Tamales from Luna Maya, Norfolk. Photo by Ilsy Serrano.
Compiled by Angela Blue
If you knew that you had one day left to dine in Coastal Virginia, where would you go, and what would you order? This is the question we asked some of our favorite food writers and bloggers, media personalities, politicians and local celebrities, requesting that they each tell us about an appetizer, main course, dessert and drink they’d choose if they knew it would be their last in this area. What we received is a fantasy-worthy list of meals that showcase Coastal Virginia’s uniquely delicious dining scene.
Appetizer: Soft shell crabs from Coastal Grill. Crispy every time and the perfect batter-to-crab mixture that highlights the crown jewel of the Chesapeake Bay.
Main Course: Tamales from Luna Maya. Everything you could want in a dish—some smoky brisket with a touch of heat after simmering in chile sauce that is perfectly paired with the next best thing to corn casserole.
Dessert: A handful of deliciously airy pistachio macarons from Hummingbird.
Drink: Smartmouth Alter Ego Saison
Artist, Designer, Food Writer
Aside from the fact that I don’t want to have to do this anytime soon, here goes …
Chicken Liver Tart from Codex, Norfolk. Photo courtesy of @InsideVirginia.
Appetizer: Hands down, Chef Ian Hock’s CLT. For clarification sake, since my moniker hasn’t really caught on, I am referring to his Chicken Liver Tart with pistachio crust and Riesling gelée. Incredible.
Main Course: I’ll be sliding into 1608 Crafthouse for Chef Kevin Sharkey’s apple smoked, bacon crusted cheeseburger stuffed with cheese or his lamb and roasted oyster mushroom burger with curry aioli. Of course, I’d get the over easy egg on top.
Dessert: Because we eat with our eyes before our taste buds, I would have to choose the ethereal Avocado Cheesecake at Eric Nelson’s Crudo Nudo. Once cracked, the dark chocolate shell reveals a luscious layering of avocado cream cheese mousse and a pumpkin seed and Dutch cocoa center topped with a cumin lime sauce.
Drink: Since I am not much of a cocktailer, I’d plop myself down at Cobalt Grille in Hilltop and ask Sommelier Arden Allen to pour me something oaky, buttery and smooth. And I would most definitely indulge in another.
So hard to choose. Good thing I have a lot more time to continue my culinary research all over our delicious town.
WAVY-TV 10/FOX43 News
Cheese and Charcuterie Plate from Supper Southern Morsels, Norfolk. Photo by
Appetizer: Ham & Cheese Plate from Supper Southern Morsels.
Main Course: Tortellini Mannino from Mannino's Italian Bistro.
Dessert: Jamaican Crepe from Baker’s Crust.
Drink: Madame Beauregarde Blueberry-Basil Martini from Tupelo Honey Café.
Food writer for The Virginian-Pilot
If I’m dining for the last time in Coastal Virginia—I’d hate to think what I did to get kicked out—the things I want are the things you can’t get the same way anywhere else.
Appetizer: If we want to call it an appetizer, I'd sit on the patio of Edwards Ham Shop in Williamsburg and eat Surryano on buttered bread till I drop dead from the salt—and slurp self-shucked Chesapeake oysters from Uncle Russ’ Dockside Market down the street.
Main course: Soft shells are better nowhere in the world than here. And the best I’ve had here is the spring plate at Terrapin in Virginia Beach: two jumbos deep-fried in tempura over asparagus, snap peas and a bright garlic-basil emulsion that tastes like the distilled essence of a Virginia garden.
Dessert: Slice of peanut pie with a side of borrowed nostalgia. Virginia Diner, Wakefield.
Director of Media & Community Relations for Hampton CVB
Appetizer: Tots from Venture Kitchen and Bar. Not your average tater tots, these are like deep-fried squares of the most delicious mashed potatoes you have ever had. Like ever. Ask anyone that has tried them, MONEY.
