No adventure can truly be enjoyed unless you’re adequately fuelled for it. I don’t know about you but when I’m travelling, I never want to waste a meal on a mediocre spot! Luckily I’ve done a solid amount of research and have brought to you some of the best restaurants in Virginia that you’ll find along Interstate 81. Here are my top picks to guarantee you have some great eats at these Virginia restaurants.
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Best Virginia Restaurants Along the I-81
As you can imagine, there are SO many restaurants in Virginia that I’m certain there are even more to be indulged at. However, I certainly had my fair share of eats and treats during my road trip and I have to say that these Virginia restaurants are the cream of the crop in my books.
Bristol Gardens & Grill in Bristol
What began as a desire to bring fresh food at an affordable price to the town of Bristol has become a thriving barbeque joint! You would never believe that this was once a dilapidated lot before Chef Matt came along and breathed new life into 285 Vance Street!
Floral greenhouses have been transformed to grow fresh herbs and produce that are used to create the delicious eats you’ll find at Bristol Gardens & Grill. All of their meat is locally sourced and slow-smoked daily in their homemade pits. Settle in for a bite to eat at a picnic table on their patio or grab a table inside by the deli. If you’re looking for a memorable spot for a group gathering, enjoy your meal in their converted greenhouse!
As for what to eat, you really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. I demolished their signature sandwich, the BGG, with its mix of sliced and pulled pork that’s tossed in their signature BBQ sauce. It’s topped with their homemade pickles which you can have as normal or spicy. Take my word for it and add a little heat to your sandwich!
Sister’s American Grill in Abingdon
There is no shortage of great restaurants in Abingdon as it was rated as 2019’s top small town food scene by USA Today. While my time in Abingdon was short, I was able to start my day with a fantastic meal at the Sister’s American Grill. It’s located inside the Martha Washington Inn & Spa so you know you’re in for a treat by dining at this luxury accommodation option. If you are a guest of the hotel as I was, breakfast is included with your stay so you’ll get a taste of their top quality eats. However if you aren’t, you’ll want to plan on enjoying a meal at the Sister’s American Grill.
On the menu, you’ll find a hearty spread of classic fare including shepherd’s pie, grilled pork chops as well as fish and chips. They also have unique meals such as their Sister’s Monterrey Chicken as spinach, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and bacon are stuffed into a succulent chicken breast and topped with melted Monterrey jack cheese over fresh salsa verde. Accompanied by creamy whipped potatoes and broccolini, it’s certainly a fan favourite!
Log House 1776 Restaurant in Wytheville
Whether you’re here for an extended stay or just passing through, a visit to the Log House 1776 is a must whenever you’re near Wytheville.
This restaurant has a cult-like following and it’s for one good reason – their stuffed yellow crookneck squash! While it isn’t a main on their menu, it’s the most requested side dish and you’ll understand why after just one bite. Don’t even bother trying to snag the recipe as there’s no hope of obtaining it, no matter how much you ask for it. As for their mains, there is something for everyone with chicken, beef, pork and fish dishes. I dug into their swordfish as I hadn’t had it in years and it was absolutely delicious. However if you’re looking for a meal that’s very iconic of the state, I recommend trying their Virginia Country Ham.
Once you’re done with dinner, the fun isn’t over. That’s right – Log House 1776 isn’t just a restaurant as this two-story log home also has an expansive gift shop, gorgeous lounge and beautiful outdoor garden! I was blown away at how much there was to see so be sure to spend some time enjoying the “choose your own adventure” style vibes.
RELATED: Wytheville has so much to offer that you really should plan to stay a few days. Check out my guide for all the fantastic things to do in town and you’ll see what I mean!
Lucky in Roanoke
I wouldn’t be surprised if Lucky was named after the fact that you’re certainly lucky if you can snag a table on short notice because this restaurant in Roanoke is always bumpin’! It’s honestly for good reason as this intimate space brings a metropolitan flair to Southwest Virginia.
