- cuccubear Jun 19, 2009 06:21 AM
Since Harrisonburg, VA doesn’t have its own board, nor dare I say does it deserve one, I’ve started this thread in the hopes that other valley dwellers might contribute. There are many threads concerning dining in H’burg, but mostly by out-of-town visitors, and most of the recs come from the large transient student population. So where do the long-time residents eat and what do you think? I know there are other local chowhounds, so speak up! (Of course, anyone is welcome to respond!)
And, if there are no responses, I hope to report back anyway. :-)
I had resisted going to Dona Rosa’s for a long time. I don’t know why because I’ve had Rosa’s cooking before and it was wonderful. Anyhow, my SO and I went there last night. The decor and ambience wasn’t much different from the previous occupant – Macondo’s, dark and cozy, rustic and welcoming, well almost. We stood around for a while before anyone came to seat us (or acknowledge us for that matter).
A waiter finally seated us, but blocked access to my seat. I had to stand there until he got out of the way. A different waiter came, handed us the menu and asked for our order. “We need a little more time...” After the rough start, drinks and food were ordered and the evening was very pleasant.
I decided on the Pollo con Mole and it was delicious! It came with a spoonful of black beans, refried beans and rice, just enough to compliment the large portion of chicken. The mole was perfect - unexpectedly bitter and sweet with a hint of cinnamon, but never overpowering. The complimentary salsa was served with homemade chips, and it was fresh and flavorful.
A few boisterous patrons were mildly disruptive, but the place soon settled into an intimate dining experience. Overall, the food was excellent and made up for the mediocre service. Pricing was very affordable also.
Yes Harrisonburg!! This board popped up on my minifeed and made me so excited. I don't live there anymore, but still visit as the bf's family lives there.
In response: The guacamole at Dona Rosa's (or avocado salad i think it is called) is so delicious. Dona Rosa is amazing!!! Also, the bf who grew up in Harrisonburg highly recommends the taco truck, even for veggies. I will find out which ones particularly and what it is he always orders, he raves about it.
Other all time favourites are Little Grill, especially for downhome night on Fridays. I would always get the vegetarian ribs, mash potatoes with mushroom gravy, collared greens and cornbread. With either the carrot cake or the massive cookie for desert... delicious.
Other topics to be discussed: Indian Food. Bombay courtyard used to be my favourite, the small portions were the perfect size and such a great price. American Indian is OK but as a Brit, it never managed to satisfy. Last time I was in town we went to the new Indian restaurant off University Blvd- i think it was called Taste of India (hmm sounds familiar, re: Taste of Thai..) and it was pretty good! I got the Saag Paneer and was quite happy with it. Prices were good, not sure about the service as we got food to go.
Lastly, the best doughnuts I have ever had in my entire life were at the Farmer's Market held on Saturdays. A Mennonite stall where they had made the doughnuts that morning.
Guana Chapi was my favorite! However, it so much Mexican, but El Salvadorian. However, I cannot find it anymore. It was located behind Saigon Cafe in the parking lot of a small Mexican tienda. There is another El Salvadorian one down the road from Ciro's on 33 but I haven't tried it. Does anyone know where Guana Chapi went or what happened to it AND has anyone tried any great place to get pupusas???
In the few weeks I've been in town, I've found the Tacos El Primo on S. Main to be consistently better than the one on Reservoir (where everything's been under-seasoned on my visits). The one on S. Main is pretty great.
I've also been fairly impressed with the tacos at El Sol, especially their tacos campechanos (combination of carnitas and pork skin sauteed in hot sauce). I can't get enough.
91 E Elizabeth St, Harrisonburg, VA 22802
Reporting back for my second meal at Taste of India. They have done it again! The whole experience was terrific.
Chicken Tikka Massala this time, with Garlic Naan, Onion Bhajia appetizer, Flying Horse Lager, and Kheer for dessert. Everything was spot on delicious.
The staff is so friendly and attentive. It helps too that the Hostess is a Harry Potter fan like me, lol.
I give a hearty recommendation for the Pueblo Grande Mexican Grill, on South Main. The food was wonderful, and the dining room light and airy. Service was standard, but they were friendly, good-humored and knowledgeable.
