It’s always tempting to stick to your tried and true restaurant options when it comes to dining out. After all, you know what to expect at these restaurants, and taking on a chance with a new place can be a scary experience, especially when you are spending your hard-earned money on the meal. Luckily, you don’t have to go in blind when looking for new restaurants. We have put together the most acclaimed fine dining establishments to open in 2016, where you can expect high quality, locally sourced dishes in an elegant setting. Check out a few of these new restaurants and tempt your taste buds with exciting and original fare.
Jack’s Shop Kitchen—Ruckersville
With menu items like Chicken & Dumplings, Shrimp & Grits, and a Sweet Tea-Brined Fried Chicken, you can’t get any more southern than Jack’s Shop Kitchen in Ruckersville. They serve up locally sourced, creative cuisine for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant even offers a to-go supper menu, so on days you don’t have the time for a sit-down dinner, you’ll still eat well. Want to know more about your food? The servers can tell you exactly where select ingredients come from, and a list of the providing local farms is found on the restaurant’s website. The restaurant resides in the former 1940’s Massey Tractor Showroom, which was later converted into a Wrangler jeans plant. Today, in addition to Jack’s, the building houses several antique shops. Only 15 minutes from Charlottesville near scenic Skyline Drive, the new dining destination is great for guests that wish to grab a bite before visiting the famous Blue Ridge Mountains.
Shagbark opened in June 2016, and ever since, it has stayed consistently busy, with few open tables available even during the weeknights. The brainchild of former Executive Chef of The Jefferson’s Lemaire restaurant, owner Walter Bundy designed a space that feels fresh and upscale while managing to maintain a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The menu pays tribute to traditional Southern food, with Fried Green Tomatoes and Chicken Fried Chesapeake Bay Oysters for starters, followed by main courses like the Slow-Grilled Quail. Yet the subtle tweaks to these classic dishes create a revolutionary menu that will have you coming back again and again. If you’re into craft cocktails or delicious Virginia wines, be sure to indulge in one of the beverages at Shagbark.
Trick Dog Bar & Bistro—Irvington
On the banks of the Rappahannock River sits the quaint town of Irvington, a hidden gem filled with charm and cute local businesses. The latest dining destination is the Trick Dog Bar & Bistro, a wonderful little restaurant that, from the outside, looks like a picturesque cottage complete with a white picket fence that would only be found in a fictional small town. The idyllic feeling continues from the moment you step foot into the restaurant to the moment you leave. Locally sourced oysters steal the show for the appetizers, served raw, fried, roasted, or “Shanghai” style (topped with bacon, tomatoes, and caramelized shallots), and when the Soft-shell Crabs are in season, you won’t need to think twice about your entrée order. Other highlights include the Lobster Ravioli, Swordfish Puttanesca, and the Lamb Loin Chops, and if you want something a little more traditional, try the New York Strip. Top it all off with a piece of the Pecan Pie a la mode to experience one of the most perfect meals of your life. Don’t forget to rub the “Trick Dog” statue for good luck before leaving the restaurant!
Field & Main—Marshall
Mixed wood floors, eclectic art, and warm lighting greet you upon walking into Field & Main, the latest creation from Neal Wavra, whose expertise and knowledge came from working at the much-loved restaurant/inn combinations at Goodstone Inn and Ashby Inn. The décor is a blend of artsy and antique, with airy linen curtains and a blown up photo of a sheep in front of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the wall. Everything at Field & Main is about keeping it local: the food, the wine, even the artwork. Wavra’s strong community ties have definitely paid off, with the locals, including the purveyors, returning again and again to eat at the restaurant. You’ll find an array of unique dishes on the menu—items like the Egg Drop Soup with Whiffletree Farm Chicken & Egg or Buffalo-Style Crispy Pig Ear with Blue Cheese & Crystal Hot Sauce. Sample an “Entrée from the Hearth”, a selection of dishes cooked over the kitchen’s expansive and open wood fireplace.
Palette 22 blends art and food for an eclectic, fun new restaurant in Arlington’s Shirlington neighborhood. Eating at Palette 22 is like taking your taste buds on a trip around the world. The theme isn’t built around one region or country, but rather unified around the idea of small plates, with dishes from Cuba, Vietnam, Peru, Korea…the list goes on and on. By not limiting the menu to one cooking style, the chefs are able to include any exotic flavors they discover, from street food to signature cultural dishes. Interesting murals, paintings, drawings, and other artwork cover the walls, showcasing local artists and creating an eye-catching setting that matches the diverse meals found at Palette 22.
