Roanoke was first called “Big Lick,” a name derived from large salt deposits along the Roanoke River. It became the independent City of Roanoke in 1884. But it also has a nickname—The Star City—for the world’s largest freestanding star!
The Mill Mountain Star, a local landmark, is over 88 feet tall and is visible for 60 miles from the air. It has burned brightly since the 1949 Christmas season.
There is so much to do in Roanoke a visit there could take a week—or a month. But we’re here for the food!
They could call it the Food Star City of Virginia! There are so many fantastic spots for a foodie, many well-known-and-loved for years, but some new places have slipped in there, too. Come along with me and explore some old and new favorites!
The 15 Best Roanoke Restaurants
110 Shenandoah Ave. NE // (540) 985-5900
No visit to Roanoke is complete without a stop at Hotel Roanoke. The iconic Tudor-style hotel was built on a little hill overlooking the Norfolk and Western Railroad station and tracks. It opened its doors on Christmas Day, 1882.
Since then, it has been expanded, burned, repaired, remodeled, and, after 107 years, closed and donated to the Virginia Tech Real Estate Foundation. Four years later, a multi-million dollar restoration project began.
The result of that joint project between Virginia Tech and the City of Roanoke is a beautifully-preserved hotel with an antique-filled lobby, original chandeliers, and a restored ceiling (painted with the constellations that appeared in the sky on that 1852 night the first train came to Roanoke).
Six United States presidents, governors, politicians, film stars, millionaires, and Henry Ford and Thomas Edison are counted among the hotel’s former guests.
Since 1953, it has also been home to Miss Virginia competitors. The hotel’s nickname is appropriate; The Grand Old Lady. And the Grand Old Lady is on both the Virginia and National Historic Landmark lists.
Not Just A Place to Lay Your Head
But don’t think this segment only features one of the oldest places to spend the night in Roanoke. Oh, no! They’ve also been feeding folks all that time. In fact, the hotel has three different dining areas. If you are in a rush, you can stop by STEAM Coffee + Eatery, and snag a grab-and-go option.
The Regency Room
The Regency Room opened in 1938 and quickly became the heart of Roanoke’s social and cultural life. It offers French-inspired Southern cooking and has a AAA Four-Diamond rating for its breakfasts and dinners.
Breakfast in The Regency Room can be the Full Breakfast Buffet, which offers selections from fruit to smoked salmon, from fresh bread to oatmeal. There is a station for omelets and other egg choices cooked to order. Or you can order items from the menu, all created with the Regency flair—like the Eggs Benedict; poached eggs, steak tips, and sautéed spinach, all sitting on top of a toasted English muffin and dripping in Hollandaise.
Dinner options include regional favorites like pan-seared Rainbow Trout and Shrimp and Scallops Chesapeake, but items like Double Cut Lamb Chops and Seared Duck Breast are also available.
The Pine Room
The Pine Room, once a WWII Officer’s Club and Pub, is more casual, with a lighter menu featuring sharable appetizers, handhelds, and burgers. Plus, they used local and regional ingredients whenever possible. Their open kitchen (and chefs) are the stars of the show! The Pine Room happily feeds visitors from noon until 9 p.m.
1882 Lobby Bar
Of course, you can also order food at the 1882 Lobby Bar, like we did. It is open from noon until midnight, and until 1 a.m. on weekends. Then you can dine while gazing up at that night sky painting. I paired my soup with a Peachy Keen. The drink is a mixture of smooth Blanco Tequila, ginger, Triple Sec, house-made peach syrup, and topped with lime foam. What a zingy way to start the afternoon!
But no matter where you eat, you have GOT to eat that famous Peanut Soup. No, I’m not making that up; it’s a real thing and scrumptious! I mean, this is Virginia, and we’re known for our peanuts! Virginia peanuts are renowned for their large kernels and delicious flavor (due to growing in southeastern Virginia’s sandy soil.)
Hotel Roanoke’s Peanut Soup is rich and creamy, a chicken broth bolstered with peanut butter and topped with chopped peanuts. The creation of Chef Fred Brown in 1940, the soup traditionally arrives at the table alongside spoonbread (served for many generations by Virginians.)
For a taste of local history and great food, make sure to include the incomparable Hotel Roanoke.
2201 Crystal Spring Ave. SW // (540) 400-6830
Before I knew it, my server, Anias, started off the meal was a massive pile of bread surrounding a healthy scoop of house-made pimento cheese. And, after drooling on the drink menu, I couldn’t resist the Black Mamba. Now, you’re thinking, “Who wants a black drink?” You do – I promise! The bartender, Jackie, shook up a fantastic drink; a concoction of fruit and citrus; a refreshing drink made from vodka, house-made blackberry crème, maraschino, grapefruit, lime, and bitters—and it’s really quite pink!