Pueblo Grande has all the appearances of just another Mexican eatery, but when the food arrived, I could tell it had been prepared fresh. The Chori-Pollo, a chicken milanesa topped with ground Mexican sausage, was full-flavored and tender. Standard sides were refried bean and Spanish rice. I typically hate Spanish Rice, but I ate every grain and “mopped the plate” with the tortillas.
The expected tortilla chips and salsa were delicious as well, served with two kinds of salsa, mild and very picante. It’s hard to tell, but I think the latter is also prepared fresh in house.
The menu is varied, with all the tacos, enchiladas, burritos and tamales, but the “specialties” are truly the star of the show. These were things that I haven’t seen at other Mexican places, with the exception perhaps of Doña Rosa.
Mexican restaurants come and go around here, but I hope this one stays for a long time.
We're "Snowbirds". We migrate every six months between Narragansett Bay and Stuart, Florida, We stay in Harrisonburg(Village Inn). Tonight we tried Franklin's, a Café and Wine Bar. Wine selections were eclectic, good, and moderately priced. Small plates were imaginative. Grilled pizza was outstanding. We'll be back!
Franklin's Cafe and Wine Bar
50 S Mason St, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
re: trail 6
Sorry to report that Franklin's is no more. They closed recently. I happen to think that's a bad location. There's no place to park, and if you sit outside you're right next to the street on a very busy intersection. The fumes alone would have kept me away.
Please come back though, there are new places opening all the time!
I went to Areperas Las Chamas the other night, downtown on Mason Street, and sad to say was disappointed. I was hoping for a plateful of flavorful food that would introduce me to Venezuelan cuisine and blow me away with Caribbean flavors. Regrettably, the food was rather bland and flavorless, not just mine but that of my mate’s as well. There were subtle flavors throughout but I really had to concentrate to find them. I thought the accompanying sauces would liven up the meal, but they were oddly bland as well.
The portions were very generous. I had the “Camarones a la Vinagrette” – mixed sautéed vegetable (peppers, onions) with six shrimp that were very over-cooked and leathery, rice, a yucca salad that was reminiscent of a creamy potato salad, and a stack of tostones.
All in all, the meal filled my belly, and I ate everything on my plate, but I’m not likely to rush back for seconds. The dining room was cold and sterile with a few splashes of Venezuelan local color by way of large photo-prints. The waiter was more interested in the TV than in us, letting us wait until we were nearly done to ask if we wanted another drink.
The drinks they offer are home-made smoothies and I think I saw some Jarritos on the counter for sale as well. I had the Tamarind batido which was the hi-lite if the meal. The durazno batido I had later was as bland as the meal.
Maybe it was me, maybe it was a bad night, but unless I hear rave reviews I doubt I’ll be going back any time soon.
I went to Las Chamas today with friends. Food was very good and not at all bland. I had the pabelllon criollo (the arepas were very good) and a friend had the cachapas. It has only been open for a week so I would interested if your go again. The pleasant and very friendly owner gave us samples of various foods/drinks and we will definitely be returning.
OK, so I'm one of those former college students from many years ago, and I cannot believe that no one has even mentioned Jess' Quick Lunch. Best greasy hot dogs, burgers, and fries anywhere. It is also too bad that Spanky's is a thing of the past. What an awesome place to get a great sub or deli sandwich. I recently worked in Staunton for 5 months, and found a couple of places down that way. Maria's Italian was very good. In Waynesboro, there is a place called the Basic City Luncheonette. Great for breakfast on Saturday morning.
Agreed. It almost goes without saying that Jess’ is a local “delicacy”, and the demise of Spanky’s was painful because I had eaten there since I was a little kid. I used to feel McAllister’s was a good substitute, but I no longer recommend it. The portions keep getting smaller, and it’s just not worth the price.
I miss the Brooklyn Deli!
