CoVa Dining Guide: Ghent

A guide to some of our Coastal Virginia Magazine staff and food writers’ favorite restaurants
Photo Courtesy of crudo nudo facebook

It’s a Ghent Thing!

In our Dining Guide section, we feature some of our favorite eateries and dining establishments in the region, selected and listed by cuisine type, theme or geographic area. In this edition, we celebrate all things Ghent. This historic Norfolk neighborhood is known for its artsy, eclectic vibe as well as a plethora of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and parks. There are so many great spots to eat, in fact, that it’s important to note that this list does not include restaurants in the Chelsea or North Colley areas, which are sometimes lumped in with Ghent…but Nawfolkians know better. But not to worry, you’ll most likely see some of those listed in future issues. Enjoy and happy dining in Ghent.

80/20 Burger Bar
Since 2011, this Ghent staple has served up gourmet burgers made from grass-fed, 80/20 Virginia beef; ridiculously tasty fries with equally delectable dipping sauces; and an extensive array of craft beers. Owners Jamie Summs and Sarah Plaza can often be found holding court at or behind the bar or on the patio, which are known for their late hours and lively locals’ scene.

Photo Courtesy of ALKALINE facebook
Alkaline. Photo Courtesy of Alkaline on Facebook.

What started as a nighttime pop-up in Pendulum Fine Meats is now a Ghent mainstay in its own brick-and-mortar location since 2017. Alkaline—a popular ramen bar owned and operated by Kevin Ordonez, a Filipino-American chef who grew up in Japan—is also known for its Asian street food-inspired small plates, great beer selection and cool vibe.

Baker’s Crust
Artisan Kitchen Baker’s Crust has been making breakfast bougie in Coastal Virginia since before the competition knew how to spell hollandaise. Dig into their Swanky Benedict, Avocado Toast or house-made B|C Buttermilk Biscuit with fried chicken. Baker’s Crust partners with The Neighborhood Harvest to bring you the freshest ingredients for lunch and dinner, from farm-to-table salads, sandwiches and tacos to Smash Burgers and Neapolitan pizzas.

Charlie’s Cafe
This beloved breakfast diner is housed in a cutely cartoony, turn-of-the-century Victorian (one of the oldest structures on Granby) at the corner of 18th Street. For four decades, Charlie›s has served down-home comfort food, like their famous Tom Hanks platter—a ginormous plate of eggs, country fried steak, biscuits and sausage gravy that so enamored the actor during his Norfolk visit they named it after him.

Colley Cantina
This wonderfully divey surf bar, known for its terrific beer-battered fish tacos, cold beers and margaritas, happens to be woman-owned and boasts a fantastic vegan menu. While the atmosphere is relaxed and family-friendly by day, Cantina is definitely a “see and be-seen” hangout spot at night thanks to its 30-seat patio right in the middle of the Colley Avenue scene. It’s like the Oceanfront meets Ghent.

crudo nudo
Crudo nudo (photo at top) is charming little spot from chef-owner Eric Nelson that’s perfect for an intimate date or a fun night out with friends. Known for their raw dishes and handmade pastas (hence the clever name), crudo nudo also does the best tapas in town, not to mention their excellent wine and cocktail lists. Save room for the ice cream trio and/or the vegan avocado cheesecake.

Photo by Jim Pile
Doumar’s Cones & Barbecue. Photo by Jim Pile.

Doumar’s Cones & Barbecue
A Norfolk landmark since 1904, Doumar’s is the “home of the original waffle cone,” which Abe Doumar invented while attending the World’s Fair. It’s also known for its NC-style barbecue, burgers and limeades, and remains in the Doumar family as a drive-in restaurant today. You can stay in your car for authentic curbside service from a carhop, or dine inside.

Green Onion
Whether it’s lunch, brunch, dinner, coffee or drinks, if you’re looking for a casual but elegant outing, there’s always The Green Onion; a longtime Ghent favorite with great patio seating. (Bonus: it also happens to be LGBTQ- and woman-owned.) You can’t go wrong with any of the French bistro classics on their menu, but the lobster rolls, 1603 Burger, and mussels and frites are consistent favorites.