The next course consisted of roasted carrots on top of yogurt sprinkled with candied chiles, pistachios, and curry spice. Ummm…MORE PLEASE!
The perfectly-seared Day Boat Scallops entrée arrived, still swimming, but in a sweet corn bisque. The kitchen plated the scallops interspersed with Carolina Gold Rice Middlins, foraged chanterelle mushrooms, goat cheese, and sprinkled with fresh basil.
A dark chocolate cremeux with candied peanuts, topped with coffee ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce, arrived on my table for my dessert.
Chef Tyler certainly has my number!!
1418 Grandin Rd. SW // (540) 769-9958
Think Cheers, but with wine! The Jolly Grape is a friendly neighborhood spot in the Grandin section of Roanoke.
Stop in to enjoy a sample or to make a purchase—the wines are local, national, and international brands. Whatever you drink, they have it: from Albarossa to Zinfandel!
And the tasting bar is comfortable, like drinking with old friends. But there are some tasting rules you should know about—you have to drink all your sample.
If you don’t, you have to pour it into someone’s glass at the bar! Everyone is there for a good time and good wine. A truly unique Roanoke gem; my kind of place!
The tasting room now has food, too! The menu has three styles of charcuterie boards, four types of salads, and sandwiches ranging from chicken pesto to turkey with bacon to roast beef with scallion cream cheese, and roasted red peppers. Of course, there are desserts—cheesecake, a black ’n tan bar, or the chocolate raspberry mousse bar.
1820 Memorial Ave. SW // (540) 855-0882
For an authentic Southern breakfast, biscuits are a requirement. At Scratch Biscuit, you can have a hot buttered biscuit or top it with apple butter.
There are jelly choices too. Never one to settle, my biscuit (naturally) was filled with slices of Virginia Country Ham. Judging from the number of cups of their fresh roasted coffee I saw Audrey drink, it must be good!
Some of their menu items are as much fun to say as they are to eat—like the Brisket Biscuit and The Cowboy Crippler.
Then there is the Bless Your Heart, pure Southern in name and toppings (a fried green tomato, bacon, and chipotle sauce.)
As if the biscuits weren’t enough, a glass case next to the register is filled to bursting with cookies. I mean, weren’t the temptations on the menu enough? Now, here I am, face to face with fresh oatmeal, dark chocolate, pecan, and bacon cookies while I’m trying to count out change!
Olde Salem’s beer is twice as good, so they have twice as many locations! *smile* Both have a history (a reoccurring thread in the Roanoke Valley!) You will find the original brewery in the historic district of Salem’s Main Street.
In 1920, it was built as an appliance store; today, craft beers brew in the back. There is even one canned, kept in the cooler, and ready to go. Sweet Caroline pays homage to its home in Salem and is the official beer of the Salem Red Sox.
The second and newest location is in the old Deschutes Brewery in Roanoke’s City Market. The unique mural wall in the stage area includes a number of music legends.
Go in and see how many you can spot! Both locations frequently have live music, so be sure to check the schedule.
308-3 Market Street // (540) 342-6061
Nope—not a stationery store. This is THE chocolate shop! Virginia is for chocolate lovers, after all! And if you are searching for the perfect gift for someone special, this is the place to purchase those beautiful five-inch chocolate Mill Mountain Stars (offered in milk and dark chocolate).
I can tell you, they are delicious! Chocolatepaper has a selection of gift items, too; many related to local activities.
A glass-encased candy counter was the prominent feature of the shop. My theory is that the glass case was to prevent me from drooling on the candy. OH. MY. GOODNESS. There are chocolates of every description and every flavor.
Even truffles filled with Amaretto and maple cream-filled chocolates. They were all calling my name, but the dark chocolate with bacon salt was the loudest of all!
For the last eight years, Virginia Living Magazine has named Chocolatepaper the #1 Best Chocolatier in Virginia, and it is easy to see why.
The shop opened in 2008, but they admit they didn’t keep perfect records of their accolades in the early days, so there’s no telling how many awards are stacked up!
13 E. Church Ave. // (540) 414-0545
I love old buildings, especially fire stations, and food; I love food. Fire Station 1, Txtur, and Stock combine all three! Fire Station 1 is a beautiful 115-year-old building (with good bones, as they say) that has been lovingly restored.
