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Hampton Roads, VA: Where should we eat next?

I just moved here in October and need to try some new restaurants.
Some places we've been so far:

Cora: for brunch. Loved it. But, why don’t they serve booze anymore?
723 W 21st St, Norfolk

Aw Shucks: Thought it was pretty tasty, the 1/2 oyster poboy is a steal at $6.
Really enjoyed their York River oysters as well. 2200 Colonial Avenue, Norfolk

The Boot: Regretted it. I really wanted to like it, the room is great, the servers are nice, great beer selection... but the food left A LOT to be desired. Maybe we went too soon after they opened and they hadn’t worked out their recipes yet. I don’t know, it wasn’t good. My food was shockingly salty, the boyfriends food tasted good but came with half of the expected ingredients. Not a good experience. 123 W. 21st St Norfolk

Luna Maya: my food was FANTASTIC (tamales), boyfriend didn’t like his at all (enchiladas), chips and salsa were pretty bad, I think they buy their chips from the dollar store across the street or something. I thought it was a little pricey for what it is. Also, the room is terrible. 2000 Colonial Ave. Norfolk

Rajput: I like their buffet selection, lots of vegetarian stuff. I’m not a vegetarian but I prefer the meatless choices with Indian food. Excellent pudding with big chunks of mango in it. SO good. 742 W, 21st St, Norfolk

Cogans: pretty good, cheap booze. I like their plain old pizza better than the fancy ones they make. The breadsticks they serve are awesome. 1901 Colonial Ave, Norfolk

The Taphouse: Had an awesome portobella sandwich and some crazy eggrolls. Hillbilly Eggrolls? Redneck eggrolls? I don’t know what they were called, but they were good. I’d been there to drink before (great beer selection) but I had no idea their food was so tasty. 931 W. 21st Street Norfolk

Veneziano: Oh man, I really liked this place. It is a totally old school red sauce joint, cheap carafes of cheapo wine. I had cheese manicotti that was fantastic. My serving was enough for about 300 people but it tasted great reheated the next day. My boyfriend had veal marsala. He liked it alright, it was made differently than he expected so he was disappointed but it tasted great. Their soup was minestrone and I loved it. It’s not really a special occasion kind of place but it’s perfect for a great meal on the cheap.
4024 Granby Street, Norfolk

Philly Style Steaks & Subs: Just stopped in on Monday for lunch. Really tasty. Are they authentic cheesesteaks? I have no idea, I’ve never been to Philly. But, they taste great. 7456 Tidewater Drive in Norfolk

Havana: awesome, I had paella, boyfriend had a tuna steak, we had an appetizer but I don’t remember what it was. Everything was good however. Very tasty mojitos.
255 Granby St Norfolk

Pho 79: This place has become my fallback dinner joint. The atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired but the food is great. Love their spring rolls. I blame their Pho for curing me of a two week headcold that I couldn’t get rid of. Ate Pho, got better. Love it. Dirt Cheap.
4816 Virginia Beach Blvd, Virginia Beach

Smokey Bones: I just shuddered as I typed the name. Bad, bad, bad. Big mistake. I should have known we were in trouble when we walked in and didn’t smell the “barbeque” cooking. I don’t usually bother with chains but every once in a while, they surprise you. Smokey Bones is not in that category. 4590 Virginia Beach Blvd, Virginia Beach

Ensenada: Didn’t care for it. I’ve heard good things but my food didn’t really taste like anything at all, the service was sub par. Eh. 2824 Virginia Beach Blvd, Virginia Beach

Kotobuki: in Ghent, the dressing on their house salad is awesome, the sushi is really fresh and the service is great. I read some online reviews saying it was overpriced but I thought that for what you get, it is pretty reasonable. 721 W 21st St, Norfolk

Domo: No good. Got carry-out for lunch last week, I thought it was kind ofoverpriced and all of my sushi tasted kind of watery. I'd rather Kotobuki anyday. 273 Granby St Norfolk

Speaking of lunch, Granby St Pizza is pretty good. Try the Italian Flag slice. The guy who works there (Owner? Boss?) at lunchtime is really nice as well. 235 Granby St., Norfolk

Minnie Lumpia: I really dug this place. We were the only customers, Minnie was ridiculously nice, the Lumpia were excellent. When we go back, I might get a different dish and a lumpia on the side. We both had a lumpia dinner and it was a little deep fried heavy for me. But, it tasted great. 4515 Colley Ave., Norfolk

We’ve been to a bunch more places but I can’t recall some names at the moment. We really like ethnic food of all kinds, I’ll try just about anything. We need some variety though. Cheap lunch? Fancy lunch? Lunch when mom comes to town? Good bar food? Fancy dinner? Weekday dinner? Where else can we go?

