We all know that state motto is “Virginia is for Lovers.” But Virginia is also very, very much for foodies. We do food like no other state – Sunday dinners, family gatherings, tailgates and holiday feasts. We love our food. So it’s no wonder that there are so many incredible options when it comes to dining out. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorites. These 20 mouth-watering establishments will remind you that when it come to eating, Virginia does it best.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Black Sheep, Richmond
This eclectic hotspot near Virginia Commonwealth University in historic downtown Richmond serves up more than just subs. In fact, at the Black Sheep, you don’t order a “submarine” sandwich, you order a “battleship.” Found under a menu heading titled “The War of Northern Ingestion”, a whole battleship measures 2 feet and weighs in at 2.5 pounds. You may want to bring a friend – or a doggy bag.
2. Buffalo and More, Riner
Like the name implies, Buffalo and More serves more than just buffalo – but not a lot. On the menu you’ll find buffalo cheesesteak, buffalo burgers, pulled buffalo barbecue, buffalo hot dogs and quesadillas with…surprise…buffalo. The owners show a clear passion for their work and supply all of the meat from their own buffalo farm just 15 minutes away. Once you’ve had your fill of the main course, be sure to try a dessert – all of which are homemade by the owner’s mother.
3. Edo’s Squid, Richmond
The only trick to enjoying the food at Edo’s Squid is finding the place. Located in an unassuming building just above a sub shop, Edo’s is a small space at the top of a narrow flight of stairs. Featuring an ever-changing list of specials from lamb shanks to quail, staples like the stunning sautéed squid with arugula and white beans will keep you coming back with some of the best Italian food this side of the Mediterranean. Don’t be fooled by the shabby chic Italian décor, because despite chipped plates and wine in jelly jars, Edo’s is a treasure hunt you’ll be happy you went on.
4. Crozet Pizza, Crozet
Located just outside of Charlottesville, Crozet Pizza has long been a rite-of-passage for University of Virginia students, locals and visitors alike. The restaurant features fresh dough made daily from the owners’ own recipe, fresh (and local whenever possible) produce and some of the most amazing flavors you’ll ever taste – including the “Harvest Moon”, a white pizza with squash, garlic and Virginia peanuts. Family owned and operated since 1977, Crozet Pizza now also has a location in Charlottesville at the Buddhist Biker Bar.
5. Foti’s Restaurant, Culpeper
Nevermind the storefront location, Foti’s owner/chef /husband/wife team bring an impressive background to the table – literally. Trained at the world-famous Inn at Little Washington, the chefs create gourmet meals from local meats and vegetables, handmade cheeses and premium seafood. While you’re there, be sure to try the chocolate brulée, complete with a bacon spoon.
6. Mokomandy, Sterling
Don’t ever say that Virginia restaurants aren’t original. Mokomandy’s is what happens when Korean and Cajun cuisine fuse – and the results are outstanding. I mean, where else can you get alligator croquettes with a side of kimchi? Add a long list of wines, craft beers and handmade specialty cocktails and you’ll see why Mokomandy has won numerous “best of” awards, including Northern Virginia Magazine’s “Top 50 Best Restaurants.”
7/ 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.
8. Spacebar, Falls Church
It’s only the best grilled cheese menu you’ll ever find. This self-titled “grilled cheese emporium” features 20 grilled cheese sandwich options from vegan (don’t ask me to explain) to pulled pork. Oh. And there’s beer. Lots of beer. You can choose from a 24-tap beer selection that changes daily and is available to go in sealed Mason jars. The only other things you’ll find on the menu are a few salads and tater tots. It’s minimalist perfection.
9. The Pagoda Restaurant and Tea House, Norfolk
While the restaurant itself has changed hands a number of times, the building and grounds create a consistently beautiful experience. Presented to the city of Norfolk by Taiwan in 1989, The Pagoda offers stunning views of the harbor, beautiful gardens and a koi pond. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.
10. Little Grill Collective, Harrisonburg
While we all like good food – and the Little Grill Collective serves one of the best breakfasts around with options like lemon poppyseed and toasted coconut pancakes – it’s also nice to know that we are making a difference. This modest little restaurant has been around since the ‘40s but became a collective in 2003. It is now worker-owned and closes on Mondays when it offers a free lunch to the underserved in the community. That’s good food that makes you feel good.
