In the Local Palate’s 2022 Restaurants Issue, our state-by-state guide highlights the new restaurants that have emerged since 2020. Here, contributor Stephanie Ganz gives an overview of new restaurants in Virginia Beach and beyond.
Love Song | Virginia Beach
There is an abundance of love radiating from this Basque-influenced Virginia Beach restaurant. It’s an instantly happy-making place, from the attentive but cool hospitality that greets you as soon as you step through the door, to chef Mike Hill’s highly shareable menu.
Listed by size, each menu item is a study in layering flavor—like the sultry farro with smoky pork jowl or the creamy white beans with escarole and just the perfect hit of acid to invite bite after bite. A radicchio caesar loaded with plump Alici anchovies and toasted breadcrumbs (which we’ve affectionately dubbed “salad glitter”) shows the range of what a caesar can be. Every dish is like that: an element of the familiar with a pleasant surprise.
In addition to the Spanish-inspired food, Love Song boasts a solid line-up of low intervention wines, which are available to-go by the bottle. Let your server help pick one for your meal (they’re as knowledgeable as they are friendly), and pick up a few bottles for later, but don’t overlook the cocktail menu. From a little corner nook in the front of the restaurant, Love Song’s bar puts out a half-dozen stellar cocktails, including our favorite, the Rude Boy, which combines Plantation and Smith & Cross rums, falernum, pineapple, and lime, and then whips it up with egg white, resulting in a tropical rum sour that, impossibly, pairs well with everything on the menu.
Here, you want a seat at the terrazzo-topped counter, which spans almost the entirety of the dining room and provides a front-row seat to the action in Love Song’s open kitchen. Maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of something on the stove and be moved to order it, and that’s just the thing to do.
Drink: The Rude Boy, plus a bottle of Wild Soul Beaujolais for later
Appetizer: Iberico chorizo with olive oil and a cheese plate with citrus marmalade
Main: Mushroom tartine with eggplant, radish, and soy vinaigrette or the duck confit au voivre over Carolina Gold rice
The Pink Dinghy | Virginia Beach
With its muraled wall and an actual pink dinghy festooned to the roof like a Christmas angel, the Pink Dinghy absolutely oozes charm— but there’s plenty of substance behind the well-appointed Virginia Beach hangout too. The Dinghy’s globally inspired menu includes flaky empanadas and pupusas packed with flavor, plus hearty shareable plates of lamb ragu and grilled strip steak.
The menu at FishPig Cafe is objectively hilariously written. Just look for personal touches like, “real deep South southern gumbo with changing stuff I put into it, we’ll let you know.” Whatever it is, just trust owner Sydney Meers, the 68-year-old James Beard award semifinalist, to make it soul nourishingly delicious. Each one of Meers’ dishes, which change according to availability and whim, feels like a knowing hug from an old friend.
New Openings Beyond Restaurants in Virginia Beach
From Top Chef alum and restaurateur Brittany Anderson comes a late-night bar that brings caviar and shots, fondue chips, and proper Chicago dogs all under one roof in Virginia. The Twin Peaks-referencing Black Lodge has the soul of a dive bar, with a TV behind the bar and a shot-and-a-beer special on permanent rotation, but its highly Instagrammable style comes off as effortless.
The Church Hill pizza joint focuses on naturally leavened pizzas made with freshly milled whole grains from the flour coated hands of former Tartine baker, Ashley Patino. Order a couple of the 14-inch pies, a classic cheese and one of the seasonal selections (hello, nacho pizza!) and bottle of biodynamic wine. Don’t forget to snag a craggy, perfect chocolate chip cookie for the road.
Find your favorite Southern standards in this upscale-casual, seafood-leaning restaurant that’s tucked into the delightful Draftsman Hotel. A proudly Black-owned restaurant from restaurateurs Warren Thompson and Ron Jordan, the Ridley pays homage to Dr. Walter N. Ridley (the first Black student to graduate from the University of Virginia and receive a graduate and doctoral degree from a major, historically white, public university in the South) by donating a portion of profits to the Ridley Foundation, which supports education for Black students at UVA.
Ruthie’s All Day | Arlington
Bright, vibrant, and brimming with life any hour of the day, Matt Hill’s restaurant is meticulous yet unfussy. From the cozy breakfast “rad bowl” with pencil cob grits and pulled pork to the elevated down home “meat and three” dinner options, this is food for everyone. This cheery, modern space churns out sumptuous smoked dishes so grab some napkins for the half rack of delightfully sticky ribs.
Kismet Modern Diner | Alexandria
Traditional Indian culinary technique meets unexpected ingredients on the modern menu at the sister restaurant to Michelin-recognized Washington, DC, spot, Karma. Start with the Calcutta jhaal muri, a street food-inspired appetizer of puffed rice, date chutney, and green chili in fun paper cones. The exquisitely spiced lamb seekh kebabs are another must, and don’t miss the Siddhartha cocktail, a technicolor combination of butterfly pea flower infused Beefeater gin and Midori.
Helmed by career restaurateurs chef Michael Lindsey and Kimberly Love-Lindsey, Lillie Pearl pays homage to the older generations and stories of the Gullah Geechee in the Carolinas. Lunch is popular enough to require reservations—don’t miss the the five-alarm smashville fried chicken sandwich. Supper is where Lindsey shows off his heritage through dishes like obe ata braised lamb shank with Nigerian tomato-and-pepper sauce and jollof rice. Just be sure to save room for Millie’s banana pudding.
After years of experience in fine dining at places like the Clifton Inn and the Red Hen, chef Tucker Yoder leans in fully to his style at the Broadcloth. Expect Asian influences seen in a caramelized maitake mushroom dish with haiga mai rice cake and pickled garlic, along with refined French technique, like the duck liver mousse with nasturtium vinegar. Put your full trust in Yoder completely, and let your biggest choice of the night be whether to try the four-,six-, or eight- to ten-course tasting menu.
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