This restaurant is the perfect spot in Roanoke for a romantic date or a girls’ night on the town. Lucky features unique craft cocktails and tasty tapas to pair with them. Their goal is to continuously experiment with new recipes to constantly bring new cuisines and flavours to your table. Let’s just say that each visit will be different than the last!
While their menu has changed to a focus on small plates perfect for sharing versus larger dishes like the ones they had during my visit, I have no doubts that the quality of their menu is still as incredible now as it was then. I only had a small taste of their culinary prowess with their local charcuterie board but I was blown away by the flavour pairings and profiles throughout their spread!
Haywood’s Piano Bar & Grill in Lexington
If you’re going to eat anywhere in the Lexington area, it’s gotta be Haywood’s Piano Bar & Grill. Named after a man who liked to eat well, never met a stranger and enjoyed every piano bar he experienced, I’d say that’s the trifecta for a memorable night on the town!
At Haywood’s, you’ll enjoy a lively dining experience featuring locally sourced, seasonal cuisine. Soak up the ambiance and melodies of the talented live musicians as you sip on expertly crafted cocktails and flavourful dishes. While there’s typically a variety of protein dishes on the menu, their specialty is steak – and Chef Troy Sheller certainly knows it well! I indulged in their ribeye from Seven Hills Food Company located just down the road in Lynchburg and it was grilled to perfection. Paired with their cheesy grits and roasted acorn squash, it was the perfect autumn meal. While you’ll certainly be full, make sure to save room for dessert – especially if their pumpkin pie creme brulee is on the menu!
Blu Point Seafood Co in Staunton
For some of the freshest seafood you’ll feast on in the Shenandoah Valley, you have to plan a meal at Blu Point Seafood Company. With many of their eats collected from the Chesapeake Bay area, all of their seafood is sustainably sourced utilizing safe, practical, and efficient farming methods so you can dine without guilt. This goes for their “turf” as well as they partner with local farms for pasture-raised meat for unmatched quality. Everything is delivered fresh daily and I’d say it doesn’t get any better than that!
Seafood lovers like myself will have a hard time deciding what to eat with their array of offerings. From fresh Virginia oysters to snow crab to catfish, there is so much to choose from. Luckily, there are options like the Captain’s Platter which will allow you to indulge in more than just one of their delicious eats from the sea! Be warned though as these portions are hearty and leftovers are not uncommon. For those that aren’t into seafood, there’s plenty to choose from including steak, sandwiches, salads and more.
Jimmy Madison’s in Harrisonburg
Is southern cooking one of your favourite cuisines? How about indulging in the odd sip or three of whiskey? If you said yes to either of these, then Jimmy Madison’s is one of the restaurants in Virginia you have to eat at! Settle in for some bold, flavourful eats in their cozy, rustic atmosphere with soulful blues serenading you.
While their collection of pulled pork, brisket and burgers was tempting, I had to go for their Wafflewich. This spin on the traditional chicken and waffles is absolutely scrumptious! I’m talking a massive portion of southern fried chicken sandwiched between two fluffy Belgian buttermilk waffles. As if that wasn’t enough, add some hickory bacon, apple butter and aged cheddar into the mix with it all dipped in some sappy maple syrup. This is one combination of sweet and savoury to write home about!
Bonnie Blue Southern Market in Winchester
Last but certainly not least, Bonnie Blue Southern Market & Bakery is the perfect spot for a bite in Winchester. While I dined here as my trip was coming to a close, they ensured my days on the road ended with a bang as this is easily one of the top restaurants in Virginia! Step inside the converted 1920 Esso Station and pull up a chair for some home-cooked eats that just might be better than what Mama used to make.
Bonnie Blue’s menu serves to preserve the traditional methods of good ol’ southern cooking. This is where the Carolinas mix and mingle with Virginia flair as Chef Brian Pellatt creates classic southern dishes with the abundant meat and produce found in the Shenandoah Valley. Whether you indulge in tender brisket, succulent fried oysters or fall-off-the-bone short ribs, I guarantee you’ll be satisfied. Paired with that iconic warm and welcoming southern hospitality, Bonnie Blue will have you returning to their iconic blue restaurant again and again.
