The Cuisine Scene 2010 Platinum Plate Winners - The best local restaurants


The Cuisine Scene

Wake up your tastebuds and get ready for the best restaurants in
Hampton Roads recognized in our annual Platinum Plate awards

CLICK HERE to view the 2011 winners!

Bookmark and Share By Patrick Evans-Hylton

Food is a very special thing.

Nations have gone to war over it, or specifically, over its supply. Nations also spar over it, claiming their cuisine to be superior in some way or another to other countries' foods. Folks pass down family recipes in secret, the way a bank teller may guard the combination to the vault. Folks also compete with said recipes, vying for everything from blue ribbons to an obscenely large purse at the Pillsbury Bake-Off to their own show on the Food Network.

But on the most basic level, food is nourishment—not only for the body, but for the soul.

It is part of our life from beginning to end. It first appears at the baby shower thrown in our honor by mom's coworkers and fills tables in the church at the covered dish collection when family members mourn our loss.
During life, it is there at birthdays, holidays, weddings and anniversaries. It is used to celebrate things small and grand, to mark time and events, and to show love and affection. It comforts. It relaxes. It quells pangs. It stirs memories.
No wonder, then, that we hold restaurants in such high regard. Yes, many of our food memories are created right in our own kitchen and served on our own dining room table. But others are made in restaurants. The celebration of a promotion. The marriage proposal. The holiday out to give mom a break. The weekly date between long-partnered couples.

We take food—and restaurants—seriously here at Hampton Roads Magazine because we know they are part of the fabric of our society, not only on a large scale, but on a regional scale, too. For the seventh year, we offer our Platinum Plate Awards—our ranking of restaurants in Hampton Roads. Let's raise a glass to the owners, the chefs, the waitstaffs and to the food, for it is a very special thing indeed.

Platinum Plates Top 10

713 19th Street, Virginia Beach

RANK – 1 SCORE – 98.7723

Zoe's was the comeback story of the year in Hampton Roads' restaurant scene. With the pinch of the economy hitting hard in early 2009, the then-owners of Zoe's decided to shut down the venerable eatery. But executive chef Jerry Weihbrecht rallied the troops—in this case uber-sommelier Marc Sauter and some of the restaurant's patrons—and reopened within just a few months.

A reenergized Weihbrecht took his cooking—already recognized as outstanding through numerous national and regional awards and an invitation to guest chef at the famed James Beard House in New York City—to a new level. It was augmented with new and outstanding wine offerings from Sauter. By the end of the year, it was clear that Zoe's was indeed achieving above and beyond what it had done in previous years.

The restaurant retains its charm, with lots of wood accents and plush pillows and seat coverings. From the other side of the exhibition kitchen, diners can view Weihbrecht preparing his seasonal menus, which offer many dishes with Asian-inspired ingredients and preparations as well as some daring features like emu and molecular gastronomy.

fat canaryFat Canary
In Merchant's Square
410 West Duke of Gloucester St.,

RANK – 2 SCORE – 98.1979

Fat Canary has been thrilling palates since 2003. It continues to wow with the contemporary, creative seasonal and fresh offerings from chef/owner Tom Power Jr. The edible masterpieces complement the masterpiece which is the tidy and simple but elegantly appointed dining room that simultaneously relaxes and invigorates.

fat canaryStove, the Restaurant
2622 Detroit St., Portsmouth

RANK – 3 SCORE – 98.1888

Creativity, thy name is Sydney Meers. We have long loved the Willy Wonka-ish creations that come from Meers' kitchens, beginning at his original Dumbwaiter. The chef is in his element in his current quaint and quirky eatery, surrounded by color and decors as vibrant and bold as his neo-Southern cuisine.

fat canaryRiverstone Chop House
8032 Harbour View Blvd., Suffolk

RANK – 4 SCORE – 98.1843

A fresh, seasonal menu with an emphasis on steak is offered in this impressively beautiful restaurant, with design inspired by the American classic Arts and Craft movement. In addition to prime, aged beef, a large selection of seafood is also offered and prepared just as wonderfully. Riverstone Chop
House is a sister restaurant of Vintage Tavern.

fat canaryTerrapin Restaurant
3102 Holly Rd., Virginia Beach

RANK – 5 SCORE – 98.1602

Chef/owner Rodney Einhorn has pleased foodies in Hampton Roads since 2006 when he first opened Terrapin and began offering locals his creative, classic-but-modern offerings utilizing fresh, in-season ingredients and local foodstuffs. The jewel-box dining room is well appointed in soothing green hues, exotic woods and lush textures.

