Shining A Light On Roanoke’s Restaurant Scene

Ronaoke Offers Culinary Delights for Everyone

The Star City of the South shines like a beacon in the culinary world, beckoning you to head out for another dining experience—some unique, some not so much—but each with its own attraction.

What makes the list of Roanoke natives’ favorite restaurants so interesting is that it’s a veritable cornucopia of restaurants, featuring fare from simple to gourmet, the mundane to the exotic and also ethnic. I can recall in the early ’70s when we had but two Chinese restaurants. That was the extent of our ethnic options, except, perhaps, a few Italian places. In the last few decades, our fair city has emerged as a gastronomic wonder of sorts.

What it does show by nature of its infinite variety of restaurants is that the cuisines of Southwest Virginia and the tastes of our readers cover a vast and ever-increasing—and often ever sophisticated—palate. Yes, it’s true that we’re not just a potatoes and gravy town anymore. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—I grew up on a Shenandoah Valley farm where gravy was considered a beverage!

Our culinary landscape is still steeped in tradition (the grand Regency Room), the historical (The Coffee Pot), the upscale (Frankie Rowland’s Steakhouse) and the whimsical (The Texas Tavern). People are passionate about them for different reasons, often memorable moments they savor along with the food. At some time in the distant past, only a handful of real honest-to-goodness trained chefs plied their trade here—usually at the hotel or various country clubs. Now we have a plethora of highly trained and very inventive chefs working kitchens all over, offering an astonishing selection of fresh entrees and sides.

So how then to explain our love of more ordinary restaurants, the ones without frills or fancy fare? Well, good food is good food, whether it’s served on a fancy platter or a big slab of pizza pie on a paper plate. Sometimes the experience is half the fun. Many of our favorites have withstood the test of time—exemplary considering the rigors of the restaurant business—so you have to admire them. Others are just now coming on the scene, forging their own niche in the hopes of being embraced by the public.

Yes, a fancy meal is mighty nice sometimes, but so is a simple breakfast or a nice steak. Years ago, the famous food critic for The New York Times, Craig Claiborne, offered this advice to me, “The dining experience is not just what’s on your plate.”

It turns out that variety really is the spice of life!

Larry Bly has enjoyed a long career in radio, TV and advertising. He was co-host of the comedy cooking show, Cookin’ Cheap, seen on stations all over the country. Now semi-retired, he stays busy with freelance writing, voice work and cooking at home.