Summer in Virginia is a great time for exploring. Once you’ve gotten your fill of its natural beauty and history, try exploring some of the commonwealth’s most iconic and unique culinary offerings by going on a summer foodie adventure.
Check out this list of 11 foods that you should add to your food bucket list for a summer in Virginia.
It wouldn’t be summer if you didn’t indulge in a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream. In Virginia, going to Doumar’s Barbecue in Norfolk is a must. And did you know that it’s home to the original waffle cone? That’s right; the tradition dates back to 1904 when Syrian immigrant Abe Doumar had the idea of putting ice cream on a rolled-up waffle. From there, he built a four-iron waffle machine that is still used today.
“As the home of the original waffle cone, we believe in creating great traditions and keeping them going,” the establishment’s website reads. “When the weather is nice, you can find a member of the Doumar family and the waffle machine parked right outside of the diner, so your family can watch the magic happen from the car.”
The cones are made fresh daily! You can order your cone with one or two scoops of either vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, butter pecan, lime sherbet, or orange sherbet. You can even get souvenir jars of two dozen cones to take with you.
It’s hard to think of a more iconic Virginia food than Smithfield ham. Smithfield’s storied history of ham production started in Colonial times when pigs were kept on an island in the James River. Their unique diet of leaf mulch, acorns and other native plant material resulted in a sweeter flavor. Distinct smoking processes further added hints of distinction. In 1926, the Virginia General Assembly even passed a law that said “you could only call your ham a ‘genuine Smithfield Ham’ if it was processed in the town limits of Smithfield.”
The place to go for Smithfield ham is Taste of Smithfield, Smithfield Foods’ flagship ham shop. It serves “fresh, authentic, southern food,” but most importantly a range of Smithfield hams. Try the Smithfield Carver Ham, which comes with grilled honey apple glazed Smithfield ham slices, white cheddar mac and fire-roasted apples. You also can’t go wrong with the hand-cut chop, grilled with herb butter, succotash, green beans, and bacon.
You can even shop at The Genuine Smithfield Ham Shoppe if you’d like to take some ham home with you. Located inside the café, the shop has every type of ham you can think of, from boneless country ham to uncooked country ham in a cloth sack.
Virginia is perhaps best known for its colonial history, having been the site of the first North American English colony. Despite having moved on from its colonial past, Colonial-era recipes still live on today in Colonial Williamsburg at King’s Arms Tavern. The authentic reproduction public house is based on the original, established in 1772. Today, it serves recipes inspired by life in the 18th century.
Order An Onion Pye, made using a recipe that dates back to 1767, which the tavern shares on its website: “Pare some potatoes…apples…onions and slice them…make a good crust. Lay in a layer of potatoes, a layer of onions, a layer of apple and a layer of eggs until you have filled your pie, strewing some seasoning between each layer. Close your pie and bake it an hour and a half.” Follow up on your Pye with another pie: the tavern’s original peanut butter pie.
Take note of the servers dressed in authentic attire. The pewter candlesticks also add to the authentic atmosphere.
Peanuts are enmeshed in the Virginia commonwealth’s history. In fact, Virginia is the first known North American location where peanuts were planted. There’s even a variety called “Virginia Peanuts.”
Even though most people think of soup as being appropriate for fall and winter — and perhaps not involving peanuts — you don’t want to miss out on the summertime delight that is peanut soup. A bowl is delicious on a mild afternoon.
Despite being well-known in Virginia, few restaurants serve the soup. Fortunately, Southern Kitchen Restaurant does! Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley in the charming little town of New Market, the restaurant serves homemade peanut soup by the cup or bowl. Having been family owned and operated for over 65 years, it’s no surprise that it holds true to its classic Southern menu.
You can also find peanut soup on the menu at King’s Arms Tavern.
Chesapeake Blue Crab
Blue crabs are a coastal Virginia delicacy. Known as the “blue swimmer,” they’re a mainstay in the Chesapeake Bay.
The great thing about crabs is that they’re versatile. Wicker’s Crab Pot Seafood is the place to go in Chesapeake to experience all that the crab has to offer. The Wicker family has been working the waters of the Chesapeake Bay for over 60 years and opened the restaurant in 2008.
Be sure to order steamed large male blue crabs. Other crab-related menu items include crab burgers, soft-shell crab sandwiches, lump crab cake sandwiches, battered crab balls, and crab dip.
It wouldn’t be summer in Virginia if you didn’t indulge in all that the Virginia Oyster Trail has to offer. Order a dozen oysters on the half-shell at Rockafeller’s Restaurant in Virginia Beach. It’s located right on the water, so you know the oysters are fresh.
The “Bloody Blue” at Bay Local Eatery offers a truly unique take on the traditional bloody mary. The cocktail pays tribute to the blue crab. It comes with your choice of vodka, house-made mix, Old Bay seasoning on the rim and topped with a garnish, fried soft-shell crab and blue-cheese-stuffed olives. Check out this fun video from Visit Virginia Beach to learn how they’re made.
Pizza is good for every meal no matter the time of the year, but Highlander Pizza in Radford has taken pizza to the next level by making pizza cones. They offer the same delicious pizza taste but in the form of an ice cream cone. The cheese pizza cone is a favorite among Radford University students.
Pimento Cheese Fritters
Southerners, especially Virginians, love pimento cheese and fried foods. Charlottesville-based Southern food eatery Maya Restaurant & Bar has combined the two by offering pimento cheese fritters that come with chive sour cream and house-made pepper jelly. They’re perfect for summer.
Virginia is the sixth largest apple-producing state in the country. In fact, the Shenandoah Valley, Southwest and Central parts of the commonwealth are home to tons of orchards. Stop by the nearly 100-year-old family-run Ikenberry Orchards in Daleville for a Lodi, ginger gold, or gala — all of which are in season this summer. If you’d prefer a nice cold beverage, then visit a cidery like Richmond’s Blue Bee Cider, the commonwealth’s first urban cidery.
Did you know that the brook trout is the official fish of the commonwealth? It was named such in 1993. Trout love cool mountain streams, but you don’t have to go fly fishing to enjoy a piece of trout this summer, because Waterwheel Restaurant in Warm Springs has it on its menu. Located inside The Inn at Gristmill Squar, the restaurant serves up a smoked mountain trout with crostini, horseradish crème fraiche, red onion, and trout roe.