Best of 2010




FEATURES JUNE 2010

Best Of Summer

We're heating things up with top picks for surfing, swimsuits, girls' getaways, grilling, camping, fruity cocktails, day trips, crabbing, craft beers, oysters and more.

Compiled and Written by: Leona Baker, Jessica Carlson, Kelsey Clayton, Kimberly Cuachon-Haugh, Chelsea DeAngio, Betsy DiJulio, Patrick Evans-Hylton, Bill Glose, Beth Hester, Pam Hopkins, Michael Khandelwal, Pam Majumdar, Tom Robotham, Ashley Schaefer, Ben Swenson, Melissa M. Stewart, Stephen Stewart and Kip Tabb
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After suffering through one of the dreariest winters in Hampton Roads history, we are fired up about some much-needed warmth coming back into our lives. And there is no doubt the rest of you locals also greatly anticipate summertime in HR, so we figured you wouldn't mind if we dedicated our annual Best Of Issue to the latest and greatest reasons to love this season. We're heating things up with top picks for surfing, swimsuits, girls' getaways, grilling, camping, fruity cocktails, day trips, crabbing, craft beers, oysters and more. The wait is over—let's dive in!

SHOPPING AND BEAUTY

SWIMSUIT SHOP

Megs Swimwear
Women of all shapes and sizes will swoon when entering the treasure trove of bathing suit bounty that is Megs Swimwear. From itsy bitsy bikinis to one-pieces that wow, Megs has you covered—and not so covered!—for whatever suit will suit you. Choose from an astounding array of cup-size-friendly separates, then complete the look with a fetching flip-flop, cover-up and beach bag. With clothes and shoes galore, not to mention eye-catching jewelry and unique gifts, Megs Swimwear will get you through your summer shopping just swimmingly. 307 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach. 757-428-7945

PLACE TO EXFOLIATE YOUR SKIN

Dupre's Salon & Day Spa
There are lots of great full-service spas in Hampton Roads. But we had beauty and budget in mind when we went looking for a spot to scrub off the old and usher in the new and moisturized. Full body treatments—exfoliating or otherwise—can run upwards of $100. But at $75, the Detoxifying Salt Glow at Dupre's is both frugal and fabulous and just the right recipe for saying bye-bye to dry in time for swimsuit weather. Aromatherapy oils and Dead Sea salts do the dirty work and a rich hydrating lotion finishes the job after a warm rinse on the water table. And voila! 1708 Pleasure House Rd., Virginia Beach. 757-464-9100, www.dupressalon.net

SURF SHOP

Wave Riding Vehicles
Be a beach bum without looking like, well, a bum, with a visit to Wave Riding Vehicles (WRV). The wide selection of apparel and accessories for men and women of all ages is reason enough to check out this local's favorite, but for the die-hard surfer WRV is paradise, with everything from surfboards and wetsuits to fins and surf accessories. One of only three in the world, WRV has even founded its own Surf Camp, and every surfer knows to check out their surf hotline for the daily surf report. 1900 Cypress Ave., Virginia Beach. 757-422-8823, www.waveridingvehicles.com

SURF SPOT

Croatan Beach
Looking for that perfect slice of surf? While many surfers high-tail it out to the First Street Jetty for its consistent surf break, the savvy surfer knows that the waves are just as good on the other side of the jetty—and less congested. Head away from the busy Oceanfront, across the Rudee Inlet bridge and stroll over the sand to the rolling waves at Croatan, perfect for surfers of all skill levels. Check out the Surfrider Foundation's website at www.surfrider.org for rules, regulations and parking restrictions. Off South Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach.

PLACE TO BUY FIREWORKS

Eastern Shore
Sometimes we'd rather skip the big fireworks show altogether and have our own backyard pyrotechnics display, which is why a trip up Route 13 on the Eastern Shore is just the ticket. A handful of roadside fireworks stands gives us all the sparklers, pinwheels and whirligigs we need. Of course we'd—ahem—never buy (nor would the purveyors sell) anything that goes boom since, in Hampton Roads anyway, that would land us on the wrong side of the law.