Main Course: Chicken Fried Chicken French Toast from Mango Mangeaux. So, we have all heard of chicken and waffles by now, but chicken and French toast? This is just another level of decadence. And the girls from Mango do it right. If I could have any dish in Coastal Virginia, this is my choice. Followed by this dish again as my second choice.
Dessert: A dozen assorted donuts from Glazed Doughnuts. The best doughnuts I have ever had, and anyone that knows me, knows that I am a doughnut connoisseur.
Drink: My dear friend Robert Gregory of Fin in Newport News makes the best cocktail in Coastal Virginia hands down, but I am a Hampton guy, and I’m a big cider fan too. Cider Maker Brent Miles has been a breath of fresh air by bringing his West Coast cider game to the East Coast. Instead of just super sweet, it’s just super delicious and you can drink more than one in a sitting, which is a huge plus. My favorite is the Cut and Run Ginger Cider. And the Sly Clyde logo is pretty rad, as well.
Mayor of Chesapeake
She Crab Soup from Passion the Restaurant, Chesapeake
Appetizer: She crab soup from Passion The Restaurant.
Main Course: Salt Baked Rockfish from Saltine at The Main.
Dessert: Coconut cake from Aldo’s.
Drink: Glass of Yiannis best Napa Cabernet.
Culinary Instructor at Tidewater Community College, Norfolk campus / Award-winning chef
If this was the last time I would be dining in Coastal Virginia, these are all the places that I would hit before I moved or died.
Appetizer: Aldo’s Ristorante Antipasto Platter with a sommelier from Aldo’s picking a bottle of wine out for me.
"The Woody" from Redwood Smoke Shack, Portsmouth. Photo by Emi Ostrander.
Main Course: Redwood Smoke Shack’s “The Woody.” It is a Krispy Kreme doughnut with coleslaw, beef brisket and pulled pork barbecue, and for a dollar more I would ask for another doughnut in the sandwich. It will be the foodie version of the “Big Mac.” It makes all my taste buds stand up and say Hallelujah because it is sweet, savory, soft, crunchy and then spicy.
Dessert: BoBo’s Fine Chicken’s grown-up flavors of ice cream. Apple Bourbon (winter flavor), Corn (summer flavor) and my in-between flavor is Virginia Swirl Peanut, and yes, he makes vanilla and chocolate flavors too. As a chef, I understand the process and ingredients in making homemade ice cream, and it’s hard to get that concentration of flavors because the product is cold. Bo makes favors of ice cream that are in season with the local produce. It is my Zen moment.
Drink: The Hunt Room’s Shirley Temple and Old Fashioned with Tarnished Truth Bourbon to toast new beginnings. This is where my parents took me to celebrate my naturalization being sworn in as a United States citizen when I was 8 years old and where I went to prom with my husband in 1980, so this is where I would go to celebrate my new journey wherever it was going to take me.
Bryan K. Stephens
President & CEO of Hampton Roads Chamber
Appetizer: Shrimp cocktail at Salacia at the 31st Hilton. Absolutely amazing jumbo shrimp with delicious cocktail sauce and nicely presented. Perfect for sharing.
Main Course: Filet mignon at Byrd & Baldwin Downtown Norfolk. Best steak in Hampton Roads and the service is spectacular.
The Orb from Saltine. Photos by Ilsy Serrano.
Dessert: The Orb at Saltine in the Norfolk Main. Uniquely made at your table. Delicious and fun to share. Definitely a conversation piece.
Drink: Dirty martini at the Raleigh Room in the Cavalier. No better way to relax and knock off the dust after a long day.
Host of HearSay with Cathy Lewis/President and CEO of the CIVIC Leadership Institute
Appetizer: Truffle Fries at Todd Jurich’s Bistro in Norfolk. For the second year in a row, I’ve celebrated the success of the CIVIC Leadership Institute’s Darden Awards for Regional Leadership with truffle fries delivered by the exceptional Gordon MacArthur. Those fries (and the exquisite relief of taking off my shoes) are seared to success for me.