fat canarySalacia
Inside the Hilton
Virginia Beach Oceanfront
3001 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach

RANK – 6 SCORE – 98.1328

A sexy and trendy, city dining room decked out in summer white and cobalt blue with dark wood accents opens to a wall of windows with expansive ocean views. The menu is equally impressive with upscale, seasonal offerings focusing on steak and seafood.

fat canaryCoastal Grill
1427 N. Great Neck Rd.,
Virginia Beach

RANK – 7 SCORE – 97.9054

Fresh-caught seafood served simply and wonderfully is always in season at Coastal Grill. Since 1989, this comfortable, contemporary Beach restaurant has offered a succinct menu augmented by an extensive blackboard list of fresh catch and other nightly specials. .

fat canarySwan Terrace
At The Founders Inn & Spa
5641 Indian River Rd., Virginia Beach

RANK – 8 SCORE – 97.8979

Long-time sous chef Eric Doarnberger, now at the helm as executive chef, has prepared a reinvigorated seasonal and sustainable menu with all-from-scratch components. He serves diners an impressive array of contemporary cuisine prepared classically amid an elegant colonial dining room backdrop.

fat canaryBlue Talon Bistro
In Merchant's Square
420 Prince George St., Williamsburg

RANK – 9 SCORE – 97.3752

A relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere sets the stage for chef/owner David Everett's beautifully written and executed menu of classic French bistro fare. The upscale comfort food shows remarkable talent and restraint—talent to prepare each morsel deliciously and restraint to not push it over the top. Everett succeeds.

fat canaryVintage Tavern
900 Governors Pointe Dr., Suffolk

RANK – 10 SCORE – 97.0458

Chef/owner Sam McGann wows diners with his cuisines, which he dubs "seasonally Southern." We concur. His sophisticated interpretations of rustic regional classics bode well in this comfortable restaurant, resplendent with stone walls, exposed ceiling beams, hardwood floors and spectacular wooded views. Vintage Tavern is a sister restaurant of Riverstone Chop House.


The Platinum Level

Art Café 26
Trendy, creative cuisine blending classic European techniques and molecular gastronomy. Impeccable service, keen attention to detail and a tasteful and inviting art gallery ambiance.
5107-2 Center St., NewTown,
Williamsburg, 757-565-7788

Eurasia Café
Jewel-box restaurant with global flavors pulled from sustainable, seasonal offerings.
960 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach

The Left Bank
A classic formal dining room offering beautiful views of the Currituck Sound and showcasing a creative seasonal
fine dining menu.
1461 Duck Rd., Duck, N.C.

Shula's 347 Grill
A classic steakhouse menu is varied with seasonal selections as well in the clubby, upscale dining room which
features wood accents, black leather and sports memorabilia from owner and namesake Don Shula's NFL career.
235 E. Main St., Norfolk


The Trellis
A venerable restaurant offering contemporary seasonal menus against a stylish backdrop. Home of Marcel Desaulnier's "Death By Chocolate."
403 East Duke of Gloucester St.,
Williamsburg, 757-229-8610

Note: The Trellis changed ownership in late 2009, but considering David Everett of Blue Talon Bistro, also in Williamsburg and also a Platinum Level winner, is the new guy at the helm, we are confident about good things to come as the new chapter in this long-time restaurant's history is written.

Todd Jurich's Bistro
Seasonal and sustainable upscale
contemporary offerings are showcased in the trendy, hip dining room.
150 West Main St., Norfolk

Vintage Kitchen
A substantial menu of fresh offerings with a focus on local foodways in a contemporary setting with views of
the Elizabeth River.
In the Dominion Tower
999 Waterside Dr., Norfolk


The Platinum Plates, A to Z

Gold Through Pewter Level Restaurants

99 Main Restaurant

Classically prepared contemporary offerings in a comfortable, upscale atmosphere.
99 Main St., Newport News
Gold Medal Winner

757 Fire & Vine
An emphasis on fire-grilled entrees and wine bode well in rich surroundings.
1556 Laskin Rd., Suite 134, Virginia Beach,
Gold Medal Winner

2nd Street
American Bistro

A venerable restaurant with varied menu from casual to upscale amid a comfortable backdrop.
140 Second St.,
Williamsburg, 757-220-2286
Gold Medal Winner

Aberdeen Barn

Traditional steakhouse offerings in an old-school steakhouse setting.
5805 Northampton Blvd., Virginia Beach,
Bronze Medal Winner

