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College visit rd trip VA, NC

My husband, 17 yr old daughter and I will be taking a week and a half road trip to visit colleges and I really need help with places for us to eat. Knowing us, we will want breakfast and dinners and will probably pick something up on or near the college campus. We eat anything and I personally would love to try local types of food at least for some of the meals. Would like to keep main courses to no more than $15 per person but again we can mix and match with some days more than others. The first part of this trip isn't in the Southern area of the board so for this part I need help with:

Richmond, VA
Lexington, VA
Winston Salem, NC
Davidson, NC
Asheville, NC (spending a day just passing through for fun)

Any ideas would be appreciated.


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  1. Which colleges are you visiting in Richmond? That would help a lot with what's close to campus.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Janet from Richmond

      Richmond -- U of Richmond
      Lexington - Washington & Lee
      Winston Salem - Wake Forest
      Davidson - Davidson

      We don't mind travelling a bit within the city because it would be nice to see what's around anyway.

      1. re: SharonOhio

        Davidson has a quaint downtrown atmosphere, sems like there is a good coffee place before you turn off to go to the University.

        1. re: Dixiegirlz

          Any suggestions for Charlotte? Don't really mind going into town.


          1. re: SharonOhio

            In Charlotte, Gourmet mag (or was it Bon Appetit) just did a piece on Price's Chicken Coop on Camden Rd. It's a take-out only fried chicken place w/ all the fixin's. It's cheap and is a Charlotte institution.

            Another option in downtown CLT is Mert's Heart & Soul on N. College St. Low-country cuisine. Inexpensive too. http://www.mertsuptown.com/

            There really aren't many decent breakfast options here. Price's and Mert's are good options for lunch &/or dinner (Price's closes at 6, I think).

            Have fun!

            1. re: SharonOhio

              The Penguin Drive-In in Charlotte is a great place and in Staunton, Virginia where interstate I-64 meets I-81 you have Wright's Dairy-Rite Drive-In that has been there since 1952, so it's a real drive-in with excellent food. www.choppedonion.com

          2. re: SharonOhio

            In Winston-Salem I'd advise you head downtown. Its about 2 miles from Wake's Campus. Lots of great choices...On 4th Street you've got Downtown Thai, Camel City Cafe (more upscale), Mellow Mushroom (not the greatest pizza, but pretty good and very fun), Hutch and Harris (creative pub food), Foothills Brewing (good sandwiches and salads, stay away from the entrees, great beer). On Trade Street (in our downtown Arts District - lots of cool galleries and stores) there is Sweet Potatoes (probably the best of the bunch), Finnigan's Wake (irish pub with solid food) and 6th and Vine (comfortable wine bar with good food). Enjoy!

        2. In Richmond for breakfast I'd suggest heading to CanCan in the Carytown district for some great croissants and coffee. Freckles on Patterson Ave has a good breakfast also. For dinner in Richmond if you want southern food, I'd recommend Comfort downtown...southern food with flair, reasonably priced and something for everyone.

          1. If you make it into Charlotte, and are looking for some casual and relatively inexpensive places, here are some of those options:

            Mac's Speed Shop (SouthEnd on South Blvd.) - A local favorite for brisket, barbecue, green bean casserole, etc. Very vibrant atmosphere.

            Alexander Michael's (4th Ward/downtown on 9th and Pine Streets) - A long-running neighborhood restaurant/bar. Great atmosphere. The "What it Is" (blackened chicken over creamy pasta) sounds simple, but is delicious. Also good are the crawfish burrito and shrimp marsala, among other menu items. Great nachos too.

            Cabo Fish Taco (NoDa on North Davidson) - A local favorite for fish tacos.

            Dish (Plaza-Midwood on Thomas Ave.) - Modern home-cooking.

            300 East (Dilworth on East Blvd.) - A popular neighborhood restaurant for about the past 15 years.

            Sir Edmund Halley's (behind Park Rd. Shopping Center) - Another popular neighborhood hangout. British-style pub that serves god, often adventurous food. Definitely has a pub feel to it, but you can also sit outside.