Main course: Chef John Tsouris’ salmon Mediterranean at Voila! in Norfolk. John manages to create just the right blend of tart and mellow, and salmon obediently cooks itself perfectly under his watchful eye. Maggie and John Tsouris used to have a restaurant called Enrico’s on Colley Avenue, and I like to think I had a hand in helping John perfect this dish, given the thousands of times I ordered some variation of it. Viola!’s atmosphere is cozier and more elegant than Enrico’s, and if possible, the food is even better.
Dessert: Tres Leches cake at Luna Maya. This is another dish that’s seared in my memory because we started going to Luna Maya when our (now) 28-year-old daughter was in third grade and the restaurant was located in an Aragona strip mall in Virginia Beach. That cake carries the flavor of warmth and love, and it makes me smile that it’s a family recipe for co-owners Karla and Vivian Montano.
Drink: Any wine at Press 626 in Norfolk (and now in Virginia Beach). I especially enjoy Ladies Night on Mondays because they discount the price of wines, cosmos and sangrias and serve half-priced apps. On a night when many restaurants are closed, this is a delicious haven for great cocktails and conversation.
Appetizer: She Crab Soup from Freemason Abbey. My first brush with She Crab soup was at Freemason Abbey while visiting Norfolk in 2005. Since then, I’ve judged all other She Crab soups by this one. It’s velvety smooth, it’s rich—but not too rich—and it hits the spot like nothing else can on a cold day.
Main Course: Tamales Luna Maya from Luna Maya. There are tamales and there are Tamales Luna Maya. These are unlike any other I’ve had. In fact, my mouth is watering just thinking about them. I have loads of fond memories of grabbing chips, guacamole and these sweet and savory beef brisket tamales with a big group of friends. Oh, and don’t forget the margaritas!
Dessert: Baklava from Orapax. I order from Orapax at least twice a week. It’s my go-to neighborhood spot for my favorite Greek food in the city. I usually stick to the salads, but when it’s time to splurge, my go-to is a double order of Orapax’s baklava. It’s sweet, flaky and a little nutty, just like me!
Drink: Café au lait from Café Stella. Closest thing to the Café au lait you get at Café du Monde in New Orleans. Perfect balance of flavor. Plus, it’s one of my favorite quirky, local coffee shops.
Food, Beverage & Travel Writer and Johnson & Wales University Recruiter
Local oysters on the half shell from Coastal Grill, Virginia Beach. Photo by Angela
Appetizer: A dozen raw local oysters on the half shell with a kiss of mignonette sauce at Coastal Grill. You don’t want to take any chances with a last meal, and consistency is key at Coastal. These oysters are so divine, they’ve always made me pity those who get only pearls.
Main Course: Pastel de choclo con chorizo and spicy vegan burrito are close runners-up, but I’d have to go out with the signature sweet yellow corn tamales with beef brisket slow-cooked in chile sauce at Luna Maya. The vibrant flavors of every dish pulse through the place, creating an energy that makes me feel miraculously alive—and the back room would allow for a party of loved ones.
Dessert: Blue cornbread with white chocolate and poblano ganache and buttermilk-sweet corn ice cream at Crudo Nudo by Eric Nelson. It’s seasonal (Nick Lautieri created and served it as a special late last summer), so I’ll just have to wait for it. Bought time! All the better to enjoy life … and run Josh Seaburg’s brilliant cocktail list here.
J David Hillery
Lamb meatballs from 1608 Crafthouse, Virginia Beach. Photo by J. David Hillery.
Appetizer: Lamb meatballs from 1608 Crafthouse. Border Springs Lamb, creamy grits, hunter style, roasted bone marrow and fresh tarragon. Served in a hot skillet. One of the best apps I’ve had in the 757.
Main Course: Hearth Wood Fired Cuisine’s 60/40 Burger. Double patty of meat on a Brioche bun, American cheese, Bibb lettuce, red onions, fancy sauce. Mind blowing awesomeness that’s only available on Thursdays.