Al Fresco Italian Restaurant
An assortment of Italian offerings against an Old World-themed backdrop.
11710 Jefferson Ave.,
Newport News,

Silver Medal Winner

Aldo's Ristorante
Contemporary Northern
Italian cuisine offered in a casual, intimate atmosphere.
1860 Laskin Rd.,
Virginia Beach, 757-491-1111
Gold Medal Winner

Alexander's on the Bay
Contemporary seafood. Alexander's on the Bay was closed at press time due to significant damage from 2009's autumn Nor'easter storm. Owners have said the restaurant will reopen in 2010.
4546 Oceanview Ave.,
Virginia Beach, 757-464-4999
Bronze Medal Winner

Berret's Seafood
Restaurant & Taphouse Grill

Regional seafood and
other offerings in a
contemporary setting.
199 South Boundary St.,
Silver Medal Winner

Buon Amici
5201 Center St.,

Gold Medal Winner

Burton's Grill
Regional specialties
including seafood and
steak done well in a clubby, hip atmosphere
741 First Colonial Rd.,
Virginia Beach,
Gold Medal Winner

Catch 31
Inside the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront
An emphasis on seafood in an open, airy dining room with expansive ocean views.
3001 Atlantic Ave.,
Virginia Beach, 757-213-3474
Gold Medal Winner

The Cellars
At Church Point Manor
Bed & Breakfast
Upscale, relaxed atmosphere in the basement of a vintage home-turned-bed and breakfast offering seasonal selections.
4001 Church Point Rd.,
Virginia Beach, 757-460-2657
Gold Medal Winner

Cobalt Grille
Quality contemporary fare in
a modern, trendy setting.
762 Hilltop North Shopping Center, Virginia Beach
Gold Medal Winner

Croc's 19th Street Bistro
Seasonal coastal cuisine with a focus on sustainability in a vibrant setting.
620 19th St., Virginia Beach
Gold Medal Winner

Espeto na Brasa
Opulent dining room sets the stage for this classic Brazilian steakhouse.
233 Granby St., Norfolk
Also a location in
Virginia Beach
Gold Medal Winner

Fin Steak-Seafood-Lobster
Surf and turf offerings in a contemporary, trendy setting.
In Port Warwick
3150 William Styron Square, Newport News, 757-599-5800
Gold Medal Winner

The Flagship Seafood
Restaurant and Raw Bar
Vintage eatery in Portsmouth's Shea Terrace with water views and a focus on seafood.
103 Constitution Ave.,
Portsmouth, 757-398-1600

Gold Medal Winner

Forbidden City
Upscale setting showcases fine-dining Chinese cuisine with an extensive dim sum menu.
3333 Virginia Beach Blvd. #17, Virginia Beach
Gold Medal Winner

Freemason Abbey
A varied menu of seafood, steak and pasta offered in a 136-year-old renovated church.
209 W Freemason St.,
Norfolk, 757-622-3966
Bronze Medal Winner

Garrison's Bar & Grill
Big city menu with a Mediterranean feel in a tidy, richly appointed atmosphere
401 N. Great Neck Rd., Virginia Beach
Silver Medal Winner

Hayashi Sushi & Grill
Sushi and Japanese cuisine in comfortable, Pacific Rim-themed surroundings.
In City Center
11820 Merchants Walk,
Ste 106, Newport News
Also a location in Williamsburg
Silver Medal Winner

Classic and contemporary sushi and Chinese offerings
in an elegant atmosphere.
4905 Courthouse St.,
Williamsburg, 757-253-8898
Gold Medal Winner

La Bella Italia
Traditional Italian menu with classic signature dishes in a hospitable setting.
1065 Laskin Rd.,
Virginia Beach, 757-422-8536
Also locations in Virginia Beach and Norfolk
Gold Medal Winner

La Marinella
Mediterranean cuisine with a focus on seafood in open surroundings with marina views.
2105 W. Great Neck Rd.,
Virginia Beach, 757-412-0203
Silver Medal Winner

Lucky Oyster
Relaxed, casual menu in
oyster bar-themed eatery.
2165 General Booth Blvd. #154, Virginia Beach
Silver Medal Winner

Lynnhaven Fish House
Seafood selections with
outstanding views of
the Chesapeake Bay.
2350 Starfish Rd.,
Virginia Beach, 757-481-0003
Silver Medal Winner

Mahi Mah's
Traditional menu with a
seafood focus in vibrant
settings with ocean views.
615 Atlantic Ave.,
Virginia Beach, 757-437-8030
Gold Medal Winner

