There’s no doubt that Virginia has some of the finest dining in the nation. We’ve been recognized by national publications, television shows and culinary critics time and again. But sometimes when dining out, we want more than just a culinary experience. Sometimes, we’re looking to feed all of our senses with ambiance, personality and one-of-a-kind decor. If you’re looking to spice up your Virginia dining experience with something a little different this year, these 13 places will deliver just what you’re looking for – with great food to match!
1. Havana 59, Richmond
Step into Havana 59 in downtown Richmond and you’ll think you’ve stepped into Cuba itself. Palm trees, ceiling fans, rustic décor and peeling paint on the walls are just the setting for some of the best Cuban food outside of Havana. Cigars and salsa dancing are just icing on the cake – so to speak. Find a taste of the islands at Havana 59, located at 16 N 17th St, Richmond, VA 23219.
2. Michie Tavern, Charlottesville
For more than 200 years, Michie Tavern has welcomed visitors with proper home style Southern cooking. Located just down the mountain from Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello, Michie’s servers help to recreate the look and feel of this Colonial tavern with period costumes and some of the best fried chicken anywhere. Michie’s is only open for midday meals (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) and special events, so be sure to get there in time. Michie’s is located just off of Route 20 at 683 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902.
3. John Strongbow’s Tavern and Medieval Madness, Alexandria
In case you’re in the mood for an authentic medieval meal, complete with knights, ladies and jesters, the Medieval Madness Feast at John Strongbow’s Tavern delivers a king’s portion of each. Formerly called “Medieval Madness,” John Strongbow’s is now a tavern offering daily meals, drinks and festivities all week. The Medieval Madness interactive dinner theater show plays each weekend, featuring proper 15th century fare over four courses, including ale, wine and meade, along with hilariously funny entertainment that will keep the whole family happy. You can join in on the festivities at 710 King Street in Old Town Alexandria.
4. Godfrey’s, Richmond
Ok, so maybe this isn’t your standard mother’s Sunday lunch. But there’s no denying that Godfrey’s is an experience worth having. A nightclub by…well, NIGHT….Godfrey’s is known for its Saturday and Sunday Drag Brunches. And yes, that means exactly what you think it does. A full-on drag queen show with excellent drinks and a la carte brunch food? I’ve spent worse weekends. Check out the extravaganza for yourself at 308 E Grace Street, Richmond, VA 23219.
5. Ploughcroft Tea Room, Lynchburg
Although it's located in Lynchburg’s historic district, Ploughcroft Tea Room is like passing through a portal into the heart of London. Featuring a distinctly British menu, lunches are available from 11am – 2pm, with afternoon tea served from 2:15pm – 5pm. Pop in for a deliciously delicate taste of merry old England, Monday through Saturday, at 1215 Commerce Street, Lynchburg, VA 24504.
6. The Speakeasy at the General Francis Marion Hotel, Marion
The Washington Post says walking into the General Francis Marion Hotel is like being “...a character in the board game ‘Clue.’” Built in 1927, the roaring ’20s are still very much alive in the mansion-like hotel with its original walnut paneling and oak floors. Dine at The Speakeasy, a 1920s themed gastropub, featuring signature period drinks and gourmet pub food. The Francis Marion Hotel is located at 107 E Main St, Marion, VA 24354.
7. The Log House 1776, Wytheville
If you’re looking for a taste of history along with some amazing food in an out-of-the-way spot, then look no further than The Log House 1776. Located in an authentic log cabin built in - you guessed it - 1776, The Log House is a culinary delight with traditional southern fare that one reviewer called, “the best food this side of the Smokies.” Located in the heart of downtown Wytheville, The Log House offers fine dining with ambiance to spare. You can find The Log House at 520 E. Main Street, Wytheville, Virginia 24382.
8. Clare and Don’s Beach Shack, Falls Church
If you want to feel like you’re at the beach, but can’t make it to the water, Clare and Don’s offers a tropical oasis in the middle of Falls Church’s urban center. Featuring rustic picnic tables, newsprint menus, beach-themed décor and, of course, amazing seafood, the “beach shack” is a great place to sit back and unwind with a cold beer, good friends and live music. Find them at 130 N Washington Street, Falls Church, VA 22046.
9. Pocahontas Pancake House, Virginia Beach
For a place that’s already been voted “the best pancake house in Virginia Beach” by the Food Network, it would seem that this local favorite wouldn’t need much more praise. But while the food is great, the Pocahontas Pancake House hits a real home run with their décor. Featuring a Jamestown-inspired interior, complete with murals, totem-pole columns and a wigwam, Pocahontas Pancakes makes the experience every bit as great as the food. Visit them at 3420 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451.
10. Edelweiss Restaurant, Staunton
For a taste of the mother land (assuming you’re German, of course), Edelweiss serves up hearty German fare that’s just about as authentic as it gets. Located just off of I-81 in Staunton, this home-style family restaurant has been making customers happy for years with their hearty portions, all-you-can-eat family-style sides and exquisitely prepared dishes like stuffed cabbage and wienerschnitzel. With a large beer selection (German and otherwise) served in stoneware mugs and an all-around cozy, mountain cabin feel, the Edelweiss Restaurant should be on your list of 2016 “must-eats” for sure. Edelweiss is located at 19 Edelweiss Ln, Staunton, VA 24401.
11. The Pink Cadillac Diner, Natural Bridge
Even if it wasn’t painted bright pink to match the antique Cadillac parked outside, the giant King Kong statue clutching an airplane that serves as a landmark makes it hard for you to miss this old-school diner. Complete with a life-sized Elvis Presley statue to welcome you at the door, this quaint 1950s throwback leaves no surface undecorated and no customer hungry. Located just off I-81, the Pink Cadillac serves up diner classics, with an atmosphere fit for “The King” himself. Get a little taste of Americana at its best at 4347 S Lee Hwy, Natural Bridge, VA 24578.
12. The Swinging Bridge Restaurant at the Paint Bank General Store, Paint Bank
Step in The Swinging Bridge Restaurant and you’ll have to wonder if you’ve somehow ended up in an old fashioned hunting lodge. Timber and log walls, decorated with more than just a few hunting trophies, a lodge-style fireplace and the centerpiece, an actual wood-and-rope swinging bridge, are just a few of the things that make this restaurant a one-of-a-kind experience. With Southern food so good that you’ll want to “slap your mama ‘cause she don’t cook like this no more,” The Swinging Bridge is worth the visit…time and again. Find them at 16071 Paint Bank Rd, Paint Bank, VA 24131.
13. Bar PX, Alexandria
Long gone were the days of the speak-easy, fancy dresses and cocktails "just because"...until Bar PX came along. This intimate, little bar in Alexandria brings back the flavor of the roaring ‘20s with premium cocktails served in a limited seating establishment (reservations are required) – where men are expected to wear jackets and women “know what to do” when it comes to finery. To get in, simply knock…just head to 728 King St, Alexandria, VA 2231 and you’ll know you have the right place (maybe!!) by the blue light in front of an otherwise non-descript door.
Do you have a favorite themed restaurant in Virginia? If there’s a great place that we’ve missed, we would love to have you add it to the list in the comments below!