Virginia Beach

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Southern specialties, grilled steaks, and succulent seafood dishes are Virginia Beach’s culinary staples. The local dining scene relies heavily on its greatest natural resource – the sea – at family restaurants, fish taco stands, and fine dining establishments alike. If not particularly revolutionary from a gastronomic perspective, a feast of fresh fish and oysters, just-caught shrimp, and soft shell crab is nonetheless a treat.

Top Restaurants in Virginia Beach

Aldo's Ristorante

Veer inland, off the tourist radar, to the La Promenade Shopping Center in order to find this local favorite. Classy Aldo’s is known for its crisp pizzas baked in a wood-burning oven, a thoughtful wine list, and an evening piano bar on Fridays and Saturdays. The linguine with fresh clam sauce and shrimp gorgonzola with angel hair pasta are taste-bud ticklers, but visitors seeking a break from seafood will find plenty of fish-free items on the pizza-heavy menu. The combination of candlelight and wine make this mid-range eatery a solid, off-the-beaten-path dinner venue.

La Promenade Distinctive Shoppes, 1860 Laskin Road, VA, 757-491-1111, aldosvb.com
Tags: moderate | great value | local favorite | italian

Baja Cantina

Fresh fish tacos almost too stuffed to bite into are the house specialty at Baja Cantina, a casual Californian/Mexican bar and grill. Every day of the week, locals and vacationing families alike choose from inexpensive specials like steamed shrimp and beef tacos at lunch – come dinner they wash them down with Bloody Marys and margaritas. Just off the beach, the restaurant attracts a young crowd.

206 23rd St., VA, 757-437-2920
Tags: budget | editor pick | great value | waterfront | mexican

Big Sam's Inlet Cafe & Raw Bar

Located on the picturesque Rudee Inlet, Big Sam’s is known for its crab cakes, water views, and laid-back atmosphere. Tourists don’t usually make it to this off-the-beaten-path bar and grill (unless they’ve been at the Virginia Beach Fishing Center next door). At breakfast time, the homemade specials and never-ending supply of coffee give the place a diner-like feel, though the “breakfast happy hour” from 7-11am, with its cheap Bloody Marys, throws off the wholesome vibe a bit. Come sunset, football games on the flat-screen televisions and deals on drinks and seafood-based appetizers make Big Sam’s feel more like a sports bar.

300 Winston Salem Ave., VA, 757-428-4858, www.bigsamsrawbar.com
Tags: family | moderate | seafood | views

Black Angus

At last, a restaurant on the boardwalk that’s not trying to rip off tourists: the family-owned Black Angus chain has been serving high-quality steaks since 1954. Both the menu, with its classic pasta dishes and meat-and-potatoes platters, and the real-linen-and-silver atmosphere are traditional, but formal attire isn’t required. Just make sure your shirt is buttoned and your shoes free of sand when you enter to try the Stockyard Kabob, a marinated skewer of broiled steak, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.

706 Atlantic Ave., VA, 757-428-7700, www.blackangusrestaurant.com
Tags: family | expensive | steakhouse

Croc's 19th Street Bistro

Wine Enthusiast has bestowed multiple awards on this stylish bistro, thanks to an impressive wine list stocked with organic and vintage bottles. An eco-friendly philosophy informs both the menu and the atmosphere: visitors choose from dishes made with fresh produce and sustainable seafood, then sip their organic beers in a space where everything from the hardwood floors to the aluminum chairs and lighting has been designed to meet environmentally sound specifications. The relaxed restaurant, decorated with vibrant greens, oranges, and yellows, hosts a wine club and frequent live music by local indie and rock acts.

620 19th St., VA, 757-428-5444, www.crocs19thstreetbistro.com
Tags: moderate | seafood | trendy | vegetarian

Jake's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

Tender meat is slow cooked over a hardwood fire at Jake’s Smokehouse, a country-style family restaurant in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach. Hearty sandwiches featuring Texas beef brisket and Carolina chopped pork are a good deal and can be picked up for takeaway; hungry families who would like to stay and dine in the casual restaurant go for the “family style feast,” a smorgasbord of pork, BBQ chicken, Memphis-style ribs, corn on the cob, garlic bread, and french fries that is enough to feed four to five people.

