There’s nothing quite like discovering a hidden gem of a restaurant that becomes your new favorite place. It’s one of the best ways to feel like a true local, and luckily for us Virginians, there are several of these spots scattered throughout the state. Whether they happen to be tucked away in an inconspicuous corner or unmarked altogether, you can expect these establishments to be off the grid. We’ve got the inside scoop on some of these secret restaurants, and you’ll want to plan your visit soon.
1. Hanaro Korean Restaurant (Virginia Beach)
Most fans of Hanaro Korean Restaurant agree that this location is perhaps the last place you'd expect to find authentic Korean cuisine. Nevertheless, it's definitely not one you'll want to pass up on. To find this hidden gem, look for the small yellow sign that says "Asian Market" (on N Witchduck Rd). Some of the favorites include the kimchi bar, beef bulgogi, and homemade dumplings.
2. Grandstaff & Stein (Richmond)
It doesn't get much more secretive than a speakeasy that requires a password. (Password can be retrieved by calling ahead.) The '20s-themed ambiance will add to the speakeasy experience, and can be the perfect spot for a fun date night or evening out with a few friends. Although the menu is somewhat limited, the options are high quality and you can count on an excellent drink to go with the food. Moscow Mules are especially popular here.
3. The Cellars (Virginia Beach)
Tucked away in a historic neighborhood, the Cellars Restaurant is actually in the cellar of an old Bed & Breakfast. The ambiance is beautiful, welcoming, and sets the tone for some incredible fine dining. A little on the upscale side, this spot would make for a memorable anniversary or special date night.
4. The Alley Light (Charlottesville)
The Alley Light is most secretive, especially considering its only entrance marker is an actual alley light tucked in one of the side streets of the pedestrian mall in Charlottesville. If you've never been before, you might second guess that you've gotten the correct place. This restaurant has the vibe of a trendy speak-easy with French influenced plates, most of which are sharable. The drinks and desserts are especially wonderful here.
5. Cilantro Bangladeshi Bistro (Norfolk)
The Bistro is not so much a secret as it is a hole-in-the-wall place that you might overlook if you didn't know about the incredible Bangladeshi food inside. The cuisine is similar to Indian with its own flair for unique seasonings and sauces. As you can tell by the photograph above, you'll have no shortage of delicious options. Some of the most popular menu items include spicy beef and the polao rice. They also serve freshly squeezed limeade for a refreshing treat.
6. Restaurant Eve (Alexandria)
If you're really looking to impress someone with your inside-scoop knowledge of the dining scene, you'll want to take them to Restaurant Eve. Located in Old Town Alexandria, this spot is about as swanky as it gets. Diners can even opt for the 5-course tasting menu, which comes with wine pairings as well. One of the incredible entree options, photographed above, is halibut with peach panzanella.
7. Ddeb's (Chesapeake)
If you're in search of quality cooking without the price tag that normally comes with a five-star restaurant, Ddeb's is your answer. This spot isn't necessarily a huge secret, although it is somewhat of an unsuspecting venue. It makes sense that the restaurant is often called "A Taste Of Home," because home is exactly what this cozy place in Chesapeake feels like. Homemade shrimp salad with a delicious side of mac & cheese anyone?
8. House of Mandi (Arlington)
This place has been deemed by locals as one of the best Middle Eastern restaurants in the entire country. The outside may seem unsuspecting, so if you hadn't heard about Mandi's delicious reputation, you might miss out. The owners provide an authentic experience with entrees such as the famous Mandi lamb. And for dessert, be sure to save room for the homemade bread pudding.
9. Secret Garden Cafe (Occoquan)
Escape to the enchanting little Secret Garden Cafe in Occoquan for delectable breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The garden atmosphere makes the perfect setting for enjoying treats such as pot stickers, shrimp and grits, and homemade french toast blueberry crumble (photographed above). Spring and summer are the best seasons to enjoy this establishment, as you'll most certainly want to enjoy the outdoor seating.