The culinary scene in Virginia’s Blue Ridge is both varied and inventive. Look for Americana favorites, Southern flavors and ethnic influences. Here’s a taste of what you’ll find in Roanoke and beyond:
Fortunato, 104 Kirk Ave., SW, Roanoke VA 24011
Fortunato is the region’s only traditional Italian kitchen and Neapolitan-style pizzaria, and it’s right downtown Roanoke. On the menu are small plates, antipasti, house-made pastas, entrees and more. Choose from red, white and no-sauce pizzas, like I did. The wine list is impressive, featuring mostly Italian varietals and other imports. Fortunato is a casual eatery with lots of fun artwork on the walls.
I LOVED: Salsiccia pizza, a layering of house sweet Italian sausage, fontina cheese and red onions. And red sauce.
Taaza Indian Cuisine, 1910 Memorial Ave., SW, Roanoke VA 24015
Located in Roanoke’s historic Grandin Village, Taaza Indian Cuisine specializes in authentic Southern Indian and Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant lives up to its name, which is derived from the Urdu word meaning “fresh,” by sourcing local and organic ingredients. Naan, meats and vegetables are cooked in a traditional clay oven without added oil. Most menu items are spiced to a Level 3, but order them hotter if you wish. Check out the Indian-inspired cocktails like the Blueberry Chutney Martini or the Indo Mary (a twist on the Bloody Mary).
I LOVED: The lunch buffet–so very fresh and so much to choose from. The tastes are more flavorful than spicy.
Mac and Bob’s, 316 E. Main St., Salem VA 24153
Back in 1980, two Roanoke College graduates–Mac and Bob, of course–decided to open a small 10-stool eatery across from their alma mater. Mac and Bob’s served two sandwiches: PBJ and roast beef with cheddar cheese. (Variations are still on the menu.) Mac soon bowed out, but Bob carried on, moving and expanding until it became the bustling 330-seat restaurant and 80-tap bar it is today. The menu has grown to include top-notch pub grub, inventive salads, robust sandwiches and hearty entrees. Mac and Bob’s is a favorite with both students and locals–and you might have to stand in line to get in. Aim for a seat on the covered patio.
I LOVED: The calzone with mozzarella and ricotta cheese and sliced ham wrapped in pizza dough and baked golden brown. You’ll need more than two hands to lift it!
Ippy’s Restaurant, 1760 N. Main St., Rocky Mount, VA 24151
Family-owned for four generations, Ippy’s Restaurant serves up scratch fare alongside custom cocktails, cold beer and foot-stomping music. It’s grown from a small gun shop that sold barbecue on the side to a culinary mainstay in Franklin County. BBQ is still a hit, but the steak and seafood are delish as well. Salad lovers, note the croutons and dressings are homemade. Ippy’s will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019.
I LOVED: An All-American Classic–Ippy’s Cheeseburger, made with house-ground beef, and topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo. With crisp, golden fries, please.
Pomegranate, 106 Stoney Battery Road, Troutville VA 24175
A former feed store, Pomegranate Restaurant and Gathering Place specializes in farm-to-table cuisine in a relaxing, artsy environment. The menu offers appetite-sized portions from small plates and 5-course dinners. Try the house salad dressing–a homemade pomegranate vinaigrette–and chomp down on cornbread infused with green chilies. Watch out: The building is said to be haunted. Servers have reported seeing the ghosts of a young girl and a tall gentleman.
I LOVED: Chesapeake-style lump crab cakes with low-country remoulade, smashed potatoes and seasonal veggies.
(Many thanks to Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge and partners for hosting my visit!)