I'm sorry folks, but I would have to disagree with the opinion of Luna Maya.
It was recently reviewed in the Daily Press, as well as featured on the cover of HR Monthly. Both entities lavished praise upon the ingeuity and depth of cookery to be found here... of course, the next meal I had out with friends, we paid them a visit.
The decor was wonderful, our server was an absolute gem (and very good-looking to boot). I wasn't *incredibly* hungry that night, and had my mouth set upon a nice, warm side dish of veggies. While I didn't see vegetables listed as a side item, they were included with almost every dish. When the server arrived, I asked if they could simply get me a plate of vegetables.
"I'm so sorry," he said, "she doesn't do ANY vegetables on the side..." I was rather stricken... I didn't particularly want meat or beans (I'm rather averse to the little legumes), but didn't want to merely sit and watch my companions chow down either. I finally requested two soft tortilla shells and a dish of their hottest salsa.
When our meals arrived, my shells were placed with somebody else's order. A bit of re-shuffling had everybody's plate's assigned correctly. I realized my salsa was still incognito. I flagged down the (now super-busy) waiter to request my salsa.
My companions dug in. A vegetarian burrito was said to be quite tasty. A quesadillas grande wasn't so grande... I've made larger testaments to hispanic-style cooking in my own humble little kitchen. They were adequate. An abundant dish of Chicken Enchildas were deemed absolutely delicous: lightly spiced, according to the orderer of the dish, and 'oh my god, my mouth is on FIRE', according to the one who leaned over for just a taste.
My salsa arrived... it was very thin, almost watery. A hint of chile beckoned at my nose, but disappointed my tongue. Barely flavoured, and without vegetable chunks, I was quite disappointed as a whole.
All in all... the service was excellent, prices reasonable, my own attempt at ordering/my thin, sad salsa both let me down immensely. Still, I would certainly go back again, as long as I had my mouth set on a large portion of meaty/bean-y food.
On the other hand, I would HIGHLY recommend either Crackers or Empire. Both are small tapas-style bars that are absolutely incredible. Try the sashimi. I have it every time I go.
821 W 21st St
Norfolk VA, 23517
Empire Little Bar & Bistro
245 Granby St., Suite A,
You can check out pics of the Luna Maya meal, as well as Empire's sashimi (and various tapas) in my Dining Out photo album:
I haven't been to Crackers or Empire but... I do go for drinks at Empire since it's nearly a NY style lounge...if only he'd make it darker and put a bit better tunes on. When I look at the menu tho, Tapas isn't the word that comes to mind. I'd call it "A RANDOM ASSORTMENT OF APPETIZER TYPE SMALL PLATES FROM RANDOM MENUS AROUND THE WORLD". Now that being said, they may be delicious and I will eat there in two weeks.
Crackers I never heard of so thanks!
What I've discovered:
La Bella Italia on Laskin Road, 1 mile from the Beach. Anna makes everything homemade, from the pasta to the mozz, nothing compares down here.
Doumars, a good old fashioned car-hop in Norfolk, whose original owner is the man who invented the icecream machine. Great limeade, bbq with slaw, and BLT's too die for (tho the bacon is deep fried i think).
Wild Monkey in Ghent. It's just very good, esp for down here. Oyster Stew is my rec.
For New Yorkers Havana on Granby street is the closest you can come to an nyc experience.
Coastel Grill, next to the other Havana in Va Beach is excellent. Great great fish.
Oysters down here are blah. Great mouth feel as far as size and plumpness etc, but not much liquor, very gritty, and not bursting with fresh ocean brinynees.
Soft shells are in season. Can't wait for crabs....
re: Joe Santa Maria
re: Pat Hammond
Thanks for the kind words, Pat. Just a little more info, as you seem interested in my rants. Bella Monte is probably better for lunch, as their sandwiches are fab, and the bacon wrapped shrimp are nice, too. A nice place to pick up a beach picnic, for sure, and they have a nice gift shop/wine shop as well, with some interesting selections, including some rare Barolos and a few nice ports.
501 City Grill would probably be better for dinner, as the selection of more "serious" food is better. If I remember correctly, It is about 2 blocks off Laskin, a mile or so from the beach. Definitely better food than at those "all you can eat" prime rib and crab joints along the water, and popular with locals.
Try Todd Jurich's Bistro. I had a good meal there, but cannot remember what I ate. There are several places on Granby Street downtown. That area is sort of seeing a rebirth. Everything in Ghent is kind of ordinary, but Magnolia's on Colley Avenue makes a great Ceasar and Steak.
I second the nomination for Todd Jurich's Bistro, which is arguably the best restaurant in all of Norfolk.
In response to the statement that "Everything in Ghent is kind of ordinary", try the No Frill Grill on Spotswood Avenue. They usually have some excellent chalkboard specials. I enjoyed a wonderful Rockfish there the other night. This restaurant prides itself on its service and quality and has become an annual "Golden Fork" winner.
Another winner in Ghent is Luna Maya, located in the small shopping center at the intersection of 21st Street and Colonial Avenue. Their Pumpkin & Chipolte Chile Soup is wonderful, and their delicious gourmet burritos are guaranteed to fill you up. They make a wonderful Margarita, called a "Margatini", with real chipolte chile salt around the rim of the glass.
Definitly a hearty second to the recommendation of Luna Maya!! One of my absolute favorites! They use over 25 different types of chili peppers and not a single sauce tastes the same. They also use a chicken charizzo sausage that is out of this world!
Another great find is Zia Marie in the Chix Beach section of Virginia Beach, only about 15 - 20 minutes out of downtown Norfolk. A small Italian bistro with center fireplace. Good wine list- delicious traditional italian fairly cheap. We've tried almost everything on the menu and never been disappointed. Be sure to try one of their salad specials. Another tip- they make incredible pizza, but only to go. Phone it in or wait in the bar and then take it home.