PEDI PLACE

Elite European Day Spa
Unassuming, yet totally luxurious, Elite European Day Spa in Ghent isn't your typical in-and-out nail spa. Welcoming and friendly staff help make your monthly pedi feel more like a day at the spa and less like another thing to cross off your to-do list. The large front room is totally dedicated to nails and features six luxurious leather pedicure chairs spread out across the room. Choose from a $35 classic pedi, or spend an extra $15 for additional exfoliation, a massage and a mint cooling mask, perfect for summer-ready toes. 350 W. 22nd St., Suite 105, Norfolk. 757-622-8002, www.eliteuropeandayspa.com

SUNGLASS SHOP

Studio Optix
We suggest you head over to Studio Optix and let Bruce Jones, master optician, protect your peepers. He carries the latest and best in lens technology and the hottest styles from designers like Versace, Chanel, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Chrome Hearts, Oakley, Paul Smith and Armani. 310 30th St., Virginia Beach. 757-428-3206, www.studioptix.com

SUNNING SPOT OFF THE BEACH

Norfolk Botanical Garden
Who needs crowded beaches when you've got lush grass, picturesque statues and tranquil fountains? Lazing about amongst roses, azaleas and wildflowers at Norfolk Botanical Garden is a great way to soak up the sun. Bring out your inner child and fly a kite or toss a Frisbee. Or pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it. 6700 Azalea Garden Rd., Norfolk. 757-441-5830, www.norfolkbotanicalgarden.org

LEISURE AND ENTERTAINMENT

PLACE TO BEAT THE HEAT

Chrysler Museum of Art
When the days begin to swelter beyond the 90-degree mark, anywhere with A/C seems like the place to be. But you can't pour over an original Gauguin or a Man Ray print at the mall. There's a sense of serenity and reverence inside a world-class art museum like the Chrysler that calms and cools the senses. And the fact that admission to the museum is now free is pretty cool too. Ongoing special exhibits include the Women of the Chrysler retrospective and Class Pictures: Photographs by Dawoud Bey. 245 W. Olney Rd., Norfolk. 757-664-6200, www.chrysler.org

WEEKLY AFTER-WORK EVENT

TGIF at TowneBank Fountain Park
Let your weekday worries melt away every Friday this summer at TowneBank Fountain Park, the often forgotten square of Town Point Park right next to Waterside. Enjoy food, drinks, music and dancing as the sun sets behind the sailboats and yachts at Waterside Marina. Coming from the office? Do yourself a favor and bring a change of clothes—this after-work party is wonderfully laid-back. To boot, dogs and kids are welcome, and both will love playing in the new 'interactive' fountain. TowneBank Fountain Park, Norfolk. 757-441-2345, www.festevents.org

OUTDOOR WORKOUT SPOT

First Landing State Park
Many of us know First Landing as the eerily beautiful oasis that it is in the midst of Virginia Beach's endless suburban sprawl. Cypress trees dripping in Spanish moss, primordial-looking marshes alongside well-groomed hiking and biking paths, rustic cabins, even seaside campgrounds. It's also a jogger's paradise, of course. And within the last year, they've added a Health Trek fitness system—basically an obstacle course for grown-ups—along the Cape Henry Trail. It'll whip you into shape in no time. 2500 Shore Dr., Virginia Beach. 757-412-2300, www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/fir.shtml

FISHING PIER

Ocean View Fishing Pier
For less than the price of a movie at the mall, local fishing piers let you enjoy an entire day of relaxation and natural beauty. Of course, if you're lucky, you'll also catch dinner. What sets the Ocean View facility apart is its spectacular open-air bar and restaurant offering expansive views of the bay and the nearby beach community. So consider this: You fish for four or five hours, soaking up the sun and salt air while catching some spot, croaker or flounder. Then you pack up your gear, ice down your fish, and head upstairs for a few beers, a fried fish sandwich and a view of one of the most spectacular sunsets you've ever seen. Sound like a plan? 414 West Ocean View Ave., Norfolk. 757- 583-6000, www.oceanviewfishingpier.com

