With a rich, colonial history and vibrant culture, the city of Norfolk embodies a perfect mix of old and new. Modern skyscrapers and historic homes face the waterside, which was once an important exporter of goods to the British Isles and beyond. This seaside port is still a top center for trade and is (surprisingly) an under-the-radar foodie haven— showcasing farm-to-table cuisine, ethnic flavors, and fresh local seafood.
Where to Eat
The Green Onion
This chic bistro serves up a creative, modern menu in a casual, artsy-type space. Creamy tomato bisque is topped with toasted cheese-covered bread croutons (a spin on the usual grilled cheese sandwich) and drizzled with a bit of maple syrup. Get your greens with a fresh, mixed salad of port-poached pears, gorgonzola, candied pecans and prosciutto with a maple-dijon vinaigrette. Don’t leave without ordering the steamed mussels—prepared in a white wine herb broth and piled high with the traditional pomme frites and chunk of crusty bread. So simple and yet so good—these might possibly be the best mussels you’ve ever had!
1603 Colley Avenue, Norfolk
Downtown Norfolk Food Tour
What better way to explore the city than walking through the streets and tasting the local cuisine? Sample house specialties and libations at multiple restaurants as you’re guided on this intimate food tour in the picturesque downtown neighborhood. At each stop you’ll get a behind-the-scenes experience as staff talks about their culinary creations and history of the establishment. Walking to each restaurant is half the fun and (gratefully!) gives you time to digest before the next sampling.
Every first Saturday at 11 a.m.
Tickets are $38 (24 hour reservation required)
Meets at Granby Bistro & Deli, 225 Granby Street, Norfolk
Doumar’s Cones & Barbecue
Featured by Guy Fieri twice for his popular Food Channel show Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this local spot has been dipping cones for almost 80 years! Today, Albert Doumar, nephew of the diner’s founder, still bakes hand-made waffle cones in the original machine that is believed to have created the first-ever ice cream cone. Hand-dipped cones, shakes, and sundaes along with house-ground hamburger take you back in time. If you’re lucky, stop by when Albert is hard at work and you’ll get a real taste of ice cream history.
1919 Monticello Avenue, Norfolk
Omar’s Carriage House
Built in the early 1840s, this carriage house was originally home to horses, hay, and riding equipment. Nowadays, cozy tables and dining in the small, loft-like second floor make a unique dining experience. Current owner, Omar Boukhriss, adds Moroccan flair to the original menu with mushroom bruschetta and bastilla—a dish with layers of seasoned chicken, crushed almonds, and phyllo pastry dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon. You may have an uninvited dining partner during dinner—it is believed that the spirit of a pre-Civil War slave often gets playful by dimming lights and moving menus.
313 West Bute Street, Norfolk
Casual Gourmet Cooking Class
Do you often wish you could try your hand as a contestant on Top Chef? Take a Casual Gourmet Cooking Class offered at the Culinary Institute of Virginia and you’ll feel the heat! With a wide range of topics, their individual classes are ideal for the home cook. Taught by industry-seasoned chefs, you can pick up new techniques while learning to prepare local Virginia cuisine like deep-fried soft shell crabs with corn succotash and a spiced chili mango coulis. You’re one step closer to making your Food Network debut.
Pre-registration is required, classes start at $60
Where to Stay
Norfolk Waterside Marriott
Set in the heart of the historic district and along the Elizabeth River, the Waterside Marriott combines traditional charm with stunning views of the waterfront—an ideal location for nearby activities.
235 East Main Street, Norfolk
What to Do
American Rover Sailing Cruise
Get a taste of the sailor’s life aboard the American Rover. Departing from the waterside in downtown Norfolk (just steps away form the Waterside Marriott), this narrated cruise sails the smooth waters of the Elizabeth River and Hampton Roads Harbor. On board, guests can lend a hand with the sails or take a turn at the helm.
333 Waterside Drive, Norfolk
New Orleans, Louisiana
Typically known for its festive Mardi Gras celebrations, New Orleans is mesmerizing any day of the year—from the world-renowned, historic French Quarter to the authentic, jazz-filled clubs on Frenchmen Street. Quaint shops and cobblestone sidewalks add to the charm of this highly-visited city, while intoxicating aromas of fresh beignets and chicory pull you in to the nearest cafe. The Big Easy is recognizable as a top spot for mouthwatering Cajun cuisine and Creole dishes bursting with flavor.
Where to Eat
This funky hole-in-the-wall is tucked above an almost stereotypically divey music joint, but as all the locals recommend, you’ll find one of the best hidden gems in the city. A no reservation policy and small dining space lead up to the utter astonishment you’ll have after sampling the superb Cajun/Italian-fusion dishes. With a fresh selection of fish, such as grouper, drum, and amberjack, it’s hard to decide which one to order with their popular “Ocean Sauce”—a creamy, cajun alfredo full of lump crab, shrimp, and crawfish. Not always on the menu (but often requested) is a juicy, steak-like smoked pork chop—cut super-thick and flavored in a rich, syrupy glaze. Don’t give up on finding this nearly-invisible eatery—you definitely won’t regret it!
611 Frenchmen Street, New Orleans
Cafe du Monde
Open 24 hours a day and only closed on Christmas, Cafe du Monde has been established since 1862 and is a New Orleans staple when it comes to beignets. Definitely touristy (but delectable none-the-less) you’ve got to make at least once stop when you’re in town. The long line around the corner passes quickly as you’re serenaded by local musicians outside the storefront. Once inside, order their signature French-style beignets, piled high with powdered sugar, and chicory coffee or cafe au lait. Don’t worry about the powdered sugar on your face—it’s all part of the experience!
800 Decatur Street, New Orleans
Housed in a historic music building, this restaurant serves contemporary southern cuisine along with an extensive selection of choice wines. A graceful, art nouveau staircase leads up to private dining rooms on the second floor and paintings of local scenes and characters deck the walls, which makes a striking impression. A popular spot for special events, intimate dates, and family dinners, there’s a reason why patrons continue to return year after year. The Palace’s refined staff never fails to present inspired dishes—such as pork pate served in glass jars along with sweet apple jelly and ice box pie made with fresh mandarin oranges and whipped cream.
605 Canal Street, New Orleans
Looking for a bite while exploring busy Bourbon Street? Stop into this Cajun hotspot for a wide range of southern delicacies like fried gator meat with Creole mustard cream sauce or traditional New Orleans andouille sausage and chicken gumbo. Another local favorite, the Po’ boy, makes an appearance on the large menu, offering 8 different varieties including freshly fried shrimp, oysters, alligator, crawfish, or catfish. This is good N’awlins home cookin’ at its finest!
208 Bourbon Street, New Orleans
What to Do
Music on Frenchmen Street
Only steps away from the glitzy neon lights of Bourbon Street lies a compact musical enclave, where on any given night you’ll find an eclectic variety of live music ranging from jazz and blues to latin and reggae. This is where the real New Orleans musicians come to play. Intimate clubs get you up close and personal with performers and a casual atmosphere lends itself perfectly for impromptu jam sessions.
Frenchmen Street, New Orleans
Where to Stay
A luxury boutique hotel nestled right in the French Quarter, Maison Dupuy is far enough to escape the noise of Bourbon Street but close enough to walk to endless shops, restaurants, and the historic Jackson Square area.
1001 Toulouse Street, New Orleans
Words by Melissa Miller