If it seems like the Hampton Roads food scene has been heating up recently, you’re not wrong — whatever the weather’s doing.
In Norfolk alone in the past month or so, we’ve seen a downtown hotel restaurant from a Michelin-starred French chef (Glass Light Hotel), a downtown cafe (Cafe Milo) from alums of some of the most famous restaurants in New York City, a new lunchtime cafe from Continental-inspired Riverview restaurant Blanca, and an ambitious Highland Park restaurant (The Coach House) with pulled-duck barbecue and short-rib risotto.
In Virginia Beach, the space once occupied by longtime favorite The Landing re-opened with its original chef, but as a farm-to-table spot called Heirloom. In Williamsburg, Bonanza Social Kitchen quietly just became the region’s first food hall, with food from Korea to Japan to Vietnam.
And the food scene is not slowing down. Here are our 14 most-anticipated restaurants, cafes, speakeasies, food halls and markets set to open this year in Hampton Roads — with up-to-date estimates for when they plan to open.
14 Towne Centre Way, Hampton
The sell: Low-cost crab cakes and fish sandwiches and crab-loaded fries from a popular food truck
Opening date: Feb. 2
For two years, the crowds have turned out for the hot-sauced fish sandwiches and loaded crabby fries of Got Fish? Seafood, a 2-year-old food truck with more followers than a Phish tour. Even before the truck’s clapboard opens on a weekday morning, that line might extend to the end of the block and around the corner. But they’ve been fallow for a month, preparing to open their new brick-and-mortar space in Hampton’s Towne Centre. Well: The time is almost here. Grand opening day is Feb. 3. Eat crab. Get fish.
208 E Main St, Norfolk
The sell: Creative seafood and pork food, from one of the region’s most celebrated chefs
The ETA: Mid-February
When chef Sydney Meers closed his quirky and acclaimed Portsmouth restaurant, Stove, in 2018, food fans wept. But the famed mid-Atlantic-via-Southern chef never really planned to hang up his toque. Quietly, he plotted his return. “I’m that guy that’s gotta stay busy all the time,” he told The Pilot in June 2019. “I mean how many times can you pet your cat?” After months of buildout in Norfolk’s Selden Arcade, Syd’s Fish Pig Cafe is finally coming due this February. Meers let the fish pig out of the bag a little in December by hanging a preliminary menu on its windows. (The previous sign said, simply, “KEEP OUT.”) At the Fish Pig, it turns out you can expect an “infamous cheese tray,” seafood-scrap hushpuppies, “a really big halibut” and a plate full of “heirloom pig stuff,” not to mention an “ole pudding” like the kind his grandmother used to make.
13 Bridgeport Way, Suffolk
The sell: Cocktail speakeasy and upscale-casual spin-off from one of the Peninsula’s best known and best-loved chefs
The ETA: Mid-February
For eight years, Kenny Sloane’s Newport News restaurant Fin Seafood has been an ode to all things surf and terroir — mixing vegetables grown on the Sloane family farm with fish caught offshore, from salmon with asparagus chimichurri to flounder with Carolina Gold rice. The second location, across Bridge Road from Bennett’s Creek Farm Market in Suffolk, will be a more casual and boozy affair, and a playground for resident Fin mixologist Robert Gregory. A Prohibition speakeasy-stytle bar is planned in the back, complete with secret entrance. The food will be a greatest hits selection, Sloane says. “I’ll be taking my top stuff, putting that onto a wheel and spinning it to figure out the menu,” he said in July.
1375 Oceana Blvd., Virginia Beach
The sell: A new taqueria from Hampton Roads’ first family of tacos
The ETA: February/March
For years, the original Jessy’s in Ocean View has been the region’s most prominent bastion of taqueria fare that hews close to Mexican street food traditions, buoyed by a market. Now, at Oceana Crossing Shoppes, they’ll be making the first tienda and taqueria they’ve been able to build from the ground up — serving what co-owner Jorge Romero told The Pilot in August will include “the usual antojitos any reputable taqueria must offer: sopes, tostadas, gorditas, elotes, tamales and huaraches” — alongside burritos, quesadillas, chimichangas and fajita entrees. Expect the menu to reflect the original Ocean View Jessy’s, rather than the more upmarket and Tex-Mexy fare served at the newer Jessy’s in Ghent.
