2017. One Year, 52 Weeks, 365 Days. We lived, we laughed, we loved, but most importantly, we ate.
Sometimes we loved them, sometimes not so much, but we can certainly thank the past twelve months for the abundance of delicious things that our little slice of heaven — Hampton Roads — has been blessed with. If you haven’t already paid a visit to these spots, be sure to ready your bellies, and ring in the New Year with the happiest of taste buds. Here are ten of the best shiny and new places that 2017 had to offer, presented in no particular order.
Brown Chicken Brown Cow – 13 E Queens Way, Hampton VA
On the always inviting and adorable main drag of Downtown Hampton lies the beautifully remodeled Brown Chicken Brown Cow. The burgers (including veg and gluten free options), brews, and decadent floats are top notch, and with a laid-back vibe and approachable menu, this is the place to tuck into a cozy booth on any night of the week. Wednesdays and Fridays feature live music, Mondays highlight a “yappy” hour for you and your pooch on the patio, and the Wednesday night fried chicken special cannot be missed.
- The BC^2 – a grass fed beef patty topped with an organic smoked chicken cake, sautéed mushrooms, white cheddar, and house bbq sauce. Some may call it over the top, but I just call it delicious.
- Perfect Pair – a grass fed beef patty topped with pickled pear, Gorgonzola, apricot aioli, and arugula. Peter Piper would be jealous of this pickled pear, balancing the apricot aioli perfectly.
- Cinnamon Toast Boozy Float – vanilla ice cream, Crown Vanilla RumChata, whipped cream, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Go ahead, you’re worth it.
Clementine’s at Riverview – 110 LaValette Ave Suite C, Norfolk VA
From the brains behind the ever delicious Ten Top in Ghent, Clementine’s at Riverview was born, and quickly nestled its way into the hearts of Norfolk foodies. There is certainly something to be said by Southern-inspired food made with love, and each dish seems to shout that love from the plate tops with a classy twang. Open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday and brunch Saturdays and Sundays, you’re in for more than a treat. The atmosphere is certainly worth mentioning, as it is cozy and inviting, with quaint dishware and shelves of chotchkies that make you feel at home. Keep an eye on their social media for specials, trust me.
Menu must-haves (when available):
- Bennie & The Eggs (Brunch) – buttermilk biscuit, smokey pork tenderloin, whiskey collard greens, poached egg, Speedy’s hollandaise. There is brunch, and then there is this dish, which I think was made specifically to appease the Brunch Gods. These biscuits are to die for.
- Oyster and Grits (Dinner) – fresh shucked oysters in a dark roux, bacon, white onion, tomato relish, geechie boy grit cake. I don’t know that a better combination has ever been invented, but I’ll just keep eating this until I find out.
- Gnocchi with Autumn Vegetables (Dinner) – housemade pan fried gnocchi, butternut squash, cipollini, onions, fresh sage, roasted walnuts, brown butter. I swear these little pillows of dough will make your heart melt.
Maymar Poke and Grill – 130 Maple Ave Suite A, Norfolk VA
Consider this one an incredibly sparkly hidden gem. You may have to hunt for it, but it’s worth it. Maymar Poke and Grill is serving up traditional Filipino food that would make anyone’s momma proud, with an incredible build your own poke bowl that is as fresh as it is tasty. If affordability is on your menu, this spot serves that right up as well, with prices that will impress your wallet as much as the food does for your taste buds. As a bonus, the hospitality here is out of control; it felt like a family meal in the best way possible.
- Traditional Poke Bowl – Salmon, Octopus, Tuna, Shrimp, pick one, two, or three proteins and fill your bowl with white or brown rice and mouth watering toppings. Try the OG sauce and chopped mango, it makes for an island vacation in your mouth.
- Crispy Sticky Wings – chicken wings tossed in batter, fried, and tossed again in a sticky sweet sauce. These will make you the king of any party, hope you enjoy that crown.
Craft Burger Bar – 1706 Mediterranean Ave, Virginia Beach VA
Burgers are the American staple, right? Well, this place does them absolutely right. If you’re on the hunt for a well crafted burger, or veggie burger, this is your destination. This spot has become a quaint little place to hang out, grab a local brew, and most importantly, put in an order of their sweet potato fries. Peep the amazing mural by Igor’s Custom while you’re sidled up to the bar, it’s a stunner.
- Pepper Burger – wagyu beef patty, jalapeno jelly, cream cheese, jalapenos. Spicy and sweet, just how you like it.
- Whiskey Burger – wagyu beef, fried pimento cheese, bacon, onion, bbq. Come bearing an empty stomach for this one, you will thank me.
Amber Ox Public House – 521 Prince George St, Williamsburg VA
This joint did not come onto the scene like a lamb, but truly like a bull. The Amber Ox Public House joined the most quaint of cobblestoned streets in Colonial Williamsburg in the last moment of 2017, and made a splash… of beer. This brewpub is putting out delicious brews and even more delectable dishes, and it is absolutely worth the trip up I-64. They feature a constantly rotating draft menu, with their in-house brewed pints and guest taps from local favorites paired with nibbles and noshes, up to a full blown true “supper.” Amber Ox has quickly has become the hangout of people near and far.
- Spent Grain & Beet Salad – spent brewers grain, rasted and pickled beets, chevre, almonds, cara-cara orange and el dorado hop vinaigrette. Is it a beer, or is it a salad? I’m going with both based on how easy this goes down.
- Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chop – served with Carolina rice grits, collard greens, Appalachian apple – onion relish, pot liquor sauce. It is mouthwatering. It is juicy. It is incredible.
