1. Holy Tamales, Batman, Luna Maya Is Amazing
Source: Luna Maya via Facebook
If you’re looking for some heat, you can’t leave Norfolk without trying this Mexican restaurant. Their mouth-watering (literally, because of the spice) Pique a Lo Macho is a favorite.
And I’m seriously begging you to save room for the flan—this isn’t an easy dessert to make well, but Luna Maya has it down to a science.
2. The Ten Top’s Turkey Apple Club Will Make You Rethink The Meaning Of “Sandwich”
Source: The Ten Top via Facebook
Three words: Turkey. Apple. Club. This huge stack of thick roast turkey slices, apple slices, spinach, and cheese on (wait for it…) cinnamon raisin bread is UH-mazing. Get it with bacon or ham and don't regret it because it’s worth the extra dose of cholesterol.
Plus, you’ll enjoy the quirky, cozy atmosphere, which takes “going to the diner” to the next level of awesome. It’s definitely small, so be prepared to get close with your neighbor, but their ingenious sandwiches will keep you coming back for more.
3. The Dirty Buffalo’s Wings Are Out Of This World
Source: The Dirty Buffalo via Facebook
You can’t go to Norfolk and not try The Dirty Buffalo, which has arguably the best wings the city has to offer. They have 10 types of sauces for your wings and, trust me, they don’t skimp on the sauce.
Try the garlic parmesan or Cajun if you want something new. If you just want classic, amazing buffalo wings, the spicy buffalo sauce is incredible—the burn is worth it, and you can wash it down with an ice cold beer (they have plenty of beers on tap).
Don’t forget the mac and cheese or home fries on the side—both are the epitome of comfort food, especially when paired with their bow-down-worthy wings. To hell with the carbo-coma that ensues immediately afterwards. That’s what nap time’s for.
4. Crackers Is All That It’s Cracked Up To Be (Totally Pun-Worthy)
Source: Flickr user Navin 74
Crackers is a hidden gem that will blow your mind with their seasonal tapas menu, their romantic, cozy atmosphere, and their excellent craft beer.
Crackers infuses classic American recipes into the Spanish idea of “tapas.” Try their pork and ginger pot stickers, their fried chicken and waffles, or their chili lime brussels sprouts.
Plus, they don’t hate on vegans: they have specials like asparagus tempura with a crunchy chickpea batter.
And if you have a sweet tooth, this is one of the only places in Norfolk you can roast your own s’mores for dessert. Or, if you’re feeling saucy, try their drink menu for dessert instead: oatmeal cookie shots, anyone?
5. The Vineyards Is Just As Good As Mom’s Homemade Italian Cooking
Source: The Vineyards Norfolk via Facebook
It’s not easy to find great Italian food in Norfolk, but this place is by far the best around.
They have garlic knots you’ll fight over (literally—be prepared to fight), Bistecca Gorgonzola that’s cooked to perfection, and—of course—your classic, homemade Italian dishes which—if you’re Italian—will be sure to bring you back to childhood and Mom’s homemade cooking: margarita pizza, chicken parmesan, lobster ravioli…need I go on? Plus—amazing wine list.
6. Your Taste Buds Can Travel Europe At Voila! Cuisine International
Source: Voila! Cuisine International via Facebook
This quaint, international bistro has managed to take the best foods from each Mediterranean country in Europe and fit them all into one tiny restaurant in Norfolk. They have everything from spanakopita to Tuscan chicken pasta to foie gras. Your taste buds basically get to travel across Europe in one sitting.
Tip: Their pan seared sea scallops special over cauliflower mash, topped with fennel, apple slaw, and roasted butternut squash purée is pretty much the best thing you’ll ever taste.
7. Hella Good Biscuits At Handsome Biscuit
Source: The Handsome Biscuit via Facebook
“Too much of a good thing” does not apply to Handsome Biscuit.
This little hole-in-the-wall shack may not look, well, handsome. But then you walk in, order the Hella Fitzgerald, and your life changes forever. God himself came up with this heavenly sandwich, which is fried chicken, bacon, cheddar, and sausage red eye gravy on a warm, flaky, fresh-out-of-the-oven sweet potato biscuit.
It truthfully is “hella” good—and arguably the best fried chicken you can get in Norfolk.
8. Get Your Fill (And No Frill) At No Frill Bar And Grill
Source: No Frill Bar and Grill via Facebook
No Frill is a local favorite—and it’s 100 percent obvious why.
If you’re from out of town and want to fit in with the locals, order the shrimp and grits. Not only do they add plenty of fresh ingredients into this creamy version of a southern classic, but they are inspired enough to throw some andouille in for good measure—yum!
