The weather’s warming, the pandemic masks are lifting off, and a lot of energy has built up inside us. There’s only one logical conclusion: Rally the gang together and get to the bars. To honor the rise of the roaring 20s, the welcoming of summer weather, and a glimmer of hope on the horizon, we’ve compiled the best places to drink on elevated surfaces.
Easily the most notable of rooftops in the city, Grain feels like a scene out of a city much larger. The double-sided rooftop and indoor trees blend outside and inside, so you always feel atop the world. They’ve got an enviable draft list, a full bar, and an eclectic selection of snacks. While the water views are gorgeous, the up-close view on the architectural details of the TowneBank Building (Norfolk’s first skyscraper) and the U.S. Customs House on Main Street feels like a Chrysler Museum exhibit.
Light crispy calamari, a glass of white wine, and Leone’s rooftop will quickly transport you to a coastal Italian villa mindset. Comfy lounge seating and casual string lights just feet from a bustling Granby street will simultaneously put you at ease and make you feel like you’re smack dab in the middle of the action. Perfect spot to enjoy the vita, the vino, and the vibes.
OV Fishing Pier
If you thought the beach was the best place to watch the sunset, just wait until you’re a hundred yards off the beach and two stories up. And if the rocking picnic tables aren’t quite high enough, you can grab lifeguard station height Adirondacks along the balcony. Despite having some of the classiest views in town, the bar menu is widely accessible to both palettes and wallets. Suitable for date night outfits and swim trucks just off the beach.
Lil’ Bit NOLA
New Orleans carries a ton of specific cultural connotations with it. One, in particular, is standing on balconies and throwing beads at people. It fits then that Lil’ Bit NOLA is rocking a fantastic rooftop. Want even more of the Bourbon Street feel? Then you better order a classic French Quarter refreshment like a Hurricane, Purple People Eater, or a Pimm’s Cup. You might just be coming back every week and turning into a Po’Boy.
When the classic Cogans made their way down to the North Colley neighborhood, they had big ambitions. In addition to considerably more craft beer taps, they elevated their eatery too. It’s best to indulge in an ice-cold pint and double slice on the upstairs patio under their classic red awning. With the summer breeze blowing in, the wafting pizza fumes, and the buzz of Colley avenue below, this rooftop is a slice of paradise.
Waterside takes a good ribbing from the locals. But the second-floor balcony via the Harbor Club has all the potential to be a pristine summer hangout spot.. As you gaze out over the Elizabeth River, you’ll find yourself watching the diverse parade of boat traffic. You’ve got classic sailboats like the American Rover alongside modern money yachts. The HRT ferry is pulling up with a paddle wheel as if it was a steamship from the 1800s. All while the silhouette of aircraft carriers and missile ships at Norfolk Naval Shipyard looms over the scene.
Bold Mariner Brewing
Just feet from the beachfront, Bold Mariner will serve you up a refreshing lager with a heaping dollop of sweet saltwater breeze. Bold Mariner is packing wrap-around decks on both the first and second floors. Out back, BarQ will slap you with the scent of smokey brisket being cooked. Add in one of the frequent trivia or karaoke nights, and you’ve got yourself a prime spot to test your knowledge or sing your heart out after half a dozen IPAs.
A small asterisk should apply to this one: The Veil’s third floor isn’t technically a roof. It does, however, feature garage door-style windows that stay open basically all summer. That checks two big boxes: elevation and open air. While the outdoor features at other restaurants tend to be the main attraction, the Veil threw it on as an afterthought. Their nationally-renowned beers, hardcore decor, Codex-run kitchen, and absolutely bangin’ playlists create a magnetic allure. The Veil made me do it, and 10/10 I’d do it again.
Did we miss your favorite elevation location for libations? We’d be elated if you dropped us a line on Instagram. Chorizo didn’t just get a rooftop bar, did they?
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. Go Hokies!