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  1. Hey there...I've been bi-coastal between Phoenix and Norfolk for 6 months. I'm be in Noroflk permanently next month. You have a great list going, I'll be sure to try some. We live in downtown Norfolk, and we love Empire Little Bar and Bistro. It's on the corner of Tazewell & Granby. Empire is small plates, the menu changes quarterly or so and they have specials every night. We can usually get out of there for $60 or so for two of us with a drink each. It's a tiny place and it can get very busy. I think there are only 5 tables or so and then the bar. Interesting twists on classic things and lots of fun stuff. Pulled pork tostadas, tomato/mozz/basil stacked salad, fried rice, asparagus with sesame oil and seeds, garlic green beans, a 4 oz filet on the special every night with a different sauce and potato for $9!

    Cora is closed I just heard.

    I went to AW Shucks for the first time last month and really enjoyed it.

    I agree with your assessement of Cogans, I like the basic pie and cheap beer. Fun for a cheap date night.

    I'm disappoint about your Domo experience, I'd heard good things, so I was hoping for something pretty good.

    The Thai place on Colonial, I think it's Colonial is pretty good, but pricey for Thai food. I think it's called Siam 21 or something like that...I think it's in the same shopping center at Rajput.

    I like Top Ten in Ghent, next to the laudromat. Great for a quick lunch or carry out. Nice sandwhiches, veggie options. The service is a little quirky, but the food is tasty.

    We should continue to compare notes since we're both new to the area. Where did you move from?

    1 Reply
    1. re: geg5150

      Came out here from Chicago in October..
      I forgot about the Ten Top, they have great soup. We've been to Empire for drinks but no food yet. I heard that it was the sister restaurant to Crackers on 21st, right by where I live, also haven't eaten there yet.
      I can't believe Cora closed! It was the first place we went when we got here and their food was great. Then again, we took the boyfriends sister for brunch about 2 weeks ago and we were the only table for most of our meal. Too bad.
      We've got a whole slew of places we've been intending on going to. Parallel 36 on Granby, Bobbywood is supposed to be pretty rad, I read a good review in the Pilot about a place called Zinc that sounded good. There is an Indian place way out in the beach that we've tried to go to like, 3 times, and everytime it has been closed.. Argh
      I have been to the Thai place next to Rajput and I agree, expensive. I really like the new place downtown. Rama Thai? or Rama Garden? The name is escaping me. I went boring and got pad thai with chicken and loved it. Great prices, great menu, lots of crazy Thai stuff I haven't had before. Wasn't expecting much from Doumar's and was pleasantly surprised. I wandered over there while my car was getting worked on, went in and sat at the counter. Great experience. The food is pretty good, I think I could eat about 9 of their little sandwiches. The atmosphere is cool though. All these people who I'd imagine have been going there since they were kids. I liked it. It made me happy.

    2. I've lived here for a while now and eaten at a lot of restaurants so I hope I can help.

      Bardo is my favorite, I think. Really good, talented chef and amazing, relaxing atmosphere. it has an interesting, creative, Asian and Indian inspired small plates menu and a great bar menu. It is suitable for a special occasion or casual, lunch or dinner and doesn't have to be that pricey.

      Rom Thai in Ward's Corner and the new one downtown on Granby, Rama Gargen, are both great. "Everbody's" favorite Thai is Bangkok Garden but I think it is over rated compared to those two. I've never eaten at Siam 21 (on 21st St near Rajput).

      I was really dissapointed in Bodega - tapas downtown on Granby which alot of people like - but i heard they revamped so i want to try it again.

      There is usually something for everyone at Crackers and its sister restaurant Empire. You can tell i like the "small plate" places! oh, but go before 9 if you have an aversion to smoke!
      Taste Unlimited has some good sandwiches and Quenna's Cafe - on the second floor of the Health Food Center on Colley has great sandwiches, wraps and stuff.

      You MUST go to Charlie's if you haven't been there yet. it is the best divey diner ever! It's on Granby somewhere beteen 17th and 19th near Organic Food Depot. It's only opened from 7am-2pm or something and gets really busy on weekends. Their potatoes are the best!
      Yogo's as the best bagels on the planet! They also have a very thoughtful vegan friendly menu. Unfortunately their coffee kind of sucks though but Elliot's Fairgrounds is a wonderful coffehouse with a great funky atmosphere and, i believe, only organic, fairtrade coffee. it is appropiately right across the street from aweful starbucks.

