Upon moving to Norfolk in 2019, I was shocked to find a diverse, vibrant food scene that completely defied my expectations for the area. It’s no secret that Hampton Roads’ culinary landscape is evolving, with Norfolk at the epicenter. Even emerging from the trenches of a pandemic, the city’s creative culinary energy flows in the plethora of pop-ups, food trucks, and elevated eateries at every turn.
For those looking to explore the city’s impressive food scene: one of the summer’s most anticipated dining events has arrived. Downtown Norfolk Restaurant Week, July 17-24, gives diners a taste of what Norfolk’s food scene has to offer, and it is truly a haven of hidden gems. Get ready to experience the innovative and the downright tasty: this year’s lineup is not to be missed and includes 20 restaurants varying in price point, cuisine, and ambiance.
Some establishments, such as Freemason Abbey and Monastery Restaurant, are making their routine showcase as Norfolk hallmarks. In contrast, others – Capo Capo (inside the Waterside Marriott) and Codex (on Granby Street) are new additions to the roster. Diners can choose between price-fixed, multi-course dinners for $35, $45, or $55 (depending on the restaurant), and lunch or brunch for $15. While substitutions are not allowed, sharing is encouraged – as is ordering sips and apps from their regular menu to accompany your restaurant week selections.
From the specials on deck, it is clear that their creative chefs are eager to put their culinary skills to the test, as menus showcase local flavors with a seasonal twist. There is something for all palates; cozy up with a bowl of Pho Ga at the Stockpot, indulge in Striper’s Ultimate Norfolk Surf-and-Turf or grab a fan favorite Shrimp Mac n’ Cheese Grilled Cheese at the Grilled Cheese Bistro. Specific locations offer outdoor dining, as well – rooftop brunch views at Grain and intimate patio gatherings at Leone’s make for an ambient Restaurant week experience.
This particular restaurant week represents a continued return to normalcy post-pandemic. For the past two years, participating restaurants have struggled to keep their doors open, and many traded their in-house dining option for to-go meals to comply with safety measures.
Staffing shortages posed an additional strain on restaurants, limiting establishments’ ability to participate altogether – although it certainly didn’t stop customers from supporting local eateries. One Norfolk restaurant owner estimates that restaurant week brings a 20-25% increase in business, so those planning to check out a participating eatery should book reservations in advance.
Now, a new challenge has presented itself: rising food costs. Diners may notice a slight increase in restaurant week prices as restaurant owners grapple with inflation. Nevertheless, business owners and their staff are hopeful that this summer’s specialties will bring in new customers and keep them returning.
If you’ve worked up an appetite, you can scope out the participating restaurants and menus at DowntownNorfolk.org.
Talbot Park, NFK
Rachel Reiss moved to Norfolk in 2021, and, true to her native Floridian roots, has been enjoying life near the beach. Since her day job as an HR Program Manager has gone remote, it offers her the flexibility to explore the area’s rich history, culture, and diverse food scene in her spare time. She is also a passionate pianist, aspiring yogi, and self-proclaimed health nut who loves to cook. Rachel lives near Talbot Park with her husband, Phil - a CHKD resident - and their Maltese, Minnie.