PUBLIC POOL

Chippokes Plantation State Park
We like to mix up our aquatic recreation, which is why we occasionally head west to Chippokes Plantation State Park in Surry County. A nominal fee (less than $5, depending on age and day of the week) grants you access to the tidy and well-maintained pool, but the setting here is the dealmaker. It's a working farm of more than 1,600 acres and includes a colonial mansion, cultivated gardens and a Farm and Forestry Museum. 695 Chippokes Park Rd., Surry. 757-294-3625, www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/chi.shtml

BEACH OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Yorktown Beach
Tourists stop at Yorktown to take in the museums and earthworks at this historic site, but they often head all the way to the Atlantic to sit on a beach. Locals know, however, that Yorktown has one of the best beaches around. It's popular but small enough to feel intimate. The new shops and eateries at the adjacent Riverwalk Landing are a benefit as well, offering plenty of places to beat the heat when the summer sun gets too brutal. Riverwalk Landing, 425 Water St., Historic Yorktown.

PLACE TO DROP A FLY

Northwest River Park
Though saltwater fly-fishing is a big deal around these parts, don't discount the smaller, fresh water, urban-fishing venues that provide lots of casting pleasure, or a mini-vacation without breaking the bank. At Northwest River Park, you can ply the stocked lake for perch, crappie, bluegill, and trout in-season. A short, scenic hike to the pier and you can catch yellow perch or a few winter stripers. The park also hosts occasional fly-fishing classes taught by members of the local Trout Unlimited chapter. The kids can play on the new putt-putt green while mom and dad test fly patterns. 1733 Indian Creek Rd., Chesapeake. 757-421-7151, www.chesapeake.va.us/services/depart/park-rec/nwrp/fishing.shtml

FAMILY-ORIENTED WATERWAY WITHIN AN URBAN ENVIRONMENT

Waller Mill Park
Waller Mill is a favorite day trip destination, and after a morning of exploring the scenic shoreline by canoe or kayak, the family can enjoy a lunch of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers under one of the park's shelters. What makes this destination special is the topography; numerous coves, creeks, and a navigable tunnel keep things interesting for anglers and pleasure boaters alike. 901 Airport Rd., Williamsburg. 757-259-3778

PLACE FOR CRABBING

Lynnhaven River
This river is getting much cleaner thanks to the aggressive efforts of private citizens and the group Lynnhaven River Now. More of the river is open for shell fishing now than at any time since the 1930s. It's quite a success story. Park at the Lynnhaven boat ramp and be sure to remember your net, twine and a couple chicken necks. You might just be taking home some jimmies and sooks for supper tonight. Lynnhaven Boat Ramp and Beach Facility, 3576 Piedmont Circle, Virginia Beach. 757-460-7590

PLACE FOR OUTDOOR GEAR

Bass Pro Shops
So you want to go camping but the only "outdoors" experience you've had recently is walking from your house to the car and the car to the office. One stop at Bass Pro will outfit you like an expert. Looming like a giant ski lodge beside I-64 on HRBT's Hampton side, the cavernous store stocks everything an outdoorsman could want: gear for camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, and everything else under the sun. Wander through rows of 4-wheel drive ATVs and boats up to 25-feet long, check out the aquarium-filled large-mouth bass, or try your hand at the indoor archery range or the quarter-operated, carnival-style air-rifle range. 1972 Power Plant Parkway, Hampton. 757-262-5200, www.basspro.com

OUTDOOR NIGHTLIFE

Port Warwick
An evening in Port Warwick is a chance to engage all of your senses—visual, taste, sound and the wonderful scent of gourmet food being prepared. There is this distinctly small-town, artsy feel here, without being pretentious. Art galleries, great restaurants, cozy bars with unique offerings and live music—all within walking distance. Comfortable shoes and a sense of adventure are about the only requirements. Jefferson Avenue at Loftis Boulevard, Newport News. www.portwarwick.com

WATER SPORT RENTALS

Great White Water Sports, LLC
Treat yourself to a dolphin's-eye view of the lower Chesapeake Bay. Choose from a wide variety of Jet Ski/Wave Runner watercraft rental options and Get Your Zoom On! Jet Ski's are launched directly from the beach, and the bay's relatively calm waters provide the perfect backdrop for views of Cape Henry Light, First Landing State Park, and our marine mammal friends. A one-hour dolphin tour is $150, which is a bargain when you consider most of GW's watercraft accommodate three adults. 2800 Shore Dr., Virginia Beach. 757-450-4096, www.greatwhitewatersports.com

