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All over VA for 1

Hi y'all,

I'm being relocated to Norfolk next month. My boyfriend has been living there since July and we have a place, so I have Norfolk scoped out pretty well.

I'm in sales and will be traveling all over VA, MD and DC very regularly. I'd love any suggestions in VA -- Richmond, Charlottesville, Alexandria, etc.

Most of the time I'll be dining alone, I don't mind eating in a dining room or at the bar. I love all kinds of ethnic foods. My budget is decent, $35 for dinner, $20 for lunch, $10 for breakfast. I'm not so worred about breakfast places, but if you have one that I shouldn't miss, pass it on.

I love funky places with character. What do you think?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Near where I-81 and I-64 intersect (Staunton, VA) - you can get a great breakfast, lunch or dinner at Mrs. Rowe's restaurant (it's on the rt. 250 east exit). Family-owned, friendly people. Busy on weekend nights and Sunday dinner.

    In Charlottesville, there's an interesting little Brazilian restaurant called Copacabana (on Rt. 29 north, in Shopper's World shopping center). Also we have enjoyed Northern Exposure, near the university, if it's still there. Lots of great eating on the pedestrian mall too, but access and parking can be a pill.

    If you go for German food, Bavarian Chef on 29 north (Madison, Va.) is excellent. A great destination dinner.

    1. THE Best breakfast place is in Petersburg, Va ( 30 min s. of Richond)on Crater Rd....it is called the Yankee and they have the BEST pancakes this side of heaven...Plus their sausage is to die for...

      It is a little Greek owned place that has been there over 25 yrs....

      And for BBQ- THE best BBQ place (outside of Sonny Bryants in Dallas TX) is KINGS BBQ--also on Crater Rd in Petersburg.
      Their Sliced OUTSIDE cut BBq is FABULOUS as are their ONION rings ( fresh NOT frozen) and homemade APPLE pie..

      Go for it..!

      1. Horne's in Port Royal(excellent breakfast) . Carl's custard in Fredericksburg. Five Guys, started in Alexandria, now its all over VA. excellent fries and cheeseburgers its also in Charlottesville downtown (historic part). GOOGLE choppedonion.com for more places, pictures and reviews. Also try Wright's Dairy Rite in Staunton, VA. Wright's is on the website, plus about 10 other places around Virginia. Hope this helps. Also try Pig and Steak in Madison, VA. good BBQ.

        1. Thanks so much for the recs so far. Any other ideas for Richmond and Charlottesville? How about closer to the District?


          1 Reply
          1. re: geg5150

            In C-ville, try Bizou, which is right on the mall. Surprisingly good and interesting food at low prices in a funky/diner-esque setting. Duners, which is a bit of a drive from there, is also a fun little place. Chandlers soft serve ice cream is great - only open in the warm months, family run, just off the bypass.

          2. In Richmond:

            Mamma Zu (Oregon Hill) for great Italian. Great menu with interesting items you'd never see at the Olive Garden (hissssss). You can eat at the bar there.

            Comfort (Downtown) for great southern comfort food (great squash cassarole and mac and cheese among the sides).

            Zuppa (Shockoe Bottom) for great homemade soups and sandwiches.

            Sumo-san (Shockoe Bottom) for creative Asian fusion and a fun, friendly owner.

            Buz and Ned's (on Boulevard between I-64 and Broad St) for Texas BBQ.

            Can Can (Carytown), a French brasserie, with some great dishes, good service, and a great ambiance. Not stuffy or pretentious.

            Pho So 1 (West End) for good pho and other Vietnamese dishes. Great value.

            Pomegranate (Shockoe Slip), another small place we like that has interesting dishes in a comfy setting

            Kuba Kuba (Fan) for good Cuban dishes and great Cuban coffee. Great cozy and fun atmosphere. They have a counter you can eat at.

            China Star (Innsbrook), great Chinese food, probably the most authentic we've found in town. Not to be confused with China Pearl which is located near to China Star but totally sucks in comparison.