Sorry I'm late to this thread... There is a lot of tasty stuff in Harrisonburg, it's just sometimes a little hard to find. A couple of favorites:
-Saigon Cafe (on 33, West of I-81 in the "Rolling Hills" plaza). This is very tasty Vietnamese food. I love their Goi Cuon (fresh spring rolls) with shrimp. Slightly small portion, but packed with flavor. The pork version is also very good. For an entree, I like the Com Tay Cam, which is a clay pot filled with shrimp, pork, shittakes, ginger and rice (and I'm sure lots of other deliciousness that I am unaware of). Kinda a meat and carb fest, but there are plenty of vegetables on the rest of the menu if that's what you're in to. They also have a really interesting (and constantly expanding) collection of Vietnamese antiques on their walls.
-Thai Cafe, behind the big shopping center off of East 33, in a little strip mall that has a Heavenly Ham (are those places mob fronts?). I prefer this place over Taste of Thai. It's good, basic Thai food- they do a good job with Pad Thai and Tom Yum, and they are happy when you show an interest in the food and culture. I told them I would love to grow some Thai seasonings at home on one of my first visits, and the chef had rooted lemongrass and Galangal (Thai ginger) waiting for me the next time I came, for which he refused any payment. Great people.
I lived in Harrisonburg for 10 years and have been gone for a bit over a year now. I didn't expect to miss much from the area but I do miss some of the food. I can't believe no one has mentioned Dave's Taverna yet. It is the first place I go when I get into town now. And I usually go back by before I leave again. The gyro pita, the souvlaki, the white pizza, the burgers, fries, bruschetta, baklava, oh my goodness. Its all magnificent. Good pastas and salads too. But the best on their menu is that cheese steak pita. I have been searching for months for such a delicious cheese steak and I have found it no where (including the heart of philly). It's not traditional but it is so damn good! Great blend of cheesiness, spicy peppers, onion, crisp lettuce and tomato. MMM. Dave's can be a bit overrun with college kids at times (great drink specials) but its great to sit and dine on their roof in the warm summer when those pesks are gone.
All the way across the street from Dave's is another of my favorites. Sometimes I have to take a few minutes to stand on the sidewalk and decide which spot I really want. Earth and Tea Cafe is so comfy, has an incredible selection of teas, and some great food. Its a great place to meet a friend and just hang out for an hour or two. They have a good selection of wraps, salads, soups, and desserts.
So..moving down the block into Court Square...Cally's (? is that its name now? I still refer to it by the old name, Calhoun's) is a microbrewery with some great food as well. A great place to go for a birthday or to host guests from out of town. Also a fun spot to take people who like good beer.
Nearby is the Artful Dodger. I've only been there for drinks (and some surprising people watching for the hburg area). They have a nice selection of coffee and all that jazz and their boozie drinks are creative and yummy.
And on your way there from Dave's you'll pass the original Jess'. I agree, a local staple. Used to go there with a pile of friends when I was in high school for cheap hot dogs and burgers, but good grub. Not that it counts as food but their ice is the best in the world. We could sit there for hours and be as ridiculous as we wanted, they never cared. I suspected it to be a Mob front or something but then the owners bought my old house, good people.
I've never heard of the other Mexican restaurants mentioned but Jalisco's was my family's favorite. We moved to Harrisonburg from Colorado where we ate great Mexican food probably once a week. My parents are both from CA so the bar for good Mexican food is set high. Delicious salsas, pollo asado, margaritas, everything. It's on Neff, behind the mall. Now living in upstate New York....NO good Mexican food. Thankfully I can cook.
Others: Taste of Thai, Saigon Cafe, Thai Cafe (as mentioned).
The folowing on Rt 33/E Market
Kyoto Japanese Steak House and Hibachi: It can be sketchy but its delicious, as is every hibachi joint I've been to.
Bravo Italian Restaurant: Go for the pastas or a huge calzone. The pizza isn't terribly special. The owners keep a good wine selection around and they care about their food and guests. Get a little better price at lunch. It's always a way better value than it's Boston Beanery neighbor. I've been disappointed every time I went there...except the time I only ordered Blue Moon. I hear the crab stuffed flounder is worth it though.