SUMMER CAMP

Eco Image Nature Tours & Wilderness Weekends
Answer the call of the wild. Vickie Shufer's Eco Image tours and weekend camping experiences will have you on intimate terms with Mother Nature. An experienced educator, lecturer, and wild foods expert, Shufer packages a variety of outdoor experiences, calling to the latent adventure hog that sleeps in all of us: Wild Women Weekends, Map and Compass Skills Day Camps, Stargazing and Owl Hoot Evenings, False Cape Wildlife Adventures, and Wild Foods Foraging/Cooking Camps. Check the online schedule, and sign up for email summer activity alerts. 757-421-3929, www.ecoimages-us.com

LOCAL LANDMARK

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
To those heading north or south, it's a wonder-of-the-world reminder that home is just around the bend. In the summer, locals and tourists alike can be found on its pier, taking advantage of one of the most unique fishing spots in the area. More than just a road—we often take the trip just for the fun and beauty of the experience.

OUTDOOR GUIDE SERVICE

Wild River Outfitters/Wild River Outfitters Touring Company, LLC
Established in 1980, WWO is the leader in kayak and canoe instruction, racing, touring and outfitting. The 2010 schedule is packed with excursions suitable for paddlers with varying levels of skill. Take a half-day trip through Back Bay or the Pocaty River, sign up for overnight or multi-day paddling instruction, or have the good folks at WWO create a custom adventure just for you. Ecological stewardship is a key part of the WWO philosophy, and it's always safety first. 3636 Virginia Beach Blvd. #108, Virginia Beach. 757-431-8566, www.wildriveroutfitters.com

SUMMER FEST ACTIVITY

The Tug Boat Contest at Harborfest
At one of the best festivals in Hampton Roads, one of the coolest activities is the annual Tug Boat contest. We like watching the hard working harbor boats show off their skills executing hard turns in the water and lassoing ropes around the mooring. And, if you get there early, they're always looking for guest judges. 34th Annual Norfolk Harborfest presented by AT&T, at Town Point Park in Norfolk, June 11–13, 2010. www.festeventsva.org

GIRLS' DAY TRIP

Harbinger Lavender Farm
When Doris Flattum's business partner wanted out of the business recently, the original Harbinger Lavender Farm, founded in 2003, closed, but it will reopen right next door, smaller but just as fragrant and bee-friendly as ever from mid-June through August. This unique Outer Banks destination features display gardens and a small gift shop filled with utterly unnecessary but completely seductive lavender-based items. 101 Forbes Lane, Harbinger, N.C. 252-722-3460, www.harbingerlavender.com

PLAYGROUND PLACE

Kid's Cove, Mount Trashmore Park
Built entirely by volunteers, Kids' Cove is hardly just for kids. In nice weather, families crowd the bridges, ladders, slides, swings and sidewalks that lead in, out, around and through this miniature fortress of wooden towers, complete with a restroom and snack machine pavilion nearby. It's so much fun that no one seems to mind being shoulder to shoulder, or maybe that's why it's so fun. 310 Edwin Dr., Virginia Beach. 757-473-5237, www.vbgov.com


HOME AND GARDEN


OUTDOOR ACCESSORIES STORE

Anderson-Wright Rooms & Gardens
All retailers have inventory. But great specialty shops are about environment and the creation of a truly unique shopping experience. That's why we love Anderson- Wright in Olde Towne. Don't get us wrong: it has really cool stuff—statuary, fountains and irresistible decorative doohickeys in every nook and cranny. But it's the Old World, tucked-away charm of the space, complete with a hidden courtyard—where we fantasize about hiding out and spending the night and where we're pretty sure wee sprites and other fantastical garden dwellers make their home—that keeps us coming back. 622 High St., Portsmouth. 757-398-0990

