The Best Food and Drink in Virginia for 2019
December 20, 2018
Local ingredients really shine in Oregon’s cuisine
The Best Food and Drink in Virginia
Virginia is for lovers … especially food and drink lovers. From the Chesapeake Bay to the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia is bursting with local delicacies, historic foods, and incredible wine. To celebrate all the great food and drink that our country’s 10th state has to offer, we’ve rounded up Old Dominion’s claims to culinary fame as part of our second-annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.
Take a taste of history in Virginia. The state is the East Coast’s largest producer of seafood, and leads in oyster production. Though grapes have been grown since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia wine industry has exploded in recent decades, and now claims the fifth-highest number of wineries in the country. And where would good wine be without a tasty, salty snack to pair with it? Virginia country hams are famous the world over. Virginia is equally famous for peanuts.
Virginia is home to many iconic foods, and Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from its best hot dogs and brunch spot to its best bar and craft beer in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs.. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state, and you can find our Virginia gallery ahead.
Best Airport Restaurant: Ben’s Chili Bowl (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport)
Ben’s Chili Bowl is a Washington, D.C., staple, serving some of the best chili and hot dogs in the country, and if you missed out on them during your trip, Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, gives you one last chance to sample the goods. Try their classic chili dog (made with a unique local sausage called a half-smoke) or chili burger, or just eat the chili straight. The airport location also serves eggs, sandwiches, and hot cakes for breakfast.
Best All-You-Can-Eat Deal: Sushi King (Various Locations)
Sushi King has 11 locations all across Virginia, and offers a massive assortment of all-you-can-eat sushi and other Japanese fare in a sleek and modern setting. Twelve appetizers, 17 different types of sushi, 19 classic rolls, 23 different chef’s specialty rolls, and 19 different kitchen entrées are yours for the taking, all for $12.99 for lunch and $18.99 for dinner.
Best Bar: PX (Alexandria)
If you’re walking down King Street in Alexandria and you see a blue light outside PX (Person Extraordinaire) or a pirate flag at full mast, that’s your signal that the 1920s-style lounge above Eamonn’s, A Dublin Chipper (owned by Eat Good Food Group, the folks also behind PX) is open. Sommelier and mixologist Todd Thrasher, a native Virginian, handcrafts memorable cocktails at this intimate, 38-seat place. The limited hours (it’s open Wednesday to Saturday nights only), the dress code (jackets required for men), and the fact that reservations are strongly encouraged give PX an air of exclusivity and glamour. The 18 seasonally changing “avant farm” drinks like the This Is Snow Cream! (Buffalo Trace bourbon and vanilla whey) and the Grog and Sweet Basil (a mix of rum and lemon verbena tea served in a pirate’s mug with a see-through bottom), are equally classy and memorable. Be sure to try the Irish-style fish and chips served with a choice of seven different house-made sauces.
Best Beer: Whiteferrari, The Veil Brewing Co. (Richmond)
It takes a lot of work to get an IPA right, and Richmond, Virginia’s The Veil Brewing Co. put in the work before releasing Whiteferrari. And what is Whiteferrari? Like the car its named after, this double IPA is smooth as heck with flavors of grapefruit, grassy pine, and a hint of orange citrus. But unlike a Ferrari, you’ll want to take one slow and savor all the dynamics of a perfectly executed beer.
Best Brunch: Trummer’s on Main (Clifton)
This bright and charming destination about an hour’s drive from D.C. is an upscale and elegant retreat run by the husband-and-wife duo of Stefan and Victoria Trummer. Executive chef Jon Cropf’s innovative tasting menus (and the largest wine cellar in the Mid-Atlantic) keep the dining room crowded at night, but the lesser-known Sunday brunch menu is easily worth the trip from the capital. The menu changes seasonally, but standouts include a fresh-baked pastry basket, cinnamon-sugar beignets, local oysters, pulled pork omelette with mac and cheese and baby kale, shrimp and grits with tasso ham and lobster cream sauce, French toast with strawberries and Nutella whipped cream, hanger steak and eggs, and duck confit Benedict. Make sure you save room for a slice of red velvet cake!
Best Burger: 2941 Restaurant (Falls Church)
Hidden on 2941’s upscale American, French, and Mediterranean menu in the affluent Washington, DC suburb of Falls Church is the lunch-only All American burger, which makes the metro ride from Downtown worth the trip. This is a straightforward beef burger, topped with melted Cheddar, lettuce, onion, and tomato on an olive oil bun. But don't let the simplicity fool you: these are simple, fresh ingredients working together in beautiful flavor harmony.
Best Chinese Restaurant: Peking Gourmet Inn (Falls Church)
Photo by Linda C. via Yelp
A banquet hall in the style of Beijing’s grand eateries, this paean to Peking duck roasts one killer bird — and certainly the best in the D.C. area. Granted, it will run you $40, but it easily feeds three hungry diners so the end cost isn’t absurd even by takeout standards. Another standout item is the Szechuan Beef Proper with crispy shredded meat glazed, glistening, and covered in sesame seeds.