            That should start you off anyway. Happy New Year!

            1. Very good Richmond list. I would favor Edo's Squid over Mamma Zu's because they do take reservations and credit cards (to the original poster, they are owned by the same people). I also would add Millie's Diner on Main St (milliesdiner.com) to the list for both lunch and dinner.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                Yeah! Definitely add Millie's! They also have a counter! Great for breakfast as well.

                I'll go to Edo's Squid if we have a large party when a reservation is essential or the timing is such that we can't get to Mamma Zu before 6:30pm (1-hr wait then ensues). However despite the nicer setting it find it is extremely difficult to carry on a conversation because of the exposed brick walls. It gets SO loud in there.

                And one can use a credit card at Mamma Zu...if it's AMEX.

              2. Thanks y'all. I'm really looking forward to exploring a new part of the country.

                Now the tough question, coming from Phoenix, I get some fabulous and authentic Mexican. Any suggestions for that? Perhaps I'll have better luck in DC?

                Thanks again!

                1 Reply
                1. re: geg5150

                  Mmmmm, tough call. I'm originally from SoCal and have not found any decent Mexican here in Richmond. I've been told there are a couple of places on Hull Street south of the James River that are pretty good. One is called La Milpa I think. If you go definitely post a review! I'll do likewise.

                2. THE BEST and most Authentic Mexican is in COLONIAL HEIGHTS,VA ( 25 min drive from downtown Richmond)...
                  It is called DON JOSE's and there are a few in town but the COL.HGTS one is THE BEST as you will be able to tell from the long lines.....It is on The Boulevard in Col. Hgts.

                  Their red dipping salsa is GREAT and if you want it hotter, they bring out the hot green sauce- also you can also for chopped cilantro ( if you want to add more to their sauce)..

                  THE Shrimp fajitas are terrific...also the ChoriPollo-Chorizo and chicken in a spicy sauce is FANTASTIC-- I have not seen it on any other Mexican rest. menu ( other than the Don Jose places)....The Quesdilla Ranchero is Killer...

                  Service in Col. Hts is TERRIFIC---and the kitchen always sends out HOT food-

                  We ate at another Don Jose's tonite in Chester ( it is the newest one- and while closer to our home, it is NO WHERE near a good --food arrived lukewarm although the plates were burning.When the mgr came over, he insisted NO ONE ever complained...We told him we were going back to the COL HGTS DON JOSES as they were more efficient and the food was ALWAYS good! He could have cared less...So it's back to COL HGTS DON JOSE's and their excellent waitstaff and terrific kitchen..

                  GO- as my Mexican friend who visited told me " it's the closest thing to Mexican that he has had since Texas"..

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Andy

                    I live in Los Angeles, but my sister lives just outside of Richmond. I visit several times a year and the #1 breakfast place on my list is Millies!!! MOST Amazing breakfast. I usually like to make it my last meal in VA, just before I head to the airport. The last time, I had a soft egg scramble with lobster,mushrooms,bacon, tomatoes covered in hollandaise~ OH my! Their home fries ROCK too!!

                    As for Mexican, you really can't find "great" classic mexican. But in Midlothian (Just outside of Richmond) is a wonderful little place called Pescado's (13124 Midlothian Tpke). Excellent steaks & seafood all with a mexican flair. Make sure you order the saffron potato cakes.. DELISH!

                    1. re: jennlynn318

                      The best brunch dish at Millie's IMO is the Devil's Mess. And at Pescados (which is good but can be inconsistent) the crab nachos are wonderful.