      Granby North - at the Ocean View end of Granby St - has a grest weekend brunch. Try the jalepeno grit cakes!
      The Baker's Crust is okay. They do a breakfast/brunch thing on weekends and even have a crepe bar.

      Terrapin is great for very expensive special occassion.
      http://terrapinvirginiabeach.com.

      The Fat Canary in Williamsburg is a similar atmosphere to Terrapin with great food.

      The Bardo people recently opened Parrallel 36 on Granby in Riverview that I've been waning to try

      Speaking of Riverview - the coffee at the Riverview Coffee Parlour is horrible. 7-11 has better coffee.

      I haven't really found any good, authentic Mexican here except for a couple of greasy little Taquerias in and near Ocean View. I heard there is a great baja style taqueria out near Lynnhaven Mall.

      There is a seafood shop on Ocean View Ave that has good fish sanwiches, hushpuppies, fish tacos and she-crab soup.

      Azar's is good, I'm sure you've tried it already.

      There's a Turkish place in Chesapeake that is suppossed to be good.

      can't think of anything else too exciting right now.

      give the boot another shot and look out for the new Vietnamese place where Cora was.

      10 Replies
      1. re: jjb75

        The baja style taqueria place you are referring to is prob Baja Fresh. It is a chain out on the West Coast, but so far, it the only place that serves salsa verde and salsa roja. Heard good things about taqueria san jose, haven't tried it yet though.

        1. re: cosmofoodie

          no. the one to which i'm referring is NOT a chain. it's been down there a lot longer than the the "baja fresh" that you're talking about and i think it's much further down on lynhaven. i think it's Taqueria San Jose.

          1. re: jjb75

            A small taco place opened up on Independence in VB called Diego Taco Shop. If you like southern california style taco joints (24 hrs or taco trucks type of stuff), this place is as close as you are going to find. too bad its not open late like those on the west coast.

            1. re: cosmofoodie

              Sorry to say Diego's is gone. I really am pessimistic about the ability of decent Mexican food to make it here -- the places that just serve Taco Bell on a plate (Guadalajara, Plaza Azteca, etc.) do well. The places that serve something better (Diego's, Pancho Villa's, even Baja Fresh!) die. That said, if you want authentic Mexican, made with fresh ingredients, then try El Rey Taqueria -- Chesapeake Blvd at Bay View, in Ocean View.

              1. re: 23451bum

                I'm in agreement with you 23451 - Virginia Beach has an abundance of McMexicano Cuisine; however, for a really fresh taco, I like GRINGO's on Norfolk Avenue near the oceanfront.

                For tasteful Latin Cuisine, Vivian & Karla (sisters/owners) of LUNA MAYA offer a nice menu (in Ghent).

                My favorite create-your-own burrito bar - MACHISMO's with the freshest ingredients in downtown & it's walking distance to my new pad!

                1. re: JayVaBeach

                  well, #1 -- I am not paying $6 each for fish tacos, so Gringo's is out. Pelon's at the north end is a better choice. #2 -- as much as I have enjoyed Luna Maya, having been raised on weekly Mexican food, Luna Maya isn't a weekly place. Too upscale. El Rey is more like it -- it is all fresh, with heart and soul in every plate. I just have to go there when my wife is out of town. Too hole in the wall for her!

                  1. re: 23451bum

                    Typically the hole in the wall is the top shelf. As a child (we're talking 70s), my dentist was in the Pembroke One building & afterwards my Mother & I went to El Toro for lunch , which was in a strip center where the Schwinn Bike Shop was. It was my 1st experience of having "white sauce" (their salad dressing). I recall my grandparents thinking that my Mother was nuts wanting to "lunch" in a strip center for Mexican. It was really good cuisine. In any event, I'll exercise your recommendation & will try El Rey when I'm back in Norfolk. (I'm in FL on business for a few weeks) Thanks !

                2. re: 23451bum

                  Thanks for the tip 23451bum! El Rey Taqueria is great, just my type of hole in the wall place...fresh tacos made with great ingredients. I had the barbacoa, (Matt deems it one of the five things you must try before you die: http://mattbites.typepad.com/mattbite...) carnitas, and lengua. Can't wait to come back and try the rest!

                  1. re: blithe818

                    I finally tried Taqueria San Jose and El Rey Taqueria.

                    I especially liked El Rey, thanks for recommending I'm not sure I would even notice it without the rec., I can't believe we have real mexican/central american food in Hampton Roads! I saw someone get Gorditas after I ordered I have been waiting to go back to order those and I want to try their pupusas. There seemed to be several hole in the wall type mexican places in the area, has anyone tried the others there?