Best Chocolate Shop: Artisan Confections (Arlington)
Artisan Confections makes chocolates in every color and flavor imaginable. Bright pink PB&J chocolates? Light blue Arnold Palmer chocolates? You know they have them! Beyond the presentation, these morsels are made in small batches without preservatives, making them a truly high-quality treat.
Best Coffee Shop: Northside Social Coffee & Wine (Arlington)
You don't need to pick between the benefits of coffee and wine; enjoy the best of both at Northside Social Coffee & Wine. In addition to coffee — hot or iced — and espresso, you can also have tea and chai lattes for your caffeine fix. The wine bar has all sorts of different wines — sparkling, white, rosé, reds, amber — as well as cocktails, and you can't go wrong with the breakfast sandwiches, quiches, or dinner fare such as pimento cheese deviled eggs and meatball skewers.
Best Cupcake: Buzz Bakeshop (Alexandria)
Photo by Cheryl L. via Yelp
Over the years, Buzz Bakeshop has become known for its amazing cakes and cupcakes. Not only are they gorgeously executed, the signature flavors leave a lasting impression. We recommend trying out the Cookie Monster or the Buzz Signature for a cupcake that you won’t soon forget.
Best Dive Bar: Lynnhaven Pub (Virginia Beach)
J David H./Yelp
Lynnhaven Pub is a dark, dank hole-in-the-wall in Virginia Beach with a surprisingly incredible craft beer can selection. If that isn’t enough to get you through the door and into this dive, come for their barbecue. Their tacos are a thing of legend.
Best Doughnuts: Sugar Shack (Arlington)
Best Food Truck: Captain Cookie and the Milk Man (Northern Virginia)
A truck that deals only in cookies, milk, and ice cream? Yes, it exists, and it’s called Captain Cookie and the Milk Man (everyone’s favorite crime fighters). The team behind this sweet-forward food truck operates three locations around the Virginia/DC area serving bottles of local milk and homemade cookie creations. Their signature smash-style cookie comes in flavors like peanut butter, snickerdoodle, chocolate chip, oatmeal, and funfetti. They also offer big cookie cakes that can feed up to 16 people! The truck’s tag line is “saving the world, one cookie at a time” — so buy a half-dozen and do your part!
Best Fish and Chips: Eamonn’s (Alexandria)
Eamonn’s calls itself a “Dublin chipper,” setting a lofty bar for itself and succeeding with flying colors. Located in Old Town Alexandria, this 20-seat takeaway serves fresh cod, prawns, grouper, fish of the day, and ray (“Eat the bones if you’re brave,” the menu reads), served alongside hand-cut chips and a variety of sauces, including curry, hot chili, tartar, and “fronch.” The simple baking soda-kicked batter lends a light, airy crunch that highlights the fish’s tenderness; it’s all served in a brown paper bag that the menu implores you not to close at the risk of steaming what’s inside. Chef Cathal Armstrong (who also happens to be a James Beard nominee) named the shop after his son, and the Dublin native brings a deft, masterful hand to a dish that he clearly holds dear.
Best Fried Chicken: Moseberth’s (Portsmouth)
Moseberth’s has been a Norfolk-area institution for more than 70 years, serving up the best fried chicken for miles. (The restaurant averages 700 pounds of chicken sold every day.) The recipe may be simple, but it’s been perfected over the decades: Chicken pieces are dunked in a batter made with seasoned flour, eggs, and baking soda, dredged in seasoned flour (containing plenty of black pepper), and fried for nearly 20 minutes in 315-degree oil (low and slow is key). Order up a box and you’ll receive a half chicken with coleslaw, fries, and hush puppies; the end result is nicely rendered, super-tender, and, as Guy Fieri said when he visited for an episode of “Diners, Drive, and Dives,” crunchitatious.
Best Grocery Store: Ellwood Thompson’s (Richmond)
Photo by Ellwood Thompson’s via Yelp
Easily the best reviewed store in Richmond, Ellwood Thompson’s handily sweeps the title in Virginia. Google reviewer Eric Asplund said, “Ellwood Thompson’s is a mainstay of Richmond Grocery Stores. It has seemingly been around forever. They sell high-quality organic and health foods, as well as a wide selection of delicious prepared foods. This is a high-end grocery store, but you will find that the prices are worth it.”
