favorite restaurants

Brent Finnegan -- February 1st, 2008

The cover story on eightyone this month is about the best places to eat. Taste of Thai, Joshua Wilton House, the Little Grill, Calhou — er, Cally’s, Thomas House in Dayton, Earth & Tea, and the Dodger were among the local winners chosen by readers in a survey.

Dave’s won best fries, worst service. I also thought this was interesting:

Readers from Harrisonburg voted mostly for Harrisonburg restaurants, yet considered Staunton to be the best dining town. Readers from Staunton commented enviously on Harrisonburg’s wide variety of restaurants, especially ethnic ones.

104 Responses to “favorite restaurants”

  1. larsen says:

    After being a Dave’s fan for years, I no longer go there. I went one time last year around 5 pm on a weeknight when the upper room was totally empty, and we asked for the round table in the corner for our party of four really tall people. The waiter was definitely snarky. He told us, snarkily, that we couldn’t have that table unless we had more people in our party. So we sat at at a little, crowded table in the empty room for the entire meal. I haven’t been back and that was several months ago. It’s a shame, because they have great food – but stupid rules and bad attitudes ruin my appetite.

  2. ammc says:

    As far as Bravo’s goes, I used to enjoy them much more than I have my last few meals there. Still a nice place to go on a warm evening and eat outside. (If you can use your imagination and get over the parking lot scenery).
    A friend and I braved Port Road the other night to try Tutti Gusti. My pasta was better than good and I almost forgot I was on Port Road (not overrun by students). The owners came by to check on us after our meal and were friendly. Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t!

  3. Emmy says:

    My friend is a waitress at Tutti Gusti….make sure you tip well ;)

  4. finnegan says:

    I’ll have to check it out sometime.

    I don’t know why, but the name “Tutti Gusti” conjures images in my mind of large people sitting around a table, eating pizza and breaking wind.

  5. TM says:

    We got Tutti Gusti take-out while the students were on Winter Break. I like Franco’s buffalo chicken pizza better, but TG is definitely worth a try. Can’t wait to go back and try some other menu items like the calzone or a panini and maybe spend some time at the nice bar they have set up in the back (it was empty when we went to check it out while waiting for our order).
    I agree about the name though. It’s unique but it sounds too much like Tooty Fruity.
    It’s another chain, but Jimmy John’s next door has pretty good sandwiches, though I felt I wasn’t getting much my money.

  6. Josh says:

    FYI Tutti Gusti’s chef used to work at Bravo’s.

  7. charles chenault says:

    Brent – as a large person, I question the accuracy of your comment. I have never eaten pizza at Tutti Gusti. The remainder may be somewhat accurate.
    Thanks I think – Charlie

  8. Christa says:

    I’m still a huge fan of the Blue Stone Inn. Best food in Rockingham Co. and worth the little bit of a drive. Great seafood and great steaks.

  9. finnegan says:


    I stand corrected.

    I wonder if they need a mascot…


  10. Lowell Fulk says:

    You are one of my favorite people.

  11. MAW says:

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Bar-B-Que Ranch. I have a niece who works there. She makes awesome tips! I just recently went to eat there, basically to give her a hard time. The food was really good. It’s basically (seems to be my word for the day) fast food, but it’s good. I loved being able to have funnel cake in the middle of winter!

    I didn’t like that they allow smoking in such a small place and it’s really cold in there. I had to eat with my coat on.

    I just thought for sure someone would have mentioned it by now.

  12. eso says:

    How is Kyoto’s (sp?) “Japanese steakhouse” now?

    Many years ago I wasn’t that impressed with them, but I hear they have changed hands?

  13. Seth says:

    while i do appreciate the classic places in town, i don’t think i’d go so far as to say that the food at the barbeque ranch is ‘really good.’ perhaps if you really like fried food. the atmosphere is what makes it a gem. catch it when the antique car shows roll through in the summertime. if you’re looking for a great barbeque joint that stakes its reputation on the food (you will have to live without the archetypal red and white checked table cloths), go check out the smoking pig.

  14. David Troyer says:


    I would second that. I wouldn’t consider Barbeque Ranch that great… unless you had a serious hankering for fried anything.