The Monterey Dining Room at the Highland Inn—Monterey
The Highland Inn is far from a new location, having originally opening in 1904, but the inn’s Monterey Dining Room celebrated their grand re-opening under new ownership in July, with a brand-new menu, chef, and culinary outlook. Long awaited by Highland residents and visitors, the restaurant sources almost all of their ingredients locally, supporting Highland County businesses while creating absolutely mouthwatering meals. The inn chose quality over quantity when crafting the new menu, with a handful of starters and entrees all prepared perfectly. From lamb and beef to trout and cider, each ingredient used at the Monterey Dining Room tells a story about the region’s rich landscape.
Also Try: The Real Deal, a new BBQ, Brisket, & Burger restaurant in Monterey. You can also purchase local products such as honey, meats, produce, crafts, and more at the on-site farmer’s market-style shop.
Boboko Indonesian Café—Harrisonburg
You wouldn’t expect to find great Indonesian food in the Shenandoah Valley, but Boboko Indonesian Café in downtown Harrisonburg surprises visitors with authentic, traditional dishes. Owner Hotiman Ridwan grew up in Indonesia and moved to the U.S. to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. After 18 years working at restaurants and keeping a personal food blog on the side, Ridwan decided it was time to pursue his passion fully and open his own restaurant. He uses traditional Southeast Asian spices like ginger, lemongrass, coconut milk, and lime to create rich, sumptuous flavors. But while Ridwan wanted to keep the flavors true to his homeland, he also wished to support his current community. The restaurant sources many of the ingredients locally, from using Shenandoah Valley Organic chicken to herbs picked up on the weekends from the downtown farmers market. Another surprising touch to Ridwan’s restaurant comes at dessert, with the French macaron a staple on the menu. Why does an Indonesian native serve a French dessert? After a visit to Paris where he was introduced to the colorful dessert, Ridwan developed a passion for the sugary treat and has been making them nonstop ever since.
Mango Mangeaux started 2016 off with a culinary bang, opening on January 1 in a historic Hampton location. They specialize in Neo-soul cuisine, with an infusion of French and Creole flavors, and like the name suggests, many of the dishes include their homemade Mango Mango preserves (which were featured on the hit TV show, Shark Tank). Appetizers include southern favorites like the Fried Green Tomatoes, as well as signature Creole dishes like Shrimp and Crawfish Fondeaux and a hearty Gumbo. During the warmer months, visit on a Wednesday for their dinner and a movie nights outside on the restaurant’s rooftop. Every Friday night is game night, where you can play giant Jenga, classic board games, video games, and more with friends.
Sugar Hill Brewing Company—St. Paul
Many know St. Paul for the ATV trails, but the burgeoning food scene will soon be a big draw for the region, as well. Sugar Hill Brewing Company is the latest dining destination in the small but charming town of St. Paul, opened in September 2016 in the historic downtown district. Owned by local residents Greg and Jennifer Bailey, the restaurant understands the importance of sourcing ingredients locally. Taste the different when you order one of their hamburgers, crafted from meat purchased just down the road. And what could make a burger taste even better? An ice-cold craft beer make at their on-site brewery. Add a little entertainment to your meal at the vintage pinball machines or challenge your dinner companions on the restaurant’s foosball table. At Sugar Hill Brewing Company, you get exceptional dinner, drinks, and entertainment all in one place.
Scratch Biscuit Co.—Roanoke
With biscuits ranging from $2-$4, Scratch Biscuit Co. may compare to fast food joints when it comes to pricing, but that’s where the comparison ends. Everything at the restaurant is truly made from scratch, including the jam toppings made from simple ingredients in-house. The menu features more traditional biscuit items like the Egg & Cheese Biscuit, as well as fun and unique combinations like the Jerry Garcia (made with smoked tofu) Biscuit or the the Bless Your Heart Biscuit, topped with a fried green tomato, bacon, and chipotle sauce. Every week, they release a “Biscuit of the Week” that puts a playful, creative twist on their absolutely perfect biscuits. Don’t miss out on the restaurant’s Rooster Scratch coffee, roasted on the premises regularly. The restaurant is located in the Grandin Village, providing direct access to the Roanoke Valley Greenway Trail (although don’t blame us if riding a bike is difficult after a hearty meal at Scratch Biscuit Co.).