Mr. J's Bagels: between the previous two spots. There are a few spread throughout town. Its a great place for breakfast with fresh bagels and a variety of cream cheeses, different breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and good sides (pasta salad, potato salad, yadda yadda). The bagel bites are always popular too....bagels cut into smaller pieces and topped with a bit of chocolate.
Lastly JMU food. It's seriously good! Festival would be the easiest to visit and with the best selection, off of University. A cool view of the campus/valley from the dining area too. The on campus 'restaurant' Madison Grill was always a bit overpriced and under flavorful. Skip it.
I don't think I could recommend the Little Grill to strangers/out of towners (unless they're obvious hippies). Its more a place you go after you get stoned. Good food I guess...hippies, you know? Endless plate Mexican food night can be a good value if you fulfill your prerequisite activities.
RIP Spanky's baked mac n cheese. And all those yummy sandwiches!
Local Chop and Grill House – What can I say other than excellent.
We had not even planned on going there, but found ourselves in the neighborhood and decided to give it a try. Parking was a slight issue since the small, narrow lot was full, so we had to park down the street. We were greeted by the friendly staff and quickly seated. Since we had planned on a quick, cheap meal we were initially sticker-shocked when we saw the menu, but were so thoroughly enchanted by the cozy ambience, we said “What the hell…”
We chose our drinks from the extensive beer and wine list, choosing for myself some sort of Golden Monkey draft beer. (Honestly, there were so many to choose from I don’t rightly remember the name.) Choosing a meat, a preparation, a sauce and two sides I went for the 10oz Ribeye, with sea salt and cracked pepper, hoisin dipping sauce, root vegetable confit and haricot verts.
After a reasonable enough time for us to enjoy the fresh bread they gave us, our meals came and even though the large plates crowded our table, the food was above expectation. The meat was done to my request, and the sides and sauce were fresh and flavorful. We opted out of dessert, even though the candied bacon piqued our curiosity.
All in all, a great experience, one I plan on enjoying again. They are slightly pricier than most other joints but it is well worth it.
Local Chop and Grill House
56 W Gay St, Harrisonburg, VA 22802
Last night I went to the El Charro on E. Market Street. I have been there many times, and while I believe it is one step above Taco Bell, it’s still good. It’s inexpensive, quick and has a fun, friendly atmosphere. Having been there so many times, I have found the quality consistent over the years. This is the first time back since they updated their menu. They seem to be offering more specialty dishes than before, possibly to compete with the more authentic options in the area.
I had the Enchiladas Supremas, an offering of one each beef, chicken, bean and cheese enchiladas, topped with cheese, sour cream and a huge pile of shredded lettuce. It was a fine meal, but the kind of meal a less adventurous soul would consider exotic.
I like El Charro for just what it is, satisfying, cheap Mexican food without a drive-thru.
(On a side note, the bathroom was very clean.)
1570 E Market St, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
This is my first restaurant review, but I thought that this restaurant deserved to be better known. The Local Grill and Chop House (at the north end of downtown Harrisonburg, VA, 56 West Gay Street, 540-801-0505) has taken over the site of the former Downtown 56, which was located in a converted mill. There was free valet parking when we were there, but parking is convenient even without the service. Craig Moore (of Joshua Wilton House fame) manages, and Ryan Zale is the chef.
We visited once. We came on a weekday and there weren't many people, probably because the restaurant is new. The atmosphere is contemporary and dress is nice casual (it's not as formal as the Joshua Wilton House). The bar and inside dining area are lovely. The décor is a clever mix of modern furnishings, exposed brick and reminders of the old mill. Because the weather was beautiful the evening we had dinner, we sat at a table on their outside deck. There are many interesting choices of beers, wines and other drinks from the bar (including flights of wines), but we limited ourselves to a bottle of wine. The service was attentive and pleasant, and the waitress was knowledgeable and helpful with suggestions from the menu.
