When thinking of funky foodie cities in the United States places like Austin, New Orleans and Portland spring to mind. I never expected Virginia Beach to ignite my palate the way it did. While Dave and I wined and dined at a new restaurant or stylish brew pub each night, we were amazed at all the choices and delectable dishes waiting to be tasted. So we rounded up the very best places to eat and drink in Virginia Beach.
Where to Eat and Drink in Virginia Beach
We were sent on a mission by Matador Network to eat as much as possible in Virginia Beach and we accepted that challenge with pleasure by loosening our belts and pulling up our best stretchy pants. Over a five day period, we hit all the cafés, distilleries, coffee shops and bistros we could. Through our research and plenty of eating, we've rounded up our favourite places to eat and drink in Virginia Beach.
Fine Dining Virginia Beach
Our Virginia Beach food adventure started off on the right foot at Terrapin. Located just a couple of blocks from our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn, we walked to Terrapin for a 6:30 pm seating. We expected it to be quiet with such an early dining time, but this place was hopping. Tables were filled with people ordering fresh seafood and drinking signature cocktails.
This award-winning restaurant is run by Chef Rodney Einhorn who honed his skills in New York and Aspen before returning to Virginia Beach to open Terrapin in 2006. I believe this is the restaurant that started the food movement in Virginia Beach and many of his employees have gone on to open their own restaurants around town.
When talking with Virginia Beach tourism, they say that it is a tight knit community that understands that working together can only raise the bar and bring more people to the area for fine dining experiences.
We had a huge tasting menu starting with the region's world famous oysters delivered fresh by Captain Chris Ludford. The meal continued with a seafood theme as Dave enjoyed juicy scallops while I savoured my sea bass with clams.
Terrapin: 3102 Holly Rd. Virginia Beach, VA 757-321-6688
We had worked up an appetite this day doing adventures around Virginia Beach, so when we arrived at Esoteric and ordered the biggest charcuterie board we've ever tasted, we knew we were in for a treat. I think we could have eaten that alone and been thrilled with our meals. But there was more to be had!
Housed in a 1920s-era building, Esoteric is a newer restaurant in Virginia Beach's ViBe Creative District. It serves up dozens of local craft brews on tap in the most unique way I've ever seen. All the taps jut out from the wall. I could have spent all night sampling but instead, we enjoyed two local favourites to go with our meals.
Dave went for the filet mignon. He said he hasn't had that good of a cut of meat in years. It was my turn for scallops tonight. The seafood in Virginia Beach is so fresh, that you have to sample it every chance you get.
The chef sent over fresh octopus for us to try, a house specialty and it did not disappoint. Like all the restaurants we ate at in Virginia Beach, Esoteric uses local ingredients following the farm to table formula. It also has its own on-site garden too!
Esoteric: 501 Virginia Beach Blvd., 757-822-6008
Breakfast and Brunch
3. Bay Local Eatery
When visiting First Landing State Park, a great spot to stop for breakfast is the locals’ favourite, Bay Local Eatery. It doesn't have lattes or cappuccinos, but it serves one of the best cups of coffee you'll ever taste. The portions are huge and the menu is unique specializing in creating locally inspired dishes from locally sourced ingredients. Like my eggs benedict with fried oysters and smoked bacon drizzled with hollandaise and fresh parmesan.
The atmosphere is relaxed and the service is excellent. With all that food in your belly, you'll be ready for a hike in the nearby State park.
Bay Local Eatery: 2917 Shore Dr., 757-227-4389
Everyone in Virginia Beach loves the Commune. It seemed all the locals asked us if we'd eaten there yet. Commune is a family style shared eatery where you pull up a chair to a large table or at the bar and order fresh food directly from the farm. It's claim to fame is being the area's first farmer-owned restaurant.
The food is hearty and the atmosphere is friendly. We loved the huge cappuccinos that went splendidly with our breakfast sandwiches. The owners run New Earth Farm in the Pungo farming community and they welcome visitors.
Commune: 501 Virginia Beach Blvd
5. Three Ships Coffee
Located in the heart of the ViBe Creative District, Three Ships Coffee is a funky local favourite just a short drive up from the beach. It's a superb alternative to Starbucks where you'll have cappuccinos made with great care and friendly customer service.
It's a small place with an even smaller menu, but the vibe is hip and you can take your coffee to go as you walk through the shops in the alley behind. You can tell that the clientele and the staff are artists at heart taking their time to create the perfect blend.
Three Ships Coffee 607 17th St
6. Java Surf
We were still hungry after stopping in at Three Ships and decided that it is more of a coffee shop rather than a full breakfast stop. But just down the road, we found a great breakfast spot with hearty meals and friendly service. They served lattes and cappuccinos too. If you are looking for something a little more filling than Three Ships, check this place out too.
7. The Bee & The Biscuit
The Pungo farming community is where much of Virginia Beach's local produce comes from. It's worth take a drive to this area to visit the Military Aviation Museum. While you are there, you must stop at the very cute The Bee & The Biscuit.
We popped in for a bite before visiting the Military Aviation Museum. Be prepared to wait, this place attracts a huge crowd. The outdoor waiting area is pleasant and its bar is filled with unique coffee drinks and morning cocktails.
The Bee & The Biscuit: 1785 Princess Anne Rd., 757-689-6243
Drinks in Virginia Beach
This post isn't just about dining, we called it where to eat and drink in Virginia Beach for a reason. There are amazing brew pubs, distilleries and bars in the city offering a fun night out.
Microbreweries and distilleries are popping up all over and there are a few great stops in Virginia Beach to wet your whistle.
