Downtown Norfolk’s “Field Guide” – I’ll Never Eat Anywhere Else Again (Sorry, Mom)

The food is so good you actually won’t be able to eat it; you will be too busy smearing it all over your face and chest.

I had a good buddy from college coming down for the weekend. We are at the age where we’re too young to sit at home and watch Netflix on a Friday night, but too old to go creepily meandering from bar to bar (wait, I take that back). Having lived in Hampton Roads for the majority of my life, I have a number of go-to spots I like to take friends and family for a proper outting. We were feeling adventurous (within a 15 minute radius) and I consulted a friend whose pallet and judgement I admire and trust. I couldn’t quite describe the vibe I was seeking, so I just threw a scenario at her:

“Your post-hipster uncle comes in town from Maine and wants a place he can get a sizeable sandwich (Reuben or burger), hearty brew, rustic fries, and not be annoyed by the other patrons. Where do you take him?”

“Field Guide.”

Man, was she spot-on.

Looking around you’ll quickly notice that the food is ridiculous – beautifully displayed and just piled on.

Gumbo, bro.

Gumbo, bro.

The place has huge family-style tables so it feels like you’re eating in a log cabin cafeteria in the middle of Montana.

One bathroom’s wallpaper is literally old field guides (how to tie knots, what plants not to eat), and I’m TOLD that the other is a bunch of shirtless dudes or something.

I want to highlight:

– Happy hour prices were great.
– They had a number of local brews on tap (and some interesting cocktails).
– There was a wait (for good reasons) and the staff was very concerned with keeping us up-to-date on when a table would be ready. They even comped a round of drinks for us (we tried to refuse but weren’t very good).
– They have a MACARONI AND CHEESE SANDWICH.
– Two different employees (besides our waiter) checked on us during our meal to make sure we were happy with the food, drinks, and overall service (they were very genuine too).
– No problem splitting up our smorgasbord of drinks, apps, entrees, and desserts at the end.
– Portions are a’plenty.

Now that the weather is warming up, they’re opening up the garage door at the front so nothing but a bar (and hopefully a massive drink) separates you and Granby Street. I really hope restaurants with this amount of character, superior service, and overall passion are the future, and what hopefully gives Granby Street the shot in the arm that it so desperately needs. Field Guide, I salute you!

The picture below is from their Facebook page.
‘Like’ them and check out all of the other amazing things they are doing.

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Old School Virginia: Putting Off-the-Map Gems on the Map

Photo © 2013 VIRGINIA TOURISM CORPORATION, Used with Permission

Photo © 2013 VIRGINIA TOURISM CORPORATION, Used with Permission

Most people have pulled into a rest station off the highway after entering a new state, walked inside and seen the 3700 pamphlets encapsulating some pretty miserable looking tourist attractions (Harrisonburg’s Quilt Museum, I’m looking at you). There is also a cheesy pirate adventure ship I often see navigating Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach. Every patron over the age of four looks like they’d rather be at a quilt museum. It can be pretty daunting to sift through the literature and see which ones call to you. Even an area’s more conventional attractions can be largely hit or miss, especially among different generations.

This site exists to steer folks toward the more genuine bits with rustic appeal – arguably less glamorized and definitely more rich in character – that Virginia has to offer, so it was awesome to find out that Virginia Tourism Corporation has launched a new campaign, Old School Virginia, doing just that. It’s “inspired by the state’s vintage vibes: well-loved country stores, diners, drive-ins and soda fountains just waiting to be rediscovered.” They explore much more than this, including iconic music locations, rural craft breweries, rolling country roads…the promo video is much more stimulating than text:

They even have an interactive site where you can make and view user-submitted ViewMaster-style picture reels (remember those viewers from your childhood with the rotating picture wheels of dinosaurs?).

This Old School Virginia campaign is truly what culture and travel are all about. Much more featuring their road trip ideas will be posted and featured on this site. Check back to see what all the fuss is about, or better yet, go out and experience Virginia’s lifeblood for yourself!

