Photo courtesy of The Porch on Long Creek
Coastal Virginia is a place flourishing with flavor, thanks in part to some exceptional eateries that opened recently. From a raw bar and tiki bar to a gem for gluten-free fare, a waterside watering hole with views aplenty and that new place destined to be your next favorite brunch spot, we’ve picked out 10 stand-outs for going out that opened in 2019 among a smorgasbord of great food options found in our region. So before we get ready for a new decade of decadent dining, here are some restaurants to relish from this past year.
2109 W Great Neck Road, Virginia Beach
If the Porch on Long Creek’s local restaurant pedigree—brought to you by the owners of Chick’s Oyster Bar and Bay Local and starring chef Jim Mayer of the former One Fish Two Fish in the same location—isn’t enough to whet your appetite, the sleek interior, expansive deck and to-die-for sunset views ought to be.
Beat the waiting list crowds sure to arrive with the warmer months (they’ve got firepit seating, heaters and throw blankets) and pop into the Porch for appetizers like a dozen fresh-off-the boat East Coast oysters, Chesapeake she-crab soup, “City Grill” barbecue chicken flatbread or the photo-ready California-Virginia roll with blue crab salad, avocado and cucumber topped with a jalapeño sliver, toasted sesame seeds and microgreens.
On a recent visit, the fresh flounder picatta was lightly breaded and served with orzo, sautéed spinach and spaghetti squash in lemon caper sauce. Other seafood entrées include seared scallops with saffron creamed corn, applewood smoke bacon, spinach and orzo and a jumbo lump crabcake with sweet potato puree, broccoli and Brussels slaw and caper Dijon sauce. Finally, don’t miss their $7 happy hour food menu from 4–6:30 p.m. and weekly specials like $5 martinis on Wednesdays.
The Porch on Long Creek is open Tuesday 4–9 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday 4–10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Redhead Bay Café
605 Princess Anne Road, Virginia Beach
The sibling duo that’s responsible for the revival of Blue Pete’s introduced a new restaurant to Pungo, Redhead Bay Café. Brothers Nick and Aristotle Cleanthes opened the casual breakfast, brunch and lunch spot back in June at the former Creeds Café location on Princess Anne Road.
Redhead Bay Café flaunts touches of Back Bay’s charm through the restaurant’s décor and menu. The sleek interior is accompanied by hand-carved duck decoys created by local craftsmen that pay tribute to the area’s waterfowl history.
The menu takes your favorite Southern dishes to the next level. Biscuits and gravy get an over-the-top twist with the addition of bacon, tater tots, cheddar cheese and scrambled eggs. Comfort food reaches another level with Redhead Bay’s other menu items, including the stuffed French toast topped with seasonal berries, and the shrimp and grits made with stone-ground cheddar grits and jumbo shrimp. Fresh, seasonal ingredients from local farms are used as often as possible to support area growers.
Redhead Bay fills a void in southern Virginia Beach for brunch restaurants that you’d find in abundance north of Pungo. The community-centric restaurant not only provides a new dining option for locals but has generated enough buzz to make it worth the drive to Virginia Beach’s agricultural district.
Redhead Bay Café is open daily 7 a.m.–3 p.m.
Photo by David Paul Kleinman
31 E Mellen St., Hampton
They say dive bars are a dime a dozen, and sometimes that’s true in a Navy town, but chef Chris Sammons’ smoked brisket chili sloppy puts Phoebus Dive Bar in a category all its own. What’s a sloppy? The metabolic equivalent of a nap on a bed of fries.
All of Sammons’ dishes complement each other with easy agility. Pickled eggs in a jar that reside at the exact middle point between two coordinates: sweet and spicy. Peach-maple smoked wings that are the best on the Peninsula. Yes, better than those and those. Homemade ketchup that is worth the drive from the Southside.
Phoebus was once known as Little Chicago because of its ties to bootleggers and bandits, so let it be known that this ketchup is good enough to adorn a Chicago hot dog. Add to it white, red, mustard and vinegar barbecue sauce options, and even Baby Face Nelson would lay down his room-broom and spoon up a couple heaps of chef Sammons’ intoxicating pickled egg salad. It’s all post-prohibition nowadays, but their drinks do have the power to trigger some rat-a-tat with fresh crushes and signature cocktails such as their Cherry Smash.
Phoebus Dive Bar is open daily 11 a.m.–2 a.m.
Photo by David Paul Kleinman
38 E Mellen St., Hampton
Fuller’s Raw Bar is an oyster kingdom where salty kisses slither down the tongue, accented by homemade hot sauce and chaperoned by a mescal-sage Paloma. Fuller’s is the creation of John Ledbetter in partnership with Gary McIntyre, the cosmic turbine behind The Deadrise, Kismet Bistro at 99 Main and El Diablo Loco. McIntyre is one of the lovely old cranks of the local restaurant scene, and his eyes light up with guileless wonder when he speaks of Bruce Edmonds from Sam Rust Seafood happening on the name “Salty Kisses” as they shucked and slurped a couple pecks on a pickup bed next to the Chesapeake Bay, a fire and a cooler of beer. Art by McIntyre’s old friend Peter Pittman adorns the restaurant wall as blue crab perogies make love to the room, which is open and airy and bright: a museum of seafood.