  15. Laura says:

    Gxeremio – Great tip on A&T’s Chicken! I’d never had it before but stopped by for some carryout today. Wonderful. Thanks!

  16. Frank J Witt says:

    A great pizza place is The Galley. Wonderful big subs that are actually full of meat. Plus, they are opening another location where Wood Fired Oven Pizza was. That location is next to Sign Pro, in front of Lowe’s. Jimmy does a great job of making sure the food is always good.

  17. Dave Briggman says:

    Anybody know where you can get a great Gyro locally?

  18. Frank J Witt says:

    Dave, The Galley has a Gyro but I have to be honest I have NEVER had a bad one so I think theirs is good…obviously.

  19. johnmarr says:


    Try Xenia’s Kabob Grille. They have awesome food including gyros.

  20. TM says:

    Noticed what I think is a new Taco Truck on Reservoir St. on my way into work today. It’s a white truck parked in front of the business across the street from Harrisonburg Health-Rehab Center.

  21. fuzzwell says:

    I agree with the comments on Dave’s not being a good place to eat because of long service times and incorrect orders.

    Do the owners of Dave’s know how people feel about their restaurant?

  22. JGFitzgerald says:

    My fries were tepid once at Dave’s. Once. Other than that ..,. are we talking about the same restaurant?

  23. Fuzz ~ if he did know about the complaints of his restaurant, I doubt he cares. He has nothing to lose with the college kids and cheap beer prices. After the stiff way he treated Barb and I when we met at a US FOODS foodshow, I refuse to give him 1 single dollar. That and to have his help smoking on the sidewalk just outside his door is rude. But that’s just my humble opinion.

  24. David Troyer says:

    TM said:

    Noticed what I think is a new Taco Truck on Reservoir St. on my way into work today. It’s a white truck parked in front of the business across the street from Harrisonburg Health-Rehab Center.

    That could quite possibly be the El Salvadorian Pupusaria truck. I have seen it around town at other places. It is quite tasty, Pupusas are these tasty little fried corn tortillas stuffed with corn/pork/cheese/bean.

  25. Josh says:

    White truck report – it’s a taco truck. I had lunch there today. Good… but I think I prefer Tacos El Primo.

    So where does the pupusaria truck park? I’d love to try their pupusas sometime.

  26. TM says:

    Awesome, Josh. Thanks for the info. The location might make up for the lower quality for me, it’s right on my way to work. Tacos El Primo is out of the way for me. BTW, I think I saw a sign on the truck that said “Rico’s Tacos”
    Also, I hadn’t heard of them before today, but a pupusaria sounds great!

  27. Has anyone else been to “Napoli” yet…in the ool Luigi’s spot on 42?

    Bar and I got home from eating there and I will tell you it was VERY GOOD! Nicely decorated with pleasant colors, new floor, and outstanding Italinao dishes. I had the Chicken Marsala, comes with a side slad and fresh, hot seasoned rolls…Lunch $6.95 portion was more than enough for me…served with spaghetti noodles covered in the creamy Marsala wine sauce.

    Barb ordered the Tortellini Alla Crema, which features tortilleni with Bacon and parmesan cheese in a white cream sauce. Wonderful and served with salad and roll as well. $4.95 off the luch menu (lunch menu until 3 PM then dinner till 10 PM daily with slightly higher prices and portions)
    Dr. Pepper for me $1.50 w/ 1 free refill and Barb had a C/Light for $2.50

    Really impressed that someone else knows how to make fresh tasteful Italiano dishes…I can only hope you decide to try them out.

    I have not found their menu online yet but if I can scan it properly I will save links to it here.

  28. Emmy says:

    I wondered how that place was Frank. Glad to hear it is good!

  29. David Troyer says:

    The Pupusa truck is often on North 11 on the West side of the road immediately South of the Citgo station in the parking lot of what used to be a car wash. It can be hit or miss. Don’t expect any english, but that is part of the fun :-)

  30. I think I am diggin’ this whole “nothing to do all day” thing that I am working on. I just today ordered a Steak and Cheese sub with Mush & Onions from Little Italy Pizza (1469 S. Main) right next to Wilco Conv. store. $6.16 for the approx 8″ sub. It was obviously made with a Steak-Umm style meat instead of a more classic Beef Breakway but overall it had some nice flavors. No side included although a sign in the lot said if you orded a sub, you would get FREE fries…oh well. Nice inside, and they were busy for lunch. GoLookOn.com has their menu. I think they have been open for about one year so things might be doing OK for them.
    I heard over the weekend that Little Grill has S L O W service…but I have never been therebecuase of tales of hygiene issues…just what I hear…if this is not the case, please advise and I will get there sometime this week. Any suggestions…nothing vegan PLEASE !

