You may remember that I had a guest post about Hampton Roads, VA previously in my blog. I hadn’t yet been down there myself until recently; my buddy and I decided to hop in the Subaru and take a trip down to visit our co-worker (and author of the guest post) who had just moved back home to Norfolk, VA.
First tip when driving down to the Virginia Beach area from the north – don’t bother leaving on a Friday after 3. From what I understand from several Norfolk people is that the highways are almost always jam-packed during that time (and during the summer months it’s pretty much a sure thing). Try and get out on the road in the morning or Saturday morning to avoid the congestion.
Without traffic, the ride down there takes about three hours from D.C. When we first arrived, I was immediately struck by how many hipsters there were – this was highly unexpected. The city itself was also smaller than I expected (since I had heard it was a Navy town), but I found out later that the F-18’s fly around over Virginia Beach which is a few miles down the road. The city was definitely still large enough to have some nice distinct neighborhoods though. Some of the houses we drove by were very impressive in their colonial grandness. As far as I could tell however, there was no real “going out” area like in larger cities, but scattered throughout the town were several good places to go for a good time.
Also, the weekend we went, the annual Virginia Beer Festival was going on and if you’re a beer drinker, it’s worth visiting Norfolk during that event. For $30 ($25 if you do it online) you’ll get a glass (probably about 8-10 ounces in size) and you can sample 30+ beers around Town Point Park down by the waterfront. Now in my experience with alcohol tasting festivals, you usually have to wait in long lines and usually they hand out a limited number of drink tokens. Not here. Here the longest you ever had to wait in line was at most 5-10 minutes (in which time you can enjoy your previous tasting) and the weather was crazy nice too, so knowing that’s probably the busiest it would ever get, the lines were amazingly short. There is also NO tasting limit, so you could have quite an afternoon trying several different beers and ciders (some of them very powerful). We also didn’t know this because we were first timers, but we saw several hundreds of people wearing homemade pretzel necklaces – a cheap, genius idea in my opinion for a 4-5 hour beer tasting festival and one that I might use in the future.
The beer festival was the main highlight of the weekend, but here are a few of the other places we checked out:
Norfolk Tides vs. Pawtucket Red Sox
Luckily for me, our trip was timed perfectly to check out my beloved Red Sox’s AAA affiliate take on the local minor league team. Even luckier was that some of the major league Red Sox players were doing their rehab, so I got to see some bigger names on the “smaller” stage. I’ll say though, that I was impressed by the size of the Harbor Park – it was much bigger than I thought it would be, and the fan base was quite into the game (including one very, very obnoxious 10-year old sitting behind us with his father/older brother/uncle in his camouflage hat and cut off beer shirt). We were also treated with a relatively impressive fireworks show as well at the end of the game. Tickets were a measly $13 ($11 if you do it online beforehand), so it was a great time for an affordable price.
1901 Colonial Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23517
Part pizza joint, part dive bar, this is a great place to go if you’re looking to get some good pizza (the spicy sauce is very good, and hot) and if you’re looking for a joint with a big beer selection. The beer prices are actually very reasonable considering the selections and their “Happy Hour” may as well be “Happy Day” on Tuesday where the price I think is $2.50 for beers from 11 AM to like 8 PM or something ridiculous. The staff there are friendly and mainly, shall we say, alternative. Our first waitress looked like a tattooed roller derby girl from the 40’s and our second waitress was higher than James Franco on 4/20. Combined they may or may not have lost the credit card we were trying to pay with and may or may not have stolen our leftover pizza, but we did get a couple free 90 minute Dogfish Head IPAs, so the mistakes balanced out. Good crowd, good beer, good pizza – sometimes that’s all you really need. Grade: B
1917 Colley Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23517
Every city has their local diner and Do-Nut-Dinette is Norfolk’s. It’s everything you’d expect a diner to look like: a not totally kept up trailer, 2 cops sitting at the counter munching on the diner’s homemade donuts and coffee, and a random group of people sitting at the picnic tables outside (hipsters, an African American family, a couple that looked like they got lost looking for a Gossip Girl party, and three hungover dudes – which was us). Service is slow if you get a seat outside, so keep that in mind. Not much to say about menu except this – get the breakfast burrito. It was hands down the BEST breakfast burrito I’ve ever had. I don’t know what it was, but the tortilla was perfectly grilled and the fillings were the exact portion of cheesy egg, peppers, tomatoes, and crispy bacon (other meat options available) to my liking. Grade: B-, Breakfast Burrito: A
1919 Monticello Avenue
Norfolk, VA 23517
Before we came down to Norfolk, I had heard a lot about this Doumar’s joint being one of the signature places in Norfolk. So obviously I wanted to check it out. Located a few minutes away from Harbor Park, this place is definitely the type of restaurant that Sonic has based their chain of off. As we pulled up, we decided to try getting a seat inside as we thought at the time we’d be meeting some others there. It was chaos inside, with the waitresses running back and forth between the counter/kitchen and out to the cars where there were dozens of people eating their food. We grabbed a table and waited for a waitress. And then we waited some more. And then some more. We probably sat there for a good 15 minutes, when our friend finally said “We should just eat out in the car”.
So we left the restaurant, got in our car, pulled up to one of the kiosks and Voila! A waitress came up to us within 30 seconds and took our order. So here’s the tip: Eat in your car. That’s their thing, so just go with it. The menu consists of mainly American fare and such, but the prices are very low. My pulled pork sandwich was like $2.30, fries $1.50, and milkshake was around $3.00. Now, the size of the food does match the price relatively, but it was still a pretty damn solid meal for around $6. Solid – but not spectacular, and sadly did not in my opinion so much meet the hype. If you get a milkshake, be sure to order it as a “Reggie” which means they’ll put pieces of ice cream cone in it, which was awesome. The milkshake itself though was a little icy for my taste. It lacked the creaminess that I hoped it would have. But chowing down on a meal in your car at an authentic drive-in is an experience worth trying. Grade: B –
We went to three other places as well. I was quite inebriated at this point, so my reviews of the following are short and sweet. All three are next to each other, and all three are relatively in the middle of nowhere FYI.
The Birch Bar – A small, darkly lit garage turned into a craft beer place. Good special beers if you’re looking to try something different, but pricey. I would not recommend the sour beer. I knew it was a sour beer when I ordered it, but I decided to try it anyways and it was a mistake.
Tortilla West – Very good nachos, but watch out for the jalapeno peppers. They are ridiculously hot.
Cruzer’s – I’m still not totally sure how, or what this place is. There are no windows on the industrial building that its in and the only sign that there’s life inside is one of those neon “Open” signs you see at a shady restaurant. All I know is they’ve got cheap ass beer, it’s run by a few Filipino women, they’ve got karaoke and if you score 100 on karaoke, the big, black bouncer, who’s randomly has the best voice in the place and randomly sings along sometimes, will give you a boxer’s championship belt to take a picture with. Yes – it was that kind of night.