Boston Hound Needs Recs for Williamsburg, Charlottesville & Alexandria VA
I have an unpcoming business trip to Virginia, conducting research at museums in Williamsburg, Charlottesville, and Alexandria over a week. As a transplanted Southerner living in Boston for over twenty years, I'm eager to eat as much "Southern" food as possible during my visit. More than anything, I'm craving old-style "meat and three" places -- fried chicken, fried okra, greens, cornbread - that sort of thing. I also want to hit some upper end places that focus on native ingredients. And I simply must have several breakfasts of country ham and biscuits. So, do my fellow hounds in Virginia have any recommendations on what should be on my "must visit" list of restaurants? I'll also be stocking up in Charlottesville (my last stop) on local ingredients -- grits, White Lily flour and country ham -- to bring back north. Is there a particularly good source there for country ham? Thanks in advance - I can hardly wait to be back where iced tea isn't considered a seasonal item!
I left Charlottesville ten years ago so I'm not sure my favorites are still there; also I like ethnic foods and you are looking for real Southern, so the safest rec I can give you is for SOUTHERN CULTURE, on Main halfway between the University district and "Vinegar Hill"/Downtown. It's nouveau Southern and very relaxing. For a true Upper End experience, I remember the best one has its dining room upstairs (bar/bistro downstairs) exactly one block off of the Downtown pedestrian mall (515 E. Water St.). It's called the C & O, and while it does not specialize in Southern fare (it's more French-style), you are bound to find something there you would like.
In between Charlottesville and Alexandria, a few minutes off the main road (29) in Orange is the Willow Grove Inn, a very notable establishment for fine dining with great historic atmosphere (it's an old plantation, on the historic register). Just beware because some people do feel it's over-priced. Often featured in travel mags. My wedding was held there.
Southern Culture closed a couple years ago. The former chef from the Clifton Inn is opening a "meats and three" place in that location. MAYA is scheduled to open the first weekend in May. I would definitely try it.
Bizou is on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville and specializes in upscale comfort food. It has been a local favorite for years. No website.
Charlottesville isn't terribly southern, so there aren't a lot of resources for grits and ham. You might try Anderson's (http://www.andersoncarriagefoodhouse.com). There's also The Virginia Shop (http://www.thevashop.net).
In Williamsburg you'll hear great things about the Trellis. Personally I wasn't impressed and found it pretty mediocre. I should give it another try given the rave reviews it always seems to get. Six months ago I had a wonderful dinner at the Fat Canary. Both are in Merchant's Square just off the west end of the historical area.
The best restaurant in Alexandria, VA is Restaurant Eve, but it doesn't serve regional Southern food. You might find an occasional preparation that draws its inspiration from Southern cuisine, but the menu is really quite eclectic. The restaurant is really two restaurants in one: the Bistro and the Tasting Room.
While there may be Southern cooking to be had in Alexandria, I'm more familiar with the places in DC proper: Vidalia's (upscale) and Oohs and Aahs. Very different, but both are very good.
Try asking your question about Alexandria on the DC board.
You need to try to get out to Pierces BBQ on Rochambeau. Side of the highway type of place but great BBQ with the fixings.
I also like Fat Canary but you'll need to make a reserv. Blue Talon in Merchants Square is good but more French Bistro. Centre St. Grill in New Town has good food and seems to lean towards some southern.
In WIlliamsburg get a reservation in advance for one of the Inns in Colonial Williamsburg. For a multicourse experience, if you haven't done it before, you owe yourself.
In Charlottesville lunch at Michie Tavern: my husband loves their fried chicken, and it's all you care to eat with sides of greenbeans, young beets, tomatoes and something, and biscuits.
I'm also looking for a good source for Virginia Piedmont style country ham; my old favorite in Culpeper (used to be on East Street) seems to have disappeared.
Also in Williamsburg, Chickahominy house on Jamestown for southern breakfasts and lunches. Biscuits, country ham, Brunswick stew. Go to the Peanut Shop off Merchants Square for ham, peanuts, peanut soup.
Again, thanks for the continued suggestions. I already have reservations at Christiana's Taverns for one of the nights in Williamsburg and now Pierce's BBQ is definitely on the list for another night. I may just eat at Chickahominy every morning -- it sounds ideal. And I had forgotten about Michie Tavern. I had eaten there many years ago. I'll also post on the DC board as suggested. And thanks for the Padow's link. Lord, I need a country ham and red eye gravy fix.
As for hopkid's inquiry regarding Boston, the answer really depends on how mobile you are. Will you have a car and travel a bit or are you restricted to one particular area? Boston can provide you with almost any ethnic speciality but, sadly, we don't have a lot to focus on native New England foods. If you're staying in Boston proper (ncluding Cambridge), here is my list of places that will give you a representative overview of the city (keep in mind that I'm Cambridge-centric):
* Oleana - Mediterraean with strong Middle East leanings, outside patio (rare here!), Cambridge, one of the city's best
* Craigie Street Bistrot - near Harvard in Cambridge, French inspired, excellent
* Locke-Ober - downtown Boston, about 100 years old, great history, now updated, service can be an issue, very Boston Brahmin
* East Coast Grill - Cambridge, everything is grilled, fun atmosphere
* Sage - North End, Italian. many good restaurants in North End which you should definitely hit. This is one of my favorites.
For more casual lunches, etc.:
* Bartley's Burgers - Harvard Square, Cambridge. Too good for words, If they only served beer, life would be perfect.
And if you can, get in a car and go to either the Clam Box in Ipswich or Farnham's in Essex (both north of Boston by 40 minutes or so). Get a fried clam roll, some steamers, and enjoy summer in New England!
And one last word of advice, stay away from anything owned by Todd English (Olive's, Figs, Bonfire, etc.). You're paying for his ego, lawyers, and pr agent at the expense of your stomach and wallet.