PATIO FURNITURE STORE

Garden Gazebo
Hey, we live in the South, and sipping on mint juleps and iced tea is a way of life. And that means doing it up in style—only the best patio furniture and outdoor décor will do. Garden Gazebo's nifty selection includes outdoor as well as indoor furnishings and a fun mix of doodads you just can't pass up. Martini glass-shaped hummingbird feeder, anyone? 729 W. 21st St., Norfolk, 757-623-1717. 4582 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach. 757-490-8922, www.gardengazebo.com

SPOT FOR NOODLES, TUBES AND FLOATIES

Virginia Beach Oceanfront
When warm weather rolls around and it's time for us to stock up on our aquatic accessories, we head down to the Oceanfront at Virginia Beach. Where else in Hampton Roads will you find 40 blocks of retail catering to water-bound crowds? If you'd like to rub elbows with fellow beach bums, head there any time in summer, but our best bet is to beat the crowds and stock up on a summer's worth of water toys before Memorial Day.

GARDEN CENTER

Anderson's Home and Garden Showplace
Whether we tend a couple tomato plants or acres of cultivated flower gardens, Anderson's provides all the plants, accessories and expertise we need to nurture our green thumbs. After all, it's the workplace of Hampton Roads gardening legend Dabney Morgan. Anderson's recently expanded, adding thousands of square feet of nursery and retail space. All that garden planning is bound to make us hungry, and Anderson's has that covered, too, with their award-winning Showplace Café. 11250 Jefferson Ave., Newport News. 757-599-3510, www.andersonsshowplace.com

PLACE FOR GRILL STUFF

Ray Johnson's Fireplace & Patio
Okay, so you're not Bobby Flay. That's no excuse not to upgrade from that 4-inch high, aluminum pie plate, grocery store special we know you've been secretly using. Family-owned and operated for more than 30 years, the Johnsons have everything you need to grill like a pro: high-end outdoor grill systems, the coveted Green Egg Smoker/Grills, outdoor kitchen design services, patio fireplaces, Viking Equipment, and a host of accessories. We love the rugged yet stylish outdoor, brick-lined pizza oven, but best of all, the Johnsons service what they sell and stand behind every purchase. 5040 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach. 757-497-8074, www.rayjohnsonjr.com

 

FOOD AND DINING

ICED COFFEE DRINK

Bean There Cafe
Java purists may scoff, but who could resist a drink called a "Little Red Corvette"—an iced latte blended with white chocolate and raspberry? We couldn't. It made us want to party like it was 1999. Want your own? Head over to the decidedly corporate- feeling Towne Place at Greenbrier, where there's a delightfully non-corporate coffee shop called Bean There Cafe. It's "bean there" about three years, inviting folks to "sip local" and "fight the green giant" (we'll give you one guess who that is). Bean There has a cozy, inviting atmosphere complete with original art for sale on the walls, eclectic menu with all the caffeine-head faves plus yummy pastries and snacks. 733 Eden Way N. Suite 412, Chesapeake. 757-312-0188, www.beantherecafe.com

PLACE TO GRAB SAMMIES FOR AN IMPROMPTU PICNIC

The Lizard Café at Prince Books
With the fresh breezes coming off the Elizabeth River and the bucolic expanse of the renovated Town Point Park in downtown Norfolk, we look to The Lizard Café, just a block off Waterside Drive on Main Street, as our go-to for a spontaneous outdoor spread. A delish selection of premium- quality sandwiches (on house-baked bread), including Surry Ham & Cucumber, Mushroom & Artichoke, Hummus Wrap, Dilled Fresh Tuna Salad and Chicken Salad (with curried mango chutney), sate our appetite every time. 109 E. Main St., Norfolk. 757-622-9223, www.prince-books.com

VEGAN SALAD

Fattouch Salad at Azar's
(pronounced "fa-toush," not "fat touch") No, vegans don't just eat salads, but this can hardly be classified as a salad anyway. Fresh ingredients of the Mediterranean— lettuces, red cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, English cucumbers, red onions and pitted Kalamata olives—are dressed with tangy lemon & herbs and tossed with homemade pita chips that put standard croutons to shame. 108 Prescott Ave., Virginia Beach., 757-486-777. 2000 Colley Ave., Norfolk. 757-664-7955. www.azarfoods.com

