Global Eats Part I

A Savory Guide To 101 Of Coastal Virginia’s Most Enticing International Eats

(page 2 of 2)

Mediterranean/Middle Eastern


Mr. Shawarma

Elevating street food to an art form, Mr. Shawarma outgrew the Ghent spot opened in 2014 and moved next door. There are now more tables (plus a patio) should you care to eat-in instead of taking-out once counter servers swiftly construct your falafel or chicken shawarma (lamb fat-marinated) with delectable toppings including hummus, tahini, garlic sauce, fried eggplant, pickles, French fries and more (like tangy amba—sour mango—for the chicken). Their craftsmanship and dexterity will make your eyes bulge as much as your fluffy pita (wraps and platters/bowls also available.) 725 W. 21st St., Norfolk, 757-962-9966,


Saffron Mediterranean, Middle Eastern restaurants, Newport News

Saffron Mediterranean Cuisine

Though Saffron’s website touts their “homely” atmosphere, we are quite sure they mean “homey.” Located in an unpretentious and decidedly un-historic building in historic Hilton Village, this diminutive restaurant is warm and welcoming with one of the most enthusiastic owner-proprietors around, offering some of the most intoxicating Middle Eastern tastes in these parts. You can go traditional with more than a dozen perfectly cooked meat or fish kabobs, but we prefer the choices of stews, unique to Saffron. Order ghormeh sabzi or bandanjan with the traditional beef, veal or even vegan option. These thick, fragrant mélanges of kidney beans and eggplant, respectively, are exquisite with the likes of herbs, onions and dried limes, especially when served over the unforgettable shirin palow—orange, almond and carrot rice. 10417 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, 757-223-9978,


Baladi Mediterranean Café

Khaled Jebrail made his way from the Middle East to Virginia Beach via New York City with a computer engineering degree in tow, his mother’s cooking imprinted on his heart and mind and her recipes tucked into his luggage. At Baladi, he serves his versions of the fresh and healthy dishes he remembers his mother, aunts and sisters lovingly heaping on his plate. The menu includes classic meat and fish dishes from the Middle Eastern repertoire, but Baladi is a vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diner’s paradise. Travel a little beyond those familiar borders and enjoy muhammara (walnuts, pistachios, roasted red peppers, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, and spices) or falafel encrusted organic Virginia tofu, served over a bed of sautéed sabanekh (baby spinach, diced red onions and sumac). 626 Hilltop West Shopping Center, Virginia Beach, 757-425-8877,



Encompassing the different flavors of countries making up the Mediterranean region, the locally-owned café (and market at its Pembroke location) has been a passport for gourmands to a world of new foods in Coastal Virginia ever since its establishment in 1988. Their menu could be best described as healthy and hearty, especially with the chicken tawook, a wrap composed of chicken breast marinated in a garlic herb mix and veggies, as well as moussaka, a seasoned and layered grilled eggplant covered with lean ground beef and tomato sauce with béchamel and a cheese blend. Hilltop: 1624 Laskin Rd., Ste. 727, Virginia Beach, 757-422-2927. Pembroke: 108 Prescott Ave., Virginia Beach, 757-486-7778.


Croc’s 19th Street Bistro

It’s not easy staying relevant in today’s fast-paced restaurant world. But Croc’s has managed to do it. Owned by Kal and Laura Habr since 1993, this sustainable, organic, local (SOL), seafood-forward American menu is infused with specialties from Kal’s native Lebanon. Try Croc’s Crab Cakes over cheese risotto, but start with a Mezze Platter offering lots of tantalizing tastes. Beautiful plating, balanced flavors and an award-winning wine list (with bottles half off on Saturday nights) should be enough for any restaurant. But, there’s more: With Laura leading the charge, Croc’s was the first restaurant to earn the Virginia Green designation, is the site of the Old Beach Farmers Market, boasts an electric car-charging station and partners with a handful of eco-focused organizations. 620 19th Street, Virginia Beach, 757.728.5444,





