07 February 2024

Paul McCartney and Wings: A Beatles Food Tour of Norfolk

Peruse the Beatles’ expansive catalog and you’ll quickly find reference after reference to food in the Fab Four’s songs. To celebrate Paul McCartney’s first-in-the-nation photography exhibit, “Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm,” at Chrysler Museum of Art (now through April 7), we’re tipping our proverbial cap to the “cute” Beatle with a look at local restaurants serving foods mentioned in Beatles songs. 

Yes, McCartney is famously a vegetarian, but the early Beatles were clearly a hungry bunch if their lyrics tell us anything. From references to honey, marshmallow pies, fish and birthday cake, the group likely worked up quite an appetite hauling their own amplifiers from one club to another in places like Liverpool, England and Hamburg, Germany in the early ‘60s. 

Don’t miss these Norfolk eateries where you can get in the spirit of the McCartney exhibition while visiting Mermaid City. 

Honey 

The Beatles sang not once — but twice — about this sweet nectar in the songs, “Honey Pie” (1968) and “A Taste of Honey.” Grandiflora Wine Garden in Chelsea has been known to serve up a tasty side of bread and honey, while Crudo Nudo in Ghent crafts a Manchego and honey that exemplifies why these two flavors work so well together. Meanwhile, a sweet glass of mead (also known as honey wine) can be yours for the asking at The Birch in Chelsea. Codex in the Freemason District also creates a delicious prosciutto and onion tart with blue cheese and a dash of local honey.  

Pork Dishes

While the White Album track “Piggies” may be more of a commentary on rampant consumerism than actual pork, one can’t help but think of thick slabs of bacon and slow-roasted barbecue at its mention. Load up on pork chops, Boston butt roasts, bacon and sausage at Pendulum Fine Meats in Ghent, or dine in and enjoy the can’t-miss Cuban sandwich with smoked pork, Swiss cheese, red onions and pickles and mustard on a house-made flat bread. 

Or head to BAR-Q in Ocean View, where pitmaster Jayme Campbell makes daily magic using pork, wood, fire and smoke. Speaking of barbecue, Redwood Smoke Shack serves up Texas-style ‘cue on the regular – and the daily line out the door proves it’s worth the wait. 

No Norfolk food list would be complete without including chef Sydney Meers, legendary proprietor of Syd’s Fish Pig Cafe in Selden Market. Syd’s Pork-o-Rama pot pie is stuffed with house sausage, ham and pork belly. Other worthwhile pork dishes abound at Syd’s.  

Strawberries

John Lennon famously sang, “Let me take you down, ‘cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields…” and we couldn’t offer a better piece of advice, especially when Norfolk warms up between spring and fall. In this case, we suggest you beeline it up Colley Ave. to Strawberry Fields, where homemade gelato and fresh fruit smoothies are hand-crafted with care.

In fact, Strawberry Fields ticks two Beatles boxes by serving egg custard gelato for fans of “I Am the Walrus” (which references “yellow matter custard.”) And we promise it’s a lot more appetizing at Strawberry Fields than how Lennon described it in the song!

For fresh strawberries in the spring and summer, check out Norfolk’s top three farmers’ markets

Marshmallows

While there’s some debate about whether “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” is a thinly-veiled reference to illicit activities or an innocent tribute to Julian Lennon’s schoolmate Lucy O’Donnell, there’s no doubting that the song is packed with culinary imagery. In it, Wonka-eque tangerine trees meet marmalade skies while rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies. 

Take your own “Lucy” trip with the smores at S’mores Amore in Selden Market, where ridiculously delicious layers of graham cracker cookie crust combine with chocolate brownies topped with fired-right-in-front-of-you marshmallows. We’re not sure which is more fun – watching the staff make s’mores or eating them. 

Sub Sandwiches

Ringo sang “Yellow Submarine,” but Paul actually penned the lyrics. So, was this sea shanty about a footlong sandwich? Unlikely. Still, you can grab tasty subs and other sandwiches at Taste, Granby Street Pizza or Gourmet Gang

Fish

It wouldn’t be a trip to Norfolk without experiencing the Chesapeake Bay’s top seafood restaurants. Because Paul sang about fish pies in “Penny Lane,” we’ll steer you in the direction of Syd’s Fish Pig Cafe, or over to 456 Fish on Granby. Don’t miss savory seafood and fresh smoked meats at The Fishin’ Pig in Railroad District. Ghent is home to local’s-favorite A.W. Shucks, an unpretentious raw bar and grill featuring oysters, other locally-caught seafood, burgers, craft beer and weekly specials. 