FREAKIN' FROYO, YO

Yo Mama Froyo
Ah, remember the 80s when it seemed there was a frozen yogurt shop on every corner? For whatever reason, froyo fell from favor, but it's back, baby. Yo Mama is in the style of Pinkberry and Red Mango; tart, tangy yogurt (and some non-tart as well) with a multitude of flavors like vanilla, strawberry, peach, blueberry, honeydew and watermelon and an equally impressive array of toppings and mix-ins. Toppings include chocolate, traditional fresh fruit and mochi, a Japanese glutinous rice snack also popular in Hawaii. 4540 Princess Anne Rd., Virginia Beach. 757-467-0383

THIRST-QUENCHING TROPICAL ADULT BEVERAGE

The Orange Crush at Waterman's Surfside Grille
This isn't the syrupy-sweet soda of your childhood, but rather a skillful blend of orange vodka, triple sec, fresh-squeezed orange juice and a splash of lemon-lime soda all served in a big, frosty glass packed full of ice. Mike Standing, one of Waterman's owners, says that when summer really heats up, sometimes the restaurant goes through a case or so of oranges a day in making the drink. And that's just making our orders. 415 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach. 757-428-3644, www.watermans.com

PLACE FOR VIEWING SCANTILY-CLAD TOURISTS WHILE ENJOYING A MEAL

The Outdoor Patio at Catch 31
We love Catch 31, located at the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, any time of year—the energetic vibe, the delish food, the skillfully crafted cocktails—but we especially love it in the summer when we can sit out on the expansive patio and catch warm, salty breezes blowing directly in from the Atlantic Ocean just yards away. It's also pretty good for some eye candy, we admit, as a parade of swim suit-clad tourists all covered in oil trek by on their way to and from the sea. 3001 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach. 757-213-3472, www.31ocean.com

VIRGINIA WINE TO QUENCH A SUMMER THIRST

Prince Michel Vineyard's
Rapidan River Semi-Dry Riesling Hazy, hot and humid summer days become more tolerable with refreshing quaffs, and one of our favorites is the Rapidan River Semi-Dry Riesling from Virginia's own Prince Michel Vineyard. The winery says, "Creamy, full-bodied sensations linger on the tongue, further exposing the stone fruit and floral notes." We concur. We enjoy a nice full pour on its own, or mixed with ice, a splash of Cointreau and topped with sparkling water. Found in wine shops across Hampton Roads. www.princemichel.com

PLACE FOR RAW OYSTERS

A.W. Shucks
Depending on the season, this Ghent eatery may offer 15 varieties or more. (If you have a favorite, make sure to call ahead.) Among the most popular are the Blue Points, harvested from wild beds in the Long Island sound and prized for their distinctive flavor and meaty texture; the Virginia Eastern Shore Seasides, which are known for their extra-salty taste; and the plump yet delicate York River oysters. Can't decide? They'll be happy to serve up a sampler platter. Prices can vary, although they are generally $10.95 for a half dozen and $20.95 for a dozen. 2200 Colonial Ave., Norfolk. 757-664-9117

DISH TO GIVE OUT-OF-TOWNERS A LOCAL FLAVOR

The Route 17 Roasted Pig Plate at Vintage Tavern
With so many culinary calling cards in our region coming to our plates by land and by sea, it is hard to pick just one flavor to share with the uninitiated, but our choice is the Route 17 Roasted Pig Plate at Vintage Tavern in Suffolk. Seasonally Southern Chef Sam McGann works some swine-omite magic with this place of Berkshire pulled pork, smoked ribs, housemade sausage and cured loin. The true essence of our region's Southern roots comes through in this artfully crafted plate. A side of Carolina BBQ Slaw is a must. 1900 Governors Pointe Dr., Suffolk. 757-238-8808, www.vintagetavernvirginia.com

RESTAURANT THAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU ARE ON VACATION

