Wholesome & Handsome

Chef Aaron Deal of The River and Rail marries comfort with a bit of the unknown.

Photos by Kemper Mills Fant Photography & Design

At The River and Rail in Roanoke, executive chef and general manager Aaron Deal aims to strike a balance between food that is approachable and that creates an interesting experience. 

A North Carolina native and graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina, Deal is dedicated both to paying homage to his experiences around the country and to showcasing what the local area has to offer. Describing the restaurant’s concept as Southern and French, he says the menu evokes comfort, but is also “handsome.” 

Locally sourced ingredients like oysters and cheese are intertwined with more unusual resources such as octopus and offal. With pork from Waynesboro’s Autumn Olive Farms, Deal crafts headcheese. Using a French technique on a local product, he hopes to offer something guests can’t make at home. For some, he is exposing them to a new dish. “Maybe they don’t try the sweetbreads, but they see it on the menu and learn what it is, and maybe they’ll try it next time,” he says.

The River and Rail added dinner service on Mondays in January and also hosts periodic guest chef dinners, wine and beer dinners, and cocktail classes. RiverAndRailRestaurant.com


This article originally appeared in our Best of Virginia 2019 issue.

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