            If by the time you get to Charlotte you are looking for something a little nicer, but still fairly casual and not too fancy, here are some options:

            Lulu - (Plaza-Midwood on Central Ave.) - Popular bistro with very good food.

            Carpe Diem (Elizabeth on Elizabeth Ave.) - A local institution with very good food and great ambience.

            Fiamma (Dilworth of of Park Rd.) - Best authentic Italian in town.

            Rooster's (SouthPark) - Popular restaurant with kind of a tapas-style menu.

            Those are some great schools your daughter is visiting. Have fun!

            1. Oh yeah, and in Winston-Salem, my favorite restaurant for a good but laid back dinner is probably West End Cafe on 4th Street in West End. Granted, I haven't eaten there in 4 years, but it was great for the three years I lived in that area.

              1. A fun and popular place in Richmond is Kuba Kuba. Cuban food. Although it isn't "local type" food, the atmosphere is definitely local-type. It's located on Park Avenue in the Fan District, 10-15 minutes from the Univ. of Richmond. If you want to tour a little of the city, a trip to Kuba Kuba will give you that opportunity. The place is always bustling, but laid back and it is in your price range. Plus the food is good!

                BTW, if you haven't been there already, the campus of Univ. of Richmond is BEAUTIFUL!

                Have fun!

                1. In Lexington, VA area you won't find a great number of restaurants, and the fare for dinner is somewhat inconsistent, but here are a few suggestions:

                  Bistro on Main, 8 North Main St., is our consistent favorite. The space is contemporary, intimate, and lively (especially during the school year). The menu is small but varied. The specials have always been a good bet. The shrimp and grits is a very filling southern favorite.

                  Tuscany -- also on Main -- is a little sterile on atmosphere, but has always delivered excellent Italian fare. The lamb chops sauteed with garlic and rosemary are superb. Excellent soups.

                  Southern Inn (also on Main St.) is considered by many to be the best restaurant in town. Good white table cloth place with a large, but somewhat uninspiring menu. Good service.

                  I would avoid Cafe Michel (pretentious, overpriced)

                  Lexington is best for lunch fare. The Joyful Spirit Cafe on Main lives up to its name with fabulous, flavorful grilled paninis. They could be better with their sides (too many potato chips!), but service is friendly, atmosphere clean and bright.

                  La Pattisserie has good sandwiches and pastries.

                  For quitessential college-town fare (pizzas and subs) Salerno (115 Jefferson) is a great local hang out with fabulous prices for huge subs and slabs of very good pizza. The antipasta salad will provide you a great mix of cheeses and deli meats. The clam chowder (New England style) is wonderfully buttery and peppery.

                  If you care to venture out of Lexington a ways, a little gem in the rough is Franks for the Memories on Magnolia in Buena Vista (six miles east of Lexington). Outdoor cafe with surprisingly great fresh soups and sandwiches. Gazpacho is fresh and zippy; tortelinni soup has fresh herbs and spinach; sandwiches tend to marry nice combinations of flavors like turkey, apple and blue cheese. You order and pick up from a window and sit under an awning (mist-cooled in the summer; heated in the winter). An amazing find in a mostly blue-collar town.

                  If you want good diner fare, with a touch of updating, head for Fairfield Diner (off the I-81 Fairfeild exit, about 10 miles north of Lexington -- follow the signs). Clean, spartan hilltop diner with unbeatable views of the Blue Ridge, this is the place for fried green tomatoes, meatloaf, and bread pudding.

                  Enjoy Lexington!

                  1. In Mooresville, NC about 7 miles north of Davidson is a great Mexican place called Prickly Pear http://www.pricklypear.net/menu.htm

                    1. A real neighborhood favorite, and a wonderful value for consistently good food is Pegasus. It is a geriatric favorite (ours) for best service and simple, fresh entrees with a varied, unpretentious menu. East of Three Chopt on PAtterson Ave, it serves dinner only.