Mannino's Italian Bistro
Old World-style Italian
cuisine in a relaxed,
comfortable atmosphere.
4402 Princess Anne Rd., Suite 107, Virginia Beach

Also a location
in Virginia Beach
Gold Medal Winner

Nawab Indian Cuisine
Classic Indian cuisine in a globally inspired dining room.
756 First Colonial Rd.,
Virginia Beach,
Also locations in Newport News, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg.
Silver Medal Winner

No Frill Bar & Grill
Classic American dishes
prepared extremely well
in a comfortable, friend-
gathering setting.
806 Spotswood Ave.,
Norfolk , 757-627-4262
Also a location in
Virginia Beach
Gold Medal Winner

Opus 9
Classic steakhouse offerings in an upscale dining room.
5143 Main St.,
Gold Medal Winner

Passion the Restaurant
Open, airy and romantic setting with classically prepared traditional cuisine.
1036 Volvo Parkway,
Gold Medal Winner

Riverwalk Restaurant
Water views of the York River augment a varied menu with a focus on seafood.
323 Water St., Ste A-1,
Yorktown, 757-875-1522
Silver Medal Winner

Classic steakhouse fare in a contemporary, upscale setting.
In Port Warwick
1106 William Stryon Square, Newport News
Gold Medal Winner

Smithfield Gourmet
Bakery Café
Quaint café setting offering varied upscale specials during dinner service.
218 Main St.,
Silver Medal Winner

Smithfield Station
Expansive views of the
Pagan River in a comfortable setting with classic seafood and other offerings.
415 South Church St.,
Smithfield, 757-357-7700
Silver Medal Winner

Smokehouse and Cooler
Big flavors from smoked and barbecued foods fill this tidy, tiny dining room.
2957 Shore Dr.,
Virginia Beach, 757-481-9737

Gold Medal Winner

Sonoma Wine Bar Bistro
Modern, trendy setting for innovative, fresh regional cuisine.
In Town Center
189 Central Park Ave.,
Virginia Beach, 757-490-9463
Gold Medal Winner

Steinhilber's Restaurant
Old school seafood and cuisine perfectly prepared and served professionally in a warm, intimate atmosphere.
653 Thalia Rd.,
Virginia Beach, 757-340-1156
Gold Medal Winner

Traditional steakhouse menu in an open, contemporary upscale dining room.
725 Eden Way N. #700, Chesapeake, 757-549-2626
Silver Medal Winner

Still Worldly
Eclectic Tapas

Sexy small plates with big flavors in a small space with big ambiance.
490 Court St.,
Portsmouth, 757-332-7222
Gold Medal Winner

Surf Club Ocean Grille
A city-feel dining room offers spectacular ocean views and innovative contemporary cuisine with an emphasis on seafood.
5700 Atlantic Ave.,
Virginia Beach, 757-425-5699
Gold Medal Winner

Sushi Aka
Wonderfully prepared sushi and other Pacific Rim flavors in a tidy, classic setting.
239 W. Washington St.,
Suffolk, 757-934-2235
Gold Medal Winner

The Melting Pot
An assortment of savory and sweet fondues are featured in a contemporary, trendy setting.
1564 Laskin Rd. #182,
Virginia Beach, 757-425-3463
Silver Medal Winner

Waterman's Surfside Grille
A focus on seasonal, sustainable seafood is featured in a beach-themed setting with wonderful ocean views.
415 Atlantic Ave.,
Virginia Beach, 757-428-3644
Gold Medal Winner

Zushi Japanese Bistro
Elegant Asian cuisine with a focus on sushi and sashimi are gracefully served in this well-appointed upscale eatery.
In Town Center, 4540 Main St., Virginia Beach, 757-321-1495,
Gold Medal Winner

Note: Muroni's Mediterranean Cuisine in Chesapeake and The Winehouse Bar & Bistro
in Norfolk applied and were reviewed for the Platinum Plate awards but closed in 2009. Neither owners of Muroni's or The Winehouse have announced plans to reopen.


The Critics

Dedra Blount, former Johnson & Wales University culinary instructor and current proprietor of Now You're Cooking, a Chesapeake company providing cooking classes, demonstrations and boutique catering.

Bryan Brady, graduate of the Culinary Institute of Virginia and food and wine intern at Hampton Roads Magazine during the evaluation process for the Platinum Plate awards.

Peter Coe, founder of Taste Unlimited, a specialty food and wine retailer in Hampton Roads.

Barry Drude, aerospace industry professional and area foodie selected as a winner in a previous year's "So You Want To Be A Food Critic" contest.

