Roanoke is a small city in the south of Virginia. Originally known as the town of Big Lick, the city was renamed in 1882 after growing with the development of the Great Wagon road. Today, the city is famed for its slower pace of life and beautiful scenery, particularly the copper foliage during the fall. In addition to a host of museums, the city boasts a strong restaurant scene. Here are the 10 best.
Local Roots is a ‘farm to table’ restaurant, meaning that all the ingredients are locally sourced from the farms in southwest Virginia. Specific farmers are used for each season, so the restaurant only uses the freshest ingredients. Dianne Elliot became the restaurant’s owner in 2009 after buying it from her son. Since then, she has developed Local Roots into a much loved, local staple. Previous dishes have included beef with celery and potato puree, as well as tagliatelle with pork and butternut squash ragu. Brunch is an equally big hit, with innovative interpretations of classic dishes.
For more than 12 years Hollywood’s, an all-American style diner, has been delighting food fanatics in Virginia. But the highlight here is the bakery, which serves some of the best cakes and desserts that you’re likely to find. Cakes include the Killer Carrot Cake, which will knock diners off their feet, and the Better than Sex Cake. Savoury options include all the well-known favorites, such as crab cakes, steaks, and pork chops. So come hungry and dig in.
Like Local Roots, Lucky is another Roanake restaurant that is making a strong statement on the local farm-to-table catering scene. In addition to brilliantly sourced, locally inspired dishes, Lucky also plays host to one of the best cocktail bars in the city, if not the state. The restaurant and bar combination is quietly sophisticated, with low level lighting and dark tiling throughout, a great location if you’re looking to impress on a date. The menu changes regularly, so be sure to call ahead if you are concerned you might not like what’s on offer that day.
While the name Billy’s may conjure thoughts of a rough around the edges establishment, this could not be further from the truth. Billy’s is an exhibit of Roanoke fine dining at its best, with food prepared by award-winning head chef Tyler Mason, and award-winning sous chef Kyle Femrite. Diners can expect to be seated at solid, dark wooden tables, complete with minimalist surroundings and crockery, don’t expect anything too zany here. The food however is delightfully experimental, with great fusions of American cuisine, alongside Asian and European flavors. Dishes include blackened mahi-mahi fish with pineapple salsa, as well as pork chops in a bourbon glaze.
Fork in the Alley is a nice, friendly, local joint situated in the heart of Roanoke. Serving typical American fare, including hot dogs, burgers and pizza, this joint is also well known for its friendly staff and atmosphere. Fork in the Alley offers regular deals to entice customers. There are a number of ready-made burgers, such as the Cajun blue with bacon and blue cheese mayonnaise, but Fork in the Alley also allows customers to fully customize their burgers with any number of sauces, toppings and accessories. So let your imagination run wild.
At only two years old, River and Rail is relatively new to the established dining scene in Roanoke. A small community style bistro, food is prepared by chef and owner Aaron Deal. Deal, who grew up in North Carolina, has previously been crowned Chicago’s best chef under 30. With drink options that include a number of craft beers and signature cocktails, food is prepared with a mix of French and southern American influences. Main dishes include Berkshire pork loin with apples and sauerkraut, as well as Georgia stuffed quail, served with baked field peas and baby beets.
The Regency Dining Room can be found in the beautiful and sumptuous Hotel Roanoke, which is, incidentally, an excellent place to stay if you’re in the city for a prolonged period of time. The Regency Room, where food is prepared by executive chef Stephen DeMarco, is steeped in history. Menus provide great meals for all times of the day. Chef DeMarco says that the Regency Room makes the most of a shop local, buy local, mentality, which is in keeping with the overall ethos of this city.
Rockfish, with its pine colored floor panels and olive-green walls, bestows a summery feel at any time of year. With regular live music, and fantastic food and drink, Rockfish is a great place to go with all the family, or even large groups of friends. After opening in 2008 in the eclectic Grandin Village area of Roanoke, the restaurant quickly went on to become a local favorite, complete with more than 170 handpicked wines. The menu is constantly evolving and, like many restaurants in this relaxed city, based entirely on seasonal ingredients. Dishes have previously included crispy confit duck, pecan crusted trout, and low country crab cakes.
Carlos is Roanoke’s premier Brazilian restaurant. The venue has been studded with awards and accolades throughout its lifespan, including best chef, best dessert and best service. Carlos is also a consistent winner of Roanoke’s best restaurant award, making it a must-visit for anyone thinking of visiting the city. Despite its Brazilian roots, Carlos has a more sombre atmosphere than many might expect, with dark furnishings and classic tableware throughout this family run restaurant. Carlos features a plethora of meat dishes, but vegetarians shouldn’t worry, there is something here for everyone.
Beamers 25 serves a magical combination of different craft beers and mouth-watering burgers, many of which are particularly innovative and inspiring. Owned and operated for the last 25 years by Frank Beamer, the football coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies, this cool and sophisticated burger bar guarantees a great experience for all of its diners. A particularly popular item is the banh mi burger. With subtle Vietnamese influences, this pork patty comes with carrot, pickled ginger, and cilantro and chilli mayonnaise. For purists, there are classic American burgers too, like the bacon and cheese, which can be cooked how you like it.