If smokin’ barbecue, moist cornbread, and a tall glass of sweet tea define southern cooking for you, it’s time to expand your horizons. These traditional favorites remain top of the menu, but don’t stop there. Local farmers, chefs, winemakers, and brewers are taking locally sourced products and regional traditions to new levels with stunning dishes and authentically Appalachian dining experiences to satisfy both your hunger and your sense of culinary adventure.
Craft Brew Boom
Across southwest Virginia, local breweries are the post-adventure destination of choice, with outdoor patios, live music, cornhole tournaments, great food, and dozens of local craft beers on tap. Stop by Damascus Brewery to sample D-Town Brown Ale, named for the AT hikers who pass directly through town center. Abingdon’s Wolf Hills Brewing Co., just off the Virginia Creeper Trail, is the perfect spot to combine a ride or run with a pint of Creeper Trail Amber Ale. Visit Smith Mountain Lake’s Sunken City Brewing Co. for a flight of flagship brews Dam Lager, Red Clay IPA, and fruity, California-style Steemboat, along with a rotating menu of small-batch seasonals. A VA Tech chemistry grad is behind the taps at Right Mind Brewing in Blacksburg, creating inventive brews like Mandarina Pale Ale, Tartbroken Sour, and Golden Otter ESB. Grab a beer and dine at Lefty’s Main St. Grille, a Blacksburg institution that’s right next door.
Wood-fired pizza and crisp, smoked wings are the stuff of dreams at Galax’s Creek Bottom Brewery. Choose from their rotating selection of 20 beers on tap, including signature Hellgrammite Brown Ale, Porter Wagoneer, Peach Bottom Blonde, and D18 IPA, plus hundreds more in the bottle shop. Ingredients farmed in the fields surrounding the brewery are the star at Blacksburg’s Rising Silo Farm Brewery. Year-round staples Leggy Blonde, Goat’s Eye Rye, and Thunder Snow Stout, plus seasonal brews, pair nicely with salads and home-made breads from Tabula Rasa, the adjacent farm kitchen. St. Paul’s Sugar Hill Brewing Co. dishes ultimate comfort foods like pretzel-crusted chicken with beer cheese and chili-centric Frito Pie with Dark Devil Dopplebock, Warm and Fuzzy Scotch Ale, Spring Fever Maibock, St. Marie on the Clinch Rye IPA and many more on their extensive list of in-house craft brews.
Local Vines and Wines
Appalachia's rolling mountains, temperate climate, and loamy soil produce ideal conditions for growing grapes, and the region’s extensive network of wine trails showcase some of the best in the state. Abingdon Winery & Vineyard is an easy half-mile side trip off the Virginia Creeper Trail to their tasting room and 12-acre vineyard. For fans of sweeter vino, Brooks Mill Winery and Plum Creek specialize in fruit wines, from blackberry and cherry to semi-dry plum. For dry, white wine fans, there’s a dry white pear to sample.
Enjoy mountain vistas, Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc on outdoor patios at Gile Mountain Vineyard, Whitebarrel Winery, and Vincent’s Vineyard. Sweet, citrusy Virginia Breeze Red and the award-winning oak-aged Autumn Red highlights at Davis Valley Winery, also the spot to sample Davis Valley Distillery’s Appalachian Moonshine, Virginia Frost Vodka, and Samuel Franklin Solera Aged Whiskey. Visit West Wind Vineyard for small-batch wines served in their fourth-generation family homestead or grab a bite and a bottle at Rural Retreat Winery's deli or Chateau Morrisette Winery and Restaurant. Dance and drink to live jazz at Chateau Morrisette’s courtyard concert series.
Settle into a booth at the Galax Smokehouse on Main St. to sample their St. Louis-style ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket. Be sure to try all five secret sauces and the luxuriously rich banana pudding. Colorful and eclectic Cuz’s Uptown Barbeque in Tazewell County has been serving up barbecue, along with internationally-inspired dishes, for over 30 years. Bluefield’s Savory Flavors makes sauces and desserts from scratch and is a great jumping off point for Spearhead’s Original Pocahontas ATV Trail. Smoking meats for 14 hours is the key to fall-off-the-bone tenderness at Marion’s Wolfe’s BBQ.
Candlelight and Romance
Quaint downtowns, historic surroundings, and creative cuisine transport you back in time at several fine dining establishments across the region. The Tavern Restaurant in Abingdon has hosted kings and presidents since 1779 with intercontinental cuisine and an extensive beer, wine, and specialty cocktail list. Meadowview’s Harvest Table Restaurant serves only seasonal, local produce and meats, and will customize any dish to accommodate vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diets. A 1920’s general store has been transformed into Eggleston’s Palisades Restaurant, known for fresh ingredients, cooked-to-order entrees, and desserts made in-house. The Log House 1776 Restaurant’s rustic and romantic interior sets the stage for sophisticated southern cuisine and hospitality in downtown Wytheville. Graze on Main in Wytheville’s historic Bowing Wilson Hotel serves time-honored favorites like shrimp & grits and fried green tomatoes with an elegant New South twist, alongside an extensive menu of specialty cocktails and bourbons, microbrews, and local wines.
For local flavor and serious down-home cooking, the Hob Nob Drive-In in Gate City has been serving up burgers, sandwiches, and shakes for more than 60 years. Also in Gate City, Family Bakery's lunch menu of sandwiches and salads is available until they sell out, so get there early. There’s no passing up the muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, cookies, brownies, and mile-long list of cupcakes in the bakery. Plan lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch at the historic Hungry Mother State Park Restaurant, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. in the 30s.
Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.
Featured image provided by Renee Sklarew