Plus, the portion sizes are massive so you definitely get your fill (and no frill…)
Basically, it’s Southern comfort food to the umpteenth degree…so forget your calorie counting and indulge in some epic Funky Chicken or good old fashioned meat loaf with a side of mac and cheese.
9. The Basil Fried Rice At Sawasdee Are A Culinary Antidepressant--Literally
Source: Sawasdee Thai Cuisine via Facebook
To all of the haters that say Virginia doesn’t have good Thai food, I say, pssh please. You haven’t been to Sawasdee. Try their tom yum soup (the Thai version of sweet and sour soup), pa nang curry, or beef drunken noodles. It will warm your belly, and your heart.
No, seriously. You’ll feel the effects of the dopamine you receive from their Pad Thai for days.
10. Dig Into The Heavenly Oysters At Bodega On Granby
Source: Facebook User Bodega on Granby
This place combines Spanish flair with Southern cooking and has it down to a T. The Ceviche will blow your mind, as will the oysters (smothered in spinach, bacon and cheese). And if you are willing to only eat one thing for the rest of your life, try their seafood paella. You’ll sea-food differently. Forever. (Sorry, couldn't resist that one.)
11. Take Your Mouth On An East to West Vacation at Bardo Edibles + Elixers
Source: Bardo Edibles and Elixirs via Facebook
The funky, eclectic vibe of this place will draw you in immediately—as will the 100-plus item menu. There’s a ton of east-west mash-up dishes, like Asian meatballs with pickled jalapeno, mahi mahi soft tacos, or, my personal favorite, Cajun chocolate seared scallops. You’ll crave them for days. And for dessert? Dip sum doughnuts. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, with chocolate dipping sauce. Holy cow.
12. Your Heart Will Melt When You Try Field Guide’s Oatmeal Cookie Cream Pie
Source: Heart Food via Facebook
Field Guide is one of the best places in Norfolk for lunch and dinner. The owners must have a superpower that allows them to think of all of the most amazing, unexpected flavor combinations and put them together for something out of this world.
The “Unexpected Friend”—pork shoulder with raspberry jam—is fan-freaking-tastic. Don’t forget a side of perfectly tart feta slaw and you should probably top it all off with an oatmeal cookie cream pie for dessert (oh-so-creamy cream between two warm oatmeal cookies) Heart. Melted.
13. We’ve Found Grilled Cheese Heaven, It’s At Press 626
Source: Flickr user kthread
While the menu is chock-full of options, I implore you to get their award-winning grilled cheese. It is the most divine thing you will ever taste: sourdough bread with goat cheese, pepper jack, vermont cheddar, and swiss cheese. You momentarily die and go to grilled cheese heaven.
Tip: Monday nights are ladies nights, which means entrées are, drum roll please, 50 percent off. Oh, and order the champagne cupcake for dessert. Your sweet tooth will thank you.
14. This May Be The First Time You Try Goat, But It Won’t Be The Last at Cilantro Bangladeshi Bistro
Source: Cilantro Bangladeshi Bistro via Facebook
Don’t be fooled by the a-la-carte, cafeteria-style of the restaurant—this is no high school cafeteria food.
The experience here is all about trying new things (this may be the first time you try goat, and it won’t be the last). Plus, the people who work at Cilantro are more than happy to take their time in explaining what’s on the menu to you. Basically, the people who work here treat you like your family, and they genuinely want you to enjoy a home-cooked meal. And enjoy you will: you could almost get full just by smelling the air here—it’s that freakin’ amazing.
Be forewarned: you will become addicted to this place. The best Jhal Beef (perfect balance of heat and flavor), their Veggie Mishali (the most unbelievably delicious spices over a mix of cauliflower, broccoli, potato and cabbage), and, of course, their rice pudding and fresh-squeezed lime-aid will keep you coming back for more.
15. Obtain Cosmopolitan-Worthy Food Status at Chartreuse Bistro
Source: Chartreuse Bistro via Facebook
This itty-bitty, chic (yet relaxed) space has an awesome vibe. The aesthetics of the place are enough of a reason to go there—as are their drinks. Their Lemon Thyme Hendricks Martini—yes, you read that correctly—is crazy amazing.
The gnocchi in cream sauce and duck breast over quinoa are entrees that are reminiscent of meals you could get in America’s larger cosmopolitan cities.
And, truthfully, this is the kind of restaurant that reminds you Norfolk really is one of America’s best-kept secrets.
Feature Image Source: I Heart Food, Field Guide via Facebook