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Virginia’s Blue Ridge is for Food Lovers

Posted on Friday, May 12, 2017 at 2:33 pm

 

Editor’s Note: This is the latest in a series of travel stories on visiting Roanoke Valley and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

By Peter Covino

A&E Editor

Feeling lucky?

When it comes to dining in the Roanoke Valley, good fortune awaits in just about every direction, with the diverse selection of restaurants all over the city and points beyond.

The unlucky part? Unless you live here, there just isn’t enough time to take in all the great places to eat.

Fortunately, during a recent trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, we got to sample some of the areas best, from the simple, like made to order biscuits served up 100 ways for breakfast, to dining on a more upscale level at one of Roanoke’s finest restaurants.

We started things off shortly after our arrival, with an evening libation and Blue Ridge area crafted brews at Mac & Bob’s, one of the city’s favorite places to grab a meal and a beer, featuring both indoor and outdoor dining. This is one of those local places that started out as a hole in the wall and has grown both in size and stature.

The beer selection was quite good, way too many to list here, but do try a local variety, like the appropriately named Coal Miner’s Dodder stout from Parkway brewers in nearby Salem. If you want a real photo opportunity to make your friends jealous, order the truly remarkably-sized calzone. As they say here in Orlando about the Fun World theme park, “It’s huge!”

 

Breakfast, the next morning, was at the already mentioned Regency Room at the historic Roanoke Hotel. Go ahead and check out the previous Roanoke/Blue Ridge story on this one-on-a-kind hotel at aroundosceola.com.

There’s nothing upscale about Ippy’s Restaurant in Rocky Mount, but this is just one of the places where as soon as you sit down, you feel at home. The place has been enlarged and modernized through the years, but it has a history that dates back to 1919.

This was a dinner stop for our media group (yes, that’s the original “Ippy” on the menu) and it’s a menu with sandwiches and burgers taking up most of the space. The burgers are ground in-house and 80 percent of the meat in each burger is the restaurant’s own filet mignon. They are big and flavorful and come with one of Ippy’s own side items. The homemade onion rings and mac & cheese are both standouts.

Breakfast is not my favorite time of the day, but if the Scratch Biscuit Co. was within daily driving distance, I would make time for breakfast.

This is “Down home breakfast” in the historic Grandin Village neighborhood of Roanoke.

Business is brisk here, and the order line gets pretty long at breakfast time (the restaurant is open until 1 p.m. daily) and I counted 24 different kinds of biscuits on the menu, not including various upgrades like egg or cheese or maple bacon.

Except for the upgrades, biscuits are sold in three categories— $2, $3 and $4. You can choose from the simple butter biscuit, sausage, egg and cheese for $2; country ham, country fried sausage and chicken biscuit for $3; or brisket and fried Cajun catfish for $4. That is only a partial listing, of course. The most intimidating menu item: The Cowboy Crippler, a massive biscuit that would send The Whopper packing, with brisket, country fried sausage, pulled pork, potato cake and cheese pulled pork potato cake and cheese for $9.

There was nothing but satisfaction at our table after breakfast and I really liked my Cajun catfish biscuit. A lot.

The coffee is a plus as well, roasted in-house exclusively for the restaurant. You can even take home a bag.

Sometimes the simple pleasures are the best, and the Wooden Spoon Café is both simple and sublime.

Operated by Courtney Adkins, the quaint place in Boones Mill, just quietly shouts her family roots as a Mennonite.

 

Everything has got that made with love feel about it, including the chicken and dumplings, meatloaf and chicken pot pie. Lunch or dinner here is kind of like posing back in time for a Norman Rockwell painting. It’s all farm fresh, with organically grown ingredients.

Be sure and try the dessert.

Sit a spell, take your shoes off (well maybe don’t get that comfortable). Y’all come back now, y’ hear?

You are going to have to spend at least a whole day in Roanoke to see the sights and that means at the very least, lunch at Billy’s.

There is a lot of history in this downtown restaurant of the speakeasy and Red Light District variety, but those days are long gone and now the only thing down-right criminal is having to choose between menu items like crab cakes and grouper or a prime rib or rib eye. And, yes, by all means try that spicy crab & corn chowder.

Open for brunch, lunch and dinner, there even is a separate menu for the courtyard.

 

While just about every restaurant offers dessert, you need to set aside (and save some room for) one of the decadent cupcakes at Viva La Cupcake, also found in the historic Grandin District. Lots of icing, lots of choices, I did say decadent. They sell an awful lot of cupcakes, no surprise there.

Speaking of surprises, I saved the best meal for last, and it was the last dinner during the Roanoke trip.

Not too many restaurants are deserving of a Five Star rating, but The River and Rail, also in the Grandin District, absolutely nails it.

A great way to end a visit anywhere is with a memorable meal, and this one was truly memorable, from starters to desserts to signature cocktails. And amazing service as well.

The printed menu changes daily, but some of the great regular features are the Farmstead Cheese Selection, Oysters on the Half, Grilled Octopus and Crispy Virginia Wraps. There also is a picked vegetable jar that is just stuffed with vegetables, but is also could pass for a floral bouquet (well, maybe if you’re pickled).

Entrees included North Carolina White Shrimp, Golden Tile Fish , Heritage Farms Pork Chop and Beef Hanger Steak.

Kudos to Chef de Cuisine John Diaz and Executive Sous Chef Tyler Thomas for a job well done.

 

 

 

 

 


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