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Help a Canadian Chowhound narrow down my list - Alexandria, VA to Floyd, VA

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I'm a Canadian Chowhound from Toronto and I will be heading down to Floyd, VA for the Jamboree on May 17th. I'd love some help narrowing down my food choices.

I promise to post reviews...

I'll be in Alexandria for 2 days (May 13th & 14th) and then planning to head west along 66 and then down Skyline Drive. I'll be stopping in Charlottesville & Staunton on my way to Floyd. I'll be heading back to Canada along 81 and then up 99.

Since we'll be driving I'm willing to explore for good food experiences but I'm trying to stay away from different ethnic cuisines that I can get in Toronto.

After trolling the boards & my other trusted sites I have a mixed bag of potential stops. I'm considering the following options:

-Definitely Virtue Feed & Grain for dinner
-Restaurant Eve vs The Vermillion. Is it worth going to both? I might do Restaurant Eve for the 3 course lunch menu and The Vermillion for dinner?
-Lunches at Eammon's and La Fromagerie (need to get some Meadow Creek cheese while I'm there)
-Breakfasts at either Pain Quotidien or Table Talk. My travelling companion loves a hardy American breakfasts so any suggestions on good breakfast spots are appreciated.
-Is the food at Gadsby's Tavern edible or is it mostly about the history?
-Opinions on Guajillo (the exception to the ethnic rule - Mexican food is sadly lacking in Toronto), Rocklands BBQ, Columbia Firehouse and The Dairy Godmother?

-Is the food at the Monticello Café edible or am I better to get a packed sandwich from somewhere like the Carving Board Café?
-Trying to choose between Maya and The Local for dinner. Discuss...

-Making reservations for Zynodoa
-Trying to choose between Wright's and The Depot Grille for lunch

-Floyd Country Store obviously :-)
-Considering Mickie G's, Chateau Morrisete and Natasha's Market Café

Along 1-81:
-Reservations at The Blue Apron in Salem
-Stop at Layne's Country Store in Glasgow, VA for a whole cured, smoked country ham
-Are any of the places in Roanoke (River and Rail, Local Roots, Tudor's Biscuit World, Padow's Ham & Deli) worth a stop?

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  1. Charlottesville has Shebeen, which is a South African place. I've eaten there but it's been a few years, but it was good back then. I've eaten more recently at Bizou and recommend it for good American fare in a relaxed setting.

    I've not been, but hope to sometime make it to Crozet pizza, as it's been regarded as near peer to New Haven pies. You can search on this board for reviews.

    1. Wow, you have really done your homework. Be sure to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway for your drive from the Charlottesville/Staunton area down to Floyd. It's possible that you could see all of these in bloom: flame azaleas, mountain laurel, azaleas, dogwood trees, and redbud trees. In any case, the Chateau Morrisette is seconds off the parkway. In addition to being a National Park, the parkway is a national treasure.

      1. The Dairy Godmother is great! Looking at their flavor forecast, the feature flavor on the 13th is German chocolate cake, which I bet would be very very good. They're closed on Tuesdays, fyi. And if you go there, check out Cheesetique on the next block, even if only to drool.


        1 Reply
        1. re: Chocolatechipkt

          I love Dairy Godmother, especially this season when they have their fruit (varies) and rhubarb crisp w/ vanilla custard.

          Along the ice cream line towards Charlottesville (going out 66) is the Moo Thru. They make their ice cream from milk from local cows down the road. It's a fun stop.

        2. I'd skip Guajillo and head south on Route 1 to La Mexicana Bakery & Tacqueria or Tacos El Costalilla. The sopas at the former are outstanding because they bake their own bread, obviously. Wasn't impressed with Columbia Firehouse; it's not terrible, but there's no reason to go out of your way to go there. Table Talk does a solid breakfast. Restaurant Eve & Vermillion are both worth going to. 

          4 Replies
          1. re: monkeyrotica

            I will second la Mexicana. I like TECC on Washington Boulevard in Arlington, as well. For something a bit different, Jinks, you might try la Mexicana's tortas ahogada, though my spelling might not be right. It is a soupy, smokey mess of a sandwich/meal. It is smoking hot and spicy. I categorize spicy levels by no sweat, a little sweat on my forehead, to my hair is drenched in sweat and my mouth is on fire. The tortas is nearly hot enough to fit the last description.


