Tucked away in Thalia’s sprawling suburbia is a timeless, waterfront eatery whose wood paneled walls and simple décor exude an understated elegance reminiscent of the inn’s humble beginnings.
Steinhilber’s Restaurant, formerly known as Robert Steinhilber’s Thalia Acres Inn, was founded by longtime restaurant worker Robert Steinhilber in 1939. After spending years in various Norfolk diners, Robert relocated to Virginia Beach and stumbled upon the grounds of a former country club which would later become the foundation of his very own culinary enterprise.
Steinhilber’s wore many hats during its infancy. Opening its doors at the end of the Great Depression, it served as an affordable and friendly mainstay for Princess Anne County locals. A few years later, residents were flooded out by military officers from the nearby Camp Ashby as their hard-soled boots tracked the inn’s hardwood floors for months at the brink of World War II.
In true Robert Steinhilber fashion, each guest was graciously seated and served in the main dining room, and it is with this same hospitality that Robert’s daughter, Jeanne, and grandson, Brady Viccellio, continue to treat Steinhilber’s visitors.
Now supplementing the formal dining room is an expansive open-air patio outfitted with communal firepits, private tables perched beneath bright umbrellas and unparalleled views of the Lynnhaven River. Surrounding the patio are countless ceramic vessels potted with fresh herbs and flowers tended to by Jeanne. Her homegrown spices are incorporated into nearly every Steinhilber’s dish, including the eatery’s seasonal Pineapple Mojito.
Sweet, refreshing and ideal for the warmer months, the pineapple mojito is a citrusy concoction of rum, pineapple puree, freshly squeezed lime juice, club soda and a handful of fresh mint from Jeanne’s garden. The libation is also a delicious way to wash down Steinhilber’s staple starter, melba toast.
Also on the cocktail docket are a handful of seasonal sips like a pomegranate crush, strawberry lemonade and white sangria infused with local fruits. Traditional mixers are offered as well along with a catalogue of beers, spirits and wines by the bottle and glass.
Running the length of Steinhilber’s menu is an array of mouthwatering surf and turf entrees like seared scallops and filet mignon, freshly shucked oysters, a savory lamb rack, and of course, Steinhilber’s original jumbo fantail fried shrimp. While narrowing down these palatable options to one main course is no small feat, Steinhilber’s proximity to the water places seafood at the forefront.
Opting for a healthy dinner alternative to the inn’s famed fantail dish, we order the light and flavorsome grilled shrimp platter. Tastefully plated are a half-dozen shrimp, perfectly pink and prepared with just a hint of char. The subtle savor of smoke adds depth to the freshly squeezed lemon juice and olive oil and fresh herb marinade crafted by Steinhilber’s world-class culinary team.
Adding a touch of Jeanne to the dish is colorful vegetable pasta. Sautéed with olive oil and garlic are crisp ribbons of carrot, zucchini and squash harvested straight from the owner’s garden. The unadulterated flavors of the veggies combined with the familiar flavor of shrimp result in a simple, yet beautifully composed spread.
The patio glows with soft hues of orange and yellow from the nearby setting sun, signaling the end of our meal. A friendly waiter donning a freshly pressed white waistcoat delivers a list of final course confections, which we happily entertain.
We cap off our Steinhilber’s visit with a picture-worthy key lime pie. Served in a flaky pie crust is a rich and creamy key lime filling topped with a heaping, toasted swirl of fluffy lemon meringue. The toasted meringue evokes flavors of campfire s’mores while adding the slightest touch of lemon notes to the pie’s tart lime center. Standing at the end of the plate is a dollop of saccharine vanilla bean crème crowned with a dried kiwi.
After having signed our check and boxing up the remainder of our dessert, we wander the restaurant grounds—a must for any first-time Steinhilber’s visitor. We imagine imbibing a digestif beneath the lawn’s towering magnolia tree and promise to do so during our next trip to Robert Steinhilber’s celebrated inn.
Steinhilber’s Restaurant is located at 653 Thalia Rd., Virginia Beach and is open daily from 5 to 10 p.m.