Restaurants in Virginia are hard to beat, especially when you factor in the local history associated with some of the finest and most interesting dining establishments in the state. You may be surprised to learn about some of the stories behind these restaurants. Or you may not be surprised at all, seeing as history and Virginia go together like cheese and fine wine.
1. Michie Tavern
Michie Tavern is located only a half a mile from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and has been feeding travelers and visitors since 1784. Not much has changed since then, purposefully, to give visitors a true sense of 18th century fare.
2. Chowning's Tavern and Restaurant
Josiah Chowning's Tavern in Historic Williamsburg is a reconstructed tavern from 1766 that serves up historic brew in addition to their pub food. A visit to the tavern in the summer could mean a "Sunset Serenade" by some of the local musicians.
3. Half Way House Restaurant
Since before the Revolution, the Half Way House has been a place of rest for the traveler journeying between Richmond and Petersburg. One unique feature of this restaurant (established in 1760) is the kitchen, which is a completely separate building from the manor house.
4. King's Arms Tavern
Jane Vobe opened King's Arms in 1772 and it was considered to be the town's most genteel places to dine. After you've been greeted by a server dressed in 18th century attire, you'll hear the news of the day delivered by a Williamsburg citizen.
5. Gadsby's Tavern
Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria is named for John Gadsby, an Englishman who operated the building as a center for politics and social gatherings. Built in 1785, the tavern held dances, musical performances, and plays. Some of its frequent visitors included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and James Monroe. If you're looking for a dining experience fit for a president, this is the place.
6. Virginia Diner
The Virginia Diner opened in 1929 as a renovated railroad dining car on a dusty dirt road in southeast Virginia. That just so happens to be the heart of peanut country, which is why peanuts have been a prominent menu item ever since. It's no surprise that the diner refers to itself as "a legend in a nutshell."
7. Red Fox Inn and Tavern
This restaurant was named in CNN's 10 noteworthy historic restaurants. You'll find the Red Fox Inn right in the hunt country of Northern Virginia. The Inn was founded in 1728 and has been visited by presidents, Revolutionary War heroes, and even Jackie Onassis and Elizabeth Taylor.
8. Mansion Five26
Also known as the Speakeasy Grill, this Richmond mansion has been restored and turned into a speakeasy in the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood. The lounge is located next to the Hippodrome Theatre, which was built in 1895 for Rev. Taylor. Taylor was credited for forming the world's first African American owned bank. The Hippodrome's VIP box seats were the original bedrooms to the Italianate Revival mansion.
9. Maple Hall Inn & Restaurant
Lexington's Maple Hall is registered as a National Historic Place. VMI cadets marched through the grounds on their way to the battle of New Market in the spring of 1864. Restaurant 1850 is part of the property and will be reopening soon for dinner.
10. Liberty Station
Liberty Station is the refurbished Bedford railway station that was once the center of community life. The railway was crucial to the economy and transportation. This was the site where the beloved Bedford Boys left for the 116th infantry. Passenger service ran until 1971 and in 2001, the restaurant was established and became home to Harry's Famous Cheesecake.
11. Damascus Old Mill Inn
The story behind the Old Mill Inn began with Henry Mock, a brave soul who followed the trail blazed by Daniel Boone. Mock left North Carolina and headed towards present day Damascus, where he decided to build a grist and saw mill on Laurel Creek. This became a popular stop on Boone's trail, and some of its visitors never left. The waterwheel has since been removed and the building now stands as a first class dining and lodging site.
12. 1776 Log House
Located on Main Street in Wythveville, this restaurant stays true to its name: a log cabin that was built in 1776. The local dining maintains the ambience of an intimate 18th century lodge.
Where are some of your favorite historical spots to dine in Virginia? Be sure to share with us in the comments below!