A Culinary Tour of the New Norfolk

Norfolk, Virginia, might be home to more U.S. Navy vessels than anywhere else in the world, but these days, the reasons to visit the historic seafaring town number even higher than the masses of frigates, carriers, destroyers, and cruisers bobbing around in the scenic harbor. There are 144 miles of shoreline begging for exploration, discoveries at every turn in the NEON (New Energy of Norfolk) District, and a year-round roster of events at the city’s revitalized Waterfront District and the nearby Town Point Park. But it’s the growing group of innovative chefs, restaurateurs, brewers, bartenders, and servers who are really making Norfolk a must-visit destination.

Join Garden & Gun as we tag along with Anna Liesemeyer, the creative engine behind the travel and lifestyle blog In Honor of Design, as she table-hops her way through the Tidewater town’s burgeoning culinary landscape. Dig in.

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Where to Eat & Drink


Handsome Biscuit: If you’re in the mood to indulge, start your day with the pillowy sweet potato biscuits at this cozy café—open for breakfast and lunch. Opt for simply dressed biscuits smeared with house-made jam and butter or load yours down with eggs and cheese, Edwards country ham, peanut butter and jelly, even pulled pork barbecue. The Bleu Blazer, topped with fried chicken, blue cheese, and spicy pickled cabbage, is a perennial favorite.

photo: In Honor of Design

Commune: Farm-to-table isn’t just a tagline at this Granby Street restaurant. In 2017, the Commune owner and three partners bought their own twenty-one-acre farm outside the city. The menu changes with the season, but you can’t go wrong with a stack of sorghum pancakes or a buckwheat crepe for breakfast. For lunch, how about the Southern-accented veggie burger made of field peas, potatoes, and Carolina Gold rice?

photo: In Honor of Design

Fruitive: For a fresh start to your day (or an afternoon pick-me-up), seek out Fruitive, one of Virginia’s only certified organic restaurants, with locations on Main Street and in the historic Ghent neighborhood. Choose from farm-fresh juices, smoothies, and “superberry” bowls topped with everything from granola and bananas to coconut flakes and chia seeds.

photo: In Honor of Design

Grain: Grab a predinner drink at this rooftop beer garden. Perched atop the Main, this leafy indoor-outdoor bar with spectacular views of the Elizabeth River and more than a hundred beers on tap celebrates the Norfolk craft beer community past and present—the local brewing tradition dates as far back as the foundation of Jamestown in 1607.

photo: In Honor of Design

Saltine: Also at the Main, guests can belly up to the gleaming raw bar at this subway-tiled seafood temple, which opened in 2017, for platters of charbroiled James River oysters and hearty bowls of she-crab soup. Between courses, sip on classic seafood-friendly cocktails such as daiquiris and martinis.

photo: In Honor of Design

Todd Jurich’s Bistro: At this white-tablecloth standard-bearer on West Main Street—open for lunch and dinner—order a half dozen locally harvested Eastern Shore oysters served on the half shell alongside house-made mignonette and cocktail sauce before digging into plates of blue-crab-topped roasted grouper.

photo: In Honor of Design

Coelacanth Brewing Company: At a table inside the garage-like taproom of this family-run brewery, situated in Ghent’s historic warehouse district, sip unique takes on classic styles such as the 2017 release Nevermore, a double IPA made with local hops and honey from Melo Lion Meadery.

photo: Courtesy of Coelacanth Brewing Company

O’Connor Brewing Co.: A short walk from Coelacanth, you’ll find O’Connor Brewing Co. Snag a seat on the deck for local music or bring a group and commandeer one of the long community tables inside the lively tasting room and raise a pint of the brewery’s flagship light-bodied Green Can Gold Ale.

photo: In Honor of Design

Mermaid Winery: Uncork a bottle of Petit Manseng at Virginia’s first urban winery, located in the vibrant Ghent community. At the Mermaid’s on-site wine shop, snag a bottle to go for a taste of Norfolk long after you’ve gone.

photo: Reema Desai

What to See & Do

Norfolk Botanical Garden:
Spend the afternoon meandering through all 175 of the lush acres that make up the acclaimed Norfolk Botanical Garden, Virginia’s largest. The bicentennial rose garden is a stunner, especially during the peak blooms in mid-May through October.

photo: In Honor of Design

Commonwealth Coastal Classic: Sip Virginia’s best spirits, ciders, and small-batch brews; sample everything from salty-sweet Church Point oysters to hearty bowls of Brunswick stew; and listen to live music from Virginia’s Crooked Road tour at this inaugural waterfront fest.

photo: VisitNorfolk

31st Annual Fall Town Point Virginia Wine Festival: Whether you read Wine Spectator cover to cover or you barely know the difference between a pinot noir and a pinot grigio—much less a Virginia petit verdot—this fall fest is for you. Taste hundreds of wines from dozens of the state’s best wineries and vineyards without leaving the waterfront.

photo: Norfolk Festevents Ltd.

Norfolk Harbor: There might be plenty of new (and tasty) reasons to visit this waterfront town, but don’t leave without making time for a stroll along the stunning Chesapeake Bay–fed harbor—Norfolk’s original attraction and still one of its best assets.

photo: In Honor of Design