The restaurant has a nice selection of appetizers, steaks and seafood, but there are also vegetarian choices. Each entrée can be prepared with a "rub" (e.g., salt and spices), and also comes with a choice of a sauce (in a separate bowl). There are several rubs and a large choice of sauces. This seemed strange until I realized that it allows you to sample your entrée with different flavors. It also allows you to personalize your entrée; my brother prefers a sweeter sauce while I prefer spicy-hot. Both of our rib eye steaks were perfectly prepared and tasty, and they had different flavors (because of different rubs and sauces). The seafood was also great. My sister-in-law had scallops with a pecan crust.
There is an emphasis on high-quality local produce and a lot of originality in the menu creations. One desert, for instance, was a lime and basil sorbet; while this unusual combination was not my favorite, it was loved by my daughter and brother's wife (the choice of sorbets changes).
In short, I highly recommend the Local Grill and Chop House if you are in Harrisonburg, VA or visiting James Madison University, particularly since it joins the very short list of first-class restaurants in town. The price is on the high-end for town, but is a good value for the quality and originality of the food (and a bargain compared to the restaurants in the Philadelphia-New Jersey area, where I live.)
Joshua Wilton House
412 S Main St, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
56 W Gay St, Harrisonburg, VA 22802
Texas Steakhouse, Route 33 East, H’burg – This particular franchise is one of my favorite chains in the city. I went there Saturday, and was treated to convivial service and a delicious meal, as usual. My steak was cooked to order, a Ribeye, medium-rare. The sides are standard, nothing special really – bland seasoned fries and sauteed mushrooms, but it’s the atmosphere that I like - a cozy, open dining room, music at a conversational volume, clean restroom. Maybe it’s not at the caliber of some other places in town, but I know I’ll get a decent dinner and walk out smiling.
103 Alex Ln, Charleston, WV 25304
I tried Pennybacker’s on Friday Night, and while the food was tasty, the place just didn’t have that “Wow!” factor for me. It could have been my mood or our mumbling waiter, but I just couldn’t get a good feel for the atmosphere and felt kind of disconnected from the groove of the place. The rooftop dining was unique and I must say, having lived in this town all my life, it was cool to see downtown that different angle. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the old Spanky’s (but cleaner), if anyone remembers that place.
When you enter you are immediately charmed by the cozy, inviting, wooden booths and intimate lighting. We were led, by a rather circuitous route through the dining room and up the back stairs to the roof. As I stated above, the view was enjoyable but the overall ambience was slightly diminished by the cheap plastic lawn chairs at our table.
The menu is varied, offering many vegetarian options. I had a Portobello “burger” with grilled vegetables. It was served, as with most entrees, with tater tots and a pickle spear. They have an extensive array of wines and microbrews to choose from, a feature that seems to be trending now, so that is a great plus. I could have done with a larger portion, just two more bites would have done it, but otherwise it was reasonably priced.
I’ll definitely return to try more of their menu, and try to get a better feel for the place.
14 East Water Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Stopped in at Clementine over the weekend and had a very good meal – Sesame Tempura Tuna. The tempura was perfect and the tuna sweet and firm, but tender, complimented nicely by wakami and coconut rice. The green beans were kind of a throw-away, but I cleaned my plate and was very sated. Their beer and wine menu seems to get bigger every time I go there, which is one reason why I like the place.
For those who haven’t been there yet, their menu is quite varied, although I don’t remember a large vegetarian selection. They offer appetizers, salads, wraps, burgers, steak and fish entrees, everything from West African Ground Nut Soup to New York Strip, and of course dessert. I did not partake but the crème brulee got raves from the others in my party.
It’s a casually hip, exposed brick kind of place with a nice bar and live music, decently priced to keep out the riff-raff, and a very friendly staff. I really like this place and always have, although I’d rather go back when there’s not a band playing. We were there early enough to miss the band, but the background music and warm up were a little too loud.
153 S Main St, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
There's not a lot of BBQ places around, and I haven't been to the BBQ Ranch in, heck, more than fifteen years, so I can't rightly comment.
Two of the best places are:
The Smoking Pig, on Wolfe St. - Good Q, prepared with either tomato based sauce, or NC style with vinegar. Sides are pretty standard, except for the Fried Pickles, which are excellent.
Hank's Smokehouse is probably the best around and it's just east of town. Follow the link for more info. Don't know if they still do, but they used to BBQ anything you brought in yourself, animals that is.
