Inside Roanoke’s Top Culinary Neighborhoods
By Megan Williams
When Roanoke, Virginia, does something, it shows up in spades. There’s a reason why the city, with its mountainous and verdant backdrop, was once called “The Magic City.” When the Town of Big Lick was chartered in 1874, its location within the Blue Ridge Mountains and easy proximity to Maryland and Tennessee made the area a primary transportation hub in western Virginia, causing the city to grow by leaps and bounds within just 10 years—giving it its enchanted nickname.
But the magic didn’t stop with its significant railroad heritage, countless colleges and universities, or even the 100-foot illuminated star that casts its glow on the burgeoning metropolis. Roanoke was hungry for more.
An Appetite for Growth
In recent years, Roanoke’s downtown area has been a collective hub for music and food. No matter the night of the week, locals and visitors will pass by bars with live music, speakeasy-style cocktail lounges, and restaurants with rooftop terraces. No matter the budget or craving, downtown Roanoke would deliver.
But soon, word got out about Roanoke’s culinary character and a proverbial longer table was needed.
Today, a web of flavors weaves from downtown’s walkable streets to nearby neighborhoods. Wasena—farmland, turned semi-urban landscape—connects Greenway walkers and bikers with snackables and drinkables to keep them satiated. Grandin—with its historic homes and theater—gives diners a feast for their eyes and stomachs. And downtown Roanoke, ever the constant dining companion, continues to serve exceptional dining experiences.
What’s Happening in Wasena?
Wasena was originally founded as a “suburban retreat” across the Roanoke River from downtown Roanoke. Today, picturesque 1920s and mid-century homes dot the lawns and the 400-mile Roanoke Greenway keeps a steady influx of foot and bike traffic.
Visitors and locals hoping to get a delicious bite or two in the neighborhood won’t be disappointed.
Roasters Next Door (RND) Coffee is a Black-owned small-batch roastery and coffee lounge that serves craft coffee in an approachable way. From sustainable single origin beans to smooth blends, RND delivers exceptional flavors and sincere hospitality.
“Lunch-ish” food and snacks are also available, courtesy of chef and owner Quincy Randolph. Limoncello snacking cake and chocolate chip banana bread are available until evening hours, with textures so light and moist that they practically beg to be paired with a cortado or a specialty RND canned nitro cold brew. The Chef Q Lox Bagel Sando and Fig Onion Melt offer heftier fare for hungry patrons. The bagel sandwich is piled high with smoked salmon, capers, and pickled red onion, and the fig onion melt is made special with a wonderfully smoked gouda.
Bloom Restaurant & Wine Bar
Seasonal small plates and libations await at Bloom Restaurant & Wine Bar. Chef and owner Nate Sloan offers an ever-evolving menu with ingredients that showcase the best of local farms. During the summer months, hydroponic tomatoes and house-made pesto may find their way on the menu alongside sheep’s milk feta. Or heritage raised lamb may sit atop gnocchi, combining flavors that are as bold as they are light.
As small plates are the name of the game at Bloom, guests are encouraged to order a number of different menu items, and sharing across the table is always encouraged. Cocktails, mocktails, wine, and beer are also available for guests to imbibe. Selections change often but range from vintage pours of French reds and seasonal sangrias to inventive gin and rum creations.
Of course you can’t utter the names Quincy Randolph and Nate Sloan without acknowledging Crème Fresh. The collective brainchild between Randolph and Sloan, Crème Fresh is a plant-based “ice cream” shop that gleans inspiration from each chef’s culinary repertoire.
Just like Bloom and RND Coffee, the menu at Crème Fresh is ever evolving. Lemon rosemary sorbet—refreshing and decadent—may be on the menu one week and peanut butter banana chip may be on the menu the next. The emphasis at Crème Fresh is always on quality first, leaning heavily on the best ingredients to deliver flavors that are balanced, delicious, and unique.
A Grand Time in Grandin
Part of the Raleigh Court community, historic Grandin Village is a treasured icon in the Roanoke area. By 1911, Grandin had been established as a major retail and service hub in the area and it has re-emerged under the same notion today.
FarmBurguesa owners Jimmy Delgado and Kat Pascal, second-generation Americans, have infused their Colombian influence into what is otherwise considered traditional American cuisine. To see that influence in action, diners should look no further than their Toston burger. A single burger patty, pepper-jack cheese, and a cilantro-lime sauce are wedged between double fried plantain patties, or tostones, rather than a bun. The menu also includes a Caprese burger—complete with fresh mozzarella and basil—and the Tres Quesos burger with an indulgent three (and locally sourced) cheeses.
Scratch Biscuit Company
Down-home, southern, from-scratch biscuits are what guests will find at Scratch Biscuit Company. Open morning until afternoon, Scratch serves up mouthwatering butter biscuits and an endless range of fixings to choose from. The morning’s selection could be a simple, classic sausage biscuit or it could be an inventive Jerry Garcia biscuit featuring smoked or regular tofu.
And what’s a southern biscuit without some southern sides? Stone ground grits, sausage gravy, and fried apples make for a perfect accompaniment to Scratch’s hearty breakfast.
A philosophy of sustainable, organic, local, and ethical meat and produce pervades at Grandin staple Local Roots. Each meal can be traced back to one of their local partner farms, all of whom share the same values of fresh, seasonal food and a connection back to the land.
The chef expertly weaves local food influence and elevated cuisine, with dishes like wild caught sea bass and grit souffle or grass-fed New York strip with locally-sourced mushrooms. Their care for the land and local food production extends to their beverage program, as well. When possible, Local Roots aims to source wine from small vineyards who share the same agricultural values as their other partner farms.
Texas Tavern and Awful Arthur’s Seafood Company are among the mainstays in the downtown Roanoke footprint, which is a wonderful mix of long-standing staples and new-to-the-scene fare.
Among the newer dining experiences is Stock—a Nordic and Scandinavian–inspired restaurant within historic Fire Station One boutique hotel. The early 20th-century fire station turned hotel features the same iconic architectural details as the original firehouse, creating an exclusive experience. The vibe extends into Stock, where they meticulously handcrafted every detail of the space—from the minimalist bar stools to the inventive use of ingredients.
Beef and venison meatballs and toast Skagen—toasted brioche with trout roe—line the menu alongside traditional Danish smørrebrød, culminating in a culinary experience that will be talked about for months to come.
As diners continue to expand their palates, Roanoke will continue to expand their creative offerings, marking a magical culinary companionship.