11. Texas Tavern, Roanoke
The Texas Tavern has been serving up great meals at great prices since the 1930s. Not only is it a local favorite with cheap but tasty hamburgers and hot dogs, it even has it’s own language for ordering. A "bowl” refers to their world-famous chili, while “with” means you want onions. If you’re ordering to-go, just tell them you’re “walkin’.”
My personal favorite? “Sissy sauce” is what you ask for when you want ketchup. For years, the tavern didn’t have ketchup because they thought it covered up the flavor of the food. But if you must have it, then you only have to be brave enough to ask.
12. Green Pig Bistro, Arlington
This top-ranked restaurant delivers comfort food with a twist. You’ll find everything from traditional (and delicious) meatloaf and sides served on partitioned plates to mimic old-fashioned TV dinners to the more sophisticated but equally comforting buffalo ribs shown here. With farm-to-table ingredients and sustainable design from recipes to décor, the Green Pig will keep you coming back for more.
13. The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, Lovettsville
Another Northern Virginia Magazine best, Patowmack Farm makes the top 10 with ease. Featuring fully organic fare, it is one of the first farm restaurants in the U.S. The fine-dining menu features three columns: found, raised or grown. The chef actually goes into the fields and surrounding farmland to find many of the ingredients himself, which means you’ll always be treated to a one-of-a-kind meal.
14. Blue Talon Bistro, Williamsburg
French cuisine marries Southern comfort – its “casual fine-dining” at its best. Here you’ll find everything from mouth-watering breakfasts to “serious” comfort foods like Salt Cod Fritter Salad and Game Potpie with venison, rabbit, oxtail and duck. Just make sure you don’t leave before you’ve tried the burnt sugar ice cream and world-renowned chocolate mousse. You’ll be glad you did.
15.Ray’s the Steaks, Arlington
Steakhouses are a dime a dozen. So Ray’s does it a little differently. All of their premium cut meat is bought, then dry-aged for 60 days onsite. The result is some of the most delicious steaks and cuts of beef you’ll find in Virginia. The wait can be long, but once you have a crab bisque appetizer followed by a melt-in-your mouth filet mignon, you won’t even notice. An extensive wine list and reasonable prices make this one of the most popular places for dinner out in the area.
16. Cheesetique, Alexandria and Arlington
A restaurant devoted to cheese and wine? It’s like I’ve died and gone to heaven. A full-service cheese and wine shop, Cheesetique also offers a full menu, brunches, classes and an online “ask the cheese lady” feature to make this a one-stop shop. Come by one of Cheestique’s two locations for a meal, for happy hour or just to make your taste buds happy.
17. Pierce’s Pitt BBQ, Williamsburg
And now we’ve come to the BBQ portion of our show. There are few things Virginia loves more than proper, slow-smoked, pulled meat BBQ. And few places that do it better than Pierce’s. I personally know a number of people that won’t go near Williamsburg without stopping at this popular place – and apparently USA Today agrees, naming it one of the Top 10 places in the South for Barbecue.
18. King’s BBQ Restaurant, Petersburg
Enter the competition. I just sang the praises of Pierce’s, but there are those that would argue that King’s BBQ could take anyone in a head-to-head battle. Another favorite of this fine state of ours, King’s has been serving up hand-cut, slow-smoked pork for more than 75 years. Don’t let the humble outside fool you, King’s is fit for
19. The White Spot, Charlottesville
Need a proper greasy spoon? It doesn’t get better than The White Spot. Inconspicuously hidden on “The Corner” at the University of Virginia campus’ main street, The White Spot not only serves up classic diner breakfast, but it is also the home of the “Gusburger”, a griddle cooked hamburger with a fried egg on top. Should you fall in love with the Gusburger, I suggest competing in the annual “Gusburger Eating Contest” where you can earn a chance to get your picture on the wall. But if dessert is more your thing, then try the “Grillswith” – that mean two Krispy Kreme donuts grilled in butter and served with ice cream. How could you say no?
20. Virginia Diner, Wakefield
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Virginia Diner. The diner started in a renovated railroad car in 1929 and has grown to be one of the most well known places in the state. Virginia Diner peanuts (in more flavors than I can list) can be found all over the state and nowhere does Virginia ham better than this roadside dinner off of US Route 460. A large gift shop greets customers, where you can get your favorites to take with you, but is quickly followed by Southern hospitality and down-home dining favorites.
Now you know some of our favorites. We want to know yours! With so many options in so many places, there’s no way to name them all, but let us know where you like to go and why and maybe we will check them out for ourselves.