Roanoke, VA Chow
Can anyone report on the Roanoke, VA (and surrounding area) chow scene? Any good eats? Any diversity? Can you get decent sushi, Thai, Chinese, or Mexican? Decent bistros or bakeries? Any chefs cooking seasonal meals using local ingredients?
If you're up for an adventure (rather than an excellent gourmet meal) try the Greenwood Family restaurant in Troutville, just north of town on US 11. Family owned and filled with locals. The menu is tricky--a few good dishes (the pan fried chicken is pretty good) mixed with a few lame ones (skip the open faced roast beef or turkey sandwiches). This is a place to go if you like simple food and friendly (but reserved) local folks. Be polite, don't roll your eyes at the decor, and be happy places like this still exist in the world. Open breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
For out of the way authentic Mexican, try El Mexicano, 3604 Shanendoah Ave; follow Peters Creek from Hershberger, Cross Salem Tpk, go left on Shenandoah, on R. (540) 343-3023. Not even a little fancy, but it's the real deal.
Franki Roland's on the corner of Salem and Jefferson, downtown, is a great, but smaller, steak house, a la Morton's or Ruth's Chris. I've never been disappointed for business entertaining.
Another great fine dining venue is the Regency Room at the Hotel Roanoke. This is a grand old hotel, currently a Doubletree. In addition to an excellent dinner menu, the Sunday brunch is a good deal.
El Mexicano is out of business. There are two authentic spots in town that I know of... one in Vinton (don't know the name) and one on Melrose Ave (El Charlie and Familia ?). Both are really neighborhood market - slash - luncheonettes. Fairly rustic, but both are very good. The salsa (one green and one red) at El Charlie are fantastic.
Good news... El Mexicano is back and better than ever. They re-opened after rennovations as a buffet-style restaurant.
They serve what I consider home-style foods. The proprietor tells me it is Guadalajara-style. He says that this style is common in southern Mexico and California while the food that is common to northern Mexico is also prevalent in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
I sampled the weekday buffet and it was very good. A couple of mildly spiced selections and a couple of dishes that had a bite to them. He also served "crispy tacos" which were a spoonful of meat in a folded tortilla that was deep fried and then tossed in a spicy sauce. Like a giant fried won ton served Buffalo-style. They were great.
Presumably the Saturday and Sunday buffet is much larger. I plan to return and soon.
There is a lot of different restaurants within the area and new ones that are opening up. Table 50 is new to the area in the downtown area. Also for Sushi look to Tokyo Japanese Restaurant www.tokyojapaneserestaurant.net/ or Ben Gui Sushi(new by Tanglewood area), and the Sake House in Salem.
Check out http://www.roanoke.com/entertainment/...
for some of the reviews of restaurants locally and leave your own impression after you've been there!
I'll have to admit, if you want atmosphere I'll agree with dsorgnzd about Texas Tavern (the millionaires club!).
Carlos' Brazilian is the best restaurant in town (Tanglewood area).
Norbertos for Italian (Grandin Area). Run by a Brazilian, but still the best Italian.
The Wildflour Cafe in South Roanoke has an on-premises bakery and has vegetarian leanings. Very good. Neighborhood feel and very casual.
Hollywood's near Hollins College is a former Wildflour Cafe that was sold to a good manager. He has added to the menu (lots of seafood). Bread is probably from the original Wildflour Cafe. Good food - very popular and overpriced.
Another Sushi (the one I patronize) is Sake House (Lakeside area). Always good.
Forget about Chineese food in Roanoke. If you just gotta, gotta have it, one of several Szechuan locations is as good as it gets.
Forget about El Rodeo, El Toreo or El Viejo for Mexican. Again, unless you just have a craving for the pedestrian Tex-Mex. And there is nothing wrong with that. I eat it and enjoy it. But I would not claim it to be any better than any other and in fact is nowhere near as good as what you would find in Houston, etc. In that case, it is as good as any.
There are several small (funky) authentic Mexican Restaurants in Roanoke. I won't get into details, since you would probably never find them.
The Thai restaurant on Salem Avenue (downtown) is good.
Jeffery's is a Louisiana style joint on the Market, right down to the nasty up-keep. Food is decent.
The lunch and brunch buffets at the Hotel Roanoke are good, especially if you like dessert. Don't forget to try the peanut soup.
And the Market building (downtown) is GREAT for lunch. Lots of vendors with a variety that will satisfy the widest range of interests. Lately, I am on a Cuban jag. Try the Ropa Vieja (kind of like a Cuban pot roast) and add the hot sauce. Great pizza, burgers, barbeque, entree salads, sandwiches, sushi, pasta, etc. at various stalls in the building.
You can find just about anything you're looking for in Roanoke. We have great Thai, Indian (Nawab), Chinese (Szechuan or Red Palace), Mexican (Rancho Viejo or El Toreo are the best), and yes, even sushi (Tokyo, Ben Gui, or Metro!). One of Roanoke's best (and most popular) restaurants is a Brazilian Restaurant called Carlos (www.carlosbrazilian.com).
We do have a few bistro-style restaurants. Trio Wine Bar and Bistro (www.triowinebar.com) is new to the scene with excellent food and an extensive wine list. Spoon On the Avenue (www.spoonontheavenue.com)is also great.
A number of chefs are cooking with local/seasonal ingredients - Wertz's on the Market, Stephen's (www.stephensrestaurant.com), Jeffery's, Martin's Downtown Bar & Grill, Fork In the Alley (www.forkinthealley.com), Metro! (www.metroroanoke.com), etc. Almost any restaurant downtown takes advantage of the farmer's market.
I would not recommend Fork In the Alley. Stopped by this evening and was so disgusted, we had to refuse the food and leave. Silverware had chucks of food on it upon being unwrapped, wine delivered to my wife with lipstick already on the glass, and absolutely the rudest staff I have ever experienced in the Roanoke area. There was not a manager present, but I am contemplating tracking down the owner to let him/her know about our experience. I would hope this would be of concern. Rude/Poor service, total lack of any hospitality skills, dirty - no make that disgustingly dirty tables, silverware, glasses - and I mean chunks of foods, etc.. I have already contacted the Roanoke City/VDH inspectors and they will be conducting an inspection, hopefully unnanounced so that this place gets cleaned up.
Other than this, it has great potential to be a wonderful dining experience, great outdoor seating area, although we passed due to the humidity. Inside is unique with great woodwork and layout.
The food, although I refused to accept it by the time it arrived, appeared to be nothing special, if not overcooked, straight from a Sam's Club box.
I am usually not this outspoken, and try to find the positive, however the experience tonight was ridiculous for any business that hopes to retain return customers.. I hope your experience is better.
I lived in Roanoke for 19 years, but never cared to eat sushi so I can't help you there.
Try the Wildflour, which has its own bakery and sells loaves of the same bread they serve with their meals. There are several locations; the one adjacent to Hollins U. is not under the same ownership as the others, so the menu may be different. http://www.igougo.com/travelcontent/j...
Also, Four Nineteen West.
Deli: The New Yorker.
For Mexican: the various locations of El Rodeo were good, in my limited experience.