Ledbetter tells of oysters raised where wild horses roam and watermen like their own oyster curator, Tim Morris, own the day. The tale of the Shore Maidens, a brackish bivalve with a deep cup, meaty heart and brine of the gods, is one told exclusively at Fuller’s. Quietly the oysters lay, salifying where the Bay nods bashfully towards the James River, but once they get in house, they’re snatched up quicker than a Jimmy crab with a Sally crab in his claws. Catch ‘em if you can!
Fuller’s Raw Bar is open Sunday–Thursday 11 a.m.–midnight and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.–2 a.m.
Photo by Leona Baker
209 34th St., Virginia Beach
If ever there were a salty-sweet match made in don’t-count-the-calories heaven, it’s the Pigs in a Blanket at Ray Ray’s. These just-right bites of chorizo sausage wrapped in tiny beignets, drizzled with jalapeño syrup and dusted with powdered sugar are everything you want in a guilty pleasure, and they’re so Ray Ray Labuen. Ditto with the purple yam pancakes with toasted coconut and homemade sweetened condensed milk.
The affable chef-owner, well known to locals from his years at Tautog’s, Doc Taylor’s and Auntie’s Tiki Bar, opened his eponymous spot on the bottom floor of the historic Mayflower at the Oceanfront last summer. The space is cozy and bright, just like Labuen, and the classic comfort food with a Filipino twist is the stuff hangover cures are made of, or, as the chef would say, “it’s pahking good.”
Choose from impossibly stacked sandwiches, breakfast plates, omelets, Benedicts (one with fried chicken), bowls and salads (yes, there’s green stuff). And, whatever you do, don’t pass up on the chef’s famous grilled Parmesan tomatoes. Be sure to check out “Ray Ray’s After Dark” dinners at which you might get to sample Filipino home cooking staples like pancit, chicken adobo and more.
Ray Ray’s is open daily for breakfast and lunch 7 a.m.–3 p.m. and dinner Thursday and Friday 5–9 p.m.
Photo by Ryan Miller
350 W 22nd St. Unit 114/115, Norfolk
You may say 350 Grace is a saving grace for the dining scene with modern Southern cuisine and Southern hospitality. But it’s particularly a godsend for gluten-free grub and for anyone with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity.
Tucked away in a site that was previously Pasha Mezze in Ghent, 350 Grace was founded by Chef Willie Moats, whose culinary conquests have taken him from here to Timbuktu (quite literally, as he was cooking at the one-time Oceanfront eatery). Most recently he was the vice president of culinary operations at Harbor’s Edge after assuming his role as chef at places such as Byrd and Baldwin and Todd Jurich’s Bistro.
Now at the restaurateur’s new purlieu, guests are met by a dining space invigorated in bright blue and red with exposed bricks along with orbed pendant lights and an open kitchen that’s overt with the ingredients: all sans gluten.
Buttered biscuits accompany appetizers of fried green tomatoes and fried Virginia oysters paired with pours of worldly wines and crafted cocktails. Main courses of Carolina shrimp with roasted red grits and black garlic molasses glazed half Cornish hen are served as scrumptious and scrupulous plates spruced with a garnish of flowers.
A sanctuary for supper where gluten is good riddance, 350 Grace is making something to be praised.
350 Grace is open Monday–Thursday 5–9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5–10 p.m.
Photo by Riptide Burgers & Tiki Bar
2301 Red Tide Road, Virginia Beach
Sometimes restaurants require a completely new concept, and savvy Riptide Burgers & Tiki Bar owner Lindsay Bennett knew it was time to turn her former upscale Press Wine Bar (a Ghent location remains) into a laid-back, beachy locale geared to a saltier Shore Drive clientele. Patrons can now roll into this casual bar and grill straight from the Chesapeake Bay—it’s just a block away—and grab a Polynesian Paralysis, one of the many fruity yet potent cocktails, that pairs orange and pineapple juices with orgeat syrup and bourbon.
As one would expect from an eatery carrying a “tiki” in its title, this place sports tropical style, with a surfboard serving as artwork and totems aplenty. The long space is modest in size but still manages to pack in tons of character, including retro Hawaiian décor gems like a large golden sunburst mirror and bold palm leaf wallpaper, mid-century furnishings and a central bar lined with bamboo and rattan stools.