- Cookies & “Milk” – double fudge cookies with a chocolate milk stout side car.
sushi aka – 116 W. Washington St, Suffolk VA
Sushi is as sushi does, right? Wrong. sushi aka puts a modern twist on the classic beauty that is sashimi and sushi and changes the game. The quaint atmosphere paired with the simple and clean menu make for an intimate and enjoyable evening, with plenty of room for conversation over artfully served rolls.
- Rockfish Roll – tempura rockfish, greens, wasabi aioli. This roll is truly going to rock your socks off, cheesy pun included.
- Sashimi Salad – grilled Spanish mackerel, yuzu vinaigrette. I wish every meal started this way, with a tangy welcome.
Press Wine Bar – 2301 Red Tide Rd, Virginia Beach VA
A staple of fine, yet approachable, dining in Ghent for many years, Press 626 has opened their sister restaurant on the shore in Virginia Beach. Press Wine Bar is certainly no red-headed stepchild in that family, and boasts an already impressive reputation that stretches far beyond it’s incredibly curated wine list. The eclectic yet warm décor is the ideal setting for exploring something robust or delicate, whatever suits your fancy.
- Tuna Melt – fresh (not canned) classic tuna salad, pickled red onion, spinach, tomato, provolone, sourdough. Taste the ocean, really, with this sammie.
- Border Springs Lamb Shoulder – served with pickled cauliflower puree, baby potatoes confit in garlic oil. Perfectly cooked lamb that melts almost immediately upon first bite, this one can’t be missed.
Leones – Italian – 455 Granby St, Norfolk VA
Maybe it’s the carbohydrates speaking, but I get this fuzzy feeling any time I think about settling into a comfy booth at Leone’s for an incredible afternoon or evening meal. Lighting up Granby with their beautiful rooftop bar, Leone’s – Italian is a beacon of Italian delicacies in Norfolk. The atmosphere is inviting, while being sleek and modern, making for a perfect hot date backdrop. One thing not to miss is their vegan and gluten free menu, something rarely seen going hand in hand with Italian cuisine, and it is not just wonderful for our gluten free or veg friends.
- Escargot al Gorgonzola – escargot served with roasty gorgonzola cheese, onion, cream, garlic, and house bread. This dish is anything but slow to disappear, an instant favorite take on a classic Italian appetizer.
- Fettucini e Lobster Fra’Diavolo – lobster tail, lobster-pomodoro sauce, fresh egg fettucine, white wine, garlic, calabrian chili peppers. This comes served almost too beautiful to eat, but crack into that lobster tail and embrace the heat.
- Costolette d’Angello (Gluten Free) – lamb rack, mashed potatoes, asparagus, roasted vegetables, rosemary demi glace. Falls off of the bone and directly into your mouth.
412Q BBQ – 1776 Princess Anne Rd, Virginia Beach VA
Simply put, this is some damn good meat. 412Q Barbeque is an incredible little spot that serves up take out Wednesday through Saturday from 11:30 AM until they are sold out. Sell out they do, but that’s understandable after your first bite into this smoked heaven. Get there early and be the life of the party, with people singing your praises for years to come. Shout out to Nomarama for turning me on to this gem, follow him for more mouthwatering goodness on instagram at @_nomarama_!
- Sliced Turkey (by the pound)
- Wagyu Beef Brisket (by the pound)
Gather – 2125 Starmount Pkwy Suite 109, Chesapeake VA
This is likely categorized more often as a coffee shop rather than a restaurant, and rightfully so, but I would be remiss if I did not mention such an amazing new place with a heart as full as your coffee mug. I stumbled upon Gather in the hunt for a cup of joe, and what I found was a phenomenal place with a chic and simple atmosphere, incredibly friendly staff, and a great quick bite. Have you ever had a latte on draft? You will here. Seasonally, float that draft latte with a bit of eggnog and you will feel the holiday spirit down to your toes. While serving up their delightful drinks and tasty treats, they are also serving the community by donating 100% of their proceeds (after operation costs) to a different local charity each month.
- Grown Up Grilled Cheese – cheddar cheese Panini with fresh sliced apples, bacon, and strawberry jam. Brings you right back to the golden years of school lunches, with the bonus of still pairing well with your expense reports.
Honorable Mentions, or, 2016 Late Bloomers:
In creating this list, there were a few spots that I found had opened right on the cusp of 2017 that I felt a pang in my heart, and belly, not including. So here are a couple bonus tracks for those looking for food adventures.
The Corner Bistro – 200 Fountains Ln, Poquoson VA
If you are ready for the warmest of welcomes with a side of meticulously crafted homestyle cooking, look no further. This is the ideal lunch spot, with quite possibly one of the best tarragon chicken salad sandwiches I’ve ever enjoyed, with a heartwarming dinner menu to match. Go for the bourbon meatloaf, stay for the laughter and comforting environment.
The Bee & The Biscuit – 1785 Princess Anne Rd, Virginia Beach VA
There is nowhere quite as adorable as The Bee & The Biscuit. Situated on the quiet and rolling roads of Pungo in a tastefully updated building from 1919, you are drawn in immediately by the aura of Southern charm surrounding the place. Though they are only open for breakfast and lunch, both served all day, you will walk away happy with just about any menu item you point at. I fell in love with their BLT In a Bowl, which reminded me of my childhood favorite instantly, but with a lighter touch. My table enjoyed the Sarah’s Sandwich and Big Farm Truck Breakfast down to the last crumb, and I am fairly unashamed to say there may have been some plates licked clean. Spend a peaceful day in Pungo, and come hungry.
Our beautiful, bustling little area has more and more to offer our tastebuds by the day. It would seem that at every turn we prove ourselves to be true foodies, with a knack for impeccable wines and phenomenal craft beer to boot. Keep your eyes and mouths open for some exciting new restaurants joining us in 2018, and stay hungry!