Our Favorite Places in Virginia Beach and Norfolk!

I’m sad to say goodbye to Virginia Beach – I have had a good experience living here with Michael, and, though we are excited to move on to Japan, we will miss many people and places here.

Below is a list of our top spots in the Virginia Beach area. I’m typing this while the movers dismantle our home 😦

Bangkok Garden Restaurant – located near Town Center on Virginia Beach Blvd; this place ROCKS, and it’s our absolute favorite place to eat. Michael and I are pretty well versed with Asian food, and this is our favorite place to go to cure any Asian food hankering. I usually order their Chicken and Coconut Soup with steamed Spring Rolls, which are superb. Their Green Curry is incredible – it’s better then anything I ate IN India! I order most of my food there with tofu instead of meat because they cook their tofu really well – it’s perfectly tender and saturated with the flavor of the meal, which is hard to find. The ambiance is fantastic, too, and we’ve NEVER waited for a table. I highly, 110% recommend this place, and we will miss it dearly.

Hair Graphics – located next to Town Center, off of Virginia Beach Blvd; I found this place in the ideal way – I complimented two women on their hair cuts and colors, and they both said that they go to Hair Graphics! One of the women said that she goes to Joy (one of the salon owners). My hair is course and curly, and Joy does an outstanding job taming and beautifying it 😉 Their prices are very reasonable (I pay $10-$30 less per service then most other local salons), and, though they’re busy, I’ve never had a problem getting an appointment. They’re a Bumble and Bumble salon, so, if you’re into those products, all the better for you 🙂 Bonus: they offer a military discount!

Taste – multiple locations; my favorite is on Shore Drive. Taste is my all-time favorite lunch spot. They have a HUGE gourmet sandwich selection, offer beers on tap and wine by the glass, there is a variety of drinks (including my favorite root beer!), their soups are delicious, and, basically, you can’t miss with ordering anything off the menu. The Taste location on Hilltop is great for colder months (and they have gelato!), but the Taste on Shore Drive is the ideal warm-weather lunch spot because it has ample, casual outdoor seating. It’s so casual that patrons will sometimes bring their well-behaved dogs, beach goers will show up in just their bathing suits and cover-ups, and there’s lots of room for kids to run around away from the tables. I highly recommend the tomato and mozarella sandwich, but it’s hard to go wrong here. When in doubt of what to order, always go with the “Peter’s Pick” of the day.

*It’s very difficult to find a good, dog-friendly restaurant in VB, so I was very excited when I realized that Taste on Shore Drive is dog friendly! Also, they have a small, locally-grown fruit stand there during the warm months!!

Waterman’s – located on Atlantic Avenue on the oceanfront. Waterman’s is our go-to place for anything: lunch, dinner, drinks, or a casual night out, and Michael’s squadron routinely has events here. The food is great (Americana and seafood), the ambiance is awesome (it’s on the oceanfront), and nobody beats their Crush (an orange beverage containing a put-you-under-the-table amount of alcohol). They have indoor and outdoor seating, and even a bar outside. We usually order fish tacos, burgers, or whatever is on special. This place is awesome!

The view from Waterman's upstairs room!
The view from Waterman’s upstairs room!
Waterman's outdoor bar in 2009.
Waterman’s outdoor bar.

PMS Deli – located on London Bridge Road, behind the back gate of NAB Oceana and up the road from Dam Neck Naval Base. PMS is a hidden gem of Virginia Beach and it is my 2nd favorite lunch spot … actually … it may, in fact, be #1. It’s another sandwich place, but with a totally different vibe and feel then Taste. PMS caters to the fighter pilots of Oceana and the SEALs of Dam Neck, and it is busy at lunch time with both, as well as base personnel, spouses, and anyone who knows what’s up. I go there often with a Navy wife friend and we routinely see people we know. Like Taste, they offer lots of hot and cold sandwich options, hoagies (“subs” down here), salads, and soups, but it’s more casual then Taste (I’ve gone here a few times after a long workout, which I wouldn’t do at the Hilltop location of Taste). There are lots of amazing sandwich options here, but I most highly recommend: the Virginia Beach Reuben, the Smothered Grilled Cheese, the Chicken Cheesesteak, and, uh, basically everything. You never regret going to this place.