Additional Restaurants in Virginia to Eat At
While the above establishments are my top picks, there are certainly more restaurants in Virginia to eat at. In case you’re looking for more options, here are a few more restaurants for great eats along Interstate 81.
Blackbird Bakery in Bristol – This old-fashioned bakery has been serving up sweet treats in the heart of town since 2008. While they have a variety of goodies including baklava, brownies, scones and more, they’re known for their doughnuts.
Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace in Abingdon – You probably wouldn’t expect it from a visitor’s centre but the cafe here is amazing! They offer dishes that are seasonal, locally inspired and they don’t break the bank.
The Tavern in Abingdon – Built in 1779 just one year after the town was founded, it’s the oldest bar in Virginia and the 8th oldest in the country! The Tavern is a popular spot to grab a drink but also offers amazing German fare like schnitzel and spaetzle.
Harvest Table Restaurant in Meadowview – Created by well-known author Barbara Kingsolver and her husband, this restaurant features true farm-to-table fare as the menu was inspired by their experiment to eat locally (and in-season) for one full year.
Mattie’s in Burke’s Garden – Simple but delicious Amish home cooking. Whatever you do, don’t forget to grab a cinnamon bun or three! They’re the perfect fuel for your adventures.
Skeeter’s in Wytheville – A Wytheville icon since 1925, you haven’t experienced the town unless you’ve had a Skeeter dog. Grab a seat and admire the old school diner decor as you indulge in one of their famous hot dogs. Make sure to get The Works: cheese, slaw, mustard, onion and chili!
7 Dogs Brewpub in Wytheville – While they have a fantastic selection of craft beers, they also have a great gastropub menu. Includes great burgers, deletable fish tacos, on-point sweet potato fries and more.
Floyd Country Store in Floyd – It might be known for its Friday Night Jamboree but the Floyd Country Store also has some great eats to offer! It’s the perfect spot for fuel before you hit the dance floor as well as a quick burst of energy with their specialty soda floats.
Texas Tavern in Roanoke – This family-owned restaurant has been serving up ones, twos and bowls since 1930. Not sure what I mean? Check out their website for all the lingo but know this is a great spot for an inexpensive bite to eat and a unique experience!
The Gin Hotel in Lexington – Previously known as the Robert E Lee Hotel, they have a fantastic little wine bar and restaurant that offers great cocktails and amazing eats. I only had their breakfast as it was included in my stay but it was easily one of the finest spreads I’ve ever enjoyed during a hotel stay!
Rocktown Kitchen in Harrisonburg – Fine dining level eats in a casual atmosphere with a variety of salads, sandwiches and dinner fare. Don’t miss trying their fried green tomatoes appetizer!
The Speakeasy in Luray – Located inside the beautiful Mimslyn Inn, this 1930s themed restaurant offers a menu inspired by the inn’s days during the prohibition era. Often features live music and overall has a great dinner vibe.
Roma Old Town Wood-Fired Pizzeria in Winchester – Located beneath Alesatian Brewing Company in the heart of the city, their brick oven pizzas are incredible. However, they easily have one of the best Caesar salads I’ve ever tried!
Which of These Top Virginia Restaurants Do You Want to Try First?
I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly hungry after reminiscing about these incredible Virginia restaurants. It’s very clear that I ate well while exploring Interstate 81!
Are there any restaurants along this route that you’ve eaten at that you would recommend? I’m always looking for additional suggestions for delicious eats so let’s hear them in a comment below!
Looking for More Interesting Places in Virginia to Visit?
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Everything You Need to See, Do & Eat in the Quirky Town of Wytheville
History, Caverns & Parks – Oh My! Check Out My Stellar Guide to Luray VA
This post is brought to you in partnership with Virginia Tourism. While I was compensated for my time, all of the content and opinions here are honest and speak to my personal experience!