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Eat Like a Mountain Biker in Virginia’s Blue Ridge
Story by Ginger Warder
Summer is here and it’s time to get those bicycles out of the garage and hit the trails! Designated by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) as the only silver-level ride center on the East Coast—and one of only 15 in the world—Virginia’s Blue Ridge is a perfect choice for riders of all levels. From family-friendly greenways in the city of Roanoke to the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and more than 300 miles of mountain trails, America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital is a cyclist’s bucket list destination.
Of course, you’re going to have to fuel up before and after those rides, so we’ve picked a few favorite spots to help you pack in the protein and carbs. And don’t forget to stay hydrated during your ride!
The Most Important Meal of the Day
You know what Moms say about having a good breakfast! If you’re staying in downtown Roanoke or its Grandin neighborhood, check out On the Rise Bakery for a hearty slice of breakfast pizza—a huge hit with the locals—or grab a pie-sized blueberry or veggie scone to take on the road. Heading to the Mill Mountain trail to see the iconic Roanoke Star? Stop on the way at the vintage house-turned-restaurant Sweet Donkey Coffee for a cup of joe and a pastry or slice of quiche. It’s the only place in town that carries the sustainable coffee line from Counter Culture and is a stone’s throw from downtown, the Mill Mountain trailhead, and the Greenway. If you don’t have time to grab a bite before your ride, pick up a to-go breakfast or picnic lunch at the Roanoke Co-op with locations on Market Street and in Grandin Village.
Photo Credit: Ginger Warder
Local Flavors & Favorites
If you’re craving a burger—or breakfast in the middle of the night—head to Roanoke’s iconic Texas Tavern. This 10-stool diner has been an insiders’ secret since 1930, famed for its burgers and chili. Try a “Cheesy Western,” a burger with onion, pickles, sweet relish, cheese and a fried egg. If you prefer a more upscale burger, hit Jack Brown’s on Market Street for a hearty wagyu beef patty with your choice of toppings.
Try brunch or dinner at River & Rail Restaurant. Chef Aaron Deal is truly a big deal: He has been chosen to cook at the James Beard House several times (most recently showcasing Appalachian cuisine), and the restaurant consistently makes “best of” lists for Southern restaurants. Many items like pickled vegetables and condiments are made from scratch and the chef favors local, wild-caught and organic products for his menu, which changes daily and seasonally.
For homemade pastas, local veggies and exotic choices like bison, head to Local Roots in the Grandin neighborhood. This slow food favorite works with many local and regional farmers and takes a head-to-tail approach with proteins like rabbit—for example, expect to see a rabbit mousse starter alongside a rabbit stew. Try the homemade pasta with spring vegetables.
After you get off the bike trail, hit Virginia’s Blue Ridge Cheers Trail, a collection of regional breweries and wineries with locations near mountain bike trails as well as in downtown Roanoke.
Stop by Deschutes Brewery on Market Street on Wednesday nights for the Old Time Music Jam—if you’re a player, bring your instrument and join in—and try the light and bright Da Schootz summer brew. Or quaff your thirst at Three Notch’d Craft Kitchen & Brewery near Roanoke’s Center in The Square. This brewpub features weekday happy hours and a seasonal menu of beer-infused dishes—even the mustard contains one of the brewery’s signature beers!
For spectacular Blue Ridge Mountain views, wind down on the terrace at the Ballast Point Tasting Room and Kitchen in Botetourt County. The East Coast distribution center for the California-based craft beer giant features a huge tasting room with more than 100 taps, a menu of casual burgers and sandwiches, and a merchandise store.
Photo Credit: Ginger Warder
If you prefer wine, the Cheers Trail features several in the region, including one of Virginia’s largest and oldest wineries, Chateau Morrisette. In addition to a gorgeous tasting room, the winery offers an excellent restaurant, live music in the courtyard on Sundays, and special concert events like the annual Black Dog Beach Music Festival in August.
Or stay in Roanoke and set up a wine and chocolate pairing at Chocolate Paper on Market Street. Owner Melissa Palmer has an excellent palate for both the bean and the grape and the shop has a private tasting room that can accommodate small groups.
For families or a group of friends—or for fans of DIY Network’s Salvage Dawgs —book a stay at the Stonehouse. Located next door to Black Dog Salvage, this 1911 guest house was totally renovated Salvage Dawg-style using reclaimed materials, while preserving the original architectural details and adding a host of modern amenities and stunning up-cycle style. The house—offering a rocking-chair front porch, two spacious decks, a gourmet kitchen and media room—literally sits across the street from the Greenway, so you can hop on the trail in an instant if you can pry yourself away from this gorgeous home.
Photo Credit: Tay Whiteside Black Dog Salvage
For outdoor lovers, Explore Park offers an array of accommodations for every possible camping experience, from roughing it in your own tent to glamping. Choose from basic campsites, yurts, air-conditioned cabins and platform tents, and enjoy a variety of the park’s activities from the aerial adventure course to disc golf, paddling, kayaking, horseback riding and hiking. Onsite outfitter, Blue Mountain Adventures can arrange for any excursion or equipment you desire and offers a variety of tents and campsites. The park’s historic Brugh Tavern will offer a Twin Creeks Brewing tap room beginning in the fall of 2019.
Start with Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge for comprehensive information on area attractions, maps of bike trails, local bike outfitters, bike-friendly lodging and even sample biking itineraries.
Roanoke can be accessed directly off I-81 south or from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 120. The new Amtrak Northeast regional service also delivers visitors from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington into the heart of downtown