Kappo Nara
For traditional, authentic Japanese ramen, check out Kappo Nara (which is no longer affiliated with the VB Kappo Nara). The Kappo Nara (house) ramen is an absolute MUST-try and the perfect cure for your ills—it features a miso base and pork broth with mussels, shrimp, scallops, fishcakes, and veg. They also offer a great selection of appetizers, entrees, and mochis.

Little Dog Diner
A kitschy, retro breakfast diner with a large, covered patio and sidewalk seating at the corner of 21st and Colley, Little Dog Diner is the perfect place to sit outside on a nice morning and people-watch from behind a pair of dark shades and a large coffee while recovering from your hangover with a plate of creamed chipped beef on biscuits with eggs and hash browns.

Luna Maya. Photo by Ilsy Serrano
Luna Maya. Photo by Ilsy Serrano.

Luna Maya
Opened in 1997 by Bolivian sisters Karla and Vivian Montano, Luna Maya offers tasty Latin-American cuisine with a ton of really delicious vegan options and an awesome weeknight happy hour. The vibrant space is filled with color, light, exposed brick and stylish, modern furnishings. It’s a great spot for a first date, ladies’ night, after-work hang, or even just a Taco Tuesday.

May’s Parlor
Unlike its sister location at the Oceanfront, May’s Parlor in Norfolk doesn’t serve full-service lunch—however, the artisan bakery and cafe is certainly not short on pastry selections, breakfast sandwiches, sliced cakes, teas and espresso drinks. Located in the train station building at the back of Palace Station shops on 22nd Street, their flaky almond croissants and seasonal brioche danishes are simply to…die…for.

Mr. Shawarma
The counter service and dining room at Mr. Shawarma may be simple, but the food is bursting with intense middle eastern flavors, and the hospitality from owner Avi Eli’s crew feels like that of NYC’s most cherished shawarma street stands. Make one meal of the shawarma pita “all the way” with a side of falafel and a canned nectar drink and you will be hooked for life.

No Frill Bar & Grill
This beloved neighborhood establishment on Spotswood Avenue—founded by local restaurateur Jerry Meltsner and co-owned/operated by his nephew, Jon Kliner—serves up some of the best sandwiches and salads in town, including their signature Funky Chicken Sandwich and Salad (both of which feature grilled chicken, bacon, Swiss, and a highly addicting Parmesan pepper dressing), as well as comforting lunch and dinner entrees, like the “Norfolk Hot Brown.”

Pho 79
On a cold or rainy day, there is nothing better than slurping down a bowl of noodles in spicy, limey, hoisin saucy beef broth. Pho 79 offers all the traditional protein combos for their pho, as well as rice bowls, vermicelli noodle bowls and banh mi sandwiches. Try the Vietnamese lotus salad or the Bánh Mì Giò Thũ (head cheese sandwich) for something different.

Pixels Pints & Bytes
This two-story barcade on Colonial Avenue is heaven for gamers, with all the classics (Ms Pac-Man, Q*bert, Galaga, etc), old-school and new-school consoles (from Atari through Playstation), air hockey, pinball, skee-ball and more. With a menu made up of after-school munchies for adults—think loaded tater tot platters and stoner-style footlong hot dogs—Pixels is perfect for a unique date, birthday party, or after-work beer.

Press 626 Cafe & Wine Bar
Entering Press 626, Lindsay and Ed Bennett’s elegant bistro inside the 1906 Victorian house at the corner of Olney and Colley, feels like escaping to the Belle Epoque in France or the Jazz Age in New Orleans. Enjoy a small plate, sandwich, high-end entree, or happy hour with something from their formidable 400+ bottle wine list, which has been recognized by Wine Spectator.

