The occasion to visit Roanoke for the first time was to attend Elton John’s concert at the Berglund Center. Luckily, Roanoke has an amazing foodie couple known as Mr and Mrs Hungry Asian who we came to know through our social media network a couple years ago. So our food exploration we left up to our excellent guides!
We rolled into Roanoke around lunchtime and were sent to local favorite, Viet Sub, located not far from Berglund. Tu took great care of us and we had a most delicious spring roll then asked for her recommendation on a Banh Mi and she delivered! Tu left a successful career to join her husband at Viet Sub where he begins each day making the french bread for the banh mi sandwiches. Light and fluffy on the inside and deliciously crunchy outside. Ours came filled with ham, smoked ham, chicken liver pate, pickled carrots and daikons, fresh cucumbers, cilantro, and jalapeño. A perfect pick me up after our 4 hour drive!
Next up, we strolled around the quaint City Market area and dropped into Jack Brown’s to sample Virginia beers (When in Rome and all.). Parkway Brewing, O’Connor, South Street and Starr Hill all impressed. While it was tempting, we abstained from the Fried Oreo because we knew Hungry Asian had plenty in store for us later. Incidentally the day after we left, Deschutes Brewery announced their second location will be in Roanoke which is very exciting news!
After a quick change we headed to Lucky, a restaurant with an impressive bar program for any city, much less a smaller Virginia city! Hunter Johnson (the Harrison Ford of Bartenders as he came to be known as more and more cocktails were imbibed) greeted us at the bar. He and Brittany took great care of us both before and after the concert (judging by our condition the next day, visiting after the show wasn’t the wisest move). In honor of Elton being in town, Hunter had the Amoreena cocktail which I just had to try of course!
The Amoreena is Lucky’s interpretation of a tiki cocktail with a tequila, pineapple, green chartreuse, ginger served with a brûléed pineapple chunk rolled in raw sugar and salt. Little sour, not so sweet, utterly delicious. The Amoreena as Elton John fans will know was created for the night because Elton was in town!
Lucky has a house cocktail that does not appear on the menu anymore but they still prep for it every day. The Cube is their take on an Old Fashioned. It’s a 2 inch ice cube made out of juice and bitters similar to the flavors of the original. They drop it in a glass and pour bourbon on top. The first one is good, the second is SO much better.
Mrs. Knoxfoodie discovered her new favorite classic cocktail on this trip, Vieux Carre. Originating in New Orleans in the 1930’s, it is a potent and bittersweet combination of rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth seasoned with both Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters. At Lucky, the stir this cocktail flawlessly in a glass pitcher then strain it over a single block of ice in an old fashioned glass.
If you’re ever even passing through, you simply must drop in Lucky and visit with Hunter and Brittany! A true highlight of the trip.
Next, Hungry Asian was able to get us squeezed into Fortunato, who is also owned in part by Hunter from Lucky. They had a delightful pink cocktail waiting for us and were greeted by Reid? I have to say, he was incredibly tolerant of us after our recent over indulgence at Lucky! A big shoutout to him for that!
A collage of Italian inspired cuisine from pizzas coming out of the hybrid gas/wood oven to squid ink pasta and our choices, Branzino and Beef Cheek. We were, unfortunately, running a little late for the show and weren’t able to take our time and soak in Fortunato like we should but it is top-notch! The bread was fresh and tasty, the branzino was perfectly prepared and the presentation was beautiful, the braised beef cheek risotto. A couple cocktails later and we had to get in the Uber to the show!
The next morning, we were moving very slowly… V e r y slowly! But we’re foodies! We’re troopers! We headed out to RT Smiths Deli to meet up with Mr & Mrs Hungry Asian for some of the best bagel sandwiches I’ve had and that REAL diet Coke was the best thing ever after our nightlife experience. Don’t forget the condiments on your sandwich! It makes them the best! Before we left, we were brought a light and fluffy Strawberry Napoleon to send us on our way. The bagels that RT Smiths uses come from Roanoke Bagel.
We were told we couldn’t leave town without visiting one of the newer restaurants in Roanoke, River and Rail. A beautifully crafted interior with unique but approachable items, we decided to have a smattering of their small plate items. Pork rinds, chicken liver mousse, house pickles, North Carolina oysters and a surprise beef tartare filled our table with delight. All were met with lots of ‘mums’ at the table. Mr KnoxFoodie recommends the Pork Rinds with Pimento (or Pimiento if you’re feeling fancy). After bidding our friends adieu, we made a quick, fog-filled trip to the impressive Roanoke Star before making our way back to East Tennessee.
We had a truly wonderful time in Roanoke and will make a return visit soon! An many thanks for Mr and Mrs Hungry Asian sending us to some absolute gems! We can’t wait to return the favor on your trip to the Biscuit Festival in May!