                        1. if you come down to winston 81-77-US52, you can go into mt. airy and stop in at snappy lunch.


                          shame on me for not stopping there yet as many times as i've driven that road...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: chili367

                            I made a special trip to Mt. Airy to have the famous pork chop sandwich and I will say unequivocally NOT WORTH THE GAS (either kind :)

                          2. Any time we are anywhere near Lexington, Virginia, a stop at the Cocoa-Mill chocolate shop is a must. Remarkably excellent chocolates. In Richmond, a seafood/soul food joint called Croaker Spot where the chef prepares some really great fish dishes. It's a tiny restaurant in a funky neighborhood and there can be a wait. If you've got an extra minute for dessert, try the John Marshall Hotel and a piece of Mudslide Pie. Also worth seeing in the hotel are the huge set of stairs. I've heard the the stairs in Gone With the Wind were modeled after them (that only takes a minute or two). My family liked the Early Girl restaurant in Asheville. The farmer's market (for viewing, not for eating) in Asheville is worth an hour or so. There is a restaurant near the entrance to the market but we found it ordinary.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Potomac Bob

                              It's been a while since we've seen the Old John Marshall - I'll bet you are thinking of the four star Thomas Jefferson; had a lovely dinner at Lemaire on my June b'day. It has valet parking and is certainly recommended

                              1. re: Potomac Bob

                                The stairs are at The Jefferson, not the John Marshall.

                              2. So we're back and I'm reporting back on where we in fact did eat and how we found it.

                                Richmond - dinner at 27 one night which was very nice a bit pricey but used a restaurant.com certificate to reduce the cost to reasonable. Sunday night was really tough because many places were closed. We ended up going to kuba kuba and thoroughly enjoyed it. Portions were large and the quality was excellent. The only issue we had was some younger kids who weren't restrained by their parents. Breakfasts were at the hotel.

                                Lexington -- Monday night for dinner was also difficult. Ended up at Tuscany Restaurant. Pretty good food.

                                Winston-Salem -- dinner at Original Little Richard. We realized that we would not have a chance for barbeque other than this so did it here. Husband and daughter had never had vinegar based bbq so it was an experience. Portions were large, food was good and it was dirt cheap. I enjoyed it but not really sure whether they liked it.

                                Davidson -- used another restaurant.com certificate and ate at Maddi's Southern Bistro in Huntersville. Almost didn't find the place. We enjoyed this quite a bit -- again massive portions.

                                Charlotte -- got into town too late to try the fried chicken at Price's and ended up eating at a chain (hubby had enough of all this experimenting by then).

                                Thank you all for your suggestions. We were not able to try the college food but most likely wherever daughter gets accepted she will go for a admitted student weekend and be able to try it then. As expected Washington & Lee and Johns Hopkins fell out of consideration. They're just not for my daughter but she has a much better idea of what she likes now than she did a week and a half ago. It was definitely worth the trip.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: SharonOhio

                                  Sharon, if you go back to Richmond, there aren't many good restaurants but Mekong and Edo's Squid are excellent. Mom's Siam in Carytown is also tasty. There's a health food grocery store in Carytown-Ellwood Thompson- with good prepared food- makes a nice gift certificate for UR students. Comfort is tasty but quite far downtown and not a UR scene but we did see quite a few UR families at Edo's in May for graduation w/e. Full Kee Chinese is close by and authentic but pretty funky. Their soups are perfect for the ailing. Good luck with your student's college decisions...

                                  1. re: anonj

                                    At the risk of seeming defensive I believe there are many good restaurants at various price points, various cuisines and locations in the Richmond area.

                                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                      I have to say we were really impressed with Richmond. We liked the city a lot and the restaurants we tried were quite good. It was all great except for the 100 degree weather which made for "interesting" touring and walking. We managed to make it to the art museum cause my daughter wanted to see the faberge eggs. They were definitely worth the walk despite the heat and the fact that we parked about as far from the museum as was possible.