Dining Out

Port Side in Norfolk

By: Stephanie Ganz

Known as a Navy hub and vital port city, Norfolk, Virginia, is a vibrant destination on the water, with seven meandering miles of Chesapeake Bay beachfront and another 144 miles of shoreline along the Elizabeth River, Lake Whitehurst, and the Bay. But the nearly 350-year-old city is more than its maritime attractions. It’s a bustling metropolis brimming with road-trip worthy meals, fascinating history, and a captivating art scene.

A crowd of people wait in line in a market in Norfolk
Amale Tre

Get to Ghent

Mermaids follow you throughout your journey in Norfolk. Since 1999, they’ve been a sort of mascot, visible all over the city. You can even paint your own mermaid to take home at Mermaid Factory in the charming historical neighborhood of Ghent.

When in Ghent, pop in to Crudo Nudo for tapas. The cozy spot has convenient hours for lunch or predinner noshing, and their Taste of Spain board, filled with honey-drizzled manchego, warm olives, crispy salt cod fritters, quicos-topped hummus, and carrots with harissa yogurt, is the perfect choice for two. Try it with a glass of txakoli, a lightly effervescent wine from the Basque region of Spain.

While exploring the neighborhood, grab Bohemian Colada “smuice” (a smoothie made with cold-pressed juice) from Town Center Cold Pressed. And check out the mom-and-pop-owned butcher and sandwich shop, Pendulum Fine Meats, for some snacks to stock in your hotel minifridge. Later, stick around for a movie at the single-screen art house theater, Naro, which has anchored its block of Colley Avenue since opening in 1936.

A plate with an octopus tentacle and beans is about to be eaten with fork at Crudo Nudo in Norfolk
Crudo Nudo

Fill a Day with Art

For an exceptional breakfast in Norfolk’s NEON District, set a course for Commune, where chef Kip Poole’s locally sourced menu provides dozens of good ways to greet the day, including a very fun oyster mushroom Benedict—crispy chicken-fried oyster mushrooms and a poached egg draped in hollandaise over a fluffy biscuit. After breakfast, stroll across the street and check out the Cementiscope, a cement mixer that’s found new life as a kaleidoscope thanks to the art collective, Glassitorium.

If you’ve come to Norfolk with water on your mind, you’ll want to save time for the Nauticus museum, home of the tourable Battleship Wisconsin, a must for any ship lover. With recent renovations, the museum is now more interactive and sustainable than ever before. Nearby, you’ll find Glass Light Hotel and Gallery, a boutique hotel with an adjacent gallery featuring over 65 pieces from Doug and Pat Perry’s personal collection of mind-bending glass art, including selections from Dale Chihuly, Nancy Callan, and Peter Bremers, who designed the massive glass bunnies that adorn the hotel lobby.

A few miles away, The Chrysler Museum of Art’s internationally acclaimed collection of glass art and staggering collection of over 30,000 objects including works by Henri Matisse, Mary Cassatt, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol will provide hours of delightful art gazing.

The gallery and entry way at the Glass Light Hotel
Glass Light Hotel and Gallery

Catch a Game and a Bite

But, if you’re more outdoorsy, you can always catch a minor league Tides game at nearby Harbor Park overlooking the Elizabeth River. For lunch, check out Selden Market, a small business incubator with plenty of local shopping options that’s home to Amale Tre, a focacceria; vegan sandwich shop Cltre.; and The Stockpot, with a menu of comfort classics with a wholesome twist.

No trip to Norfolk is complete without a stop at Doumar’s, a 120-year-old diner and the home of the original waffle cone. Doumar’s drips with nostalgia—they still use the same waffle cone recipe and machine designed by founder Abe Doumar in 1904, and the prices feel historical, too, in the best possible way, with a burger or pork barbecue sandwich for less than $5.

For a more refined dining experience, Legrand Kitchen in Riverview is a snug neighborhood spot offering dialed-in versions of classics, like a parmesan-covered caesar salad and a damn fine steak au poivre. Finish off your meal with a slice of Atlantic Beach pie, a lemony custard in a saltine crust with a dollop of whipped cream. From there, you’re just a five-minute drive away from a nightcap at The Veil Brewery’s Only You cocktail bar and vinyl lounge. Be sure to snap a pic in their cute photobooth for a sweet souvenir.

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