Supper in the Star City

Roanoke’s River and Rail restaurant starts series of dining events celebrating Southern culture.

Shrimp and grits with radishes and green onions.

Early on a sunny weekday morning, Chef Aaron Deal is sitting at the long gray stone bar of the River and Rail, his restaurant in Roanoke, talking about supper. Not dinner—although the two terms are often used interchangeably—but supper, a term that implies something more social, relaxed and convivial. 

This year, the restaurant will launch the Star City Supper Club, a quarterly series of special dining events that will feature guest chefs and celebrate Southern cuisine. It is the latest brainchild from the young chef, still only in his mid-30s but already a veteran of executive chef stints in Chicago, Charleston, South Carolina, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. A native of western North Carolina, Deal had longed to return to his Appalachian roots and, in 2012, opened River and Rail in Roanoke’s historic Lipes Pharmacy building. 

Chef Aaron Deal

Authenticity and transparency are important to today’s diners, Deal says, pointing to the restaurant’s open kitchen, where hanging cookware contributes to its comfortable, even homey feel. The restaurant has been acclaimed for its locally sourced, daily-changing menus that marry Virginia cuisine with a soupçon of French bistro flair, and for its special wine and beer dinners. A recent dinner menu included “duck and dumplings”—duck confit with Parisian gnocchi—and a pork chop entrée with black eyed peas, braised kale, and a side of kimchi. 

The supper club will carry on this tradition, with meals taking place both at the restaurant and at what Deal describes as “creative locations” around the region in April, July, September and December. Deal says the four-course suppers will be “completely collaborative with the guest chefs,” who will come from restaurants both outside and within the state, melding their individual approaches to cooking with Virginia ingredients. Suppers might also include featured bartenders and opportunities for charitable giving. “It’s a celebration not only of Virginia but of other folks in the industry, with lots of guest and chef interaction,” says Deal. “It will have the feel of a dinner party, and a mood that’s not so serious.” RiverAndRailRestaurant.com

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