Kevin Ordonez’s pedigree (The Culinary Institute of America, Williamsburg Inn, Todd Jurich’s Bistro) belies a foodie crush on ramen rooted in his boyhood in Japan (dad was in the Navy). “It’s fast food there,” he says, noting Americans linger over it. For three years, he’s served stunning renditions at a long-term pop-up at Pendulum but just opened his own brick-and-mortar. A larger menu features interpretive fare from the Philippines (where his parents were born) and weekend dim sum with other signature Asian creations (okonomiyaki atop tater tots) and the steaming noodle soup that generates a beeline for Alkaline. 742 W. 21st St., Norfolk, 757-395-4300,


Misako Asian Cuisine, Ramen, Shore Drive, Virginia Beach restaurants

Misako Asian Cuisine

This unsuspecting spot for authentic Japanese food on Shore Drive reconciles an insatiable quest for a profound ramen restaurant in Coastal Virginia with its impressive selection of luscious noodles. Choose from several types of authentic ramen, including tonkotsu ramen with chashu pork, vegetable ramen with a miso soup base and shiitake mushrooms or seafood ramen with shrimp, squid, scallop and fish cakes, each topped with corn kernels, soft-boiled eggs, scallions, bamboo shoots and nori seaweed. 4701 Shore Dr. #113, Virginia Beach, 757-321-3123,



This buck-banging ramen standout’s name resembles Ichiran, the Japan-based chain known for “minimal interaction dining” (booths-for-one, only waiters’ hands visible beneath bamboo curtains) imported recently to the U.S. But Ichran attracts families and friends to its small, shiningly clean space near Military Circle. They share pan-fried dumplings and edamame, enthusiastically slurp pork tonkatsu ramen and swap tastes of katsu and seldom-seen takoyaki (wheat-based balls filled with such as octopus, scallions and pickled ginger) along with tales of military duty or sightseeing overseas. And they get to see the faces of their gracious servers. 5720 Hoggard Rd., Norfolk, 757-461-8630


Kappo Nara Ramen

Two locations, one mission: to create top-notch ramen. In small, urban spaces Kappo Nara promises high flavor dividends for one investment: your lunch hour. Ramen is slow food, meant to be savored. Order deliciously murky tonkotsu with chashu pork, mushrooms and bamboo or the lighter miso, seafood, or vegetarian bowls. With a wide variety of ramen options and side dishes ranging from whole grilled squid to chashu pork buns, Kappo Nara’s locations in Norfolk and Virginia Beach offer leisurely adventures for curious (and hungry) diners. 2000 Colonial Ave. #7, Norfolk, 757-622-2045. 989 Kempsville Rd., Virginia Beach, 757-467-1102.




Bangkok Garden

For 30 years Bangkok Garden has prepared its Thai cuisine guided by its fundamentals of flavor—sweet, sour, salty, hot and spicy—much to the delight of its diners in ornate settings with congenial service. Its menu selection is expansive, from stir-fry such as Pad Kapau with sweet basil leaves to noodle dishes such as Pad Thai Woon Sen, as well as seafood and vegetarian main courses. Bangkok Garden has locations in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg.


Aticha Thai Cuisine

Aticha Thai Cuisine is proof positive that the growing number of Thai restaurants in Coastal Virginia need not be big, fancy and flashy to serve authentic Thai food. Owner Ananwat Phutthasiri works hard to combine the distinct flavors of Thai cuisine—lemongrass, lime leaves, coconut and curry—in intriguing ways, and he is rewarded with brisk business, with reservations needed on weekends. Thai rookies can go for their well-regarded take on the old staple, Pad Thai. But regulars often go for Aticha’s signature creativity in the drunken noodles or three-flavor fish. 157 Monticello Ave., Williamsburg, 757-378-3773,


Thaijindesu, Newport News Thai restaurant


Owner Prasit “Ken” Khachenrum knows a thing or two about Thai food. He came to the United States from Thailand in 1996 and opened his first restaurant, Pattaya Thai (now closed) in Yorktown in 2002, then opened his Port Warwick location, Thaijindesu, in 2006. Thaijindesu offers a unique mixture of food from Thailand and Japan, concentrating on larger portions at reasonable prices. The atmosphere is welcoming and exotic, featuring china and flatware imported from Thailand. The food is individually prepared with the freshest ingredients, so be prepared to sit back, relax and enjoy. 2180 William Styron Square S., Newport News, 757-595-8410,