  31. finnegan says:

    The Little Grill’s service is anything but slow.

    And everyone I know of that has ever made claims of uncleanliness or questioned the Grill’s hygiene also regularly eats burgers from fast food joints with proven levels of fecal chloroform in them, so I call shenanigans on that.

    Go there on Tuesday night for Mexi Night or Friday for Down Home Night.

  32. Frank J Witt says:

    OK, tomorrow night for Mexi Night…any suggestions? I am looking forward to this!

  33. JW says:

    Mexi-night is an all-you can eat vegetarian mexican plate.
    generally comes with:
    brown rice
    black or pinto beans, which need a bit of salt
    2 bean tacos (with thicker than normal shells, tasty) topped with shredded cabbage, onions and cilantro
    a “potato roll-up” which is similar to an enchilada
    and a “cheese rag” which is small thin tortilla, spiced and filled with melted cheese.
    Bid dollop of sour cream, and you can ask for more or less cilantro or jalepeno..
    oh, and a generous sprinkle of parmesean cheese.

    it is decidedly NOT along the line of what you will find at El Charro
    different, and not bad for $6.95 for all you can eat.

    Little Grill has good food, and may shock some people’s sensibilities of what a modern “restaurant” should be.. but it’s as clean (or cleaner) than L&S diner, or any Waffle House. The cooks in the kitchen aren’t hiding, and it’s definitely got character.

    Try it for breakfast on the weekend. Get there at 9 to beat the rush. Lines out the door by 9:30 or 10 AM. Their breakfasts are better than most, my favorites:
    Brickers Son- two eggs, done toad-in-a-hole style in wheat toast, smothered in veggie chili, and cheese melted on top. Side of spicy potatoes (cubed style hash browns)

    Breakfast grinder.. on a roll. Yum.

  34. Frank J Witt says:

    WOW ~ what a week of disappointments for food and service as well. I know this is supposed to be about H-Burg however, I want to share so no one else wastes their time and MONEY on bad food/service. first off, to Kathy’s in Staunton. How they are still in business with miserable waitresses and poorly made seafood is beyond me. Unless they have the town fooled, the food is well below standard fare. Next up a trip to Mrs. Rowes also in Staunton. Also a place that has been open for quite some time and must have a huge following to be able to charge what they do for the quality of poorly cooked food. Turkey that was dry as sand,and a re-heated gravy that was chunky/lumpy and somehow “wrong”. I have read many positive reviews and I must be missing something. And lastly and most shockingly is the NEW Shenandoah Grill on 340 just outside town of Shenandoah…new wide open space with space heaters trying to take a chill out of the air and the waitresses attitude. Not so much as as smile from her and a “Here’s your menus” welcome. At first glance the menu had great prices. Ordered the Turkey Club and got just that with day old bacon. It is to point out that the turkey was real turkey. We also ordered the Grilled Chicken Sub…ad got JUST that. Bun and one small breast that may have been pre-cooked and a sub roll, nothing else. We asked for lettuce tomato and mayo and we got that as well as the core of the tomato still in tact and the heart of day or two old lettuce. The steak fires seemed to be baked instead of fried which was nice but not nice enough to ever try again.

    Either we have too high expectations of what quality food is or most people just decided that “good enough” is good enough.

  35. Frank J Witt says:

    BTW ~ Emmy and Joshua, thank you for very delicious recipes…both were superb. I prefer the chunky peanut butter but both were great. Thanks again ! !

  36. MAW says:

    Just had my very first visit to Wright’s Dairy Rite. Awful. No reason to return. Can’t figure out what all the hype is about at that place.

  37. Emmy says:

    Sad to hear that about Rowe’s. I used to go there often for breakfast. In fact I used to wake up craving it. They had some amazing sausage gravy. Mrs. Rowe was still alive then; maybe that’s the difference.

