In the Hampton Roads area we recently finished up a couple of restaurant week events for Virginia Beach and Norfolk. Newport News still has one going on till February 2nd and Portsmouth will be running theirs in April. Unfortunately, we only made it out for Virginia Beach's because of bad weather and a head cold that popped up during Norfolk restaurant week. I meant to have this written up last week but I've been pulled in a few different directions. Better late than never tough right?
Virginia Beach Restaurant Week (VBRW) basically works this way: participating restaurants offer a lunch and/or a dinner at a discounted rate. Most of the time the dishes they serve showcase what the eatery has to offer and it also affords people the chance to try out different places without breaking the bank. Shelby and I tried four places in Virginia Beach, I'll give you a little rundown on what we had.
As soon as Shelby and I got off of work we started checking out the restaurant week menus. It was hard to choose one place to eat but we finally settled on Croakers Neighborhood Grill. We've heard good things about the Virginia Beach local's spot and the menu looked good. Croakers is located on Shore Dr., if you're not familiar with Virginia Beach, Shore Dr. runs the length of the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk.
When we pulled up the parking lot was packed. After a couple of run-arounds we got a spot and went inside. It reminded me of the classic Virginia Beach aesthetic—beachy, colorful, and the feeling its been around for a while. The hostess immediately seated us and the server came out and gave us info on the restaurant week menu. Croakers gave you the option of having a drink or cocktail instead of your third course dessert. We both opted for drinks, Shelby got a chocolate martini and I got a beer.
The appetizers being offered were Fried Calamari, Oysters Rockefeller, and Breaded Popcorn Shrimp. I chose the Rockefeller and Shelby got the calamari. The calamari had a great batter on them. Probably a beer batter with a little bit of Chesapeake Bay seasoning at the end. You get the whole squid; I love the tentacles. The oysters were good but I've been eating so many Oysters Rockefeller lately, I've been spoiled (I'm talking about Croc's.)
Entrees were Blackened Chicken, a NY Strip or something called St. Charles. Here's the description:
“Chef's choice of fish pan sauteed and topped with fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions and shrimp which have been simmered in our special sherry, lemon and butter sauce – delicious”
Sounded good, we both ordered it. I was glad I did, normally this is a $20+ dinner but they put together a little something for restaurant week and it was so good. Out of everything I tried during VBRW, this was my favorite. They used talapia the night we went and it was cooked perfectly. I'm actually going to write more about this dish later, so I'll stop now. Definitely worth a try.
The second thing we tried was the lunch menu at Braise the next day. Braise recently opened in the city by the locally known chef Bobby Huber of Bobbywood fame. Braise was offering a $10 lunch with a few options to choose from. We went with one of our friends—Alisa—who had never been before.
I was really excited about was that Chef Huber's popular Oyster Stew was on the special menu. Shelby and Alisa both got the Braised Short Ribs with Cheddar Grits and Fried Spinach. They offered starters before the aforementioned dishes: Emily's Famous Lumpia or a Wedge Salad. I had the wedge salad while Shelby and Alisa, again, chose the same thing. Emily's Famous Lumpia.
Let me back up a bit. When we arrived it was packed! We lucked out because we were able to grab the only available table. We settled in and eventually our server arrived, it took awhile because the volume of customers in the restaurant. We looked at our menus, were given water, and then we ordered. We got our food eventually but my water glass wasn't refilled. I'm only mentioning it because that is my one major pet peeve when I eat out. I hate not having water, it really bothered me. I ended up drinking Shelby's since she didn’t want it.
I loved my salad. I love lettuce, so this would be easy to make me happy. The wedge had crumbled bleu cheese and dressing poured over it. A nice balsamic was dashing around the plate with some grapes and tomatoes. Mixed in with the cheese and dressing was nice, chewy bacon. Good stuff.
I didn't try the lumpia but Shelby and Alisa both seem to enjoy them. The entrees took long time to get out, and as I mentioned, I had no water. When the food came out, they forgot one of our entrees. I was worried it would take a while to get the missing plate out, but he was back quickly with it.
The oyster stew was very good. Tasty with perfectly cooked oysters and mildly seasoned. I like being able to taste the oysters without them having to compete with the rest of the soup. Potatoes and more bacon were in the bowl too, can't go wrong with that combo. The Braised Short Rib was good and the portion was small, but I guess I shouldn't complain about a $10 lunch right?
We've been to Sonoma before and liked the service. The food was good, but I thought a little overpriced and my entree could have used a little seasoning. I was looking forward to trying again though.
We went for the lunch menu and we had another of Shelby's friends, Crystal, with us this time. It was later in the week and the lunch crowd was manageable. The soup of the day was the first course and we had a choice of Chipotle Pork Taco, Blackened Crabcake Sandwich, and Seared Mahi. Shelby and Crystal went with the crabcake and I picked the tacos for variety.
The soup of the day was French Onion, which is one of my favorites. It was delicious and the cheesy baguette was great for soaking up all the broth. The Crabcake Sandwich was pretty good, not overloaded with filler, but definitely not lumpcrab. The tacos weren't too exciting and but they were good.
The last place we tried was Chick's at the Lynnhaven Inlet. A local staple, if you live in Virginia Beach you know about this place. I'll have to admit though, I've never been. I didn't realize how big this place is, on the outside it doesn't seem like much. They have a several bars services the different sections of the restaurant. We were seated on the deck which was enclosed for the season. Casual and relaxed, easy place to roll into for a drink or to grab a bite to eat. I'll probably write a little more about the place later.
Luckily we had Marleigh and Chayce with us that day and we met with my step-father, John and my sister Diane. After we were seated I walked around a bit to check out the joint. I bumped into Gerald from Hoffman Beverage who was there with one of his people who was pushing Monster drinks at the bar.
The lunch menu offered some pretty good choices: Open with a salad, She-Crab Soup or ½ Dozen Oysters (steamed or raw) and an entree choice of Fresh Catch Sandwich, Blackened Mahi Tacos, or Everything Greek Salmon Salad.
Chayce and I ordered the oysters, his steamed, mine raw on the half shell. Shelby got the She-Crab soup. She had the Greek Salmon salad and I thought I'd try the tacos here too. Chayce got the fish sandwich which turned out to be flounder that day. It was huge and looked great. My tacos, again, weren't anything I got excited over and Shelby said I might not want to order tacos anymore. Her Greek salad was huge too and out of everything we had that week, she said that was her favorite. The She-Crab was very good too. I'd like to go back again and try some of the other menu items, they have a lot to choose from.
All in all restaurant week was fun, like I mentioned earlier, it's a great way to get out and try some places you might not normally head to. The prices were good and the overall experience was a good one. Can't wait till next year's event.