From its hip and trendy Ghent neighborhood to its vibrant downtown, Norfolk is a small city with a great spirit. Its buzzing dining scene is no different: with venues housed in 19th century churches, the world’s first ice cream cone and experimental takes on all-American classics, the city’s restaurants are diverse and exciting. Here is our pick of ten of the best restaurants in Norfolk, Virginia.
Freemason Abbey Restaurant
Restaurant, American, North American, Seafood, Vegetarian, $$$
Freemason Abbey Restaurant
is housed within the walls of a 140-year-old church right in the heart of the city. Although the venue is now dedicated to great food rather than matters of the spirit, the stained glass windows, high ceilings and a huge, round fresco painting on the wall bring a touch of the divine to this casual tavern. The fare here is simple yet satisfying, with all-American classics taking pride of place. Seafood is a long-standing specialty at Freemason Abbey, so try the signature broiled seafood platter, which comes with scallops, prawns, crab cakes and tilapia.
Restaurant, French, European, Gluten-free, American, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
brings a touch of European sophistication to Norfolk with its menu of French
-accented delicacies crafted from local, organic and homemade ingredients. The restaurant’s dedication to ethically sourced and managed produce is exemplary, manifesting itself through the minimalistic menu, which features only a few dishes at a time and which changes on a daily basis. Past highlights have included the pan-seared salmon with fried gnocchi and kale in an orange butter sauce, or the braised short rib focaccianini with pecorino and Swiss chard. Check Chartreuse’s Facebook page for daily menu updates.
Restaurant, American, North American, Coffee, Vegetarian, $$$
is a wildly popular venue. The simple, eclectic decor adds to the ambiance, and their menu of sweet potato biscuit sandwiches makes Handsome Biscuit stand out from the rest. The sandwiches may sound odd, but they’re actually original takes on the classic burger, or English breakfast muffin. Wedged between two buns are wonderful flavors, from the chicken salad with pecans and mixed berry compote to the roasted pork shoulder with sweet hot mustard and cucumber. Queues can be very long at weekends, so make sure you get there early.
Bardo Edibles + Elixirs
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Spanish, Asian, Fusion, $$$
Bardo Edibles + Elixirs
serves up a delicious menu of Asian
-style tapas dishes which changes seasonally and according to the availability of fresh produce. From the decadent lobster-stuffed devilled eggs topped with wasabi tobiko encapsulating the essence of fusion cuisine to the more down-to-earth sweet chilli-glazed chicken in a quick-blanched Napa cabbage leaf, Bardo’s specialties showcase Chef and Owner Mike Farrel’s ability to jump seamlessly between flavors and traditions while producing something quite out of the ordinary. After a light meal, try one of Bardo’s signature elixirs, or, to put it simply, fabulous cocktails.
Restaurant, American, North American, Salad Bar, $$$
‘s menu favors quality over quantity, which explains the fact that there are only four mains on the evening menu; the choice is sufficient, however, as the flavor combinations proposed by Field Guide are simple yet satisfying. Try the Pillow Magik, which is ricotta gnocchi cooked with tomato, mushroom and basil, or the Boaring Meatloaf served with mac’n’cheese and seared greens.
Doumar’s Cones & Barbecue
Ice Cream Parlour, Restaurant, American, North American, Ice Cream, $$$
With a history going back over a century, Doumar’s
is probably the most iconic player on Norfolk’s dining scene – so iconic, in fact, that it claims to have invented the ice cream cone back in 1904. And while this drive-in eatery does cook up a good barbecue with cheeseburgers and hot dogs galore, where it really shines is the sweeter side of things. Locals who come here follow the ritual of driving right up to Doumar’s, ordering a big portion of ice cream or a rich sundae and the must-try limeade, and eating in their car right in front of the venue. Doumar’s is impossible to miss: there are two huge ice cream cones sticking right out of the building.
No Frill Bar & Grill
Restaurant, American, North American, Beer, Vegetarian, $$$
does exactly what it says on the tin – delivers high-quality, no frills American fare in a casual, fun setting always buzzing with hungry patrons. For a real taste of Norfolk, try the Norfolk Hot Brown and savor every bite of this multilayered dish, where grilled chicken and Surry ham come with a generous serving of the Norfolk Canyon ale cream sauce and cheddar Jack over sourdough toast. Located just a few steps away from the Naro Theater in the historic Ghent neighbourhood, No Frill is the perfect spot for a pre-show dinner. Those travelling to Virginia Beach will be happy to find out that No Frill has also opened a branch there.
Bar, Brasserie, Cafe, North American, American, Coffee, $$$
Hip and eclectic, Cure
is the place to be for Norfolk’s creative crowd. In addition to hosting live music evenings and artists’ receptions on a regular basis, this cool brasserie also serves up great, casual fare of snack-like bites: go for the roasted beet salad at lunchtime, or the cheese and charcuterie board in the evening, where much of the meat is actually made on premises. The biggest attraction, however, is the drinks menu, consisting of high-quality, locally roasted coffees as well as beers from Virginia breweries, a showcase of Cure’s dedication to supporting regional farmers and producers.
Bar, Cafe, Wine Bar, American, North American, Wine, Vegetarian, $$$
Located in a beautiful, restored Victorian house, Press 626
is one of Norfolk’s most welcoming restaurants, where attentive service, an airy atmosphere and market-driven, money-conscious fare combine to create a real gastronomic delight. Press 626’s local menu is packed with fresh-from-the-farm ingredients. Start your meal with the Brookdale Farm strawberry and asparagus salad before tucking into the tender, balsamic-lacquered duck breast or the succulent herb and pecan-crusted lamb chops topped with a dollop of mint mustard.
Bar, Restaurant, Italian, American, North American, $$$
used to be the favorite haunt of Virginia’s punk rockers. Although the clientele is now more varied, the restaurant still retains an authentic spirit of fun and freedom, from rock’n’roll stickers on the red walls to kitsch decor features and random memorabilia. Enjoy Cogan’s huge specialty pizzas, dubbed by many as the best Italian
pizzas in Norfolk, and try the delicious Hog Heaven, topped with a parmesan herb sauce and Cogan’s own cheese blend, as well as pulled pork and vegetables: don’t forget to add a splash of their spicy sauce and try one of the many beers available on tap.