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The Virginia Beach Coastal Cuisine Culinary Scene

Ten Great Ways to Enjoy the Best of Fresh Local Flavors

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The unique location, history and culture of Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads area of southeastern Virginia come together to make this popular oceanfront resort region a fantastic culinary hub as well as a great beach destination. In addition to making good choices about where to eat for fresh and flavorful cuisine, there are other fun ways to discover and enjoy delicious local specialties during your next visit.

From restaurants focused on local food sourcing and sustainability to food tours, winery tastings, farm visits and more, here are ten ways to discover, explore and savor the Virginia Beach area's coastal culinary scene:

Choose Restaurants with a Focus on Fresh Local Flavors

Aqua Restaurant's steamed seaside clams; Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com
Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Virginia Beach is home to hundreds of restaurants with options ranging from fast food chains to locally owned casual favorites and upscale restaurants offering award-winning fine dining. With a minimal amount of planning, you will be able to enjoy fresh seasonal produce, just-caught seafood and other local specialties by choosing area restaurants that focus on purchasing ingredients from local sources.

Progressive Walking Food Tours

Virginia Beach Boardwalk; Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.
A walking food tour is a fun way to learn about local foods, inventive chefs, culinary history and more, while tasting samples from a number of different restaurants along the way. Coastal Food Tours offers a three-hour Virginia Beach Boardwalk Food Tour that explores the vibrant Virginia Beach Boardwalk dining scene with stops to taste such local specialties as Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay seafood, signature cocktails, seasonal dishes, internationally inspired tapas made with local foods, homemade desserts and many other taste treats.

In nearby Norfolk, another food tour option features local and international flavors, such as local seafood specialties, house smoked meats, authentic Moroccan cuisine, locally brewed beer tastings and more. The Norfolk tour, which takes place along popular downtown Granby Street, lasts approximately three and one-half hours.

A Multi Day Harvest Feast Food Tour

Cherrystone Aqua Farms; Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.
This fantastic group tour, billed as the ultimate food tour explores the Virginia Tidewater Region's cuisine, culture and history. Each day of the tour highlights different culinary themes and locations in the area, including Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Smithfield and the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

In addition to enjoying great coastal cuisine at an array of carefully selected restaurants, tour participants learn about the agricultural, fishing and culinary history of this unique and beautiful region with interactive visits to local farms, vineyards, open air markets, an aqua farm on the Chesapeake Bay, food production plants, a smokehouse and much more. At the end of the tour, a harvest feast celebrates many of time honored traditions and foods which have been explored during the tour.

Virginia Beach Area Culinary Festivals

Pungo Strawberry Festival
Photo: Courtesy of the Virginia Beach CVB
Showcasing the Hampton Roads area's flavorful local specialties as well as international cuisine, several annual food festivals take place each year along the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and nearby Norfolk's Waterfront Park, as well as in other locations. Providing a great way to enjoy a weekend getaway or day trip, just a few of the highlights include:

Virginia Beach Restaurant Week

Photo Credit: Paul Piebinga / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Paul Piebinga / Getty Images
Virginia Beach Restaurant Week takes place each year in January, making this a great time for a culinary inspired visit to enjoy dining for less at participating restaurants. For another similar opportunity, Virginia Beach Wine Week, held in the fall features fixed price specials including Virginia wine at participating restaurants.

Nearby Norfolk celebrates Restaurant Week twice a year. Winter Downtown Norfolk Restaurant Week is held in January and Summer Downtown Norfolk Restaurant Week is held in July.

Shop at Virginia Beach Farmers Markets

The Virginia Beach Farmers Market; Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Whether or not you are planning to cook during your Virginia Beach vacation, the Virginia Beach Farmers Market, located a short drive from the resort area and open daily year round, is a great place to shop for fresh local fruits and vegetables, meat products, organic foods, bakery items, homemade ice cream and more. If you are visiting with a group, the Taste of the Market group tour is a fun way to enjoy tasting samples from market merchants while learning about local farming practices.