    Glad you liked the pie recipe.

  38. Josh says:

    Does anyone know anything about the new pupuseria on Country Club Rd?

  39. Josh says:

    I also heard rumors about a new indian place going in where Kitchen Classics was located!

  40. Emmy says:

    I saw a sign the other day for the new place Josh.

  41. Frank J Witt says:

    The owner of Taste of India, the place opening where we were, has some big ideas. He hopes to have a $4.99 lunch buffet for starters but he tells me the other dishes he makes are the reason everyone will be coming back. I hope he does well and doesn’t experience the same hassles we had…but…I wish he well.

    He didn’t give me a timeline but I know he starts paying rent the 1st of May so the clock is ticking.

  42. Gxeremio says:

    “Does anyone know anything about the new pupuseria on Country Club Rd?”

    We ate there the other night. Pretty simple place, but we liked the pupusas. We tried the cheese and the cheese and pork pupusas. Both were good. For four it’s about $6. Not surprisingly, it’s a predominantly Spanish-language environment, though there was a waitress who spoke English quite well. Give it a try if you have a chance and support local business.

    We also got to check out McAlister’s, the new restaurant near the movie theater. Good prices (like around $5-$8 for an entree). I had a meatloaf parmesan sandwich which was tasty, and the wife had a stuffed potato (huge portion on that one) which is kind of a signature item there. Really nice environment, a wifi bar with electrical outlets (!), people who come around to get you refills and stuff. I think it will be very successful. It opens today.

  43. Frank J Witt says:

    It’s a pretty simple menu but we put it together with some great prices…try it sometimes please…http://americanlegionpost188.blogspot.com/

  44. finnegan says:

    Nine restaurants and cafes downtown are running meal and drink specials today, tomorrow and Thursday.

    Here’s a list.

  45. Been a while since I last found someplace “new” to eat (for me anyway) but I had the pleasure of eating at “The Hungry Farmer” today. It is located inside the Shenandoah Farmers Market on South 11. It is owned and operated by the same people that had Daily Grind. They sold all but the Valley Mall store and opened on May1. The food is all homemade and wonderful. Saturday they have a buffet with some fantastic items like BBQ Chicken, Oven Roasted Pork Tenderloin, fresh steamed veggies, Sweet Potatoe Casserole, and a delicious Strawberry/Blackberry/Blueberry dessert ove Home Made Pound Cake. They do have menu items and she said the Angus Beef Burgers are a huge success. Please, if you have some time and a little cash ($20.12 for 2 people w/drink) give it a try.

  46. Josh says:

    Pho Ha changed ownership a few months ago and is now named “Vietopia.” The menu has expanded to include things like banh mi sandwiches, che thai dessert, etc. Everything was tasty and very reasonably priced (e.g. sandwich was $3.50, cheaper than subway, plus they have a buy 5 get 1 free deal). I highly recommend checking it out!

  47. Thanh says:

    Thanks Josh for reminding me about Vietopia! I haven’t tried it yet, but have been very excited to learn that they have banh mi. I hope they’re like the ones I am familiar with – I grew up in Northern Virginia, which has a decently sized Vietnamese community up there. I haven’t had a sandwich in this style in a very long time!

    For those who enjoy day hikes or need to pack some food for road trips, this banh mi is VERY packable, like a Mr J’s bagel sandwiches. They don’t get grossly squished in your back pack. My family used to, and still does, pack these when we go on trips together.

  48. Josh says:

    My sandwich was an 8″ toasted french roll with french ham jamon(sp?), pork loaf, pate of some sort, vietnamese mayo, cilantro, marinated carrots, jalapenos.

    My friend and I split two desserts: one was this cold soup of sorts with jackfruit, durian, jelly things; the other was various sweet beans and ice and I don’t really know how to describe.

    Needless to say: unlike anything I’ve had in Hburg.

    The damage: $22 for one order of pho, a banh mi, a spring roll type thing of some sort, a young coconut drink and the two desserts.

  49. Josh says:

    FYI The Smoking Pig by the mall is closing at the end of the month. Their downtown and new Grottoes locations are doing fine and will remain open.

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