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Blue Lab Brewing Co. – Lexington, VA


Lexington is an great little town. My brother-in-law’s father lives there and the first time we got off 81 and were heading down main street, he introduced it to me as “Lexington: where everyone has either written a book or can’t read.” It’s always been a good weekend escape. The town is lush with history, character, and old-time charm. Most of the homes are beautifully restored Victorians, within walking distance to a handful of some really fun and original restaurants. And the rich Civil War history, along with VMI, maintain a charming military prestige throughout this town. Have I sold you yet? So you can imagine our excitement when we learned, adding to the bragging rights this place already has, that they now have a micro-brewery: Blue Lab Brewing Company.

BLBC certainly embodies all that is southern hospitality. There were a few different groups there, and even though we were at different intervals of testing their full gamut, each group got a plenty of attention.

IMG_3313

The staff inside (two brewers and their respective wives) went into full depth explaining each beer, its qualities, what makes it unique, and then genuinely answered any questions the non-micro-brewery-frequenters (i.e. ladies. Oh, and apologies to the one female micro-brewery-frequenter who reads this!) had. The best part was the fresh hops they gave us to garnish our beers.

The double-IPA, my personal and definitive favorite, with the fresh hops, paled all else in comparison (big fat beer pun intended).

Out back, more friendly and engaging staff members were doing a beer brewing demonstration. The best part? They encouraged us to go grab as many peaches as we wanted from the tree out back.

This place has the micro-brewery atmosphere you’re looking for: interactive, light-hearted, fun, and very, very, very good booze…and peaches. Go with your family, co-workers, dog, or even by yourself. You’ll have a good time. Cheers.

Give Blue Lab Brewing Company some love on their Facebook page!

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Marcus Mumford Playing a VA Guitar Warrants a Blog Post

Marcus Mumford of British-Folk super group “Mumford & Sons” recently performed in Virginia (both Bristol and Portsmouth) as part of their “Gentlemen of the Road Tour,” promoting their latest album, Babel.

Virginia craftsman, Gerald Anderson made a misty Marcus Mumford when he presented him with this surprising gift made of local Virginia wood. Hear them both talk about it in the video below!

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The Last Camping Spot You’ll Ever Need to Find

Disclaimer: This area is amazing, but definitely exercise caution while navigating around. Many of the access roads hug the mountains and have large drop-offs/cliffs on the other side. Before you go, always check with the USDA Forest Service regarding any potential rules, regulations, or hazards.

Forest Supervisor’s Office

5162 Valleypointe Parkway
Roanoke, VA 24019
1-888-265-0019
540-265-5100

 

Welcome to Switzer Lake…

Switzer Lake/Lake Switzer/Switzer Reservoir/ Switzer Dam/ Skidmore Lake…it’s known by a lot of names.

Switzer Lake is located where 33 meets West Virginia. It is actually the water supply for the City of Harrisonburg. There is a turn off for it, you’ll see the water in all of its Appalachian glory, and then you’ll start heading down the mountain. The road gets rough – pavement, to dirt, to rockier dirt, to dirtier dirt, to a river, back to rocky dirt, and then you’re there. In the words of Rascal Flatts…or the opposite implied by the movie “Deliverance”: “you go till you hear a banjo”.

It is an intimidating ride, but the following vehicles have made it successfully:

– TWO wheel drive 4Runner
– 4wd Suburban
– Mazda Miada
– Nissan Altima
– Chevy…truck
– My friend’s mom’s minivan

Once you get used to the uneasing sounds of rocks scraping your under carriage, it’s really a nice ride.

 

For your ease, I created a map:

After this circulated, my mapping savvy friend made this – slightly more useful, but I was close.

The camping area is flat, open, has plenty of trees for you hammock campers, and allows cars to pull right up to unload firewood. We have never had a problem with anyone complaining with 2am songs. There is plenty of privacy here.

This is a great anchor spot to enjoy a weekend of cliff diving, fishing, hiking, makin’ stuff go boom, kayaking, or any other outdoor shenanigans in Shenandoah’s grandeur. Enjoy!

 

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11th Annual Virginia Beer Festival

With Beach Brewing Co’s Prez Justin at a craft brew fest in Virginia Beach.

