Dining Out

Enjoy dinner and a view with these al fresco options.

The Porch on Long Creek

Take a mini vacation any night of the week by reserving a table at a waterfront restaurant. These are a few of our recent finds, old and new.

The Porch on Long Creek

On a sliver of land jutting into a tributary of the Lynnhaven River, a waterfront restaurant is bringing a South Florida vibe to Virginia Beach. “We were looking for something new and fresh,” says Cory Beisel, whose credits—along with Mike Atkinson—include 501 City Grill, Chick’s Oyster Bar, and now The Porch on Long Creek, a new dining experience that locals have been raving about since it opened in May 2019. 

Michelob shrimp

Photo courtesy of The Porch on Long Creek

Beisel says the atmosphere is part of the appeal. “The setting was made for that,” he says. He and Atkinson expanded the space—previously occupied by One Fish Two Fish—redecorated with mirrors and other glam touches, and added an enclosed porch facing westward, where fans spin lazily overhead, lounge-y music plays, and bartenders craft colorful cocktails. In the summer, garage doors open to let the outside in. Spacious decks with comfy sofas and palm trees surround the restaurant, perfect for al fresco dining. In cooler months, cozy firepits add warmth and charm. Sunsets are simply spectacular year-round.

Then there’s the food. Beisel says chef Jim Mayer, who also helmed One Fish Two Fish, composes cuisine that’s “upscale casual with the addition of sushi.” As an example, the signature Porch Roll is a moist, luscious presentation of salmon tartare, avocado, spicy ponzu, and tiny orange masago that pop in your mouth. Other apps include Beisel’s legendary Michelob Shrimp and crispy fried oysters. (Tip: Apps are $7 during happy hour, 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m.) 

Besides the stunning setting and delectable food, The Porch prides itself on being a welcoming place. The evening we dined, a multi-generational family spread across three tables along a banquette. Smiling adults, happy kids, good food, relaxing atmosphere—what more can you ask for? ThePorchOnLongCreek.com

Hook @Harvey

Hook @Harvey

If you ask chef and owner Tim Brown the hardest part of moving his Cape Charles restaurant, formerly known as Hook U Up Gourmet, to its new waterfront location, his answer might surprise you. “Choosing the name,” he says. 

Saffron fettuccine with shrimp, clams, mussels, and anchovies.

Photo courtesy of Hook @Harvey

He and his wife Melanie settled on Hook @Harvey, a Cape Charles Bistro, a name that’s reminiscent of the restaurant’s former iteration but also honors its new home. The circa-1906 general store was moved by barge from Oyster, a village on the sea side of the Eastern Shore, down the coast, under the bridge at Fisherman Island, then up the Chesapeake Bay to Cape Charles harbor—a journey of five hours. The restaurant’s sweet new spot is surrounded by fishing boats and sleek yachts, and offers swoon-worthy sunsets. 

After a year of remodeling, Hook @Harvey opened for business in July 2019, and folks have been packing the 48-seat restaurant ever since. They go for the cozy nautical vibe, the friendly staff, and the stellar views, but mostly for Brown’s seasonal gourmet offerings, like Nantucket scallops served with wild mushrooms and shaved truffle or juicy honey Dijon rack of lamb with huckleberry gastrique. 

During a recent visit, my husband gushed over his plump crab cake nestled in a bed of rice and gumbo: “It’s all lump crabmeat!” I tried the delicate homemade lemon fettucine in a garlicky saffron broth. Huge scallops and shrimp were scattered on top, along with tiny local clams and more of that luscious backfin crab. Best. Pasta. Ever.

Look for a merry crowd, new outdoor dining in the spring, and soul-satisfying food year-round at Hook @Harvey. Facebook.com/HookAtHarvey

Red’s Table

A strip mall doesn’t sound like a prime location for an atmosphere-laden restaurant, and admittedly South Lakes Village Center in Reston is generally unremarkable. But down at the far left end, around the corner and through the gap between buildings, is a spot unlike any strip mall location you’ve ever seen. Red’s Table boasts spacious windows and an airy deck overlooking bucolic Lake Thoreau, with its plaza, walking trail, and active dock.

Chef Nelson Erazo

Photo by Astri Wee Photography

Owner Ryan Tracy grew up nearby and remembers a series of nondescript restaurants in the space. After opening a chain of burger franchises with his family, Tracy imagined something nicer and was researching locations when this site became available. “We always joked about [opening a restaurant that does the location justice], but never thought it would come true,” he says. He and his brothers took over the space, renovated, and opened Red’s Table, named for their ginger grandfather, in 2015.

The menu is deliberately simple. “I always felt like you should hold the menu on one sheet of paper,” Tracy says. The choices rotate seasonally and include daily specials from executive chef Nelson Erazo (nabbed from Jardenea at the Melrose Georgetown Hotel).

Starters like the Point Judith calamari, the Chesapeake Bay crab bisque, and the roasted beet and goat cheese salad are all tasty winners. The raw bar is a favorite with regulars, offering oysters, steamed clams and Gulf shrimp, a shellfish variety platter, and Plateau Thoreau—a selection of raw bar, charcuterie, and cheeses on a three-tiered platter.

The menu is anchored by a dry-aged hamburger that has an earthier taste than most and doesn’t need to be doused in condiments, boasts Tracy. Red’s fried chicken sandwich, grilled and served with white cheddar chipotle ranch and bacon, is also excellent. Other recent entrées include coriander dusted diver scallops, harvest pasta, and blue lump crab cakes. The bar offers local brews and spirits among its selections. 

Much of the food is locally sourced. “We’re not farm-to-table, by any means, but we try to keep it local,” Tracy says. They’ve succeeded, and in doing so, have finally delivered the dining experience that their location has long deserved. RedsTableVa.com

Zeus fire-roasted pizza at Cotton at Riverside Mill 

Photo courtesy of Double Tap Media

Cotton at Riverside Mill 

Described as a “retro chic outlet for pizza and burgers,” Cotton at Riverside Mill overlooks the Dan River and the Riverwalk Trail in Danville, where it is part of the River District revitalization story. The restaurant is on the second floor of the former Riverside Cotton Mill, the South’s largest textile mill from the 1880s to its decline in the 1990s. 

New York strip

Photo courtesy of Double Tap Media

Cotton’s dining space echoes its textile heritage, easily blending luxe velvet, shiny finishes, aged whitewashed brick walls, and exposed steel beams. Rustic hardwood floors work with tones of energizing chartreuse and warm, eclectic lighting to give the place both a comfortable ambiance and a lively jolt. You’ll feel right at home, but the lure of a river sunset on the deck is not to be denied.

Choose a few appetizers to share while enjoying a bourbon, craft cocktail, wine, or layered pint. The charcuterie is deliciously snackable, and the house-made potato chips with pimento cheese dip are everything you hope for in the Southern staple. For the main course you must consider the fresh fire-roasted pizza, although the herb-crusted salmon is also an inspired choice along the waterfront.

Desserts at Cotton are undeniably satisfying. The chocolate cake and the bourbon ricotta doughnuts are both easily shareable. If you prefer to drink your dessert, you’ll find a variety of decadent Irish coffees and fine ports so smooth you may ask for seconds. CottonAtRiversideMill.com

This article originally appeared in our April 2020 issue.

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