            1. re: Ziv

              Yeah, that torta ahogada is one of those sandwiches the super-most-authentic-real-deal fetishists crave, then promptly can't finish because it's super-most-authentic-real-deal fiery hot. How people eat these with their bare hands at soccer matches in Guadalajara is a mystery. It's like eating a drippy cheesesteak that's on fire.

              1. re: monkeyrotica

                One of my favorites, but I definitely have to be in the mood and take my time with it as well - With lots of fresh juice to wash it down!

                Those that may be scared of the heat, try Costalilla's down the street - Not quite as good but not nearly as spicy, either.

            2. re: monkeyrotica

              I'll third La Mexicana. The best authentic Mexican in the region. I'd go for the tacos or tortas.

              Agree on Eve and Vermillion as well. Both solid.

            3. Very underwhelmed by Virtue Feed & Grain in Alexandria. Four of us had dinner there last Sunday for the first time and nothing was memorable, including the service. As for Roanoke, check out the downtown farmers market, along with the Quarter at 19 Salem Avenue SE for Cajun food.

              1. We love Guajillo. Be sure to get the flan. Rocklands BBQ is meh at best.

                1. skip eamonn's in alexandria -- it is greasy fish and chips.

                  gadsby's tavern has pretty decent food, and it is historic.

                  rocklands is okay bbq. not the best nor the worst.

                  virtue feed and grain is fun and atmospheric. we've only had drinks and a cheese plate, though.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: alkapal

                    Virtue did a major overhaul to their menu. Most of it is now what you'd find in any generic eatery: chicken, burgers, salmon, salads, wings. Most of the Irish pub grub seems to have disappeared, except for the crubeen patty.

                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      I'm pretty sure Virtue has undergone in change in ownership as well. Cathal Armstrong and co. is no longer involved -- which would explain the menu change. It looks totally uninteresting now. Just what we needed: another generic American "tavern" down on the water. Blah.

                      1. re: BrianD

                        I imagine the current menu reflects what their customers are demanding: same old same old. I'm all for selling interesting, but if your customers refuse to buy interesting and instead demand burgers and chicken wings, you gotta pay the rent.

                    2. re: alkapal

                      Eamonn's is great. Not "greasy" like the poster described. I've been to the UK and eaten greasy fish and chips - the kind that soaks through newspaper. This is the opposite, while not light, it's perfectly cooked. The sauces are creative and fun. And the chips thoroughly satisfying. Get it with an Irish soda.

                      1. re: biscuit

                        I like Eamon's too. I had their cod with mushy peas on the side, delicious! Really took me back, too.

                        1. re: biscuit

                          well my eamonn's fish and chips was greasy. and i've been to the uk (many times), as well. oil doesn't have to thoroughly drench the paper bag to have me consider the fried fish greasy. i grew up with fried fish in gulf coast florida, and i know how to identify greasy vs. non-greasy fried fish. (mr. alka, who lived many years in the uk, also thought it was greasy and just "meh").

                          maybe you caught it on a good day. maybe i caught it on a bad day. maybe we have different standards for calling something greasy.

                          in any event, the OP can get fish and chips in toronto, canada, surely.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            I just went to the one on Columbia Pike since this post gave me a hankering for a nice bit of cod. And it was greasy as all get out. Tasted good, but the greasy aspect was a definite negative. I have had good cod at the one on King Street but this wasn't as good. The mushy peas were fairly good, but they lacked the tiny bit black pepper that gives them a certain zip. I have also had mushy peas with a tiny bit of bacon, and that is even better.
                            I tried dressing it with the vinegar, which was good, the tartar sauce was ok, and the curry which was ok but probably would have been better on fries/chips rather than on the fish.
                            But it was definitely not as good as I remembered and the serving size was smaller as well. Rats.

                            1. re: Ziv

                              I didn't know there was one at Columbia Pike. I liked the one in Old Town but haven't been since last summer. I didn't find it greasy but I wish there were more seats.

                              1. re: Ziv

                                ziv, try the fish and chips at union jack pub in ballston mall. really nicely done fried haddock, good chips, an apple-cabbage slaw -- all for around $12. it includes two pieces of fish, with a total amount of about ¼ to ⅓ more fish than shown in your photo from eamonn's

                                they used to have an all you can eat fish on fridays during lent. i'm sorry they've stopped it, and partly blame myself for eating so much. LOL.