8. The Chesapeake Bay Distillery
The Chesapeake Bay Distillery is located just a few buildings down from Commune and Esoteric. Stopping in for a tasting is an experience. We tasted their vodkas and cocktails that were to die for.
Their spiced vodka packs a punch but makes for the perfect base for a bloody Mary. We also enjoyed the vodka martini, but my personal favourite was just straight up neat.
The Chesapeake Bay Distillery: 437 Virginia Beach Blvd
9. Green Flash Brewery
The Green Flash Brewery is as much of an event as a tasting experience. When we pulled up kids were playing in the yard of the one-acre beer garden while parents sipped their brews at the many tables and outdoor seating areas.
Inside is a massive warehouse tasting room where you can choose from 30 beers on tap. We had to drive so we couldn't go crazy with a couple of pints, so we instead ordered a flight to taste as many options as possible in small and safe tasters. Dave's favourite was the stout.
Green Flash Brewery is a well-known San Diego-based micro-brewery that has opened its first location outside of California in Virginia Beach. Virginia's central location on the East Coast made it the perfect choice.
While you are there, you can grab a bite at the food truck parked right beside the beer garden. You don't even have to leave the licensed premises.
Green Flash Brewery: 1209 Craft Lane., 858-622-0085
10. Back Bay Brewing Company
Back Bay Brewing is another great place to sample flights of local beer. Hanging out on oversized picnic tables gives a friendly gathering feel as you sip flights or pints of their Atlantic Avenue IPA or Beach Cruiser Pale Ale.
Our favourite part of tasting beer in Virginia Beach was chatting with the locals, everyone was friendly and welcoming and when you add beer or spirits to the mix, it's a very fun time.
Back Bay Brewing: 614 Norfolk Avenue Virginia Beach (757) 531-7750
11. Commonwealth Brewing Company
Located in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay Beach, this brewery is worth a visit for its unique setting in a repurposed firehouse dating back to 1962. From Mexican Cerveza and IPA to darker Imperial Hopfenweizen and stouts, there are beers to satisfy any palate. Sadly for us, it was closed when we arrived, but it looks like the coolest spot in town to enjoy a pint.
Commonwealth Brewing Company: 2444 Pleasure House Rd., 757-305-9652
12. Back Bay Gourmet
This isn't a spot we'd typically choose had it not been on our suggested itinerary. Located in a strip mall, we would have driven right by it. But the Back Bay Gourmet surprised us when we walked through the door. A delightful shop with gifts and crafts on display at the front door instantly told us that great care is put into everything.
We choose a table by the window and enjoyed freshly baked sandwiches with house-made chips. It was huge and filling. The Back Bay Gourmet is a deli and bistro housing a coffee bar and bakery. You can eat in or take your food to go to enjoy at a nearby beach.
Back Bay Gourmet: Red Mill Walk – 2277 Upton Dr. #714, 757-689-0771)
13. Blue Pete’s
After an fun and easy paddle in the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge with Surf & Adventure, we ended at Blue Pete's. This eatery is another local favourite and by 5:30 pm the parking lot was already filled with cars. Located a little off the beaten path, it's a good choice to finish off an excursion like we did. Try their signature calamari lightly tossed with parmesan cheese and served with chili sauce. There's nothing better than parmesan with a bite.
Serving everything from crab, clams and oysters to seafood gumbo and coconut shrimp, you'll get your seafood on when you eat at Blue Pete's located directly on the canal.
Blue Pete's: 1400 N. Muddy Creek Rd
14. Bubba's Seafood Restaurant
Bubba's Seafood Restaurant has the best waterfront location in Virginia Beach. Located in the Chesapeake Bay Beach Bubba's is the first in a line of many seafood restaurants on the bay. Specializing in seafood it's a perfect spot to enjoy the sun after a day at the beach or visit to the First Landing State Park. And don't forget the beer! Over the past two years, Virginia Beach has had an emerging craft beer scene and many of the local restaurants serve these distinct brews.
Bubba's Seafood Restaurant: 3323 Shore Dr., 757-481-3513
15. Margie and Ray’s
Margie and Ray's has that old school feel that you just don't get anymore. Dave and I used to love going to local diners and you can still do that with this eatery. It doesn't look like it has changed one bit since opening in 1964. It's known as one of the top seafood diners in Virginia Beach and it was featured by Coastal Living as a Favourite Seafood Dive in Virginia.
Margie and Ray's: 1240 Sandbridge Rd., 757-426-2397
Leaping Lizard Cafe
The Leaping Lizard Café was featured on the Food Network’s “”Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” and we had to give it a try. It's an interesting little spot located on the busy Shore Drive where apparently chickens roam free. We didn't see them this time, but it definitely had that vibe about it.
The food is exactly what you'd expect from a dive-and-diners type show. It's big, it's hearty and it's greasy. But oh so delicious. Like so many other places in Virginia Beach, The Leaping Lizard uses local produce and fresh garden vegetables.
Leaping Lizard Cafe: 4408 Shore Dr., 757-460-5327
We barely scratched the surface of all the great dining and drinking establishments in Virginia Beach. With the fresh farm to table movement and craft and microbrews popping up all the time, Virginia Beach will soon be one of the great foodie cities in America. What impressed us about Virginia Beach was how much thought and care goes into conservation and preservation. They are working towards rebuilding their oyster coral beds and oyster farming is thriving as we learned from our oyster tour with Captain Chris Ludford.
Most restaurants are very particular about sourcing only locally grown produce and locally farmed animals. They care about the food they serve their customers and create little environmental impact while utilizing only the freshest and purest ingredients. With this kind of passion by both the chefs and suppliers, you can be sure to have a world class dining experience when you visit Virginia Beach.