Where to Eat Now
Our 12th Annual Platinum Plate Awards serves up the best restaurants in Coastal Virginia
Eighty-six years after Capt. Christopher Newport landed at present day Cape Henry in Virginia Beach, the Virginia colony that he and other settlers helped establish was growing. An urban area began to take root, the tiny Norfolk Town, and it was here that John Redwood, an Englishman whose family prospered with the sugar trade, opened an establishment, Redwood’s Ordinary, which sold rum, cider, punch “made good,” small beer and other spirits.
Redwood would have been a true farm-to-table establishment. He would have wandered down to the market to pick up eggs, poultry, fruits, vegetables and more as they came in from the surrounding countryside. A brackish creek near his back door would have provided oysters, crabs and other seafood.
Today many restaurants across Coastal Virginia follow in those traditions—not just of our region’s foods and foodways, but also of hospitality.
The Coastal Virginia Magazine Platinum Plate Awards loves our past history, but also honors the present—the myriad of restaurants in our region that make this a more delicious place to live. For the 12th year, we offer our awards—our ranking of top restaurants in Coastal Virginia. We hope you find a few old favorites and some new discoveries as well.
Score – 97.8791
Harper Bradshaw has come onto the Coastal Virginia cuisine scene strong with his namesake restaurant in downtown Suffolk and his upscale-but-approachable take on Southern cuisine. The food is authentic and a true celebration of the region, bite after delicious bite. The countrified dining room is cozy and comfortable, just with the right touch of class and panache.
We’ve been a fan of Bradshaw’s food for years, and for years the chef seems to outdo himself. He, and his staff at this must-dine destination restaurant, is definitely a star that continues to rise.
Pictured: Atlantic Rockfish wrapped in Surry country ham, celery, fennel, crispy sweet potato and Hungars Creek clams
Score – 97.6393
One does not eat at Salacia—one dines here. Whisked away through frosted doors from the larger, more public Catch 31, you are transported to a room of elegance in this Virginia Beach Oceanfront restaurant. This prepares you for a similar gastronomic experience from the creative mind of Executive Chef Brad Kelly.
Soaring walls in sand-hued padded leather, giant windows open to the Atlantic Ocean, and accents throughout in cobalt blue are refined and relaxing.
From Chef Kelly, we’ve had many memorable dishes: the lobster is succulent and rich, some of the best we’ve had. The fresh catch is always delicious, grilled simply so the true flavors shine and served with local roasted vegetables. The filet mignon is beautiful and buttery.
Score – 97.5837
Elegant does not even begin to describe the Regency Room, one of the most fine dining restaurants in Coastal Virginia.
This is a place with true history, not just colonial, but comestible. Duncan Hines was a renowned food critic of the mid-20th century before his name became synonymous with cake mixes. When Hines spoke, the nation listened, and Hines spoke very highly of the Regency Room. We do too.
A classic menu with a local twist includes the otherworldly Crabmeat Randolph, and beyond fabulous 7-ounce Herb-Marinated Châteaubriand. The Colonial Williamsburg restaurant went through complete renovations in 2014.
Score – 97.5165
Terrapin, how we doth love you. From the serene setting of a dining room decked out in zebra wood, cobalt blue walls, large mirrors and frosted glass, comes an equally contemplative and creative menu from Executive Chef Rodney Einhorn’s open kitchen.
Einhorn epitomizes farm-to-fork, even setting up shop during season at Virginia Beach’s Old Beach Farmers Market (where he shops, too). The result— tantalizingly tasty dishes like an artfully presented Heirloom Baby Beets salad as a starter and melt-in-your-mouth Rioctta Gnudi as another small plate option.
Meats, fowl and seafood are all wonderfully done. A memorable meal of Veal Short Ribs with local baby carrots, Brussels sprout leaves, turnips, parsnip puree and veal demi-glace still lingers in our brain’s “yum” zone. The fried chicken and burgers are notable, too.
In 2014, Terrapin added The Terrace, a most-season alfresco dining option almost doubling their dining capacity.
Score – 97.1829
We’ve long loved chef/owner Sydney Meers and his quirky, eclectic takes on food and life in general. This intimate Portsmouth dining room is his stage, not only for his folk art that adorns the walls but for his always impressive array of neo-Southern cuisine. Attention to detail shows in every bite, from Smoochie Bear Ham to Sextuple Truffle.
Score – 96.8473
Seasonally changing menus that feature local flavors and foodways, prepared approachably using classic techniques from Executive Chef Scott Simpson, are offered amid an elegant colonial dining room backdrop.
Editor’s note: This month the operation of Founders Inn and its Swan Terrace restaurant is being run by Regent University, replacing the Capella Hotel Group, which has managed the property since 2011.
Score – 96.7547
Creative and innovative, the food at Still constantly wows; the seasonally-changing menu from chef/owner Michael Farrell always has delicious surprises. Outstanding service and an intimate dining room round things out, and one of the best bar lists in Coastal Virginia doesn’t hurt either.
Score – 96.6285
Chef Jerry Weihbrecht, who had been with Zoës since its opening in 2003, left in 2014, and Chef Jesse Wykle, formerly of Eurasia, took over reigns in the kitchen. Wykle is still tweaking menu offerings; existing ones are prepared flawlessly, and we’ve loved new ones too, making Zoës a continued place for fine dining. The dining room itself is charming with lots of wood accents and plush pillows and seat coverings. Wine selections from sommelier Marc Sauter are incredible.
Score – 96.4839
Since 1989, Coastal Grill has offered seafood-centric dishes done simply but elegantly. We love to start with a big bowl of steamed mussels in a gorgeous broth that includes onions and tomatoes and is garnished with fresh thyme; crusty bread mops it all up. Soft-shell crabs are the must-order in season, but all seafood here has been impeccable on our visits. Ethereal profiteroles are a fabulous ending.
We also love Coastal Grill’s strong commitment to sustainable seafood as a partner with the Virginia Aquarium’s Sensible Seafood program. In late 2014, Coastal Grill moved to larger digs just across the street from the location where they have been for a quarter century.
Score – 96.3177
A longstanding downtown Norfolk favorite, namesake chef/owner Todd Jurich and his sous chef continue to please with seasonal and sustainable upscale contemporary offerings showcased in a trendy, hip dining room. We also love nibbles and imbibes at the bar.
Score – 96.3177
Executive Chef Kenny Sloane wears a mohawk as he presides over his open kitchen in this tony Port Warwick/Newport News restaurant. That bit of panache translates to what comes out of the kitchen, too.
We love the commitment to local, and we also adore the absolute fresh farm-to-table ingredients. She Crab Soup with jumbo lump crab meat is a rich, decadent and delightful start to meals; we also love the incredible Tuna Tartare with seaweed salad, Sriracha—yes, Sriracha—ice cream, sesame oil powder and spring roll crunch.
Beef and pork dishes are awesome, but seafood never disappoints here. The last time we had the scallops we actually swooned.
View a copy of Coastal Virginia Magazine’s January 2015 issue for the complete listing of Platinum Plate Award winners.