and melted mozzarella cheese, are available daily. Using only fresh basil and seasonings, the homemade Italian bread is a perfect addition to an already tasty meal. There are many baked dishes as well as options to create your own pastas. Open Monday through Saturday, stop by Salerno’s next and try for yourself.
About the Author: Kemry Johnakin is an English Major at Brigham Young University-Idaho, hopes to write the next great American novel, and is greatly unsettled by the lack of oxford commas used in government paperwork.
Mano Taquería is permanently closed.
Jalisco in Mt. Jackson has closed. Woodstock Cafe and Shoppes is good, but closes early, Thursdays are the only night they serve dinner.
Hi Kelly, According to their Facebook page they are now in New Market. I’ll update with the correct exit!
There was a Korean BBQ joint out in the middle of nowhere. Can’t remember the name of it. Awesome place.
You forgot Mrs Rohr at exit 222, all the bread is homemade and the pies are wonderful!
Mrs Rowes great spoonbread.
I go around reviewing restaurants for my blog, and I’m driving from ny to florida, so this is helping me find ones in Virginia, so thank you!
I believe Jalisco Mexican Restaurant in Mt. Jackson is (sadly) closed. The Shoppes at Woodstock have odd hours – Thursdays are the only day they serve after 6pm and Saturdays and Sundays stop at 5pm.
We ate at Southern Kitchen in New Market…Delicious fried chicken (their specialty) and pork barbecue. The restaurant is cozy, friendly, and only 1 mile off 81. We will return!
Carmella’s was not open on a Tuesday. In fact, all restaurants were closed. Cute town. Disappointed.
Why did you stop at Lexington, you had 200 miles to go?
There is a part 2 to this article: https://blog.virginia.org/2015/08/i81-pt2/
You need to add The Draper Mercantile just off 81 South exit 92. Awesome food and new shops.