                    We went to the Taqueria San Jose in the strip mall and not the "restaurant" (San Jose's) as they called it, next store. They said they own both, is it the same food? I ordered two tacos and my server was like "is that all you want?!" I realized why she would ask that when they came out in four inch rounds and I was able to eat them in two bites. Tasty but surprisingly small. The sopapillas were more filling. What do you all like to order there?

          2. re: jjb75

            Thanks for the recommendation on Bardo. AWESOME!!! One of the best ever.

          3. Much Ethnic food here will disapoint, if you are used to authentic/really good quality.
            Some to try:
            Mabuhay -Philipino food go only on Saturday because it is the busiest day and everything is much more fresh. It is off of Holland Rd behind the Firestone. I was told to go there by someone Philipino but I have never had the food before living here. Some things to try that I have really enjoyed green curry chicken, shrimp cake looks like small an orange funnel cake, and for dessert crunchy sugar covered plantain. The other things their are hit or miss experimental since they are so different. Really good prices and Karoake all day.
            Jade Villa- Chinese, best I have found in the area, we usually go on Sat or Sun for their dim sum.
            Kyushu - Japanese fresh items, and have heard they have a Japanese menu as well as Americanized version.
            MP Island Cafe- Carribean and Soul Food- not everything is great great here but it is super cheap and a definite try. We usually order to go, they give a ton of food. There is a couple different locations for lunch it is very busy because you get a meat choice and two heaping sides plus plantains for 3.99 to go. I like the stew chicken (Jerk chicken is not what I am used to so I never order it).

            Lunch when mom comes to town? Take her to Phoebus in Hampton to The Grey Goose Tearoom (they are only open til 3pm), then stop by the Blue Skies Gallery afterwards and then Trader Joes. The Grey Goose has started to do a few dinner theatre nights I haven't been yet but would like to see what it is all about.

            For dessert I have recently tried Baker's Crust little chocolate bundt cake with a pool of chocolate sauce running out of it, I think it is new item and so so yummy.

            Gringos is a newish place at the beach off of Norfolk Ave. It is tiny and the sign is in neon it is mexican fusion and called gringos because the owner is not mexican. Tasty food.

            La Bella Italia- I really enjoy this place to get in you have to go through the store part where they sell cookies and italian imported items and then you are seated by the owner and then try to figure out what you want most from the pages and pages of choices. Everything I have had here is great.

            Pasta E Pani is an Italian take out place with some exellent choices, they make their own bread, pasta and some cheeses also to buy.

            Zinc Brasserie is a new French place and I enjoyed my experience there, they have specials on different nights of the week so check out their menu on their website if you want to save $. They also serve lunch on weekdays.

            I haven't tried Isla yet, but have wanted to when people say that it is wonderful, then I see the reviews on the Pilot and people seem to either love or hate it and the interesting thing is it has more reviews than I have ever seen, over 60. The bad reviews and high prices are the reason I haven't gone yet. Has anyone tried it many times and have a definitive answer?

            5 Replies
            1. re: VBeatso

              We finally went to Kyushu tonight and it was fantastic! A very belated thank you for the rec.
              I need to go back very soon and get the Shabu Shabu and try their Ramen... yeah!

              1. re: Faraway11

                When you say ramen, are you talking about the real japanese ramen? pork, miso or soy flavor?

                1. re: cosmofoodie

                  I didn't have it yet, just saw they listed on their daily specials board. Everything else they serve seems pretty authentic so I'd wager that they are serving the real deal over there.

                  1. re: Faraway11

                    Had the Ramen, Yum, it is pork flavor and the noodles are nice and chewy and the broth very flavorful.

              2. I've lived here on and off for the last 13 years and the dining here leaves something to be desired. Then again I've lived in NYC & LA so that might be the problem.

                I agree with VBeatso on Kyushu & Jade Villa. Not much on atmosphere but excellent authentic japanese food. Jade Villa is just ok, but the best you'll get without headed up to NoVA, DC area for dimsum.

                Bangkok Garden has pretty good Thai food and they have several locations around HR. We've only been to the two in VB. Vietnam Garden is a cute little Vietnamese restaurant with good food as well.

                I've been going to FiveO1 grill for over 10 years and it's been consistently good with the service and food. They change their menu seasonally. Other than that the "old standby's" are Beach Bully for BBQ, Pho 79, & if we're in the mood for some nontraditional creative sushi...Sushi & West.

                1. Haven't been there in years, but I think The Street Cook is still open in VB. I think it was in a shopping center on Lynnhaven Pkwy and Princess Anne Rd. Might be wrong about the Princess Anne Road part. Excellent Med food with some very imaginative specials. Servers have all been there forever and do a great job.