Sustenance ranges from a long list of inventive “smash burgers” along with less obvious choices such as salads topped with seared tuna or a Cuban sandwich, all available with a few notable and non-traditional sides (try the fried plantains or jalapeño hush puppies). Wash down your meal with one of the rotating local beers on tap—from Wassherhund and Cape Charles Brewing Company on our most recent visit.
With attentive service, live music, tons of specials and an outdoor patio, it’s no wonder Riptide produces lots of regulars. And did we mention happy “hour” happens all day, every day? Thank goodness this addictive spot is open late, continuing to create happy customers until the wee hours of the morning.
Riptide is open Sunday–Wednesday 11 a.m.–11 p.m. and Thursday–Saturday 11 a.m.–2 a.m.
Photo courtesy of Andi & Zoë Photographers
1209 Craft Lane, Virginia Beach
In August 2018, Virginia Beach was introduced to Atlanta-based New Realm Brewing Company. This past April, the craft brewery expanded by adding a full-service restaurant and bar. While Coastal Virginia has an extensive craft beverage scene, New Realm sets itself apart by being one of the few breweries in the region that has a full-service bar and scratch-based kitchen.
Executive Chef Richard Silvey pulled his inspiration from New Realm’s brewmaster, COO and co-founder Mitch Steele’s world-class beers to create this approachable menu utilizing locally sourced ingredients when possible. Diners will find Ashland Mill grits, Ashe County cheddar cheese and more. Local ingredients aren’t the only way the Virginia Beach restaurant differs from the Atlanta location. The menu pays homage to the region’s bounty of seafood with dishes such as baked Maryland crab dip, blackened shrimp po’ boy, ahi tuna poke bowl and she-crab soup (a local favorite).
While New Realm has several signature dishes, including the Spanish-style tomato-braised pork meatballs, beer can smoked chicken and several burgers, the menu isn’t static year-round. Every three to four months, Silvey and his culinary team take a look at the menu to revamp it for each changing season.
New Realm plans to experiment with its menu more by creating beer pairings for their dishes, according to General Manager Tommy Keipe. Soon, diners can enjoy New Realm’s casual cuisine with a perfectly paired pint.
New Realm Brewing Company is open Monday–Thursday 3–10 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon–10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Photo by TCCPR
717 W 21st St., Norfolk
Stylized by its identifier TCCPR, this urbane, urban brew bar and lounge in Ghent joins its familiar, familial trio of coffeeshops and cafes from Town Center Cold Pressed in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. However, the hangout opens only in evenings, blending a coffee roastery from the now defunct Jolly Roasters with a casual cocktail bistro with savory dishes to nibble on.
Inside everything is blanketed in a midnight black and nuanced by leather upholstery underneath hanging halo chandeliers and tin ceiling panels with accent lighting trimming the space. Their Probat roaster is on display, as they’re devoted during the day to roasting coffee and packaging, while coffee kettles with hourglass vessels for pour-overs and their siphon apparatus bubbling with brews on the countertop are all tasteful additions to the aesthetic.
Bartenders and baristas mix up the sips at TCCPR, as there are spirits and cocktails—some infusing coffee and tea flavors—as well as wine and craft beer joined by slow brews and an espresso bar with frothy coffee. Small plates from beef carpaccio and potatoes bravas to tuna rioja and deviled eggs make for fine fare. In a stylish setting, pairing that aperitivo with appetizing tapas keeps the crowd percolating here.
Town Center Cold Pressed Roastery is open Tuesday–Saturday 5–11 p.m.
Photo by Grace Silipigni
1718 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach
Surrounded by raw bars, seafood shacks and fast food joints, Harvest is making a splash at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront with its self-proclaimed farm-to-beach menu bursting with sustainable eats. Behind the counter and vision of this corner eatery are owners Michael and Amanda Mauch.
The husband-and-wife duo opened their doors last April and have since been praised by locals and visitors alike for their fresh, healthy and beautifully plated dishes. The Harvest menu is veggie-heavy, anchoring many of its breakfast wraps, salads, sandwiches and sides with a host of vibrant greens. Found throughout the locally sourced bites are combinations of mixed greens, kale and cucumber peppered with sun-dried tomatoes, sprouts, almonds, raisins and a juicy mango black bean salsa.
On the flipside (literally) is an array of desserts, cocktails, fruit smoothies and caffeine pours brewed behind the in-house coffee bar. Itching to take your bottle of vino to go? Go for it. Harvest also offers a Picnic to Go packed with your choice of two entrees, two sides, two bottled drinks, utensils and for an additional cost, your selection of bubbly, red, white or rosé.
The coastal-meets-countryside interior was largely crafted by the hands of Michael, including the dining room’s wooden tables and exterior façade. Come springtime, Michael will expand the airy vibe to the restaurant’s al fresco rooftop so guests can pair their delicious bites with sweeping Atlantic Ocean views.
Harvest is open Monday–Thursday 9 a.m.–9 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.–10 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.–10 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m.–9 p.m.