Dam Neck Beach – located at, surprisingly, CDSA Dam Neck. CDSA = Command Direction Systems Activity … now THAT’S a mouthful! Anyway, Dam Neck Beach is only open to the military and dependents, which is unfortunate for the general public because it’s the nicest beach in VB. On the flip side, it’s fortunate that it’s only for the military, as it keeps the weirdos, freaks, and undesirables away from the beach. Not only is it an extremely pretty spot with a wide beach, it’s usually very quiet, AND it’s dog-friendly. If you park near the Club, there are lifeguards during the summer and bathrooms with showers. Michael and I usually go to a quieter spot up the beach – to the right of the Club, up a few blocks. We have spent many, many afternoons there with our friends, our friends’ kids, our dogs, our bbqs, and beers (shhh!). The F-18 pilots set-up a volleyball net and play in their jean cut-offs (kidding, kind of). Another perk: the Club has a low-cost lunch buffet during the work week. It’s by no means gourmet, but they have a descent salad bar and hot food options (burgers, wings, etc). I’ve gone to the beach solo during the week, left all my belongings unattended on the beach, and had lunch at the Club ($6-8ish per person), with no worries about anyone stealing or moving my things. Yay base beaches. Bonus sauce: the base is home to a bunch of super fit dudes, who sometimes run down the beach with their shirt off. Just sayin’.

Dam Neck Beach - with the VB Oceanfront in the distance.
Dam Neck Beach with the VB Oceanfront in the distance. It really is this nice.

Chick’s Beach – located north of the Oceanfront along the Chesapeake Bay. There have been a few days when I didn’t want to drive to Dam Neck Beach for one reason or another, but I also didn’t want to go to the public beaches on the Oceanfront. Chick’s Beach is a great alternative. Street parking is free and you can usually find a spot (during the week!) within a block of the beach. The beaches are narrow, but the water is much warmer then the ocean water, and the scenery is unique. The view is of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and, usually, oil tankers and Navy ships! The water stays shallow for a ways, unlike other areas of the Oceanfront.

Chick's Beach
Chick’s Beach. That’s the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to the left. The dark specks on the horizon are oil tankers and Navy ships! That’s Michael in the water 🙂

Chick’s Oyster Bar – located on Shore Drive in Chick’s Beach on the Marina side. I am super allergic to shellfish, but this place is still one of my all time favorite places. The oysters are apparently fantastic, but so is everything else on the menu! I routinely order a tuna burger or whatever they have on special, and they have a wide variety of crushes. I most recently had a Mahi wrap, which was beyond excellent. Despite the good food, we usually go for the bar. Chick’s makes me laugh – every weekend night, it’s packed with locals, Navy fighter pilots, SEALs, their friends, and their significant others. It’s one of those places where I, as a military spouse, feel totally at home and comfortable because it’s practically all military and local ladies looking for a military boyfriend. The restaurant is casual and the bar is nice-casual. Due to local ordinances, Chick’s closes at midnight, so we usually go here before going elsewhere. The back of the restaurant opens onto a tributary to the Chesapeake Bay, and the bar, restaurant, and outdoor seating are the perfect spot to watch a magnificent sunset. I love this place!

Michael, my SIL, and her husband having dinner at Chick's in September.
Michael, my SIL, and her husband having dinner at Chick’s in September.
Sunset at Chick's.
Sunset at Chick’s.

*People tie-up their boats at Chick’s dock and have dinner/drinks, and some nights the boats are 2-3 deep!

Portsmouth Bier Garden – located near Portsmouth Naval Hospital. This place is another hidden gem. Most nights it’s packed with locals – AND I DO MEAN PACKED! Go early, on off hours, or during a week night! The food is worth an epic wait, though, and the beer “list” is handed to you in a 3 ring binder. I’ve never been to Germany, but friends who have tell me that the food here is the real deal. I’ve only eaten here once, and I wish that we had more time to go back many, MANY more times. Fair warning: the bar area is tiny and not a great spot if there is a huge wait. Also, much of the seating is outside, and the heaters don’t keep it warm enough. So, dress warm if you’re going on a cool evening! I promise that the food is worth it 🙂

*side note – the Bier Garden is located in a cute area of Portsmouth. It’s worth a walk around. If we were still living here this spring, I’d totally go over at, like, 3pm on a sunny Saturday, wander the area a little, and then go to the Bier Garden. Just be careful – the area is very close to the ghetto, and I would not walk around during evening hours. The restaurant itself, though, is in a nicer area.