600 South Lynnhaven Road, Virginia Beach
The sell: A massive roller skating rink and family fun center with three food vendors and a craft beer bar
The ETA: Late February/early March
From the team behind the forever-pending Granby Station food hall (see below), the Sk8 House is planned as an all-purpose entertainment center with seemingly everything inside it: escape rooms, playsets, e-sports, and a new-school take on the roller rink for both kids and nostalgic grown-ups. There’ll also be a wealth of food. A little taproom for adults will pour local beers, Jelly Ball will offer boba tea, and Wing It will serve up some saucy wings. Former food truck Casual Eats will also be serving up their island-inspired comfort fare — a mix of grilled meats, rice, spam musubi and lumpia.
510 17½ St., Virginia Beach
The sell: Inventive Japanese pub from a popular wing and ramen spot
The ETA: Early March
Norfolk ramen and wing spot Alkaline will be expanding to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront with their take an izakaya: a Japanese pub with comfort food small bites from grilled meat to noodles, along with a mess of sake and whiskey. True to its name, Baby Izakaya will be a pub in miniature: a 10-seat bar stocked with modern cocktails, Japanese whiskys and sake. The 800-square-foot bar will eventually expand to include outdoor seating, and might include dishes like a miso-marinated mackerel, hamachi collar, or “miso-mole duck.” Only one style of ramen will be served, and it’ll be a recipe unique to the izakaya.
501 Botetourt St., Norfolk
The sell: An artisan cheese shop in Norfolk’s Freemason District — with a cafe featuring wine, beer, cider, sandwiches and soups
The ETA: Early March
Cheese, to some, is religion — and this will be dairy church. In the former Hummingbird Bakery, first-time entrepreneur Ashtyn Greene will be opening a cheese shop. It will have a mix of European and American cheeses alongside simple cafe-style fare, wine, beer, cider and all the other things that go with cheese: nuts, jam, bread, crackers, chocolate and mustard. She’ll push to provide Virginia cheeses, like those made by Meadow Creek Dairy and Caromont Farm — and will make both wine and beer pairings for the shop’s cheeses.
105 Rens Road, Poquoson
The sell: The revival of a Surf Rider location that had already become a Poquoson institution
The ETA: Mid-March
No one in Hampton Roads likes to be without a Surf Rider — the local restaurant chain that arguably makes the most famous crab cakes on this side of the Chesapeake Bay (and two-time winner of crab cake taste-offs in The Pilot). But in June of 2019, the Poquoson location at the Whitehouse Cove Marina burned to a light crisp in an early morning fire. For a while, Surf Rider’s owners were coy about rebuilding, but the work is now earnestly underway. Owners expect the waterside seafood palace to be back in action as soon as this March.
1434 Sam’s Drive, Chesapeake
The sell: A new Chesapeake location for the hand-pulled noodles, dumplings and spicy soups of Noodle Man
The ETA: Mid-March
Noodle Man, a phenomenally busy hand-pulled Chinese noodle spot in Virginia Beach’s Haygood Shopping Center, is coming to Chesapeake in the next two months or so. They plan to be open by spring in the same stretch of shops as Judy’s Sichuan, another well-loved mainstay of excellent Chinese dining. There, diners will be able to watch Tian Yu Xing as he stretches impossibly long noodles out of uncooked dough — a 4,000 year-old tradition whose most famous rendition here comes in rich, spicy, Lanzhou beef noodle bowls. But the second locations will be a little different from the first, with a few specialties added from Xing’s native region of northern China.
