In our region, the salty brackish water is home to an amazing array of sea life, the soil is sandy and perfect for growing many edible treasures, and the beach cocktails flow like the mighty Lynnhaven River. The main hallmarks of our coastal cuisine are fresh, seasonal, and simply prepared ingredients, often sourced from our own rich farmlands, which create a sense of place and palate. While we’re proud of the diversity of our culinary scene, sometimes you still just want to play the hits. Here are some of our favorite iconic Virginia Beach dishes that you have to try.
Once coveted by the English aristocracy for its size and salinity, the famous Lynnhaven Oyster is a local legend that we can’t get enough of, no matter the season. Captain John Smith himself described the bounty of the area saying “oysters lay as thick as stones,” with the Bay and rivers containing more sturgeon “than could be devoured by dog or man.” There may not be the numbers there were in Smith’s day, but the local oyster population is on the rise and we are all better for it. Hop aboard a boat tour with Pleasure House Oysters and taste an oyster plucked straight from the water beneath you, or order them how you like them from local spots like Chick’s Oyster Bar or Rockafeller’s, who feature our favorite bivalve.
She-crab soup is a staple of our coastal cuisine here in Virginia Beach. From the Annual She-Crab Soup Festival to the numerous local restaurants featuring it on their menu, this dish is everywhere—and for good reason. When in the Sandbridge area, grab a cup at Margie & Ray’s Seafood, Crab & Raw Bar, a local staple since 1964, their she-crab soup has been voted the best in Tidewater more than once.
What better way to cool off during the hot summer months than with a refreshing fruity spirit? Virginia Beach is known for Orange Crushes, and if you’ve visited us before, there is a good chance you’ve already tried one. With its freshly-squeezed OJ, triple sec, and Sprite there is no turning back. They’re like fries, you can’t have just one! This perfect summer drink first originated at Waterman’s Surfside Grille, but can be found on menus all throughout the city at places like Chix Seaside Grille and Bar and The Shack on 8th.
Soft Shell Crab
Soft shell crabs are blue crabs whose hard exterior shells have molted, and they are found in abundance in the warming waters of the Chesapeake Bay, starting in the spring. While legend has it that they begin molting after the first full moon of May, the local soft shell crab season typically starts in mid-April or early May each year, and lasts through September. That means you have roughly five months to savor this local culinary staple before they go away. Whether you enjoy them lightly fried, beneath a perfectly-poached egg, or atop a spicy bloody Mary, like on the popular Bloody Blue at Bay Local Eatery, there’s no shortage of delicious ways to sink your teeth into these mouth-watering delicacies.
Fresh Pungo Berries
Just a few minutes outside of the windswept dunes of Sandbridge, sits 8,000 acres of farmland known to Virginia Beach locals as Pungo. A drive through this the expansive agricultural community delivers a rural serenity and countryside charm that feels worlds away from the bustle of the Oceanfront. Stop along your journey at any one of the area’s roadside stands or, for a truly Pungo experience, pick your own bushel of fresh and local favorites like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.