You can dine on all types of cuisine in Virginia, but the highlights are produced from recipes handed down since Colonial times -- dishes such as peanut soup and Sally Lunn bread -- or that put a modern spin on local ingredients. Here are some of the best places to sample Virginia's unique and very historic cuisine.
- Gadsby's Tavern (Alexandria): George Washington said goodbye to his troops from the door of Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria's Old Town. This former rooming house and the tavern next door look much as they did then, and waitstaff in Colonial garb still serve chicken roasted on an open fire, buttermilk pie, and other dishes from that period.
- The Inn at Little Washington (Washington): Chef Patrick O'Connell constantly changes his menu to take advantage of trout, Chesapeake Bay seafood, Virginia hams, and other local delicacies in his romantic dining room. The service at Virginia's finest restaurant is wonderfully attentive and unobtrusive.
- Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant and Bakery (Staunton): Every town has its favorite "local" restaurant, where you can clog your arteries with plain old Southern favorites like pan-fried chicken, sausage gravy over biscuits, and fresh vegetables seasoned with smoked pork and cooked to smithereens. In business since 1947, Mrs. Rowe's somehow manages to cook great veggies without all that lard.
- Roanoker Restaurant (Roanoke): Another local favorite, the Roanoker regularly changes its menu to take advantage of the freshest vegetables available. And every day it serves the best biscuits in Virginia, hot from the oven.
- Eley's Barbecue (Petersburg): Like all Southerners, Virginians love their barbecue, and it doesn't get any better than at Eley's, which was formerly known as King's Barbecue. Pork, beef, ribs, and chicken roast constantly over an open pit right in the dining rooms, and the sauce is served on the side, not soaking the succulent meat and overpowering its smoked flavor.
- A Chef's Kitchen (Williamsburg): You don't just go to dinner at veteran Chef John Gonzales's table, for he puts on an entertaining and highly informative cooking show for nearly 3 hours.
- Old Chickahominy House (Williamsburg): Named for a nearby river, this reconstructed, antiques-filled, 18th-century house is one of the best places to sample traditional Virginia fare, such as Brunswick stew and Virginia ham on hot biscuits.