Espeto na Brasa Brazilian Restaurant
Tall and tan and dark and lovely, the servers at Espeto na Brasa Brazilian Restaurant make you question if that wrong turn on Granby Street landed you somewhere other than Norfolk. Coupled with an array of exotically prepared meats and other dishes with a South American flare as well as an opulent British Colonial Empireesque dining room with soaring ceiling and gold-gilded everything so lovely that would make Evita Peron cry, we love the mini vacation that this eatery brings to our stomach and soul. (There is also a location in Virginia Beach.) 233 Granby St., Norfolk. 757-313-4363, www.espetonabrasa.com

PLACE FOR GRILLED FOOD WITHOUT PULLING OUT THE GRILL

Fire & Vine
With a first name emphasizing the way Executive Chef Marc Taylor's creative cuisine is prepared, Fire & Vine is our pick for enjoying wood-fired food when standing over our Weber and battling the heat and mosquitoes at home just isn't very appealing. Grilled steaks, seafood, rotisserie items, pizzas and flatbreads are all on the menu—prepared over open flames—as well as an enticing, 5,000-bottle wine cellar. 1556 Laskin Rd. #134, Virginia Beach. 757-333-4824, www.fireandvine.com

UPSCALE JEANS-ANDT-SHIRT RESTAURANT

Terrapin Restaurant
A wonderful, unwritten dress code of the region is that ties and coats are not necessary, even at the top-notch restaurants. We are a town that loves fine dining, but— whether it is the influence of beach-going at the Atlantic or boating on the Bay—we like comfort too. (But don't press your luck with cut-offs or flip-flops.) We find Terrapin Restaurant, a fine dining restaurant if we've ever seen one, appreciates and welcomes customers who may come in wearing khakis or even jeans, and we like that. Let's face it—the focus should be on enjoying the fab offerings from Executive Chef Rodney Einhorn and not what we wear. 3102 Holly Rd., Virginia Beach. 757-321-6688, www.terrapinvirginiabeach.com

HOT AND SPICY COCKTAIL

Planter's Punch at City Dock
This deliciously refreshing beverage is a hip fusion of citrus juices, angostura, freshly brewed Tazo Passion tea, two types of rum, and here's the kicker—cayenne powder. Its delicate, effervescent finish and lingering flavor is just as surprising as the garnish—a sea salt-sprinkled grapefruit wedge speared with a sugarcane stick. 777 Waterside Dr., Norfolk. 757-622-6664, www.sheratonnorfolkwaterside.com

PLACE FOR FRESH CATCH

Coastal Grill
Psst, you want in on a little secret? Don't order from the menu at Coastal Grill. You might be tempted—there are plenty of delish offerings—but the blackboard is where it's at. Since 1989, Coastal Grill has been famous for the daily scrawling of what is fresh that day. Folks know to start looking at the blackboard in early spring for the first sign of soft shell crabs, and to check frequently for tuna, rockfish and other catch from area waters and that comply with the Virginia Aquarium's Sensible Seafood program, an effort to build sustainability in our foodshed. 1427 North Great Neck Rd., Virginia Beach. 757-496-3348, www.coastalgrill.com

CRAFT BEER SELECTION

Taphouse Grill
Just as a revolution in cuisine has been brewing in our country, where folks favor smaller produced and local fare, such a movement in the beer sphere has also mobilized. We think the Taphouse Grill in Hampton (there is also a location in Norfolk) is on the frontline, offering more than three dozen beers—largely craft—on tap and another 10 dozen or so in bottles. We love finding brews from Hampton's St. George on tap and bottles of Charlottesville's Starr Hill cohabitating nicely with such far-ranging offerings as Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Yee-haw, frosty mug! 17 E.Queens Way, Hampton. 757-224-5829

SUMMER LUNCH SPOT
The Cheese Shop
Whether we've been roaming the historic streets in Williamsburg or just want a good sandwich with a side of people-watching, The Cheese Shop in Merchants Square is our favorite summer lunch destination. You can pick from hundreds of cheeses (try the sage derby), order a great sandwich or just grab some bread ends and house dressing, but make sure you check out The Cellar downstairs for a bottle of wine before heading out to the patio. 410 W. Duke of Gloucester St., Williamsburg. 757-220-0298, www.cheeseshopwilliamsburg.com

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