Many foodies think that a first-rate restaurant is all about the menu. Hole-in-the-wall locations with terrible service are excused if they can deliver up exquisite dishes. I disagree with this sentiment, and have always found that the best restaurant conveys greatness to every one of your senses, from taste to sight. As soon as you walk into the door at Heirloom, the new rooftop restaurant conveniently located atop the Graduate Hotel on Charlottesville’s University of Virginia campus, the effortless décor brings to mind the living room of a family with old ties to the Commonwealth. The welcoming elegance and ease with which the restaurant carries itself is impressive, as is the menu. Start your meal by perusing the wine and beer offerings, curated to highlight Virginia’s best breweries and wineries. The dinner menu continues the practice of locally sourced ingredients, creating Southern dishes with a modern twist. Examples include the Pork Belly Donuts and the Deviled Eggs made with crab and green tomato that you will be daydreaming about for weeks after your visit. Don’t think your meal could get any better? Finish the meal with a slice of the Peanut Butter Pie and Heirloom will prove you wrong.
Also Try: Tavern & Grocery, the newest restaurant from the owners of the Biltmore Grill, Citizen Burger bar, and the Virginian. They serve classic tavern dishes in a historic Charlottesville landmark.
Former Executive Chef Justus Frank of Fiola in Washington, D.C. teamed up with restauranteurs Tim Irwin and Jeremy Barber to bring Alexandria Live Oak, a restaurant inspired by the Charleston coast in the Del Ray neighborhood. They serve up southern favorites like Head-On Shrimp & Weisenberger Grits and Fried Green Tomatoes, as well as fine dining options like the Mushroom-Stuffed Shenandoah Lamb Loin. Splurge on your dinner and start with an order of the Braised Berkshire Porky Belly, named one of the “5 Dishes to Try Now” by Washingtonian.
Also Try: Junction Bakery & Bistro in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood. Opened in July 2016 and serves fresh bakery items, as well as full breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings.
D J’s Rajun Cajun and Steak House—Petersburg
DJ’s Rajun Cajun and Steak House, the second restaurant for owner DJ Payne (nearby sushi restaurant Wabi-Sabi was the first), resides in a beautifully restored historic brick building in Old Towne Petersburg. The music, food, and atmosphere all have a distinct Creole feel, transporting guests to a New Orleans state of mind effortlessly. The menu has traditional items like prime rib and steak, but getting outside of your culinary comfort zone will definitely pay off at this restaurant. Order up one of the more daring appetizers, like the Alligator Bites, Crawfish Tails, or Frog Legs, and continue your creative meal with the Crawfish Etouffee or the Shrimp Creole. If weather permits, get a seat on the patio to fully experience the vibrant NOLA ambiance.
Also Try: Boppers Malt Shop in neighboring Hopewell, an old-fashioned diner with classic booths, food, and even a statue of Elvis! Make sure to order a glass of the homemade root beer.
From the owner of downtown Richmond favorite Bottoms Up Pizza comes Craft 31 in Williamsburg, and what Bottoms Up does for pizza, Craft 31 does for burgers. If you aren’t familiar with the Richmond pie staple, this means that Craft 31 creates juicy gourmet burgers topped with the most interesting ingredients, from crabcakes to fried eggs. They also serve the famous thin crust pizza from their sister restaurant, as well as a raw bar featuring local and regional Virginia oysters. And with a constantly rotating tap menu, you can wash it all down with a delicious Virginia craft beer.
ROOTS 657 has only been open a few weeks, with the Grand Opening on October 5th, but it has already made a big impression on the residents of Leesburg. As the leader of the 2008 U.S. Culinary Olympic Team that brought home the gold, owner Rich Rosendale is no stranger to excellence, and his passion for great food is evident in every bite. Everything about the restaurant is infused with the idea of community support, from the countless locally sourced ingredients to the shop inside the restaurant that sells products from nearby farmers and local artist wares. And while the locally sourced goods may be a nice touch, it is what Rosendale does with them that makes the menu so impressive. All of the meats are smoked in-house using Virginia hardwoods like Oak and Hickory (also procured from a local purveyor), and the fresh flavors come through beautifully in simple yet flavorful dishes that hint at Rosendale’s expertise.
Also Try: King Street Oyster Bar, opened May 2016 in historic downtown Leesburg, featuring oysters from both the east and west coast. Seafood dishes include ceviche, blue crab dip, the King Street Po’ Boy, and Macadamia Mahi.
With so many fantastic restaurants opening in 2016, you’re sure to find a new favorite spot to add to your regular dining rotation. Be sure to give us your feedback and reviews in the comments below if you visit one of these, and tell us about any new restaurants that have made a lasting impression on you!
BONUS: Coming Soon
The White Birch Food & Juice—Opening November 2016 in Abingdon