It has a stunning floating staircase; they sell custom furniture downstairs, a boutique hotel upstairs…oh, and a restaurant and bar in the back! What’s not to love?
Stock Café brings a taste of foods with Scandinavian and Nordic flairs to Roanoke restaurants. And the café is furnished with Roanoke-made Txtur furniture, designed for comfort.
Start your meal with warm, fresh Rye Bread and Everything Butter and their Salmon Dill Dip.
Then, move on to the Fried Pork Schnitzel (trust me!); it’s served over Warm Potato Salad with Lemon, Horseradish, and White Anchovy.
Dessert is made right before your eyes—if you get up and watch! Order the Ebelskiver—delicately fried Danish pancake balls, topped with lingonberries, and dusted with confectionary sugar. Believe me, it is the perfect end to a perfect meal at this Roanoke restaurant!
If you don’t have time for dinner, at least stop in for a drink. Stock has a cocktail bar and a fantastic selection of local wines. Try the Blue Ridge Summer, a refreshing cocktail of white rum, Dolin Blanc, Cherry and Orange Liqueurs, Pineapple, and Lime juice. Bonus – it’s blue, like the mountains!
303 Market Street SE // (540) 344-7715
1302A Grandin Road // (540) 204-4937
Both locations have similar menus but cater to their own crowd, so there are subtle differences. The day’s soup varies by the day and the locale. And they bake European-style traditional loaves of bread daily.
The soups were delicious. At the Grandin Road location, I had small servings of both Tomato Cheddar (available daily at both locations) and Beef and Mushroom.
Various sandwiches and paninis are listed, like Muffaletta and Turkey Brie, as well as tasty-sounding salads…but one look at those pizzas in the window? I’m telling you, you’ll be a goner!
And if you aren’t stuffed before you leave, the cookies and pastries will fill that teeny-tiny empty spot that you do have left!
101 S. Jefferson Street // (540) 299-5100
You will have a marvelous night at The Vault, in The Liberty Trust Bank (turned boutique hotel and restaurant!). This beautiful historic building has been renovated and put to new use!
The tellers serve drinks at the counter (the only thing they’re missing are those green-tinted visors that accountants wore back in the day). Foam-topped or with a flower floating inside, my drinks were works of art.
The Sakura combined sake and plum liqueur with one perfect cherry blossom floating on top. The Clover Club is a refreshing, tangy concoction of gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and egg white (to create that eye-catching foam).
The food is so up-scale, it is right where it belongs—in a vault! Roanoke doesn’t know what a gem they have here—yet! Soon you won’t get in the door without a reservation. More than one person in Roanoke told me to order the Khachapuri.
I did, and it was a cloud of Georgian cheese bread, egg yolk, sulguni cheese, and special seasonings! It arrived ready to be mixed on the spot and then eaten by pulling the pieces of bread from the edges and dragging them through the mixture in the center.
Other small plates were treats, too. Hamachi Crudo was delicate Yellowtail tuna with yuzu, jalapeno, and crispy-fried garlic in soy, curry oil, and cilantro sauce.
So very delicious! Then they brought out Steak Tartare with a flourish! It is prepared tableside, with the ground beef topped with a local egg yolk, fried shallots, scallion, summer truffles, and capers.
After the server mixes it perfectly, your fresh crostini is perfect for digging in. I heartily recommend the mussels in saffron sauce with crusty bread, too.
Yes, this was a lot of food, but my friend and I divided everything. Well, everything except dessert. We got two of those, but admittedly, we did split them both. Old habits die hard!
The desserts are made in-house. Executive Chef Andrew’s mother, Janet, makes fabulous Dark Chocolate Pots de Crème. She also makes a Cinnamon Bourbon Caramel Bread Pudding that comes hot and topped with vanilla gelato covered in salted caramel sauce.
Oh, my! Did I just say that? What am I doing sitting here instead of being there eating another dessert?!
The small plates, well, they weren’t! Each dish served two of us, and we could have shared with one more person! We were fat and happy at the night’s end and extra happy that our beds waited just upstairs!
802 Wiley Drive SW // (540) 904-6091
The Green Goat makes its home in Wasena station, first a rail-yard freight depot, then the first home of the transportation museum.
Now the station is filled with life, great food, and happy diners. The Green Goat is next to Roanoke’s Greenway Trail, a network of more than 400 miles of trails in the Roanoke Valley.
From eggplant fries to hummus platters, from sandwiches to Applejack Brandy Sauce covered Pork Chops, The Green Goat restaurant in Roanoke has something to please every palate.