                  2. Richmond:
                    3rd Street Diner (Downtown near library/YWCA): greasy spoon, kick-in-the-pants home fries and greasy cheeseburgers 24 hours a day)
                    MeKong (W. Broad: phenomenal Vietnamese, but park in the rear, the jealous convenience store next door seems to have monopoly on parking)
                    Caribbean House (VCU: authentic Jamaican and Caribbean jerks and curries, beef patties, etc.)
                    Ukrops Grill (All over: ribeye steak sandwich with cheddar and grilled onions)

                    Breakfast: The Tavern (across from Barracks Road shopping center. I admittedly haven't been in years, but phenomenal pancakes.
                    Miller's Fried Chicken (Near Thai 99, which is also superb). Little takeout joint with amazing fried yardbird. Always a wait behind hungry students and locals)
                    Northern Exposure

                    Hurricane Cafe (Boonsboro Shopping Center: the definitive Cheesy Western. Gumbo to die for. Grouper sandwiches. Cash only if out-of-towner)
                    Breakfast at Farmer's Market: Enter market, turn right, order.
                    Mitchells Store: Fried chicken
                    Isabella's: Old Forest Road. Superb pizzas, upper-end Italian for dinner. Sandwich and soup board for dinner
                    Tlaquepaque (Timberlake Road and Rt. 221. Rt. 221 location favorite among those who know true Mexican food. Try the Chimichanga Costenas if you're not full from fresh chips and salsa)

                    I could go on, but email me if you want more.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: brandonink2001

                      I have to make a note about 3rd Street Diner as it's had some serious issues with the Health Department during the past year. Might be safer to go around the corner to 4th Street Cafe or over to 5th and Franklin to Penny Lane Pub, with decent English pub food. Tell the owner you're a Liverpool fan and he might buy you a pint!

                      I also used to like Mekong a lot but noticed that it has gone downhill in a big way since the end of last summer. Then I found out that much of the staff had left and opened another restaurant, Da Lat, farther west down Broad Street. I have yet to go there but it's on my list. I now prefer Pho So 1 which is nearby, behind Full Kee (another good restaurant) on Horsepen Road.

                    2. I'm from Texas and a good mexican place, probably more TEX-MEX, is Austin Grill. They have a few places in the DC area.

                      1. Hi y'all! Thanks much for the continued suggestions! I'll just be printing this list and taking it with me when I'm on the road.

                        1. CHARLOTTESVILLE IDEAS:

                          Zocalo (www.zocalo-restaurant.com) on the Downtown Mall has higher end latin in a great atmosphere. Dinner only. Entress $18-25, and you can make a meal of the sides.

                          Continental Divide on Main Street has really good upscale southwestern food (like seared tuna tostada with black bean and goat cheese puree) and something like 40 tequilas. Average entrees $9-15. Dinner Only.

                          Ten is a new sushi fusion place Downtown. Dinner only. Ten is above Blue Light Grill (don't go there) and you can treat yourself to a spicey tuna roll and lobster tempura without breaking the bank. Ordering a al carte gets expensive.

                          Christian's Pizza on the Downtown Mall has excellent options for not a lot of money ($2-6). Try the avocado feta slice or the steak calzone. Open 11am-10pm.

                          Durty Nelly's just off Route 29 near UVA has the best specialty deli sandwiches in town. It has a dive bar attached with odd local charm. Open 11am-9pm.

                          Marco and Luca on the Downtown Mall has dumplings for only $2.50 and they are delicious. Lunch and dinner.

                          Bodo's Bagels (on the UVA Corner, on 29 North, and on Preston Avenue) is an excellent breakfast or lunch option and costs less than $5. Fresh bagels and bagel sandwiches. Don't worry if there' a line. The locals know it moves very quickly.

                          Bizou is a great spot for comfort food. Shebeen is great South African. St. Maarten Cafe has great wings, burgers, and all around American food. La Cucina has good Italian. All are open for both lunch and dinner.

                          No really good BBQ, Chinese, or Indian in town, unfortunately. There are plenty of middle-of-the-road options.

                          1. Thanks Mojoeater! I appreciate the tips.

                            1. I start my first trip around VA tomorrow. I'll be in Williamsburg, Richmond, Charlottesville on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then on up to Manassas on Wednesday. I'll be in DC Wednesday and Thursday and coming home on Friday through Fredricksburg. I'll taking this list with me.

                              Did ya think of anything else I can add?