Best Hot Dog: Martinsville Speedway (Ridgeway)
If you thought that a hot dog served at a racetrack had no shot at making this list, think again. Eating a chili dog at the Martinsville Speedway is a rite of passage for racecar drivers and fans alike, and this iconic hot dog also happens to be really tasty. Over one weekend, more than 50,000 of the hot dogs are sold, and at just two bucks a pop, they’re a steal. These dogs have been served for more than 60 years in the same way: a soft bun, slaw, cheese, hand-chopped onions, and a secret-recipe chili, wrapped in waxed paper. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has claimed to eat three or four a day on race weekends. When the speedway switched hot dog suppliers (for the first time in nearly 70 years) from Jesse Jones to Smithfield-owned Valleydale Foods a few years ago, there was a major uproar, but even die-hards say they can’t tell the difference.
Best Ice Cream Stand: Island Creamery (Chincoteague)
If enjoying a scoop of ice cream on a literal island sounds like your kind of paradise, look no further than Island Creamery in Chincoteague. This family business serves the community delicious fresh ice cream made with milk from Lancaster County cows and locally grown fruits and other goodies.
Best Indian Restaurant: Ravi Kabob House (Arlington)
With two locations in Arlington, Ravi Kabob House is a Pakistani-owned restaurant that specializes in delicious kebabs, yet has plenty of vegetarian options as well. Cash-only and with little dining room, they’re simplistic in their operation, but the menu is bursting with flavor. In addition to their many different types of kebabs — lamb, chicken, seekh, fish, and more — they also have great samosas and delicious curries such as chicken kadai and palak gosht (a lamb curry cooked with spinach).
Best Inexpensive Steakhouse: Ray’s The Steaks (Arlington)
Yelp/ Dustin T.
This casual Northern Virginia steakhouse offers some truly awesome steaks, cooked in ways you don’t often see — Brazilian picanha (top loin cap) is served with a spicy sauce, for instance, and The Diablo is a top sirloin glazed with a smoky sauce and topped with garlic — and all steaks are rubbed with a secret spice mix and grilled over an open flame. They’re also quite affordable; L’onglet (a hanger steak) only costs $19.99, and all steaks are served with endless homemade mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.
Best Mexican Restaurant: Taqueria Tres Reyes (Manassas)
The unassuming Tacos Tres Reyes in Manassas is completely off-the-radar – or, at least it was until The Washington Post’s Tim Carman deemed it worthy of a pilgrimage back in 2003. The fare here is essentially flawless, perfect representations of down-home Mexican cuisine. Huaraches, chiles rellenos, crisp gorditas, chicken mole enchiladas, cemitas, tacos, tortas, roast chickens, soups, fried fish, coctel de camarones, barbacoa, cecina, carne asada … Tres Reyes is like a greatest hits of the most legendary Mexican dishes, and each one hits the nail right on the head.
Most Outrageous Restaurant Dish: The Big O, The Grilled Cheese Bistro (Norfolk)
Known for their outrageous grilled cheese sandwiches, the Grilled Cheese Bistro gets quite daring with the Big O, a dish that, at first glance, seems like it's off the dessert menu. However, it is very much a part of the grilled cheese retinue here; made with chocolate French toast, it's filled with peanut butter, Nutella, banana, local applewood bacon, and mascarpone cheese.
Best Over-the-Top Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Grilled Cheese Mania (Harrisonburg)
Yelp/ Emily C.
This local favorite offers eight specialty grilled cheeses, including Casey Snowcap (roast beef and fresh mozzarella on a garlic butter baguette); Triple Lindy (Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, fresh spinach, bacon, and butter); and Philipo’s Pepperoni Strips (pepperoni and mozzarella grilled on flatbread, cut into strips and served with a shot of tomato soup for dipping). Be sure to drop by on Tuesdays, when the daily special is Taylor ham, American cheese, and honey barbecue chips on country white bread.
Best Pancakes: Pocahontas Pancake House (Virginia Beach)
Sure, the furnishings may be a little tacky (it’s fully decked out with Native American-inspired décor, including a big teepee), but the pancakes at this Greek-owned beachfront diner, which has been going strong since 1974, are beyond reproach. Made from scratch using high-quality ingredients, these perfectly golden brown and fluffy flapjacks are available in classic buttermilk and silver dollar, topped with fresh fruit or fruit topping, or filled with pecans and topped with pecans in syrup. They’re also available gluten-free or made with organic multi-grain batter.
Best Pasta Dish: Bucatini Al’Amatriciana, Dal Grano (McLean)
Yelp/ Jozef V.
Dal Grano has only been in business for a couple years, but it’s already made waves in Northern Virginia for its wide selection of house-made pastas. Dozens of raw pastas are available for purchase, but if you decide to eat in they’re turning out some truly show-stopping dishes. The bucatini all’Amatriciana is a spot-on rendition of the classic Central Italian pasta dish, with fresh bucatini and a traditional sauce that combines tomato, pancetta, onion, and pecorino.
