Like most businesses, since March 2020, restaurants in Norfolk have had challenge after challenge bestowed upon them. Not every restaurant has made it through, and plenty could still be in danger if the pandemic worsens. Last year folks were masked up and spread out. This year staffing shortages, food prices, and uncertainty about the delta variant present new issues.
The food here is one of our city’s most highlighted features. Visiting friends and national media organizations alike routinely mention the phenomenal food scene permeating multiple Norfolk neighborhoods. If you’ve been around for a while, it might be easy to take it for granted, but make no mistake, our food diversity is an exceptional trait for a city of this size. However thriving our culinary hubs are, one should not take the existential threat from the ongoing pandemic with a pinch of salt. The repercussions and hardships our service industry folk continue to endure are still prevalent, for now.
At least one bright side, the pandemic has accelerated the growth of outdoor dining throughout the city and especially downtown (shoutout to Open Norfolk). This expansion has effectively increased the seating capacity of dozens of restaurants and brought even more vibrancy to neighborhood streets. Unfortunately, staffing issues have plagued restaurants of all sizes, and having the resources to serve these new seats has proven quite challenging.
Downtown Restaurant Week is September 19th through the 26th and aims to bring some small sense of normalcy back to the food community. This week may be the most crucial of all the times to go out for a bite to eat. Every local restaurant meal is helping to rebuild our fragile foodie economy. Every tip is assisting families in making it through a particularly tough economy.
This year’s event is going to be a bit different, though. For various reasons, only 14 restaurants will have the capacity to participate in this year’s celebration. The rest face some combination of staff shortages, increased food costs, among other constraints. A big thing to keep in mind: The restaurants not participating in the event are likely just as hungry for extra business as those 14. Don’t ignore them just because they aren’t on the list; give them some consideration too.
The 14 participating restaurants will be offering up some of their most raved-about fare at an exceptionally reasonable fixed price. $14 for lunch or brunch and $30 or $40 for multi-course dinners are right on the money. Take, for example, Viola, where you can get Chardonnay Escargot, Crab-encrusted Salmon, and a Creme Brulee for $40. Or there’s Monastery Restaurant, where you can get Hungarian Goulash, Escalope de Veau aux Champignons Garnie, and Black Forest Torte.
If you’re back in the office every day, skip on out for lunch and grab one of the $14 lunch deals. You might like the Jerk-Chicken Mac & Cheese Hoagie at Brick Anchor or the Smoked Salmon Tostada at Freemason Abbey.
It’s tempting to impress upon you some un-named duty as a citizen to support your local restaurants right now, but none of us need the extra pressure these days. Take this as your reason to reward yourself for keeping that mask pulled up, getting your shot, and being resilient alongside your neighbors. On top of treating yourself, you can take some joy in the fact that you’re contributing to our local economy’s bounce back.
If nothing else, this community is assuredly resilient. Community leaders, business owners, and everyday folks are putting in the work to get the city back on track. COVID might’ve landed a few punches, but we’re back in the ring and ordering another course.
Brick Anchor Brew-House
Hair of the Dog
Saffron Indian Bistro
Omar’s Carriage House
Todd Jurich’s Bistro
Voila! Cuisine Internationale
Paul Stetson Rice
Paul is the creator of NFKVA.com. He was born and raised in Norfolk, graduated from Virginia Tech, and narrowly avoided law school. Chat with him about economics, entrepreneurship, hip-hop, and hiking. When he's not working on five different projects, you'll catch him sharing a beer with friends at a local brewery.