There is also a seasonal Old Beach Farmers Market on Saturday mornings in the parking lot of Croc's 19th Street Bistro, about six blocks from the oceanfront.

Pungo U-Pick Farms and Roadside Farm Stands

Scuppernong Grapes; Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Take a drive to the Pungo farming area, located less than 10 miles south of the Virginia Beach resort district, to find many seasonal farm stands and pick-your-own farms. Shop for local favorites such as strawberries (especially popular for picking-your-own), blueberries, pumpkins, local honey, homemade jams, muscadine grapes, farm fresh eggs, vegetables and much more. The annual Pungo Strawberry Festival (see Food Festivals mentioned above) is a must for sweet, fresh strawberries during Memorial Day weekend.

Fishing and Catch & Cook Restaurants

Stripped Bass; Photo: Michael Melford / Getty Images
Photo: Michael Melford / Getty Images
Uniquely situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach is a premier fishing destination. Although many different species of fish migrate seasonally through the waters off the coast, the four fish considered to be the signature sport fish of the region are striped bass often called rockfish, white marlin, red drum, and flounder.

While many area restaurants feature fresh local seafood on their menus, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a good fishing outing followed by a delicious meal of your catches of the day. If you are staying in a condo or a cottage with a kitchen, cooking your fish will not be a problem. However, there are also a few options for visitors who do not have the use of a kitchen.

When you fish with Waterman Sport Fishing Charters, you may take your cleaned filets to Waterman's Surfside Grille on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk and they will cook and serve your fish to you for dinner. A few other Virginia Beach restaurants will cook your fish for you as well. Check with your charter fishing service or your hotel concierge to find out about participating "catch and cook" restaurants and confirm your details before making your final plans.

Virginia Eastern Shore Wineries

Chatham Vineyards - Virginia Eastern Shore; Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com
Chatham Vineyards - Virginia Eastern Shore; Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com
For a nice break from the beach and a great side trip a little over an hour from Virginia Beach, drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge - Tunnel to the picturesque Eastern Shore of Virginia. Here at the southern end of the Delmarva Peninsula you will find quaint historic towns and family owned farms—a noticeable change of scenery from the bustling Virginia Beach resort district.

This area is one of Virginia's registered American Viticultural Areas and home to three wineries. The closest of the three wineries when arriving from Virginia Beach is Chatham Vineyards in Machipongo. Set on Chatham Farm, which has been a working farm for four centuries, Chatham Vineyards offers tours and wine tastings during scheduled hours Thursday to Sunday (See Photo). About seven miles north of Chatham Vineyards in Franktown, Holly Grove Vineyards Winery is open most days with extended hours from May through October.

For a unique wine tasting experience, SouthEast Expeditions offers Kayak Winery Tours to each of these wineries from March through December.

Smithfield - The Ham Capital of the World

The Genuine Smithfield Ham Shoppe; Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com
Photo: © 2011 Sheridan Alexander, licensed to About.com, Inc.
About 45 miles inland from the Virginia Beach resort district, the historic town of Smithfield in Isle of Wight County is known as the Ham Capital of the World. Famous worldwide as the home of Smithfield Hams, Smithfield's history is also tied to Virginia peanuts. Enjoy a walking tour of the lovely historic district, visit the Isle of Wight County Museum and shop at the Genuine Smithfield Ham Shoppe.

When you are hungry, dine at the Smithfield Inn or one of the other restaurants to enjoy Virginia ham biscuits, traditional ham dishes, regional seafood or other local favorites. For a fun experience in the country drive a few miles to Darden's Country Store & Smokehouse, a family business that has been in operation since 1952 (See Photo).

Virginia Beach Trip Planning Articles and Information

For related articles and information to help you plan your Virginia Beach vacation or weekend getaway, see:
  1. About.com
  2. Travel
  3. Southeast US Travel
  4. Virginia Travel
  5. Virginia Beach Coastal Cuisine - Dining, Food Tours, Food Festivals and More

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