Dessert: Blue Seafood & Spirits’ Warm Bread Pudding. Chef Charles Thain says, “It is made with a ‘special bread’ and soaked in a chocolate mixture for two hours before baked in a double boiler for an hour and a half. It is a recipe I have perfected over decades and has become one of my signature dishes. And adding the creaminess of the anglaise with a punch of Crown Royal makes the whole dish come together perfectly." Large, rich, chocolatey and decadent to the extreme. Several regulars start with this for their main.
Drink: Bay Local’s Bay Shake. Baileys, Kahlua, Frangelico, Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream with whip and a cherry. Served in a pint-sized glass milk jug. So darn yum and pairs great with their burger.
Host of “Cooking from the Heart”
Charcuterie from Saint Germaine, Norfolk
Appetizer: Saint Germain. I could easily live off their charcuterie! They have a huge selection, so you can mix and match and try new things or stick to old favorites.
Main Course: Island Krave in Norfolk. The Smoked Jerk Pork is … OMG I want some right now … delicious, especially when coupled with rice and their amazing plantains.
Dessert: Saltine in Norfolk. The Chocolate Orb is a visual-taste experience. The server paints a beautiful, delicious design on a plastic table covering then hits it with an amazingly indulgent explosion of chocolate wonderfulness!
Drink: Simple Eats in Virginia Beach. Their Bloody Mary Flight is to die for. The bloody Mary mix is made from tomatoes they grow in their own garden! So YUM!
Blogger at Lipstick and Gelato / Pastry cook at Four Eleven York
Appetizer: Sweet potato fries at The Cutting Edge Cafe. Hands-down the best sweet potato fries of my life, those at Cutting Edge are always searing hot, crispy as anything and glittering with flaky sea salt.
Bleu Blazer from Handsome Biscuit, Norfolk
Main Course: I’d have to go for a final Bleu Blazer biscuit from Handsome Biscuit. That perfectly fried chicken … the ruby slaw … the slosh of blue cheese dressing … Despite frequent plans to the contrary, I never end up ordering anything else—it’s just that good.
Dessert: As a sworn fan of both espresso and gelato, an affogato is never far from my mind. For my final dessert in Hampton Roads I’d have to go for a last affogato from Confetti Cafe in Virginia Beach’s Town Center. Go for the stracciatella gelato and sit by the window to people-watch.
Drink: A London Fog latte from Cure Coffeehouse would be my drink of choice. A London Fog tastes like a hug, and there is nothing more comforting on a slushy day than to drink one in a warm coffee shop!
“Some Guy Named Allen”
Creative Director and On-Air Personality
My perfect meal:
Appetizer: The shrimp at The Landing. I can’t get enough of those crispy, golden drops of heaven!
Main course: The Fruitti Di Mare from Il Giardino. So many amazing memories in one dish. LOVE IT!
Dessert: The Sweet Potato Bread Pudding from Blue Pete’s in Pungo. The rustic setting and amazing food are only outdone by the hospitality. One of my favorite places to take the family.
Smoked Old Fashioned from Hunt Room, Virginia Beach. Photo by Marcus Holman.
Drink: I really can’t decide to be honest. The Orange Crush at Waterman’s is amazing. My friends say I always have a good time after a few of those! Ha! As of late it’s the Smoked Old Fashioned at the Hunt Room. I dream of that hickory and cherrywood smoke wafting out of a glass of local Tarnished Truth bourbon, Angostura, orange, bitters and I am pretty sure the tears of the bourbon gods are in the syrup.
Food and Lifestyle Blogger at So Full Zest
Appetizer: Baked Prosciutto and Chevre from Lubo Wine Bar in Virginia Beach. How could you go wrong with creamy goat cheese, roasted garlic, basil and balsamic reduction? These flavors keep the salt in the prosciutto from overpowering the dish.
Main course: Curry Chicken with macaroni and cheese, Jamaican rice and peas and Coco Bread from Cutlass Grille in Chesapeake. If you close your eyes while eating this and think you hear steel drums in the background, you aren't dreaming, they really are there.
Hummingbird Macaron and Desserts, Norfolk. Photo by Ilsy Serrano.