Public House
Ghent’s neighborhood gastropub, The Public House—one of Karl Dornemann and Eric Stevens’ Prime Eats restaurants—feels a lot like “Cheers” when you enter its dark wood-clad front dining room or the back smoking lounge where you can shoot pool and play a few arcade games. Great for groups, office parties, happy hours, and Sunday Fundays, the menu is Southern comfort food, brunch classics, and killer cocktails.

Rajput has been serving authentic Indian biryani, tandoori, curry and regional dishes for lunch and dinner since 1999. Originally established in Hampton by owner Paul Chhabra, who previously opened Nawab Indian Cuisine, Rajput currently has locations in Harbour View and Greenbrier as well as in Ghent. Rajput is also known for its extensive vegan and vegetarian menus; warm, comforting ambience, and welcoming hospitality.

Photo by Arielle Patterson
Redwood Smoke Shack. Photo by Arielle Patterson.

Redwood Smoke Shack
Succeeding Dog-and-Burger in the little spot at the corner of 20th and Manteo is new favorite, Redwood Smoke Shack, owner/pitmaster Bob Roberts and wife Lindsey’s insanely delicious Texas-style BBQ joint, which started as a food truck with a cult following and now has a second location in VB. The Burnt Ends are amaaaaazing, and the Meat Sweats Sampler covers it all.

Strawberry Fields
This local, woman-owned shop creates crave-worthy homemade gelatos and fresh fruit smoothies from whole ingredients. Expect surprising seasonal flavors, like Herb Garden and Lavender Lime in the summertime followed by Tea and Biscuits and Pecan Sticky Buns in the fall; not to mention unique flavors, like Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese and The Munchies, which features dark chocolate covered potato chip milk crumb!

Neil Boden’s hip and intimate dinner restaurant on 21st Street near Hampton Boulevard offers an eclectic menu inspired by international and American street foods, including plenty of vegan and gluten free options, accompanied by a solid list of martinis and other cocktails. With its exposed brick facades, funky lighting, colorful decor, and lovely sidewalk seating, Streats has a cool, moody, metropolitan vibe.

Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, TASTE has earned its reputation as the OG go-to spot for sandwiches, soups, salads and gourmet goodies to-go, many of them Virginia-made. Specializing in wholesome, scratch-made food featuring fresh, locally sourced ingredients, their Northender sandwich with turkey, bacon, Havarti, avocado, and basil mayo on French bread is practically a religion in Coastal Virginia including at the spacious Ghent location. Don’t miss their “Peter’s Pick” specials named for founder Peter Coe.

Ten Top
The hearty sandwiches, salads, dinner entrees and daily specials from chef-owners Heather and Rick Fraley›s cherished takeout spot, The Ten Top, are so heart-warming and generous, you’ll feel like a much-loved family member in the quirky, cozy kitchen of the Fraleys’ home. A word of caution: dishes like the Greek lamb hoagie, Rick’s meatloaf and Heather’s soul-nourishing soups will haunt your dreams; they’re that good.

Photo Courtesy of Yorgo's Bageldashery Facebook
Photo Courtesy of Yorgo’s Bageldashery Facebook.

Yorgo’s Bageldashery
The long lines at Greg Peterman’s bustling bagel shop are a telltale sign of Ghent’s deep love of Yorgo’s and all the yumminess therein. On top of their bagels and spreads (which rival the best in NY), you will wake up craving their distinctive breakfast and lunch sandwiches, like the Grinder and Inside Out Omelette; not to mention their mind-blowing vegan menu items.

Other spots in Norfolk’s Ghent to check out: 350 Grace, AW Shucks, Bangkok Garden, Cafe Stella, Cogans Pizza, Eggs Up, Five Boroughs, Gogi Guys, Jessy’s Taco Bistro, Katana, Kin’s Wok, Koshi, Kotobuki, Naci’s Corner Café, Peck & Pour, Pelon’s Baja Grill, Norfolk Taphouse, Volcano

Compiled by Coastal Virginia Magazine editorial staff and contributing writers.

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