In January 2008, I ran a column about “gastronomic gems,” or the 50 greatest food finds in Southwest Virginia. If you’ve been reading this blog since then, you might remember that list was a team effort – I took reader suggestions and wrapped them, with my own ideas, into an ode to the culinary treasures of our region.
I decided recently to dig through the archives and find that list to see how much it has changed. As it turns out, things have changed mightily for the better – and for the worse. Some gems, such as local farmers markets, have shown considerable growth. Other items, such as several of our favorite restaurants, have disappeared for good.
I’d like to share this updated list to see what you all think, then do an updated version for a future column. Have I missed any restaurant closings? If businesses have moved or changed ownership, are they still good enough to be on our list? What culinary gems has Southwest Virginia gained in the past 4 1/2 years that we can use to update our list? I wonder if we could get to 100 this time…
My update notes are in bold font. Go to the bottom of the list for a few of my ideas for additions. Feel free to disagree!
1. Artichoke-brie soup and veal marsala at Carlos Brazilian International Cuisine.
2. [GONE] El Palenque desserts (Yes, I know El Palenque closed. But their cakes and cookies can still be ordered at www.galvancakes.net. [No, they can't])
3. Southwest Virginia farmers markets: Peaches! Tomatoes! Flowers! Potatoes! You name it, it’s fresh and we love it.
4. Floyd County, a virtual mecca of homegrown produce and pasture-fed livestock.
5. Ethnic markets: J&L on Brambleton Avenue and the Oriental Market on Williamson Road are just the beginning. [J&L is still open and we've gained some new markets, but we've also lost a couple]
6. Hotel Roanoke peanut soup and spoonbread (recipes inside).
7. Sausage gravy at The Roanoker Restaurant.
8. Roanoke Weiner Stand chili [downtown location closed temporarily, but it'll be back!]
9. Good Things on the Market fudge [Closed]
10. Crabcakes by Capt. Paul’s seafood market in Salem.
11. Bagels at Roanoke Bagel Co. [expanding!]
12. Picking berries at Crow’s Nest Farm in Blacksburg. [under new ownership]
13. Authentic Middle Eastern dishes at More Than Coffee in Blacksburg. [Now Pita Vera]
14. Crawfish etoufee (no longer on the menu), softshell crab (seasonal) and Big Easy-style platter at Stephen’s Restaurant in Roanoke.
15. Burger in the Square: the burgers, of course! [Moved to Brambleton Avenue]
16. Subs and pizza at On the Rise bakery on the Roanoke market.
17. Table 50 in downtown Roanoke: Caribbean chicken salad, seared jumbo sea scallops in Armagnac cream sauce.
18. Taco soup at Little Dipper’s on the Roanoke City Market [Closed]
19. Rare roast beef sub (with slaw, not lettuce) at The New Yorker Delicatessen on Williamson Road.
20. Orange Dog at Towers Shopping Center (The restaurant is opening a second location in downtown Roanoke.) [The downtown location was not open long. The Towers location is under new ownership and is now called Rescue Dog]
Grace’s Pizza on Grandin Road, where you can order pizza toppings on potato skins. Yay for the gluten-intolerant! [NAY for the gluten-intolerant, apparently. It turns out Grace's discontinued the potato skins.]
22. Brambleton Deli: B.D. Special.
23. Creamed succotash at Blues BBQ on the Roanoke City Market.
24. Gyros and pastitsio at Paul’s Restaurant in Roanoke.
25. Salem’s Sake House: Wildcat Roll (Trust us, it’s wild). [Sake House has moved to Blacksburg]
26. Cheesesteak at New York Pizza in Vinton.
27. Wildflour Cafe: Better Than Sex cake.
28. Fried chicken at The Homeplace in Catawba. Just like Mama made.
29. Zorba’s in the market building: Jamaican Joe’s or “Leave it to Zorba.” [Zorba moved to Lynchburg Turnpike in Salem and calls his place "Zorba's Small World Cafe"]
30. The famous Texas Tavern cheesy western.
31. Chicken and biscuit soup at Blue 5 in downtown Roanoke: a big, fuzzy blanket in a bowl.
32. Frank’s Pizza.
33. Tudor’s Biscuit World on Church Avenue: Duh, the biscuits!
34. Metro on Campbell Avenue: Spicy Shrimp Miso Soup and the $6 lunch – one of the best deals in town. [Is it still $6? Is anything $6 these days?]
35. Drunken noodles at Tong’s Thai’s Roanoke locations. [Now Thai Continental Cuisine in downtown Roanoke]
36. Mill Mountain Coffee: Snow Monkey Plum tea.
37. Homestead Creamery ice cream.
38. Falafel at The Isaacs Restaurant on Memorial Avenue. [Closed]
39. Paradiso’s in the market: roast pork platter. [Closed]
40. The all-you-can-eat salsa bar at Alejandro’s on Campbell Avenue.
41. Zeppoli’s in Blacksburg: The freshest pasta around.
42. Boudreaux’s cajun flavors in Blacksburg.
43. Sharkey’s of Blacksburg: extra crispy buffalo wings (with a cold beer, of course).
44. Gyros at Souvlaki’s in Blacksburg.
45. Homemade chicken and dumplings lunch special, every Tuesday at The Dogwood Restaurant in Vinton.
46. The Dragon Roll at Ben Gui in Roanoke County.
47. Pimento cheese spread at Tinnell’s in South Roanoke.
48. Double bacon cheeseburgers at Ernie’s on the market.
49. Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op and Harvest Moon in Floyd.
50. Fiji Island on Townside Road — cheesy leis and a better mood, guaranteed, after just one volcano!
Should we add…
* Our own local microbreweries?
* New farmers markets?
* Any of the new vendors at the Roanoke City Market Building?
* Blue Apron Restaurant and Red Rooster Bar in Salem? Any other newish restaurants?
* Cucci’s Pizzeria in Covington and/or Lil’ Cucci’s in Daleville?
* Soups at Crock ‘n’ Roll?
* Foggy Ridge Hard Cider?
* Any local wine shops or gourmet shops?
*Richee Freeze on Williamson Road?
* Bread Craft?
* What else?