Rama Garden

This serene, casually elegant downtown temple of Thai cuisine grew out of the Tida Thai family of restaurants, becoming beloved in its own right for pottery shrimp (baked shrimp with cellophane noodles and vegetables in ginger-garlic sauce), crispy duck kapow (a roasted half duck crowned with minced chicken, chili-garlic sauce and fresh basil), drunken noodles (stir-fried flat, wide rice noodles teeming with veggies), Hawaiian fried jasmine rice and more, all administered with royal service. 441 Granby St., Norfolk, 757-616-0533,


Thai Papaya Restaurant

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how good Thai Papaya is, though the probability is astronomical that many lunch here given NASA Langley’s proximity. Some of the crowd digging into stir-fried kapow (meat with basil and chiles), drunken noodles, pumpkin red curry and stir-fried vegetables utilize chopsticks, others forks. But whether they’re long-familiar with Thai cuisine or rookies, all get to specify spice level in case their taste buds aren’t ready for lift off. 2708-C N. Armistead Ave., Hampton, 757-788-8345. Thai Papaya Restaurant 2 at 319B Chatham Dr., Newport News, 757-874-0646.


Old World European


Cafe Europa, Old World European restaurants, Portsmouth
Café Europa

Café Europa

Those who lament the slide into “casual everything” find fine dining thriving in Olde Towne in these richly appointed rooms resembling a movie set where Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid might meet. But the starring couple here, for three decades, is the Simkos: Veronique (French-born, managing exceptionally professional, sophisticated service) and Michael (a soccer star in his erstwhile homeland, Czechoslovakia, and brother to Monastery’s Anna Jerabek) whose cooking honors continental classics—vichyssoise, escargots, veal Hungarian. His exquisite sauces alone will transport you to a vanishing time and place. 319 High St., Portsmouth, 757-399-6652,


Voila Cuisine Internationale

This European treasure reposes among the Freemason District’s cobblestones. Yellow doors lead to an intimate room where ordering buttery escargot with Chardonnay feels entirely natural and dinner is unhurried. The $30 prix fixe provides a grand way to enjoy Chef Richard Robinson’s skill: luxurious chicken marsala hinting at the Orient; steak au poivre seared to perfection and seasoned as finely. For dessert order lemon sorbet whose blithe sharpness shakes one out the silken, culinary dream. You can’t stay here forever, but many of us would like to try. 509 Botetourt St., Norfolk, 757-640-0343,


Corner Café

A quick glance at Corner Café’s menu reveals a full plate of classics from Old World cuisine, but the restaurant stands apart by reimagining these timeless dishes. Located in Williamsburg’s urban enclave New Town, Corner Café takes diners on a culinary adventure. Take smørrebrod, which is a traditional Danish open-faced sandwich. Topped with fried oysters and spicy remoulade, this combination pays tribute to Denmark and the Chesapeake at the same time. Owners Denise Berardi and Petra Travis both trace their lineage to Europe, but are veterans of the local restaurant business, which have given them a firm handle on what wows modern diners. 5203 Center St., Williamsburg, 757-345-3144,



Gourmands find their prayers answered upon passing from bustling Granby Street through arched wooden doors into this hushed reliquary of exceptional Central European fine dining. Anna and Adolf Jerabek (escapees from what was communist Czechoslovakia) welcome you with apples and cheese, followed by delicacies such as steak tartare, roast duckling, goulash, schnitzel à la Holstein and crêpe-like palacinki. After three decades, theirs is one of the oldest Norfolk restaurants. And most venerated. (Fun foodie fact: Anna’s brother is Michael Simko of Café Europa.) 443 Granby St., Norfolk, 757-625-8193,


Park Lane Tavern

Few places this side of the Atlantic can execute the European pub without it feeling overdrawn; Park Lane Tavern is an exception to this rule. Sit at the beautiful, polished bar sipping single malt scotch, or grab a snug booth. The tavern is known for their “fish and chips”—a generous haddock fillet perfectly breaded, fried and enthroned on golden fries. Bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, corned beef sandwiches and a portly host of comfort-food appetizers like soft, salt-flecked Bavarian pretzels are served up in the friendly atmosphere of this neighborhood-style pub. 4200 Kilgore Ave., Hampton, 757-838-2748,


Explore more Global Eats in Part II and Part III.

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