The Red, White, and Blue Salad, topped with blackened shrimp, hit the spot for me. Fresh greens with strawberries, blueberries, Feta cheese, and a pile of juicy shrimp! And their delicious house-made blackberry vinaigrette dressing was the perfect addition to my lunch!
Desserts found on the Green Goat’s menu are sundaes, blueberry pound cake, or cheesecake. On cooler evenings, S’mores are available for melting around the firepits out back. Yum! I see another visit in my future!
110 Market Square SE // (540) 562-8090
A legendary spot in the City Market, the Roanoke Weiner Stand opened in 1916 and is Virginia’s oldest hot dog stand. They are famous for the hot dogs that come topped with chili, mustard, and onions. The most popular order is $11 for two hot dogs, fries, and a drink.
They also make Sloppy Joes and BBQs. They’re only open for lunch, so stop in between 10 am to 3 pm for your dog. The stand is closed on Sundays.
Gus Pappas immigrated from Greece in 1955, worked for his aunt and uncle, and inherited the Roanoke Weiner Stand. The stuff of legend, Gus could make 25 hot dogs in one minute!
The Roanoke Weiner Stand is tucked into the corner of the Center in the Square, a building filled with museums and the Mill Mountain Theatre. It is still in the family, being operated by Gus’ nephew.
114 Church Ave. SW // 540) 342-4825
The second Roanoke hot dog stand opened on Friday the 13th, in February 1930. What can I say? Virginians love a good dog! But Texas Tavern is more famous for its Cheesy Western, a cheeseburger with an egg.
Nick Bullington was an advance man for the Ringling Brothers Circus. Planning for his future, he collected recipes from around the country. Texas Tavern’s “World Famous Chile” recipe came from a San Antonio, Texas, hotel.
He decided on Roanoke, and the rest, as they say, is history. Still family-owned and operated, today’s owner, Matt, is the great-grandson of Nick Bullington.
Open 24 hours a day; you’ll never have to go hungry! They are open daily, except for Christmas, when the Tavern closes at 2 pm on Christmas Eve and reopens bright and early at 6 am on the 26th. Breakfast is served until 10:30 each morning. You pretty much pick from one, two, or three eggs and bacon, sausage, or ham. It’s breakfast, not rocket science! There’s also that southern staple, sausage gravy.
You can order sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs for the rest of the day. For your sides, well, as the menu says, there’s just one…chile…made from the same secret recipe since 1930.
32 Market Square SE // (540) 400-0576
For the best taste of Roanoke restaurants, have breakfast at Scrambled, inside The City Market Building.
Scrambled has every breakfast item you can think of, with seating at the counter, tables, or on the patio. Plus, they have a menu for lighter appetites.
Thank goodness! Audrey thought she was wise to order just one pancake—until it arrived! It should have been called a plate cake.
That thing was huge! And they knew it too; notice they served it topped with two cups of syrup! Lucky for me, since she shared some of that light, fluffy cloud of a pancake!
As for me? I couldn’t resist their famous Vanilla French Toast, with bacon (of course) and a broken yolk fried egg; I didn’t want my breakfast trying to run away from me!
Scrambled also has a list of Bloody Marys, Mimosas, and Man-mosas (yes, really)! Want to know what makes it a “man”-mosa? In addition to champagne, there is vodka to pick from—you are on vacation, after all!
From dogs to fine dining, Roanoke really is the Food Star City. Come taste for yourself!
Visiting other destinations in Virginia? Check out our other delicious guides:
- 10 Fun Things To Do In Williamsburg VA
- 7 Best Must Try Stafford Restaurants
- 10 Awesome Things To Do In Fredericksburg VA
- 7 Must-Try Richmond Breweries
- 20 Fun Things To Do In Richmond VA
- 6 Best Mexican Restaurants In Fredericksburg, VA
- 11 Must-Try Pizza Places In Fredericksburg
- 5 Must-Try Fredericksburg Chinese Restaurants
- The 8 Best Downtown Fredericksburg Restaurants
- 7 Must-Try Chesapeake Restaurants
Jo Clark is a travel writer, award-winning photographer, and food & wine lover from South Carolina’s Grand Strand. She loves learning about local flavors unique to places she visits and adding to her list of “off the beaten path” places. She is the editor of Recipes Travel Culture online magazine, and is a member of TravMedia, IFWTWA, PWA, and Travel Massive. She would love for you to follow her adventures on Instagram @JoGoesEverywhere or Facebook at HaveGlassWillTravel.