Of course, there’s an entry from Colonial Williamsburg on this list.
Restaurants were hit hard during the pandemic. Some closed their doors temporarily as the world changed while others, sadly, were forced to shutter forever.
The good news is that a number of Virginia’s favorite and oldest restaurants are still here today. Across the commonwealth, they serve up a mix of wonderful historic meals and foods to make anyone nostalgic.
Here’s a look at some of what we think are the best ones to visit.
The Red Fox Inn
2 East Washington St., Middleburg
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Easily one of Virginia’s oldest restaurants, the Red Fox Inn & Tavern was established in 1728. The inn and tavern has survived the test of time, hosting politicians, celebrities, and regular folks alike, according to the Red Fox’s website. Notable diners include Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, as well as Elizabeth Taylor and Sen. John Warner, who “often dined together in the Tap Room during their courtship and after their marriage,” the site states.
The tavern’s building was constructed out of local fieldstone by a man named Joseph Chinn. Known as Chinn’s Ordinary in its early years, the tavern was a popular stopping place for colonists and new settlers. It’s rumored that even a young George Washington stopped by the local favorite, the tavern’s website states.
Over the years, the centuries-old building has changed and taken on numerous identities. In 1812, it became the Beveridge House, which was often used by the Confederate Army during the Civil War. In the late 1880s, the space was renamed the Middleburg Inn, and finally became the Red Fox Inn in 1937.
Today, The Red Fox is still managed by the granddaughter of a woman who purchased the business in the ‘70s. The tavern offers four-course meals with local and seasonal dinner options—such as apple cider glazed fried rabbit—while diners looking for a slightly more casual fare can find gourmet burgers and handcrafted cocktails at the Night Fox Pub.
View From a Review: “We stayed at the Red Fox Inn for 2 nights for a weekend get-away and it couldn’t have been better,” Chris M. wrote on TripAdvisor. “The rooms are charming and cozy, with the classic character of the area. It is in the heart of Middleburg so you can walk to most of the local shops and restaurants. The staff couldn’t have been more accommodating and helpful. We loved the old buildings and sense of history that pervades the Inn and didn’t mind the squirrely lay out because that is the way it is with old buildings. It’s just part of their charm.”
528 N. 2nd St., Richmond
Located in Jackson Ward, the Hippodrome Theater once saw legendary acts such as Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong perform there. Now, more than a century since they were built, The Hipp and the adjacent Taylor Mansion—now home to Speakeasy Grill—have become destinations in Richmond for good food and entertainment.
The buildings were built in the early 1900s and fell into disrepair in later years—portions had even begun to collapse. In the early 2000s, a development company took on the worthy project of revamping the Hippodrome and Taylor Mansion. The renovations retained much of the historic charm, but also bolstered the structural integrity of the building.
Today, the Speakeasy Grill features brunch, lunch, and dinner, including a wide range of comfort foods such as gumbo, waffles, and burgers, plus cocktails. The venue also hosts private parties. It’s open Monday through Saturday, and locals say their brunch is not to be missed.
View From A Review: “The restaurant was beautiful. And the staff was great! The food was sinfully great, so much I ordered a full second meal to try a different dish I shared it with a friend,” wrote Sonya R. on Yelp. “We had the Shrimp and Grits, Fish and Waffles, and also the Chicken and Waffles.. The portions were perfect. I will be visiting again!”
The King’s Arms Tavern
416 East Duke of Gloucester St., Williamsburg
Any list of Virginia’s historic restaurants wouldn’t be complete without an entry from Colonial Williamsburg.
The King’s Arms Tavern originally opened in 1772 by Jane Vobe, who operated multiple taverns in Williamsburg and Manchester at the time. Like many women who lived then, there isn’t a whole lot known about her beyond her business records—but those show a very successful businesswoman. She operated taverns in the area from 1751 to 1785, and died the following year.
Today, the tavern offers a glimpse of what the wealthy ate back then along with more modern flavors as well. Visitors can stop by for an excellent selection of soups, risotto, and even rabbit. One menu item that stood out to us was the Hunters Game Pye; it contains venison, rabbit, and duck stewed in port wine.
View From A Review: “Our meals were all different and all delicious,” wrote Anne on OpenTable. “The ambience was excellent; it really transported us back in time. There was also period appropriate music provided by a very talented harpist. The real highlight however, was the warmth and welcoming of our servers. The ladies in our dining room were a wealth of information and full of smiles. Our server, I think her name was Cheryl, added a real personalized touch to our experience. Which made our time at Kings Arms extra special.”
10536 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax
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This entry is a little newer than the others, but it’s a classic greasy spoon with a little history and a lot of heart that’s worth highlighting. 29 Diner is currently closed but is set to reopen later this year.
D.T “Bill” Glascock and his wife Elvira first opened 29 Diner in July 1947 after purchasing the building from Mountain View Diner Company in New Jersey and having it shipped to Virginia. The couple ran the restaurant for a few years before leasing the business out to different owners.
In 1992, the restaurant was declared a historic site. According to the diner’s website, Marc Christian Wagner, an architectural historian from the Preservation Associates of Virginia, called the diner a “rare survivor” during the dedication.
“While it is rare to find one of these 1940’s diners still standing, it is even more unusual to find one still in operation,” he reportedly said. “The high quality of this Mountain View diner has withstood the test of time in a hostile environment.”
Sadly, a fire gutted the kitchen in 2021, and the diner’s doors have been closed to rebuild ever since. But thanks to a groundswell of support from the community, the diner’s owners report via Facebook that it will reopen and begin serving once again before the end of 2022.
Want to check on the rebuilding process? Click here. Want to contribute to the cause? Click here.