301 High St., Portsmouth
The sell: Thai street food-inspired restaurant in Portsmouth with a boatload of noodles, including boat noodles
The ETA: Mid-March
Olde Towne Portsmouth will soon boast a Thai street food restaurant on High Street. Street food is a hallmark of Thailand — boat noodle soups, satay skewers and entire streets devoted only to pad Thai noodles. Even amid pressure from a military junta to clean up the streets, thousands of hawker stalls fill the country’s capital city of Bangkok. Thailand-born U.S. Army veteran Supat Adalem wants to bring some of that energy to Hampton Roads with his family’s new Bangkok Garden Noodle House, at 301 High St. He says he hopes to bring authentic flavors and lots of noodles — in particular kuaytiaw reua, or boat noodle soup, often considered Thailand’s answer to Vietnamese pho.
609½ 19th Ave., Virginia Beach
The sell: Caribbean food in a little pink shack in the ViBe District of Virginia Beach
The ETA: Tomorrow? Two months from now? Co-owner Stephanie Dietz says she’ll just open her doors one day with no warning
A little pink house next to Three Ships Coffee in Virginia Beach will someday soon be full of booze, empanadas and Latin American rotisserie chicken from the people behind Doughminion Donuts and the Bottlecraft beer bar. The Pink Dinghy will be a Latin-American market and upscale fast-casual spot devoted to what Dietz calls “vacation food” — the flavors of Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and the Caribbean. Planned for last year, it’s still in the works, and its owners have been diligently putting out hiring in recent weeks.
508 Orapax St., Norfolk
The sell: Wine-focused spot with Spanish-style tapas and other food, with the accompanying wine and sherry
The ETA: Spring
In space formerly occupied by Tortilla West in Norfolk’s Chelsea neighborhood, a new Spanish-style restaurant called Macabeo will open in the Chelsea neighborhood this year with a focus on tapas, cocktails and Spanish wine. The team behind it, Kyle Butters and chef Erik Jensen, come from the Landing, one of Virginia Beach’s best-known restaurants. The restaurant was originally announced as Cava, but owner Kyle Butters decided to avoid any possibly conflicts with the Cava Mezze Mediterranean chain — which will soon open a location in Virginia Beach’s Town Center. At Macabeo, expect a host of Spanish food and wine and sherry with a lazy susan on the bar full of Spanish treats to eat while you drink.
1231 Boissevain Ave., Norfolk
The sell: A wine garden, vegetarian cafe and hotel in Norfolk’s Chelsea District
We’re serving up restaurant reviews and news about the local food scene every week.
The ETA: Spring/early summer
In a Chelsea neighborhood full of artisan and craft beverages, the Grandiflora Wine Garden will be a big yellow house with three (low-cost) boutique hotel rooms, a wine bar featuring natural wines, a restaurant serving home-style and scratch-made vegetarian food, and a miniature botanical garden with patio seating. It’s the brainchild of a couple from Seattle — Jason and Erin Edelman — and Kenny Gerry, manager of the wood-fired Bakehouse at Chelsea down the street. And soon, it’ll be the area’s most dedicated home for the hip, glou-glou, organic and “natty” wines that have become the choice for fashion-forward wine drinkers in the big cities of both coasts.
103-111 Granby St., Norfolk
The sell: A massive downtown Norfolk food hall with a whole bunch of food vendors
The ETA: Spring/early summer
More than a year in the making, and a year delayed, downtown’s Granby Station is still planning to become the first food hall in the seven cities. When finished, the 10,000 square-foot space will be home to a cocktail bar and 13 food vendors serving an array of international and comfort food: modern Filipino, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Nashville-inspired hot chicken, you name it. But the wait will still be long. According to partner Robert Barnuevo, construction has been paused for months “to accommodate some large pieces of equipment” — a statement he declined to clarify further. But they hope to be building again in February, and done by spring or summer of 2020.
Matthew Korfhage, 757-446-2318, firstname.lastname@example.org.