Coach & Four, one of Roanoke's stalwarts. Photo by Jeanna Duerscherl, The Roanoke Times
We recently ran a restaurant review of Coach & Four by freelance reviewer Wade Anderson. It amazed some of my colleagues that Coach & Four has been operating on Williamson Road for 35 years. Even after all that time, a lot of Southwest Virginians probably have never been to Coach & Four or don’t even know it exists.
In the restaurant business, making it for five years is a really big deal. But making it for 35, or even 25 years? Well, that’s success. We spend so much time talking about the revolving door of restaurants in this area. It’s high time to look at how many restaurants in The Roanoke Times coverage area have been open for an astonishingly long time.
Most interesting to me is how much these restaurants have changed — or not — over the decades. Some look nothing like they did when they first opened, have different management and different menus. Others, however, could be time machines. To step inside is to step back to the 1970s, with the same carpeting and decorations and menu. Which is a better scenario? I think it really depends on the restaurant.
In most cases these restaurants are still open today because they’ve been doing it right on a consistent basis every single day. But would you say they are all as good as they were when they first hit their prime? Or do you suppose some longtime customers are floating on memories of what once was and wearing blinders to the current reality?
The secret to restaurant success is a fascinating topic. While there are many concrete answers, I also think there are more elusive factors.
I’m going to list as many Southwest Virginia restaurants as I can come up with that have been open for more than 25 years. Special thanks to some of my Facebook readers, specifically Jeff F., for your help. I’m sure we’ve forgotten some, so help me out!
Montano’s, Roanoke, 43 years
New Yorker Delicatessen, Roanoke: 53 years
Mac and Bob’s, Salem, 32 years
Hale’s Restaurant, Shawsville, 45 years
Regency Room (Hotel Roanoke), 75 years
Aesy’s, Roanoke, 54 years
Coach & Four, Roanoke: 35 years
Community Inn, Roanoke, 35 years
Alexander’s, downtown Roanoke: 32 years
Stephen’s, Roanoke: 25 years
The Roanoker, Roanoke: 71 years
Texas Tavern, downtown Roanoke: 82 years
Fiji Island, Roanoke: 40+ years
Norberto’s, Roanoke: 26 years
Luigi’s, Roanoke: 35 years
The Deli Shoppe, Roanoke: About 70 years
The Farmhouse, Christiansburg: 35 (look for a review of The Farmhouse in The Burgs and on PlateUp next week)
The Homeplace, Catawba: 30 years
Cat & Owl Steak and Seafood House, Low Moor (Alleghany County): 40 years
The Southern Inn, Lexington: 75+ years
Parker’s Seafood, Roanoke: Opened as a seafood market in 1919, 93 years ago.
Cucci’s Pizzeria, Covington: 35 years (incidentally, I just heard they are expanding to create a larger banquet area)
New York Pizza, Vinton: 30 years
Canton Restaurant, Radford: 33 years
The Library, 33 years
Macado’s, 34 years (At downtown Roanoke location. Other locations are probably pretty old, too.)
El Rodeo, Williamson Road, 26 years
Zorba’s, Roanoke, 27 years
Paul’s Restaurant, downtown Roanoke, 64 years
Pete’s Deli, Crossroads area, 46 years
Corned Beef & Co., downtown Roanoke, 27 years
Shaker’s, Valley View, 26 years
Famous Anthony’s, multiple locations, 26 years
W.R. Brews, Williamson, 28 years
Little Chef, Williamson, off and on for 55 years
A note about Lew’s: Lew’s has been open since 1992, which makes it 20 years old this year. Before that it was Pierre’s, and before that it was Piche’s, and before that it was a peanut shack. But Lew’s owner Hayden Payne agrees it wouldn’t be exactly accurate to count all the way back into the Pierre’s and Piche’s days.