1784 General Booth Blvd., VA, 757-721-7850, www.jakessmokehousebbq.com
Tags: family | budget | southern

Lynnhaven Fish House Restaurant

Lynnhaven occupies a prime piece of Virginia Beach real estate where the ocean meets the Chesapeake Bay. Given its vantage point over the sea, it seems logical that this casually elegant restaurant should specialize in fresh, simply prepared seafood. Start with the flavorful She-Crab Soup before sampling soft shell crabs and spinach-topped oysters. The local crowd favors the Scallops Lynnhaven (scallops marinated in white wine and served with crabmeat and cheddar cheese). Just far enough away from the boardwalk to avoid being a tourist magnet, this fish house features tables next to big picture windows overlooking the bay.

2350 Starfish Rd., VA, 757-481-0003, www.lynnhavenfishhouse.net
Tags: seafood | expensive | smart splurge | views | waterfront | local favorite

Pocahontas Pancake House

Perfectly prepared omelettes and pecan pancakes that practically melt in your mouth earned Pocahontas Pancake House a mention on the Food Network in 2002. Since winning those five minutes of fame, the lively diner has become even more popular with a discriminating local crowd. Waffles à la mode, the delightful egg sampler, and seasonal specials like pumpkin spice pancakes are just a few of the hearty breakfasts on offer at this humble, slightly kitschy corner spot where the service is fast and friendly and the coffee is, of course, always hot.

3420 Atlantic Ave., VA, 757-428-6352, www.pocahontaspancakes.com
Tags: family | budget | american | great value | trendy | breakfast

Rockafeller's

Seafood prepared according to traditional Southern recipes, warm service, and views over Rudee Inlet – Rockafeller’s sticks to a successful formula. A mix of locals and in-the-know tourists fill the rocking chairs on the restaurant’s covered porches to dine on house favorites like pasta tossed with crab, shrimp, and scallops, jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon, and fish filets topped with crabmeat. The ambience is casual and the prices reasonable, especially considering the freshness and quality of the shellfish (you can even watch the fisherman bringing in the daily catch from your dinner table).

308 Mediterranean Ave., VA, 757-422-5654, www.rockafellers.com
Tags: seafood | expensive

Tad's Deli

Looking to pick up some sandwiches on your way to the beach? Swing by Tad’s Deli, a low-key shop that fixes classic sandwiches and subs for both dining in and takeaway. Breakfast sandwiches with eggs and bacon on a bagel are popular, as are the smoked mahi salad sandwiches, and twists on American favorites like the “Country Boy,” a combination of ham and Swiss on sourdough bread. Surfers and beachgoers opt for the inexpensive box lunch special, which includes chips, a cookie, and a beverage.

600 Norfolk Ave., VA, 757-422-3577, www.tadsdeli.com
Tags: family | budget | american | deli

The Icehouse

When the Icehouse opened in 1910, it was located across the street from the train station and near several warehouses, making it a favorite of fishermen and factory workers, who came for its no-frills sandwiches and seafood. Today, the restaurant retains its rustic charm with exposed brick walls and a wooden bar, but the cuisine on offer (fried flounder sandwiches, tuna bites, and deep-fried calamari) has been refined just enough to suit a contemporary crowd of all ages.

604 Norfolk Ave., VA, 757-422-1968, www.icehousevb.com
Tags: family | moderate | seafood | american | historic

Zoës

For truly gourmet steaks and seafood, don your best duds and head a few blocks inland from the busy boardwalk area to Zoës. The upscale eatery, softly lit and furnished with dark wood, caters to sophisticated palates with dishes like lobster with green coconut curry, macaroni and cheese with blue crab, and truffled spaghetti squash. Dessert is equally indulgent, especially the hot chocolate – a decadent treat topped with homemade cream.

713 19th St., VA, 757-437-3636, www.zoesvb.com
Tags: seafood | expensive | editor pick | smart splurge | trendy | steakhouse

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