Dessert: Banoffee Pie and a Nutella Macaron from Hummingbird Macaron and Desserts in Norfolk. I've been indulging in desserts by Kisha since her business was located in Chesapeake and called Terebinth. While she is known for her French macarons, her cakes and tarts are unlike anything I've ever had in Hampton Roads.
Drink: Where Is My Kimono at Saint Germain in Norfolk. You could try to make this at home, but the fun is in the eclectic ingredients and presentation. The drink consists of tequila, lime, rosemary, orange blossom, egg white, ginger beer and lots of dry ice. The finished product makes for a good Instagram shot, but it does taste as good as it looks.
Retired NFL Player/Virginia Beach City Councilman
Appetizer: I would immediately choose the New York Strip Carpaccio from Aldo’s Ristorante. The flavor between the beef, the Dijon and fresh greens is unmatched.
Main Course: As a professional athlete (I like to eat) I can never choose just one main course. However, I would choose the Waterman’s Burger cooked medium well for good flavor and the Bronzed Yellowfin Tuna from Waterman’s Grille. They are two totally different dishes, but I love them both, and I can always count on Waterman’s to have the fresh catch of the day.
Dessert: I’m a very simple guy when it comes to desserts, but Aldo’s Ristorante has the best coconut cake, and I don’t think I’d be able to have my last meal in Coastal Virginia without it.
Drink: I’m not a huge drinker. I work out often, so water is always my go-to but back to Waterman’s Grille for this one. I would of course order water first and then gradually work my way up to their Lemon Crush. It goes well with a lot of their seafood dishes, and I would most likely substitute the vodka for tequila.
President/CEO of Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and Virginia Peninsula Chamber Foundation
I hope it doesn’t come to this anytime soon, because I love it here in Coastal Virginia—but if I had to choose one or two places for a last meal in Coastal Virginia, I’d take my go-to girl (of 33 years) to two of our go-to places here on the Peninsula.
Appetizer and Drink: We’d start at Fin in Port Warwick where Katie makes a delicious barrel-aged Old Fashioned, and we’d also have a bowl of she-crab (with lump crab meat) soup.
Main course and Dessert: After savoring our drink and appetizer and some good conversation with fellow patrons of the bar, we’d head (by cab or Uber, of course) to Kismet in Hilton Village for one of their unique and tasty gourmet pizzas, and, of course, a visit to Kismet would not be complete without some Krispy Kreme bread pudding—with two spoons.
Blogger at I-Heart-Food
Appetizer: Mannino's Italian Bistro has the best she crab soup in the area—hands down. It has proven itself through countless competitions winning over judges and public taste panels alike. It's so good they're not allowed to compete in the East Coast She-Crab Soup Classic anymore because they always won. The chunks of sweet blue crab about the size of your thumb are impressive. Do yourself a favor and try it. You'll add it to your "last meal" list too.
Also, Esoteric has my favorite wings in the area. It's a joy if I can make it in for their happy hour, or as they call it, LMOTD (Last Meeting of the Day) for 50¢ wings. I order about a dozen and a half, knowing that I probably can't eat them all, but I still try. Powdered with bleu cheese dust and sided with shredded celery, they're coated in a delicious Buffalo sauce.
Spicy Miso Ramen from Stockpot, Virginia Beach. Photo by George Culver.
Main Course: I mean how do you pick one? I love to eat everything, and I'm working on trying to do just that. The question I used for criteria here was, "What do you look forward to eating every week?" If you know me, then you know the answer: The Stockpot's Spicy Miso Ramen. People who follow me on Instagram know when it's Monday they're going to see some ramen on my feed. I can't help it, even when I say I'm going to skip a week, I don't. I'm back in the shop at the counter ordering my ramen with extra noodles and extra broth (sometimes a little extra pork belly too). A local chef was ribbing me recently about my Monday ramen ritual. What can I say? It's that good.