I've hit a couple of the BBQ spots in Hburg in the last few weeks.
BBQ Ranch is definitely an artifact from an earlier time- there is drive-in service as well as a dining room. The dining room has a classic diner feel, and it comes by it honestly, as it hasn't been remodeled since it was the current style. There is a tremendous amount of pig-oriented decor- salt and pepper shakers, pig-themed art, various other cutesy stuff to set the BBQ mood. It's chopped BBQ with a tomato and vinegar sauce (and I think some onion in there, too) that clings together sort-of like a sloppy joe. It reminded me of BBQ I had in Atlanta, though shredded instead of chopped. BBQ Ranch is more about the atmosphere for me than the food- it's good, but not great.
Smokin' Pig is in the downtown, just a street or two off of court square. They give you a couple of choices of sauce in the shredded pork, as Cuccubear mentioned. What they call NC style is the tomato and vinegar sauce of Western NC, not the tomato-free Eastern NC that I love above all others. For the same meal that I got at the BBQ ranch (sandwich, fries drink), I paid half as much at the Smokin' Pig (about $5.50). I got slaw with it at BBQ Ranch (strangely sweet slaw), and at Smokin' Pig, a fried pickle joined in the fun. The cost difference may be that there is just counter service at Smokin' Pig (and outdoor tables) compared to actual table service at BBQ Ranch.
For actual Eastern NC BBQ, as far as I know, you have to go down to Waynesboro (South on 81, East on 64) to a trailer known as Still Porkin'. There is no tomato at all in his BBQ, and may it forever stay that way, amen. Still Porkin' can be found at about the intersection of Poplar and Broad Streets (a little down Broad) in Waynesboro.
I haven't tried Hank's Smokehouse (have heard good things) or Log Cabin BBQ (really closer to Elkin, right?) yet, so if anyone can go in depth on a review, I would be grateful.
56 E Wolfe St, Harrisonburg, VA 22802
My ultimate favorite restaurant is Thai Flavor. If you want Thai food try this place!!! It is owned by a family where they truly make you feel like family. I would like to share everything that I have tried but I simply cannot recall all of the names. I will have to say that I have not tried a thing that I did not like! I am partial to stir-fries and have had their numerous all seafood blended dishes. They offer alot of their dishes with chicken, beef, or shrimp and often times vegetarian. There are many strictly vegetarian items on the menu.
My favorite appetizers are their spring rolls with shrimp (I always place an order to go to have later!) and their fried calamari. They are the size of large onion rings and are very soft (NOT chewy). As far as meals, I LOVE their fried tilapia, which comes with 3-4 fried fish filets done very light are airy. Their salmon wrapped in banana leaves is my staple there. It makes one reconsider saying that salmon is "fishy." It comes with a huge assortment of freshly grilled veggies- eggplant, onion, tomatoe, asparagus, broccoli (just cooked, not grilled), zucchini, and carrots.
Their portions are very filling and the service is amazing. You will NOT walk away from this place disappointed!!!
Thai Flavor Restaurant
51 Kenmore St, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
The Little Grill Collective last night for their AYCE Mexican plate. The plate consisted of an assortment of Mexican inspired foods – a taquito, cheese quesadilla and a different sort of taco made with, what seemed to me, small pita instead of a tortilla. Sides were shredded cauliflower slaw, beans and rice. Once you finished the first plate, you ordered more of whatever you liked best. The food was all delicious and had a real home-made taste.
Service was slow, but the joint was packed and noisy There is such a relaxed bohemian vibe there that the clamor and the waiting were not the negatives they would have been in a more traditional restaurant setting.
Most locals have probably been there from time to time, but for you out-of-towners, the Little Grill Collective is unique among H’burg restaurants and should be given a try.
Little Grill Collective
621 N Main St, Harrisonburg, VA 22802
This summer's been a little hectic and the economy has lightened my wallet so I haven't been hounding like I would like. I thought that I would catalog a closing though. Cuchi Guido's downtown has closed. I was a good pizza joint and I don't know why they folded. Anyone?