Tupelo Honey Cafe has opened in Virginia Beach Town Center. What is Tupelo Honey Cafe? I'll be honest and say I've never heard of it before I received an email from someone representing them in the area. She asked if I would be interested in learning more about the Cafe and attend a soft opening and then a media session later that week. Of course I said “Yes!” because who doesn't like a free meal and I love soft openings; there is always a level of energy and excitement in the air at these things. Tupelo Honey Cafe officially opens 13 July 2015, today!
I did a little research and saw that Tupelo Honey started out in Asheville, NC and has expanded into 11 locations in operation. There are two more spots opening soon in Atlanta, GA and Franklin, TN. Tupelo Honey Cafe prepares its menu using classic Southern and/or Southern influenced style. So of course you're thinking okra, grits, fried chicken, greens, etc... They do have those on the menu, but there is a lot more.
First what is Tupelo Honey? Tupelo Honey comes from the White Tupelo is harvested in Florida and Georgia. It's said to be the purist honey you can buy and to harvest it takes a lot of work, read more about it in this great article at Garden & Gun.
The Virginia Beach Town Center location is pretty sweet. It's on the corner of Main St. and Constitution Dr. Lots of windows and a covered, outdoor seating area. The inside of the restaurant is spacious with walls dotted with local and regionally significant art. There is even a WW II era navy uniform on display.
The bar is large and currently has 20 taps setup. They will eventually be serving kegged cocktails and have an exclusive Virginia mead they'll help get shipped to the restaurant. During the soft opening there was a good selection of local brews on tap in the craft beer line-up; while waited for our seats I grabbed a Tupelo Honey Rye Ale made for Tupelo Honey Cafe by RJ Rockers Brewing Co. Not a bad beer, I enjoyed it. Shelby wanted to try a fancy drink and ordered the “Violet Beauregarde” Champange Cocktail. She loved it. I was able to get a little sip of it too and it was pretty tasty.
After we were seated our server, Tiffany, she went over the limited menu for the soft opening. We had a choice of one appetizer to share, individual entrees and then a shared dessert. From the “Southern Small Plates” section we had a few choices, wrestling with the decision between the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake and the Pecan-Crusted Goat Cheese. We settled on the crab cake. For entrees (with two sides) Shelby chose the broiled Jumbo Shrimp, there was a fried option too, Sauteed Greens and Goat Cheese Grits. I ordered Beef & Bacon Meatloaf with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Mac-n-Cheese. We sipped our drinks waiting for our food to be brought out.
While we waited I looked around – there were plenty of servers and floor supervisors making sure things were running smoothly. We were at a window table which I requested, I need light for the photos. I didn't like that we sat directly beneath an air vent, I was being blasted by cold air and this proved troublesome for our hot food too.
Tiffany brought out a couple of hot biscuits with a blueberry preserve and some Tupelo honey! Mixing the preserve and honey on the biscuit the way to go. The honey wasn't too sweet and was floral, it was a perfect paired with the blueberry. The biscuit had a lightly crunchy exterior and a moist, light consistency on the inside. We were enjoying our biscuits still when the crab cake came out. The crab cake was good, but living in Virginia Beach where seafood is king, we've had a lot of crab cakes. I would say it's definitely worth a try. Flavor was good and there was a good amount of lump crab inside a breaded coat.
Our “supper plates” as they called them, were decent portions the shrimp were cooked nicely and the cherry pepper buerre blanc sauce was good. Shelby's goat cheese grits were very tasty and I would like to have them again next time we visit. The greens were sauteed perfect and served in a broth – lots of flavor! My meatloaf was covered in a chunky rosemary shallot gravy, it complimented the meatloaf that was flecked with bits of bacon throughout. Shelby and I both loved the Mac-n-Cheese. Some people might think you can mess that stuff up, but you can. Their Mac-n-Cheese had browned bits on the corners and you could taste the cheese consistently with every bite. Serious stuff. My shaved Brussels Sprout salad was good too. It was a cold, raw salad and would be perfect out of the cooler and put out on the picnic table.
After chatting with Tiffany about the food I mentioned that I was taking photos for the blog she had another server named Matt come to the table. He happened to be in town to help get the Virginia Beach store off to a running start. Matt was a wealth of information about Tupelo Honey Cafe, the people, food and future plans for the site. As he was explaining how things worked around there a sous chef named Caleb came to the table with a restaurant favorite NC Country Ham Wontons. The light, crispy wrappers held a delicious, creamy mixture of ham and cheese. They might have been my favorite bite of the night!
We finished our drinks and ordered another round. I got a Young Veterans Brewing Co. Jet Noise and Shelby tried another cocktail, the tart Honeysuckle & Lavender Flip. She loved this drink too and said they're perfect Summertime drinks.
After trying the wontons we got to meet the Chef du Cuisine, Chris McLeod. I spied him earlier running the line and getting the plates out in order. They brought out more food for us to try, this time some tacos! One plate had a spice encrusted chicken and other had crumbled meatloaf, similar to what I had in my entree. Thin slices of jalapeno, some cilantro and slaw topped the meat and fresh squeezed lime on top finished them off. There were good too, but I would have liked a thinner tortilla. The apple salsa on the chicken tacos was very nice and different.
While trying to work our way through the mountain of food we were accumulating, they brought out more! I'll give a quick run down:
Shrimp and Grits – A lot of flavor, loved how the grits were creamy and had goat cheese in them. There was a roasted red pepper sauce in the center of the bowl that was surrounded by some plump shrimp. We let a friend try some and he said he's had better, but I do think they're worth a try. Eat it hot!
Pan-Seared Scallops with Brown Butter French Green Beans and Spring Green Pea Risotto – The scallops were cooked nicely with great texture. My favorite part of this dish was the risotto. Creamy and seasoned perfectly.
Herbed Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Curry with Feta – Shelby loved this one. She loves lamb and meatballs, so this was the best of both worlds. Great sauce, very good over all.
You could probably guess that we didn't eat all of this. Luckily we bumped into some friends who were there and we were able to share a good bit of our food with them. Sharing was highly encouraged by Matt early on. We did want to try dessert and ordered a slice of Brown Butter Pecan Pie with Dark Chocolate Sauce and the Heavenly Banana Pudding.
The pecan pie was warm and gooey, the chocolate sauce was delicious, it was put together really well and I'd like to try it again when I wasn't so full. The banana pudding was good too, but the thought of eating another bite seemed like an impossible task. We boxed up what was left over and headed home.
After getting in the house I almost passed out on the couch from a food coma.
Tupelo Honey Cafe opens 13 July, 2015. Virginia Beach Town Center on the corner of Main St. and Constitution Dr.
Check it out, it's a nice little addition to our area and the food is good! We definitely plan on visiting again and trying out more of the menu. Here's the little blurb they sent me originally:
Originally opened in 2000 in downtown Asheville, Tupelo Honey Cafe has grown to become a beloved Southern staple serving fresh, made-from-scratch dishes. The Virginia Beach location of Tupelo Honey Cafe is located at 4501 Main St. in Town Center. Upon opening this July, lunch and dinner will be available Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Brunch will also be served from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Known for its incredible Southerncuisine and locally inspired décor, ten Tupelo Honey Cafe locations are currently open in the Southeast with three future openings planned for Virginia Beach, Virginia; Franklin, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia. Two nationally distributed Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbooks are available for purchase on the website and in stores. For more information, reservations and menus, visit tupelohoneycafe.com.
See all the photos from our visit HERE.