For some, summer means cookouts and picnics, local craft beers on the back porch and sprinkler splashing in hazy heat. To me though, there’s magic in a summer morning. Saturday morning strolls to my local farmer’s market – checking in with friends, petting a passing dog, and breathing in the aromas of farm fresh produce. And Sundays? Well, Sundays are made for brunch. Brunch is the perfect meal. Namely because there are no rules. When else is it appropriate to have a cocktail with pancakes!?
Across Virginia’s Blue Ridge, the number of establishments offering brunch has exploded in recent years. I recently took the opportunity to stop by just a few of these spots and sample all they had to offer. Come along on my Blue Ridge Brunch Tour and discover some mandatory Sunday stops for your next visit to the mountains.
Located in Roanoke’s Historic Grandin Village, Local Roots has been doing “local” since before local was cool. Roanoke’s first truly “farm to table” establishment, Local Roots’ mission is focused on food that is local, organic, sustainable, and ethical. Make sure to try the smoked trout benedict or corn grits, topped with two fried eggs, braised greens, and delicious bacon. Of particular note, Local Roots sources their grits through Anson Mills, a company made famous for their commitment to heirloom grains. Give the grits a try and I guarantee you’ll taste the difference. But it’s not just the grits – at Local Roots, every ingredient tells a story.
I had the good fortune of hanging out with Chef Matt Linz of Local Roots on a recent morning before the brunch crowd arrived. With his laid back demeanor and love of the region, Chef Linz was more than happy to chat about the restaurant’s commitment to its mission, both to local food and our local community. Check out the video to see more.
The Regency Room at The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center has been delighting guests since 1938. The menu is French-inspired Southern cuisine, offering French Quarter beignets and Fuji apple and walnut oatmeal. Main plates include Belgian waffles, spinach and egg white frittata, and BLT Egg Bagelwich. Can’t decide? You don’t have to. Opt for the full breakfast buffet with regional favorites like made-to-order omelets, freshly baked pastries and breads, fruits, and juices. After breakfast, take the walking bridge to downtown Roanoke to visit some of the cool new retails shops or spend a day inside any number of our downtown museums ready to entertain, educate and inspire.
Strolling down Main Street in Salem is a decidedly peaceful and relaxing way to spend a Sunday morning. You’d be remiss not to plan a visit to Mac and Bob’s, a Salem institution since 1980. While Mac and Bob’s is known for their impressive 80 beer taps highlighting our local craft beer scene and delicious, gigantic calzones, they also serve Sunday brunch from 10am-2pm each week. Highlights include a Western Omelet, chocked full of savory ham, American cheese, sweet green peppers and zesty onions. Looking for something different? Try the unusual but delightful sweet potato pancakes. Don’t forget the sides - your choice of home fries, grit cake or fresh fruit round out a Salem Sunday brunch you won’t forget.
Friends and family are a key factor in the enjoyment of a successful brunch. Whenever possible, I try not to let my out-of-towners leave Virginia’s Blue Ridge without first visiting The River and Rail. Chef Aaron Deal, who has been featured in numerous national and regional “Best of” lists, gives locally sourced ingredients a decidedly upscale Southern flair, served in a beautiful yet invitingly casual space. Don’t miss the French toast, a brunch classic with a new twist - lightly dipped brioche bread baked fresh by the experts at Bread Craft, house-made strawberry preserves, and toasted, candied hazelnuts. It’s so decadent, you won’t even miss the syrup.
A private one-on-one with River and Rail’s Executive Chef Aaron Deal is a real treat. With an emphasis on technique and quality ingredients, Chef Deal prides himself on getting the most out of seasonal ingredients – from simple, fresh seafood to locally grown produce. See him in action and learn more about the fabulous dishes he prepared during my recent visit.
Ready for a treat? Billy’s is just the place for an extra special brunch experience. Those familiar with Roanoke’s historic restaurant hotspots still call it Billy’s Ritz, a throwback to the location’s previous life. Today, Billy’s welcomes customers to revisit the historic space with an updated menu. Maybe you’ll start with the savory lobster mac & cheese or satisfy your sweet tooth with banana nut French toast. For those with a more robust appetite, check out the steak and eggs (and by steak, they mean prime rib.) For those who prefer the lunchier side of brunch, the Ultimate Burger elevates the standard beef patty with bacon, smoked cheddar, and a fried egg – brunch on a bun!
Want to eat like a champ? Take a page out of Frank’s playbook and stop in to Beamer’s 25, located on the ground level of the Lofts at West Station. Brunch is served Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. I like the eclectic mix on this menu, especially the spicy ham benedict – slices of peppery Capicola ham on a Challah roll with sunny-side eggs and hollandaise sauce. Having trouble choosing between French toast and pancakes? Beamer’s has your back with their French toast pancakes – pancakes dipped in French toast batter and grilled, served up with butter and real maple syrup. There’s the “liquid brunch” menu as well – a spicy Bloody Mary garnished with bacon, strawberry garnished mimosa, or tangy screwdriver.
The Wasena City Tap Room and Grill takes brunch south of the border with an array of Tex-Mex inspired dishes. Sample the Breakfast Burrito, Tap Room Tostada Benedict, or Huevos Rancheros. I especially like the tostada benedict’s chipotle hollandaise sauce. Not quite your style? Have no fear. Their staple burgers and pizzas are still on the menu, along with a number of omelets, pancakes, and more traditional breakfast platter. Located just steps from our region’s famous Greenway trail system, Wasena City Tap Room and Grill offers guests an ideal opportunity to enjoy a big brunch, stop next door to rent a bike, kayak or paddleboard from Roanoke Mountain Adventures, and step directly onto the Roanoke Greenway to get your paddle or petal on.
For brunch with a view, take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Floyd County and Chateau Morrisette. A vineyard might not be the first place you think of for brunch, but the breathtaking estate offers a variety of small plates, soups and salads, to heartier entrees like steak and eggs and the signature Black Dog Breakfast – a classic platter of eggs, bacon or sausage and toast. The menu features recommended wine pairing for each item, as The Dog’s wines are not to be missed. After brunch, take the short drive to the Floyd County Tourism & Visitor Center to discover all that the quaint mountain community known for its mountain music, unique arts and natural beauty has to offer.
The Inn at Virginia Tech is a familiar stop for Hokie students and their families but Preston’s restaurant is worth the drive no matter what your alma mater. Preston’s Champagne Brunch draws a wonderful mix of families, couples, and college students alike. The buffet’s wide variety of dishes provides something for everyone – a surprisingly casual atmosphere in an otherwise traditional setting. When you visit, stop by the prime rib carving station, chocolate fondue fountain, and select from an array of Southern classics like sausage gravy and biscuits. The bread pudding, perhaps Preston’s signature dish, is the perfect conclusion to a satisfying meal. I’ll admit that I indulged on my recent visit – bread pudding and mimosas? You simply can’t go wrong. Take a look inside Preston’s by clicking here.
Hungry yet? Surely something on this list has struck your fancy so make a reservation, grab your friends, and spend this Sunday soaking up all the delicious eats Virginia’s Blue Ridge has to offer. Post brunch, why not take a hike to the Appalachian Trail’s most photographed feature - McAfee Knob, go for a stroll through Roanoke’s Market Square, or enjoy a bluegrass jam session inside the Floyd Country Store?
However you spend your Sunday, make sure it starts with good company and great food – time well spent in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. I appreciate all the local restaurants who shared a meal with me during my recent visits – see just a few that I caught on video. Our region is home to not only great food, but incomparable hospitality - all the more reason to visit!