Just like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, the rule with Virginia dining is to never judge a restaurant by the size of its town. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Our small towns have a knack for harboring some of the finest cooking in the state. While larger cities often have the benefit of convenience and variety, it’s the smaller towns that have the hidden-gem factor. Whether you’re stopping by for a meal or an extended weekend, rest assured you won’t leave town hungry when you visit the following places:
1. Mathews: White Dog Bistro
Inside a beautiful historic Virginia home you'll find the White Dog Bistro, one of the most charming and delicious spots in the area. There are several rooms to enjoy the ambiance, including a craft bar room complete with a fireplace and a great drink selection. Most of the menu includes fresh seafood, but there are plenty of other options as well.
2. Warsaw: Relish
Here's another Northern Neck local favorite with a knack for traditional and innovation. You can expect all the classic seafood entrees here, but also be on the lookout for dishes such as bison sliders or the mouth-watering fish tacos (photographed above). Even with a discreet location, you'll want to be sure to make reservations for a weekend night.
3. Bedford County: Millstone Tea Room
Millstone Tea Room can be found surrounded by beautiful Virginian farm lands, the perfect setting for this charming spot. The menu is farm-to-table, with wholesome and elegant options ranging from mouthwatering grilled oysters to homemade macaroni and cheese.
4. Culpeper: It's About Thyme
The cleverness behind this Culpeper County gem doesn't stop with its name. Inside you'll find painted murals on the wall and real flowers in the bathroom. This restaurant initially began in Philadelphia, but relocated to Virginia in the '90s. The food here is top-notch, deliciously healthy, and is sure to hit the spot.
5. Suffolk: Harper's Table
Harper's Table is the spot that will satisfy your craving for a great meal as well as something out of the ordinary. Located in the heart of downtown Suffolk, this local favorite serves dishes ranging from beef tenderloin, to peach salads, to pork belly biscuits. Each dish is created skillfully and carefully and will inspire you to make the trip back soon.
6. Wakefield: Virginia Diner
Let's face it: sometimes when you're passing through a small town, there's just nothing better than a home cooked meal. And what place could be better suited for that than the Virginia Diner? This place is mostly popular for its novelties -- world famous peanut pie and other such gifts -- but the food is definitely not something you'll want to pass up, either.
7. Chincoteague: Pico Taqueria
While it may just look like a shabby taco stand on the beach, anyone who's tried a taco from Pico's will attest that it absolutely lives up to the hype. The tacos here are delectable and innovative, meaning you'll want to try about one of everything. Could you imagine a better addition to your stroll along the beautiful shores of the Island?
8. Warm Springs: The Waterwheel Restaurant
If you've never experienced fine dining in a small Virginia town, the Waterwheel Restaurant is a must-visit. Located near the Inn at Gristmill (and a stone's throw away from the Homestead), this spot is attached to a mill that's been in operation since the 1700s. The menu is locally-sourced, with an emphasis on freshly caught fish. There's also an impressive wine cellar downstairs to complement any delectable meal.
9. South Boston: Bistro 1888
Simply put, Bistro 1888 will not disappoint. Recognized by Southern Living as "A Dining Destination with the Standard of Excellence," this small town restaurant has maintained its wonderful reputation. The atmosphere is formal, but not over-the-top. One of the most popular menu items includes scallops and the backfin crab cake (entree photographed above).