Honorable Mention: Repeal Bourbon & Burgers is known for their award-winning burgers and wide selection of bourbons and whiskey but they also have a dish I rave about to anyone who will listen: Poutine. Bon Ami, their translation of this dish from the Great White North is nothing short of amazing. Crispy fries loaded with melted cheese curds, bourbon mushroom gravy and magic bacon dust (I think it's magic, it tastes magical). A must try if you're in the area.
Drink: There's nothing like starting a meal, or day, with a (H@#$ Yeah!) Bay Local Bloody Bay topped with a fried soft shell crab and anything else they can cram on top of it. Well, except for sliders, I don't need sliders on my drink. The house-made Bloody Mary mix is spicy, flavorful, with a lovely texture all on nugget ice.
There's something about seeing this drink come to the table that makes people turn their heads to gaze upon it with the utmost admiration. It really deserves it, and the bite … it'll wake you up.
Note: Some drinks require nugget ice to be done right. Crushes fall into this category. Please don't use cubes in crushes. I'll cry if I find out you do this.
Dessert: Confession: I don't really eat dessert. I know, shame, but it's just not one of those things I crave. I do love vanilla malts though. All. Day. Long.
So in lieu of a proper dessert I'm cheating and picking another drink: Auntie's Tiki Bar & Restaurant's Mai Tai. I mean, it's my last meal, right? I can do what I want before abandoning this mortal coil, moving on to the big Happy Hour in the sky. When I get there, I hope they have this drink. I fell in love with the Mai Tai in Hawaii while on holiday with my wife. Every time I sip one of these I think about that perfect breeze flowing over sun-kissed skin and the waves gently caressing white sands … sigh. Sweet rums with fruit juice qualify as a treat in my book.
Retired Staff Epicure for The Virginian-Pilot
Appetizer: Chicken in hot chili oil at Judy's Szechuan.
Main course: Wild Boar Ragu at Luce.
Dessert: Carrot cake at the Leaping Lizard.
Flight of Champagne from Press, Norfolk. Photo by Ilsy Serrano.
Drink: A flight of champagne at Press on Shore Drive.
Winemaker at The Williamsburg Winery
What a daunting task to pen down just three places in Coastal Virginia for a last meal before departing. Not even sure why one would depart Coastal Virginia.
Appetizer: I suppose if I had to start it would be at Café Provencal for the oysters. Not just any oysters but Big Island Aquaculture oysters. These are amazing oysters harvested from floating beds on Monday Creek off the Chesapeake. I enjoy all Chesapeake Bay oysters and believe it is one of our most signature foods we have in Virginia. These oysters under the care of Chef David are amazing and can be done raw or baked. What Chef David does with the baked ones is something you have to experience. If I didn’t have a Williamsburg Winery wine, I would pair this with a 2017 Church Creek Chardonnay—Steel Fermented from Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek. A great wine, and both the wine and oysters are coming from the Bay. A true Virginia pairing.
Main Course: For the main course I would head to the Amber Ox Public House for the Farm House Meatballs made with grass-fed beef and lamb. Chef Troy is a young chef who cooks with absolute inspiration. I am sure one day soon the rest of America will know him and his food. With this I would pair with a Sciencing Hard American Pilsner from Precarious Beer, which is made at the brewery in the Amber Ox; so that’s convenient. I am not one for the big, heavy, hoppy, thick beers and think a perfectly made pilsner is a true test of a brewer's skills. I also think a good pilsner goes well with food and especially the Farm House Meatballs from Chef Troy.
Dessert: For dessert I then go to Opus 9 for their Chocolate Concerto Plus!!! If you are a fan of chocolate, which I am, then this will satisfy any cravings you may have. They even request you order in advance for the preparation. I am thinking they may have a whole culinary team working on it for you; it’s that good. During this chocolaty indulgence I would sip a glass of Rick Wasmund’s Copper Fox Single Malt Rye Whisky. Rick makes some stunning ryes, and he is local, which I feel is important to support. On a side note, not everyone can do whisky and chocolate, but it works for me.
As a disclaimer this was very difficult as there are so many other places throughout Coastal Virginia that I could have mentioned producing both great food and alcohol. Today though, it goes to the above mentioned who are all deserving of praise.