The Oceanfront – Michael and I usually skip the Oceanfront during tourist season (with the exception, of course, of Waterman’s and Catch 31). VB is a typical beach town, and we prefer our “local” spots 😉 However, I love the beach walk during week days or on offseason weekends! It’s the perfect place to take a long walk or run, push a stroller, take the dog, or ride a bike. It’s wide and open, and there is a bike path on the non-beach side. Lots of bars and restaurants open to the beach walk, and it’s really, really nice to stroll there on a warm night with your honey 😉 Coincidentally, I spent a girls’ weekend in VB many years ago (pre-Michael), and my girl friends and I had a BLAST! We stayed on the Oceanfront and did bar crawls every night. Waterman’s and Catch 31 (below) open to the beach walk.

Sitting on the beach walk on a summer evening.
Sitting on the beach walk on a summer evening.
The Oceanfront at sunset.
The Oceanfront at sunset.

Catch 31 – located on the corner of Atlantic and 31st in the Hilton Hotel at the Oceanfront. This is a classier restaurant and bar – maybe the classiest on the Oceanfront (with the exception of Salacia, which is connected to Catch 31). The food is great, and the ambiance gives the feel of being underwater. I always think of fish and mermaids when I look at the decor. There is a very mixed crowd here – some military, some locals, some business people, etc. It’s on the pricer side, but you get what you pay for. I usually have a bronzed tuna steak (rare) or salmon, and I enjoy their appetizers and martinis. This is the type of place where you can take your visiting family, your honey on a date night, or your friend for her bachelorette party dinner. They have a seafood tower that looks awesome, and I think that you should try that FOR me 😉 Dress in the dining room is nice-ish during dinner hours, but the bar area is a bit more casual. During the warmer months, they have a GREAT outdoor bar area with tables with fires in the middle. Lots of people go to the outdoor bar directly from the beach or as a start to a night out!

Catch 31 in January for my dad's birthday.
Catch 31 in January for my dad’s birthday.

Mannino’s Italian Bistro – 3 locations in VB; we’ve only been to the location on Princess Anne Road. I’m Italian, and I know good Italian cooking. My family rarely eats-out at Italian restaurants because we have pretty high standards. Anyway, Michael took me to Mannino’s early in our relationship. I was skeptical, but then I had their pesto linguine. Oh MY. After I ordered that a few times in a row, I tried the portabello parmesan. WOW. I then went back to the pesto, but I most recently branched out again and had a premivera pasta dish of some kind. It was excellent. My dad LOVES their lasagna – he still raves about it. Seriously GO HERE. It’s a fairly casual place and it’s full of locals. The location on Princess Anne has a bar area that is very casual and a dining room that is a little nicer.

Mount Trashmore – located on near the intersection of Independence and Holland Avenue. I feel very lucky that we lived so close to Mt. Trashmore – and I NEVER thought that I’d feel that way about a landfill! Mt Trashmore is everything you would want in a park: it has a huge looping walkway that goes for a few miles, playgrounds, a big hill and small hills to run up, a few adult body circuit stations, covered public bbq areas, restrooms, and ample parking – AND it’s safe! It’s the perfect place for exercise and relaxation, and we took Norma here often. It’s one of the best parks to go to for kids, too, because there are 2 playground areas and lots of space to run around. Any windy day, you’ll see at least 10 kites flying on top of Mt. Trashmore and many, many families having picnics and “family time”. Michael and I love going here with and without the dog, and we will miss this place!

Norma looking down the other side of the landfill.
Norma looking down one side of the landfill.
A view from the top of the landfill.
A view down the other side of the landfill.
Michael at the top of the hill with Norma.
Michael and Norma at the top of one of the small hills.

Harpoon Larry’s – located on 24th and Pacific at the Oceanfront. I don’t know where to begin with this place, so here’s the important thing to know: PBR is on tap. It’s that kind of place. It’s all locals and it’s usually a pretty quiet spot, even during prime tourist season. By “quiet” I mean that there’s lots going on, but it’s not obnoxious like some other bars can be. (For me) This isn’t a place to start the night, but it’s a PERFECT place to END the night. This is also the kind of place where, if you see someone whom you know, it’s customary to send them a round. There’s private parking and someone even polices it (aka a staff member sits in a lawn chair in the middle of the parking lot and yells at people if they park there and go elsewhere – it’s hilarious!). They tout their seafood, but we usually order jalapeño poppers, burgers, and other “bar food”. Their crushes are good, too!

