As the saying goes, “Why change a good thing?” This rings true for the Virginia dining scene, where there are more than a few historic dining spots that have seen decades (if not centuries) of time pass and served plenty of happy diners. If you’re looking for a way to step back in time while still enjoying a fabulous meal, you’ll want to get reservations for the following establishments for your next night out. Many things have changed since these restaurants began, but the classic tavern-style food has not.
1. The Tavern (Abingdon)
The Tavern happens to be one of Abingdon's oldest historic buildings. Built in 1779, it's also one of the oldest west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In its lifetime, the Tavern has seen many notable visitors, such as Andrew Jackson, Louis Philippe, and the King of France. While it was initially a tavern, the building served many different purposes over the last two centuries, including a bank, bakery, and antique shop. By 1984, the Tavern was again used for its original purpose. Today the Tavern is a place where all are welcome to relax and enjoy the menu as well as the history of the surroundings. The restaurant specializes in preparing seafood. Pictured above is the delicious stuffed filet.
2. The Old Mill Room (Charlottesville)
The Old Mill Room is part of Charlottesville's Boars Head Inn. The beautiful dining room was crafted from wood which originally was part of an old gristmill back in 1834. Despite the march through Charlottesville from opposing forces during the Civil War, the building remained in tact and has continued to serve its purpose as a dining lodge. In its history as a restaurant, the Old Mill Room has earned AAA's Four-Diamond distinction. Guests will breakfast, a lunch buffet, and fine dining in the evening. Photographed above is the prosciutto wrapped cod served with clam chowder.
3. Red Fox Inn & Tavern (Middleburg)
Here we have the oldest continuously-run restaurant in the state, established in 1728. Stepping into this historic tavern, guests will feel transported back in time to the original Piedmont setting. While the setting is formal and luxurious, the cooking is wonderfully down-home. This establishment is known for serving some of the best fried chicken and barbecue in the state, as it has done for nearly 300 years.
4. Shield's Tavern (Williamsburg)
As is the case with many restaurants in Williamsburg, Shield's Tavern has kept its classic tavern feel for centuries. The menu isn't much different from what an eighteenth-century visitor might expect. Classic pork dish served with green beans and boiled potatoes. The setting is intimate and cozy, as the dining area is located under the stairway. Reservations are definitely recommended here, as the seating fills up quickly. You can also expect lively characters and performing musicians in their time-period costumes.
5. The Franklin Inn (Richmond)
The Franklin Inn opened as a neighborhood restaurant in the 1930s. There was a full service bar and the owners, who lived just upstairs, served lighter fare such as soups and sandwiches. The name of the Inn changed for many years after it opened until 1970, when the Virginia Historic Commission decided to resurrect the building back to its original structure. Located in the historic Museum District, today's Franklin Inn continues to serve lighter fare as well as a full range of delicious options. One of the more popular choices is the white bean soup made with ham-hock. And the Sunday brunch is not to be missed either.
6. The Cellars (Virginia Beach)
The Cellars will set the mood for a special occasion in the setting of a fascinating historical building. What was once a hospital during the Revolutionary War became a farmhouse in 1860 and today is one of the finest restaurants in Virginia Beach. In fact, this restaurant took home the #1 in Virginia Beach ranking from the OpenTable survey. Therefore the price range is a bit on the pricey side, but rest assured you'll be getting plenty of quality for what you're paying. Photographed above we have clams cooked to perfection with white wine and leeks.
7. Hanover Tavern (Hanover)
The Hanover Tavern is another Virginia staple that has hosted several prominent figures, including George Washington himself. Patrick Henry was also a frequent visitor, as the son-in-law of the tavern's 1750 to 1764 owners. The tavern continues to offer delicious lunches and dinners, and has more recently become a popular venue for wedding events. Some of the most popular menu options include fresh Rappahannock seafood, such as the crab cake entree which is pictured above. And don't forget to enjoy a slice of the key lime pie by the fireplace!
8. White Oak Tea Tavern (Troutville)
The White Oak Tea Tavern appears like something out of a fairytale -- a cozy cottage which has been around since 1783. Originally, the building was known as the Cloyd Cabin. Inside, visitors will be delighted to unwind with a cup of their famous Breakfast Blend black tea. They will also be serving these delicious homemade bread bowls filled with warm baked chicken salad and artichokes. Visitors that stop by in the morning will also have a choice of freshly-made organic bagels or scones.
9. Griffin Tavern (Flint Hill)
Griffin Tavern has been a lovely gathering place since 1850. The house contains three dining rooms, each with a welcoming atmosphere. The restaurant itself is relatively new, having opened in 2003, although the setting feels as timeless as the building itself. The chef is an expert at preparing delicious home-style meals, such as this delectable stuffed trout entree. And the homemade lemon cake will be the perfect dessert. As this is a popular spot to dine, you'll want to be sure to make reservations in advance. On most nights, the bar area will feature live music.
10. Lancaster Tavern (Lancaster)
The Northern Neck's Lancaster Tavern has been a place of hospitality and fine dining for over 200 years. Today, the beautiful and elegant restaurant is still open for lunch and dinner. Some of the beloved classic tavern fare includes oyster, crab cakes, and shrimp. Breakfast is also available during the weekends. The Tavern is also a bed and breakfast, so the atmosphere is especially charming. You'll be able to locate Lancaster Tavern right across from the historic Mary Ball Washington Museum.
Whether you’re out celebrating a special occasion or just looking for somewhere to enjoy a tasty lunch, there’s nothing better than spending a little time with a place that’s lived through our state’s history. Have you had the chance to experience any of these historical dining spots in Virginia? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience! Or feel free to share some other spots that may have missed the list.