Lorraine Eaton, staff food writer for The Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

Debra Gordon, area food and wine enthusiast, food and wine blogger and author of Wine on Tuesdays.

Tammy Jaxtheimer has a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University, is restaurant critic for The Virginian-Pilot newspaper and the director of the local Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) chapter.

Suzan Kaufman, retail business professional and area foodie selected as a winner from a previous year's "So You Want To Be A Food Critic" contest.

Scott Mackey, advertising and marketing professional and area foodie selected as a winner in a previous year's "So You Want To Be A Food Critic" contest.

Marisa Marsey, recruiter for Johnson & Wales University nationwide and a freelance food writer.

Steve Marsey has a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University and coordinates judging at the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction.

Shelly Rauch, freelance food critic and food blogger.

Patrick Evans-Hylton, Johnson & Wales-trained chef, senior editor for food and wine for Hampton Roads Magazine and executive editor for Virginia Wine Lover magazine.



The Criteria

Since 2003, Hampton Roads Magazine has been proud to present our annual Platinum Plate Awards to honor fine dining establishments across the region. As the only comprehensive dining awards in Hampton Roads, our advisory board of culinary professionals is serious about the task of evaluating restaurants and informing HRM's readers.

This year, the Platinum Plate Awards shifted to an application process, opening the contest to all restaurants in the region that met eligibility requirements—instead of only including the restaurants that critics have dined at on their own. Restaurant owners and management applied for the awards by completing a simple application process, which included an application fee paid in the form of a gift certificate.

By using the gift certificate when reviewing a particular restaurant, the dining critics were assured a degree of anonymity, allowing for an unbiased examination. All restaurants that applied were reviewed, and by virtue of their application, they are at least recognized at the base level of the awards.
Some critics chose to use previous visits within the evaluation period in lieu of the gift certificate. All restaurants were evaluated more than once by two or more critics. Throughout the process, limited exceptions were made at the discretion of HRM's food editor.

Reviewed restaurants that met critic criteria were also eligible for other award levels, including Silver, Gold and the coveted Platinum levels. Additionally, we selected 10 restaurants from the Platinum level to name as "the best of the best" in Hampton Roads dining.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Restaurants must be located in the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Smithfield, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg or Yorktown; in the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Southampton, Surry or York; or on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the town of Onancock south to Cape Charles.

  • Restaurants must be open to the public during regular, posted business hours and offer cuisine from a published menu.

  • Restaurants must have been open to the public since Jan. 1, 2008 or earlier.

  • Restaurants must offer sit-down service from waitstaff.

  • An application fee of $125, in the form of a gift certificate, is required for each participating restaurant.

  • All applications were required to be postmarked by Monday, March 30, 2009.


    Evaluation process:
    So how do we pick the Hampton Roads Magazine Platinum Plate Awards winners?

    A group of skilled, culinary professionals, currently not working in a restaurant, were selected—for their talents and knowledge of food—to evaluate restaurants that applied for the award based on their dining experiences.

    This was no small task, as there are many wonderful restaurants within Hampton Roads. Indeed, we encourage you to explore all of the offerings of our region and not just the ones we list here. Each panelist took his or her job seriously and gave evaluations careful thought. From their application list, a tally was taken, and those with the highest number of marks comprise the restaurants awarded a Platinum Plate.

    No special consideration was given to advertisers of Hampton Roads Magazine, and none of the critics received any compensation from the restaurants other than the application fee paid with a gift certificate.

    Evaluation of restaurants was based on several categories, including: food quality, value (ratio of cost to food quality), service quality, overall appearance (including cleanliness and atmosphere), the likelihood of returning and/or recommending to others, and contribution to the uniqueness of the region's restaurant scene.

    Categories were given scores that were tallied and averaged for an overall rating and then converted to a numerical value with the highest possible rating of 100 points.
    The breakdown on awards is:

    95 and higher points – Platinum level
    80–94 points – Gold level
    70 – 79 points – Silver level
    60 – 69 points – Bronze level
    59 and lower points – Pewter level

    Top 10 restaurants received the highest points overall.
    We feel that the quality of our panelists is top-notch, their reputations are remarkable, and the selection process was fair and balanced. We salute all the wonderful restaurants in our region, Platinum Plate winners or not, and what they continually do to raise Hampton Roads to new culinary heights.




    Apply Now For The 2010 Awards


    Restaurant owners—apply now for the 2010 Platinum Plate Awards. A completed application, available for download from, must be completed and mailed with the application fee.

    All applications must be postmarked by Wednesday, March 31, 2010. —PEH



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