Luna Maya – located in Norfolk. This place is off the hook, and it has everything you could ever want in a restaurant: great (Mexican) food, awesome ambiance, and great service. Michael and I LOVE authentic Mexican food. My opinion is that Luna Maya puts a South American spin on Mexican food, which makes it all the better. This is a trendy spot, and I always get dressed-up to go. They have fantastic mojitos – you must try one! Many people go for the tequila, too. My favorite things to order: a pineapple mojito, a Luna Maya Tamale, Spicy Guacamole and Queso, and Pastel de Choclo con Chorizo. I have absolutely no idea what their desserts are like because we never have room for them after the awesome apps and dinner! This is a must-try, and I promise that you will go back, and bring friends. My only caution is that there isn’t a dedicated parking lot. We usually park in the bank lot, which is next door. After dinner, definitely take a stroll around the neighborhood. There are lots of great bars and other restaurants in that area!

Fire Ninja – located next to Town Center. I almost feel weird recommending this place, as it will not immediately knock your socks off. It has a cool vibe and it touts “modern Asian cuisine”, but the real punch comes with a few of its dishes. Actually, maybe all the food is good, but Michael and I don’t know because the first dishes that we ordered became instant favorites and we never order anything else! My favorite is the spicy eggplant. I could seriously eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Michael loves two dishes: the Mongolian Beef and the Hong Kong Beef Noodle Soup. I’ve ordered the Noodle Soup a few times when I’ve been sick, and it hit the spot. It’s easy to get a table here, and the food is WAY better then the ridiculously-busy, over priced PF Chang’s across the street. Go here instead! They have a large sushi bar, too.

Jade Villa – located near the corner of Independence and Virginia Beach Blvd by Town Center. Are you looking for truly authentic Cantonese food? You know, the kind that is served at a place where, when you walk in, people look at you funny because you’re not Chinese? If so, go to Jade Villa. Michael and I randomly walked in one day after passing it countless times. This place is AWESOME, their food rocks, and it’s so authentic that they will give you a separate English menu with pictures. You can get all kinds of interesting Chinese delicacies that you won’t find in any other local restaurant (use your imagination). Honestly, I can’t tell you what I’ve ordered because I’ve tried several things from here – all of them have been delicious! Go go go!

Regal Cinema Columbus Station (Town Center) Popcorn – located in Town Center. Okay, you probably think that this is a joke suggestion, but this is our personalized top spots list, and we LOVE movie theater popcorn! Well, it’s mainly ME who can’t get enough, and this place has the best movie theater popcorn in town.

King Neptune Statue – located on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront boardwalk/concrete walkway at 31st street. This, right here, is what Virginia Beach is “famous” for. But I mean, who doesn’t love a super sexy statue in the middle of the boardwalk? Case and point below.

King Neptune

Confetti – located in the Virginia Beach Town Center. Another perfect go-to location for a casual lunch solo or with friends. I’m pretty sure that they have soup and salads too, but I focus on their awesome sandwiches and gelato. Yes, G-E-L-A-T-O. A few times I’ve intended to have a sandwich but I got sidetracked by the gelato display.

Red Star Tavern/Yard House – located in the Virginia Beach Town Center. Yard House is the new, cool place to go; Red Star Tavern is the old standby. If Yard House is too packed with snobs and social climbers to make the beer selection worth it, head over to Red Star. If Red Star is too loud or not your thing, go home, where at least you can drink your favorite beer in peace.

That’s all, folks! I’ll add more if I think of any places, but I think that’s truly all I’ve got!

Btw, we are now on hour EIGHT of the movers packing up our house. We think that they’re finally done … we can’t believe that they’re still here, though! We only have a town home – I can’t imagine how long it must take them when they’re moving a family with kids! I’ll definitely blog about the move – pros, cons, what we could have done better, what we did well.

Have a good night everyone! ❤ We’ll miss you, Virginia Beach!

One comment

  1. Hey there!

    I just moved to VA from Texas with my Navy husband. I’m glad to run across this entry of yours! Thank you, it’s incredibly helpful- especially mentioning dog friendly spots! We are visiting Mount Trashmore today.


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