Bonus: sushi reigns supreme in Norfolk. Simply use our search function and you’ll find two pages of poke, sashimi, nigiri and classic rolls to choose from!

Wine

The Fab Four reference wine in “Her Majesty,” “A Taste of Honey” and the brooding “Norwegian Wood,” so it’s appropriate that you check out Norfolk’s top wine bars such as Press 626 in Ghent, Mermaid Winery in downtown, Waters Edge Winery in Larchmont-Edgewater and Grandiflora Wine Garden in Chelsea. 

Cake

George Harrison sang, “All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece but not too much,” in the song “It’s All Too Much,” while Lennon reminisced of “eating chocolate cake in a bag” in “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” 

For cake, start at Pownd Cakes by Jen near Park Place, where miniature pound cakes come in flavors such as white chocolate raspberry, lemon, almond, butter and more. Just around the corner at May’s Parlor serves up every manner of pastry imaginable – and is well known for its wedding cakes that are just as beautiful as they are delicious. And while we’re talking delicious, La Brioche Bakery and Coffee in the NEON District, specializes in a variety of cakes, from the raspberry Framboisier to the hazelnut/chocolate mousse mashup known as Mondesir (a French portmanteau for “my desire.”)

 

Tea

As British citizens, the Beatles would have certainly known their way around a tea shop. In fact, they mention tea quite a few times, from “Lovely Rita” to “Good Morning, Good Morning” to “Cry Baby Cry” and “All Together Now.” 

Here in Norfolk, coffee tends to rule the day, but don’t worry – most coffee houses have a decent selection of black, white, green and tisane/herbal teas, and this seems to be improving with each passing year. Start with our guide to Best Coffee Shops in Norfolk blog, then go stock up on Specialty Teas from Norfolk Coffee and Tea Co. at 212 E. 18th St. If bubble tea is your thing, hit up one of Tealux’s two Norfolk locations

Rice

“Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been” may be one of Paul’s finest lyrical moments. To celebrate it, we’ll point you in the direction of several Norfolk places where rice is the star of the show. For Indian delicacies like tender basmati rice, hit up Ghent’s Rajput or Saffron Indian Bistro in Downtown Norfolk. Thai cuisine also features rice prominently, so a trip to Tida Thai on the north end of Downtown Norfolk or Bangkok Garden on 21st. For a Spanish twist on rice, head up to the Riverview neighborhood to Mi Hogar for authentic, no-fuss Mexican fare. 

Wings!

McCarrtney’s second most famous band was called Wings. While the group’s name was inspired by angels, not chickens, we can still employ a little poetic license, can’t we? For chicken wings in the Mermaid City, get your fill of naked or fully-coated platters at Peck & Pour on Colley Ave., or head further north to Hank’s Filling Station or the Dirty Buffalo, which are just a stone’s throw from one another. Paul would likely approve of the vegetarian-friendly cauliflower wings at Hank’s, while carnivores will appreciate the New York style hot wings at Dirty Buffalo. For a real twist, visit ramen shop Alkaline for mind-blowing Asian sticky wings. 

Vegetarian Fare

Were Sir Paul to visit Norfolk these days, he’d head straight to a vegetarian restaurant. For that, it’s hard to beat the menu at Yorgo’s Bagledashery, where vegan BLTs and chick’n salads peacefully coexist with their meat-based counterparts. 

CLTRE is a new face on the Norfolk food scene and it’s drawing veggie-hungry crowds to Selden Market regularly. The pop-up, which started off in Virginia Beach, recently branched out to Norfolk, offering fully vegan spelt and cinnamon raisin waffles and other refreshing departures from the usual meat-heavy breakfast fare found around town.

Other vegetarian options are found at The Ten Top (the potato salad is indescribably good) and Orapax, where you’ll pick up on Mediterranean village vibes as quickly as you can say vegan dolmades!


Want to share pics from your McCartney pilgrimage to Norfolk? Just tag us with #VisitNorfolkVA. 

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