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Trail to Table Restaurants Set Roanoke, VA Apart

The Hotel Roanoke, built in 1882.
The Hotel Roanoke, built in 1882.

When visiting Roanoke, VA, you can’t help but notice the almost 90-foot high star shining above town. The largest freestanding, manmade illuminated star in the world, the landmark started out as a seasonal holiday decoration in 1949, and now this impressive symbol, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway on Mill Mountain, serves as a beacon to those looking for a unique, immersive visitor experience.

The 90-foot Roanoke Star shines over the Virginia city every night.
The 90-foot Roanoke Star shines over the Virginia city every night.

The Roanoke Star isn’t the only bright spot in town, however. This friendly, walkable city is not only setting new standards in innovative cuisine but in the handmade products it produces. Entrepreneurs have breathed new life into vintage buildings, and even objects that once were thrown away have been salvaged and reimagined into astounding pieces of art. And the traditions that the area holds dear—including a proud history of making moonshine—have been brought into the 21st century while still respecting the customs and lifestyles of the original makers.

Putting the Culture Back in Agriculture

Third-generation moonshiner Chris Prillaman is not only a great distiller, but a storyteller and fiddle player, too.
Third-generation moonshiner Chris Prillaman is not only a great distiller, but a storyteller and fiddle player, too.

Roanoke boasts a number of restaurants that take the ‘trail to table’ philosophy seriously, using as much locally produced food as possible while elevating it to an entirely new level. Stock Café, for example, is a Nordic-inspired restaurant located in Fire Station One, a boutique hotel that also houses the retail showroom of Txtur. Patrons can choose from an array of innovative menu options including whole trout, provided by local purveyor Smoke in Chimneys; Rappahannock oysters on the half shell; or Smorrebrod, a traditional Danish open-faced rye bread sandwich.

The restaurant is comfortable and sleek, featuring furniture by Txtur, a local furniture maker that has specialized in sustainability for more than 90 years. And if you like the restaurant’s ambiance, you can even order your own furniture to take home—making shopping and dining a collaborative experience!

Another boutique hotel and restaurant, the Liberty Trust & The Vault, is located in an early 20th-century Beaux Arts-style bank building that provides the perfect ambiance for an eclectic menu that features authentic foods from around the world. Guests can choose from unique handmade cocktails as well as 32 wines on tap while sharing small plates; but don’t look for tables—this eatery is designed so that groups can enjoy meals while comfortably seated in conversation areas in the ornate lounge. Insider tip: order the khachapuri—this Georgian cheese bread with egg yolk, sulguni cheese and special seasoning is unbelievable.

Known for its trademark peanut soup and spoonbread, The Regency Room, a AAA four diamond rated restaurant located in The Hotel Roanoke, has been attracting people to the historic property since 1939. The hotel, which originally opened in 1882, also houses an authentic speakeasy downstairs that was quite popular during Prohibition as it had six exits to use as escape routes when the cops came calling.

As the region’s only traditional Italian kitchen and Neapolitan style pizzeria, Fortunato offers locally sourced meats and produce as well as original cocktails and a unique Italian wine list. And Bloom, in Roanoke’s Wasena neighborhood, offers modern American cuisine and community-sourced food, expertly prepared by Executive Chef and owner Nate Sloan.

While in Wasena, stop for a cup of coffee or chilled hibiscus tea at Roasters Next Door, a Black-owned small batch roastery and coffee lounge known for its canned nitro cold brew, before heading next door to Crème Fresh to pick up some dairy-free ice cream created by chef, entrepreneur and ‘proprietor of cool food concepts’ Quincy Randolph.

If you’re looking for comfort food or Southern specialties, Crystal Spring Grocery offers gourmet items and local favorites—including some truly impressive pimento cheese—that you can eat in or take to go. Next door, Yard Bull Meats provides old-world butchery-style items—including 70 flavors of sausage—that you can use to make your own impressive meals.

Of course no visit down south is complete without homemade biscuits straight out of the oven, and Scratch Biscuit Company is known for its 5-inch cathead biscuits, in-house jams and homemade hot sauce. The food is so good that they sell more than 900 biscuits a day! Bread Craft is also a great place for breakfast or lunch, and the smell alone will whet your appetite for its delicious artisanal pastries, French toast, focaccia and more.

Make Mine Moonshine

Craft cocktail aficionados will love what Roanoke has to offer, as most of the more popular restaurants carry a variety of specially curated drinks designed to please. One standout is Stellina Cocktail bar, a moody, chic speakeasy located in the heart of the city. From its ‘find Andy Warhol’ wallpaper to its red and black decor, it’s like taking a step back in time to enjoy secret Prohibition-era sips.

Twin Creeks Distillery, located in the mountains of Franklin County (also known as the Moonshine Capital of the World) is a must-stop as well. Here, you’ll not only get to taste corn liquor made by third-generation moonshiner Chris Prillaman, but hear the stories of how his family and friends outran the law before their product became legal. Chris might even pick up a fiddle and play you a song—in addition to making excellent ‘drinkin’ liquor, he’s been making old-time music since he was a young boy.

Reasons to Wander

In addition to fantastic food, Roanoke also has some truly unique shopping. Black Dog Salvage, which was featured on the DIY network show Salvage Dawgs, has hundreds of salvaged finds that they upcycle and then sell to customers around the world. You need to leave a lot of time to visit, though—their massive 44,000 sq. ft. warehouse is filled to the brim with amazing finds, including an interior design mall where local vendors sell upcycled pieces.

A smaller, but just as exciting stop is the Crafteria Makers Market, an LGBTQ-owned market with a focus on products provided by more than 250 Appalachian craftspeople. The former cafeteria and disco is now home to a record shop, a coffee shop, and Roanoke’s only Puerto Rican eatery, Delicias Boricuas. In addition to enjoying insanely good empanadas, visitors find plenty of opportunities to buy the perfect items to take back home.

For more information on what to do and where to go while in Roanoke, check out

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