Best Pizza: Pupatella Neapolitan Pizza (Arlington)
Pupatella originated as a food truck in 2007 and went brick-and-mortar three years later. This two-room storefront with the sign out front that warns “Pizza Addicts Only” is the D.C. culmination of Enzo Algarme’s experience hanging around some 200 or so pizzerias in Naples where he was born. Pupatella, a name borrowed from a late relative (“what everybody called my grandmother in Italy,” he told The Washington Post), is run by Algarme and his life (and business partner) Anastasiya Laufenberg. Their oven’s bricks were built using volcanic ash from Vesuvius — hard to get more authentic than that outside Naples. They offer red and white pies — mostly the former — with accoutrements like ham and mushroom, prosciutto and arugula, chorizo, sausage and onion, eggplant and red pepper on top. But Pupatella’s most popular pie is the Capricciosa (featuring sautéed mushrooms, marinated artichokes, prosciutto cotto, and fresh mozzarella).
Best Restaurant for Breakfast: Dixie (Petersburg)
An old-school swivel-stool lunch counter, Dixie is a Petersburg icon that fills up with regulars from the moment it opens at 7 a.m. daily (it’s closed Sundays). It’s been in business since 1939, but in 2011 it was purchased by Charlie Rawlings, who fixed it up and revitalized it while keeping the menu of simple Southern breakfasts and lunches largely unchanged. Today the restaurant is warm and welcoming, and diners line up for buttermilk biscuits topped with sausage gravy or creamed chipped beef, buttermilk hotcakes, French toast, salt herring, scrapple and eggs, country ham, grits, and omelettes topped with cheese and their famous chili sauce.
Best Restaurant: Inn at Little Washington (Washington)
The Inn at Little Washington/Yelp
Self-taught chef Patrick O’Connell opened this restaurant in 1978 in what was originally a small-town garage, about an hour’s drive from D.C. He formed alliances with local farmers and artisanal producers long before it was fashionable, and developed into a sophisticated modern American chef of the highest order. Menu items at The Inn at Little Washington might include classics like American ossetra caviar with peekytoe crab and cucumber rillettes, napoleon of chilled Maine lobster with pommes Anna, and veal “Shenandoah” (prosciutto-wrapped loin with country ham ravioli and fontina); there are also vegetarian creations like apple rutabaga soup and cauliflower steak with yellow Indian curry, along with indulgences like hot and cold foie gras with sauternes gelée and quince marmalade. The Inn, a member of the Relais & Châteaux group, has a much-deserved AAA Five Diamond rating.
Best Ribs: Alamo BBQ (Richmond)
Best Sandwich: The Dagwood, Chiocca’s (Richmond)
In business since 1952 and still run by the Chiocca family, Chiocca’s is a small, homey Richmond institution that’s turning out some legendary sandwiches made with Thumann’s cold cuts. There’s a wide variety of hot and cold options available, but the one to order is The Dagwood: turkey, roast beef, pastrami, provolone, Swiss, Thousand Island, Dijon, and pickles on rye. The massive gas-fired toaster/ griddle has been in use since the restaurant’s earliest days, and locals swear that it imparts the sandwiches with a flavor that’s impossible to replicate at home.
Best Soup: Peanut Soup, King’s Arms Tavern (Williamsburg)
Yelp/ Todd P.
Virginia is renowned for its peanuts, but not many people outside of the region think to make them the main ingredient in a soup. Plenty of restaurants in Virginia make a mean peanut soup, but you’ll find the best version at the King’s Arms Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, which first opened for business in 1772. The soup starts with a basic roux, to which onion, celery, and chicken stock are added. The thickened mixture is strained before smooth peanut butter and cream are added, and it’s garnished with fresh peanuts.
Best Steakhouse: Ray’s The Steaks (Arlington)
Restaurateur Michael Landrum is, as far as most people are concerned, a king of the Arlington culinary scene. He serves the state’s best steaks at Ray’s The Steaks, and that’s not even exaggerating. Steaks here are dry-aged for 45 days before being hand-trimmed, seasoned with their signature rub, and grilled over an open flame. A variety of cuts and styles are available, but you can’t go wrong with the New York strip, available in either the “classic” or “steakhouse” cut. The prices are also insanely reasonable; a classic cut strip with aged Roquefort-port wine sauce will only set you back $29.99 (which is why Ray’s also wins for the state’s best inexpensive steakhouse).
Best Taco: Chorizo, Tacos El Chilango (Arlington)
Photo by Chuck N. via Yelp
The best tacos in Virginia can be found at a food truck in Arlington, right outside D.C. This unassuming truck, located on the side of a residential road, is serving a traditional variety of $2 tacos: steak, chicken, tongue, al pastor, and chorizo, all grilled on a flat-top to order and served atop two flour tortillas with onion, cilantro, and homemade hot sauce if you want it (you want it). Go for the chorizo: It’s just spicy enough, just oily enough, and insanely flavorful with a perfect crisp from the grill. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2019.