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Virginia Beach’s Southern Coastal Cuisine

March 29, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

Virginia Beach is located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Chesapeake Bay, giving the resort city a distinct edge in creating mouthwatering southern coastal cuisine to be remembered as one of the best vacation memories.

Agriculture is a top industry in Virginia Beach, which is home to miles of farmlands providing farm-to-table, just-picked local ingredients for the local chefs. While the city’s culinary scene is infused with chefs trained at top culinary institutions, the coastal heritage runs strong which creates a southern coastal flavor unique to Virginia Beach. With the famously rich waters of the bay, hundreds of inlets snaking through the city and miles of farmland, Virginia Beach is the place to go for seafood and locally-harvested ingredients. Pair that with the booming local craft brew scene and you’ve found the true art of good eating.



The Chesapeake Bay is the nation’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary, yielding more seafood than any of the 840 other estuaries in the country. In fact, before establishing Jamestown in 1607, Captain John Smith and his crew spent three days in Virginia Beach, surviving primarily off fish, oysters, turtles and even, wild strawberries. In his writings, John Smith described the area: “oysters lay as thick as stones,” and the Bay and rivers contained more sturgeon “than could be devoured by dog or man.”153498_num459499_168x168

Fish within 80.5 kilometers

Yellowfin Tuna Mahi Mahi Marlin Sailfish Flounder Striped Bass (aka Rockfish) Blue Crab Oysters Clam Shrimp Mackerel Chesapeake Ray Monkfish Trout

  • Lynnhaven Oysters – Virginia Beach is famous for being the only place to find Lynnhaven oysters, once coveted around the world and served to presidents and royalty for their size, saltiness and gentle zing. They were once pushed to near extinction, but thanks to habitat revitalization efforts, they’re now back on the menu at top restaurants from Virginia Beach to New York City.
  • Striped Bass Capital of the World – Due to the abundance of striped bass, many of which are caught at 18 to 27 kg, Virginia Beach is known as one of the top places to catch striped bass, known as rockfish.
  • Soft Shell Crab – Caught immediately after molting their shells, soft shell blue crab is a delicious southern seafood staple, usually deep fried and eaten nearly whole.
  • She-Crab Soup –Chesapeake Bay blue crabs are the most important ingredient when making the popular creamy southern dish. Already a staple at area restaurants, dozens of chefs compete in the East Coast She-Crab Soup Classic, held every spring in Virginia Beach. 

Local Produce /Pungo Farms

From March through late September, chefs, locals and visitors stop at Pungo’s 8,000 acres of farmland to browse the 16 You-Pick farms, farmer’s markets and roadside stands for fresh, sustainable, local produce. The area is most well known for its strawberries, thanks to the annual Strawberry Festival, but kale, blueberries, blackberries, cantaloupe and flowers also abound, just to name a few. The Virginia Beach Farmer’s Market is open year-round and is home to 14 full-time tenants, including a butcher shop, creamery, organic grocery store, fish market and a variety of on-site gift shops offering seasonal treats, jellies and more.

Local Breweries

Beer can be traced through Virginia’s history with asterisk moments like George Washington’s beer recipe and evidence that beer and ingredients to produce it were forms of payment to his Mount Vernon employees. In recent years Virginia’s craft beer industry has seen a major resurgence. Today we’re all about buying and shopping locally. Virginia Beach is making frothy waves, with breweries that stay true to our coastal heritage.

  • Young Veterans Brewing Company – Iraq war veterans Thomas Wilder and Neil McCanon opened the brewery in August 2013 to much acclaim and rave reviews.  They currently offer six brews with names drawing inspiration from the armed services, such as their Double IPA “Jet Noise,” Hefeweizen “Pineapple Grenade” and Honey Blonde Ale “New Recruit.”
  • Beach Brewing Company – A mainstay in the area’s growing artisan beer scene, Beach Brewing offers five year-round beers named after the beach surroundings, such as “Hoptopus Double IPA” and “Riptide Altbier,” as well as an ever-changing seasonal brew.
  • Back Bay Brewing  – Borrowing its name from the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Back Bay Brewing was founded in 2011 by five longtime friends and will soon open its first tasting room.
  • Green Flash Brewing Co – The well-known San Diego-based micro brewery has chosen to open its second location in Virginia Beach and will begin construction on a 58,000-square-foot craft brewery and tasting room this year. Co-founder Mike Hinkley says they chose Virginia Beach because of the city’s synergy with their San Diego home base, including their mutual reputations as top coastal travel destinations and large military presences in the area.  


Restaurant Highlights

  • Terrapin –Rodney Einhorn, a Virginia Beach native, helms this James Beard-recognized restaurant serving contemporary American Cuisine with a creative use of seasonal farm-fresh ingredients.
  • Blue Pete’s – Located in Pungo, on the beautiful Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, this local favorite offers guests the opportunity to kayak or canoe to the dock, then enjoy one of their regular crab boils or whole hog BBQs with live music.
  • The Back Deck – This nautical dive bar has an unparalleled dockside view and is a local favorite for fresh seafood and strong drinks. Hidden behind the Shellfish Company seafood market, the Back Deck is stocked by the owners’ private fishing fleet, who unload their catch at the bar’s private dock daily.
  • Dockside – Visitors can motor, kayak or standup paddle-board to the restaurant to savor, peel and eat shrimp, raw oysters and fresh catches, while sampling from the extensive wine list.
  • Eurasia Café and Wine Bar– The seasonal menu incorporates fresh local produce into its fine Southern- inspired dishes, which include buttermilk-fried calamari, shrimp and grits, and locally harvested Lynnhaven oysters.
  • Tautogs – Housed in a classic Virginia Beach 1920s cottage, the restaurant prides itself on guest service and a thoughtfully curated seafood-centric menu.

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