                        2. My recommendation for Charlottesville is the Market Street Market if you want a deli sandwich. However, if I'm going to C-Ville for a day trip I'm hitting Petit Pois Bistor or The Creperie. The Bavarian Chef is awesome too but not a light meal. They are on a very cute downtown mall.
                          Harrisonburg is not bad either. There is a place downtown called Clemetines which is awesome and the hot dogs at Jess's are iconic. Dave's downtown has a nice Gyro too.

                          1. Floyd: Dogtown Roadhouse has wonderful wood-fired pizzas. Wasn't too impressed with Mickey G's the one time we went. El Charro Grill for Mexican (decent to really good). DH and his family really like the Blue Ridge Restaurant. I had a great sandwich there once. Have heard/read good things about Chateau Morrisette, Natasha's and the Pine Tavern Inn.
                            Also Floyd, if you just want a great breakfast biscuit, Hardee's. Not kidding. Not otherwise a Hardee's fan, but we always stop there for a biscuit if we are going through before 11am.

                            May be too much out of your way (I am directionally challenged) but Mabry Mill is a very charming operational grist and sawmill. You can have buckwheat pancakes at the restaurant and buy buckwheat flour and cornmeal in the gift shop. Very picturesque but surprisingly, their website doesn't have the best pictures, so here: https://www.google.com/search?q=mabry...

                            Roanoke: Tudor's Biscuit World closed down. Downtown Roanoke is charming and I would say your best bet for really good eats in Roanoke, but I don't have any specific recommendations.

                            You might want to check out Lexington. Extremely charming, loads of history. Can't remember the name of the restaurant we ate at there.

                            We plan to try Edelweiss (I know you said no ethnic except Mexican) in Staunton on the 18th. Good reviews.

                            Enjoy your trip!

                            1. After my first reply, I checked to see what Jamboree you were talking about since I hadn't heard anything about Floyd Fest 2013 yet. Only mention of Jamboree I found was the Country Store Jamboree held every Friday night. We haven't been yet though we've wanted to. Floyd Fest is overpriced and looks like too many people to me.

                              Have you heard about the Wayne Henderson Music Festival? It is always the 3rd Saturday of June, so won't work for this trip. Beautiful venue. Beautiful music. Not so many people as to make it uncomfortable. A steal for $15. Barbecue and usual festival fare. I could also go on to sing Wayne Henderson's praises but I probably shouldn't here.


                              1. A few tweaks:
                                I might to do the bar lunch at Eve instead of dealing with the restaurant. It's an amazing deal and great food without all the fuss. http://www.restauranteve.com/assets/E...

                                I agree that Virtue may not be all that you hope. I personally thought the food was too heavy and the place utterly contrived before, but now it really does seem run of the mill.

                                I'm not impressed by breakfast at Table Talk. It seems like the place you go if you either can't make your own eggs and toast, or just don't want to eat breakfast at home.

                                I would suggest drink and apps in the lounge at Vermillon. It's such a great vibe and they do such fun drinks and nibbles.

                                I would extend your geography just a little to the top of Alexandria/bottom of Arlington and go to Jaleo in Crystal City. Great Spanish tapas by Jose Andres.

                                I'm not a fan of Colombia Firehouse.

                                And I wouldn't bother eating at Gadsby's.

                                Some other options (not sure what ethic you can get in Canada):
                                Indonesian at Satay Sarinah
                                Ethiopian from one of the zillion places that we seem to have-- maybe others can specifically rec, as I'm not a fan.


                                3 Replies
                                1. re: 0225eiluj

                                  0225, what are your favorite dishes at Satay Sarinah? The satay or the rijstaffel?
                                  I spent time in Indonesia and the food was a real love/hate for most of us while we were there.

                                  1. re: Ziv

                                    Alas, I can't say I have a favorite. I don't go often enough, so really each time is like the first time since I totally forget what I got last time.

                                    1. re: 0225eiluj

                                      I think it sounds like the rijstaffel might be the best bet, then. Try everything and there is bound to be a winner in there, even if it is a buffet.

                                      I just remember looking through the glass at a rumah makan, making my choice and hoping I have chosen a good dish. And wishing I could just try a little bit of each before I ordered.

                                2. In/near Floyd, I would definitely stop at Chateau Morrisette. That is one place that I really miss from living in the area. Have a friend still there who loves Micky G's (always raves about the chef's special), but I haven't personally eaten there.

                                  In Roanoke, J Alexander's is great. I've also had a pretty solid meal (excellent starters, good entree, great dessert) at Local Roots.