In honor of this upcoming weekend’s “11th Annual Virginia Beer Festival” in Norfolk…

Virginia has recently been giving Colorado a run for its money as a craft beer mecca (I’ll never skip an opportunity to suggest, nay, command a reader try Beach Brewing Co’s “Hoptopus Double IPA”). What really pleases me is that these Virginia breweries embody true regional character in their brand; whether it’s Beach Brewing Co’s tactfully appropriated ocean puns, or Blue Mountain Brewery’s artisan Appalachian presentation, you can’t help deny the Virginia identity you feel with these characteristically rich brews.

We’re very excited for Norfolk’s 11th Annual Virginia Beer Festival this Saturday (May 19th). There is a seriously long list of participating breweries, but we’ll save you the time and skip to the locals:

Beach Brewing Company (Virginia Beach)
Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland)
Legend Brewing Company (Richmond)
Starhill Brewing Company (Charlottesville)
Williamsburg Ale Werks (Williamsburg)
St. George Brewing Company (Hampton)
O’Connor Brewing Company

Music, sunshine, friends, artful local brews: bliss is in Norfolk this Saturday…

Cheers.

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Old Crow’s Ketch Secor & Critter Fuqua Reunion Show

Ketch & Critter – Live in Staunton

Ketch Secor and Critter Fuqua (below) are two of the founding members of old-time string band Old Crow Medicine Show. Both of these guys are actually from sunny Harrisonburg, VA. To celebrate 20 years of making music together, the two of them got together to play a few very small, very sold out shows in western VA. We somehow managed tickets to this dining room show at Mockingbird on January 14.

Photo by Justin Wright (www.justinwrightphoto.com) Used with Permission

At risk of sounding cliche, Staunton is a quaint town. It’s settled right where I-64 meets I-81 and westbound 64 drivers are forced to follow the Appalachian Mountains north toward Maryland or south toward fried foods. We came into town a little early and took advantage of some of the town highlights (we’ll post about later).

We rolled into Mockingbird a little early. I had brought a few things with hopes to get them signed by the guys (Wagon Wheel 7″, a broken fiddle, etc.). Realizing I looked a bit like a deranged fan, I wrapped my junk in my hoodie and stowed it beneath our table. We proceeded to drink.

The Mockingbird is a unique venue; they have a private dining room theater that opened up 2 hours before the show. Dinner reservations got us a table within smelling distance from the stage that stood only a few inches above the floor. Not long after six, the dining room was at capacity with about 100 people. We ate like kings and the staff continued to hydrate the crowd the rest of the show (Starr Hill’s Winterbock “Gift” was worth the trip alone).

Around 8, Ketch and Critter took the stage. It was surreal. They started plucking away in a room comparable to a Starbucks in size. The place went bananas, well, about as bananas as sit down dinner theater can go; people were clapping and stomping along.

The show was almost as much comedy as it was music. The guys regaled the crowd with regional banter (mostly about Buena Vista girls and how Harrisonburg smells like chicken feed) and embarrassing stories about each other. They encouraged the crowd to join along in the music by smacking their tables or clicking their silverware on their beer glasses. It got rowdy.

Many of the songs they performed were not staple Old Crow Medicine Show songs; some they have recently written, others were old-time gospel and traditional songs. There was an arsenal of instruments behind them, which they essentially just passed back and forth between the two of them.

One of their encores, “Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio,” completely sung and perfectly harmonized in Spanish, featured Ketch on the bajo quinto(a 10 string Mexican guitar) and Critter on the Tejano Accordeon.

They even pulled out their old friends from the crowd for a few-song reunion of their first band, “The Route 11 Boys.” The crowd went nuts for the marathon version of “Wagon Wheel.” People shot up from their tables and danced anywhere they could. The guys received a heartily earned standing ovation.

We hung around after the show and got to meet both Ketch and Critter. Both were friendly, down-to-earth, appreciative dudes. I even got my fiddle signed…

Me: “Hey Ketch, if you wouldn’t mind, I’ve got a broken fiddle I’d like you to sign.”
Ketch: “Sure I’ll sign your broken-ass fiddle!”

Old Crow Medicine Show has since announced Critter is back in the band and that they have recorded a new album that is set to be released in 2012.

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