You will quickly find that Norfolk is a melting pot of cultures originating from its Naval base and large shipping port; resulting in lots of authentic international cuisine. With more independently owned restaurants per capita than almost any city in the US, it is difficult to highlight all the amazing international foods we have to offer so here are some local favorites to help get you started!
Located in the heart of Norfolk’s NEON Arts District, La Brioche has quickly grown into a favorite French café among locals and visitors alike. Before moving to Norfolk from France, the bakery’s owner, Jacqueline, would consistently visit her sister in the 757 and ask, “where can I get a good croissant?” The simple question eventually sparked the idea for her and her husband to open a bakery of their own in Norfolk. Now the aroma of freshly baked bread will hit you as you open the front door while the owner’s personalities are overly welcoming. Find freshly baked croissants, chocolate and almond flavored eclairs, daily sandwich options and of course, classic warm baguettes to go.
Served cafeteria-style, Mr. Shawarma is arguably the best Middle Eastern street food in the area, offering fresh falafel, warm pita bread and flavored hummus including spicy Jalapeno Cilantro and Habanero Chili. You can also choose classic sauces to top your meal like Garlic Sauce, Tahini dressing and Amba Sauce (a pickled mango sauce with a mildly, spicy kick) to enhance the flavor palate and bring an extra richness to your dish. Not sure how to create the best tasting pita or bowl? Ask one of their friendly staff members for recommendations and they will be happy to help!
If you’re looking for something that is more off the beaten path, try Yock Nook which is not your ordinary Chinese restaurant. Located in the middle of an industrial park, this plain white building is a noodle factory where a “one man kitchen” resides. Yock Nook is merely a takeout counter serving up some of the best authentic chinese dishes this city has seen. Humble with his creations, Chef Shina’s flavor inspiration comes from the far-northeastern region of Dongbei, China, with ingredients often sourced from his personal garden. Although his menu is small in offerings, the two consistent dishes available are beef bunnies (beef dumplings) and Hot and Spicy Noodles. Check their Facebook for hours of operation.
French Bakery & Delicatessen
This Lebanese deli and bakery has been family-owned-and-operated for the past 107 years serving traditional classic deli sandwiches that pair with some of the sweetest dessert treats. You will find owner, George Habid Jr., behind the counter keeping his family tradition alive by pouring his heart and soul into each customer’s order including their most known, melt-in-your-mouth, pastrami sandwiches. Each one is made with homemade french bread that is baked in the original stone oven. Inside you will find what feels like a simpler time with black-and-white family photos personalizing the walls, a retro Coca-Cola refrigerator and glass display cases showing off dozens of sweet treats. Local tip: the orange donuts are to die for and sell out quickly each day, so get there early!
Luce’s intimate setting that is paired with a contemporary twist on authentic Italian food makes it the ideal place for a romantic evening downtown. Their food profiles are exquisite, taking inspiration from both the northern and southern regions of Italy. Some of their favorites include Mushroom Toast (Portobello, white and cremini mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, truffle oil, porcini dust and Madera), Wild Boar Ragu (Ground Cinghiale ragu over our house made tagliatelle pasta topped with roasted pulled Cinghiale with rosemary infused oil) and of course, all the divine desserts. Their dessert menu is ever changing but to put it simply, it’s molto buono!
At Crudo Nudo, you will find yourself asking, “should I nibble on a classic Catalan tapa (spinach, raisins and pine nuts), or dig into a plate full of Charred Spanish Octopus?” Lucky for you, Chef-owner, Eric Nelson has “A Taste of Spain” option on the menu that highlights the best tapas for sampling. Eric has always loved the simplistic flavor profiles of Spanish cuisine and wanted to share the culture’s food with his Norfolk community. You’ll find cod prepared several ways on the menu since this is Eric and his wife’s fish dish from their honeymoon in Spain. Don’t forget to quench your thirst with Spanish wines and chilled cervezas and to please your sweet tooth with espressos and crème de Catalan.
Grace O’Malleys Irish Pub
Norfolk’s only Irish pub, Grace O’Malley’s is centrally located in the heart of downtown and arguably the most authentic international restaurant in the city. Everything in the pub was shipped directly from Ireland; the mahogany woodwork, the light fixtures and even the tile. The owners were determined to give customers a true Irish experience and exceeded expectations with their imported atmosphere, authentic menu and live Irish performers of Gaelic song and dance – you truly feel like you’re in Ireland. Devour traditional dishes like Shepherd’s Pie, made with homemade Guinness brown gravy or their Corned Beef Irish Sub, made with their signature Paddy Old Irish Whiskey sauce. Pair your meal with Guinness and before you know it you’ll be saying, “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!”
This Czechoslovakian restaurant has lived on Granby Street for over 30 years, making it one of Norfolk’s oldest and most beloved restaurants. Its brick exterior and stained glass facade blend beautifully into Granby Street’s historic esthetic. Once you locate the restaurant, open the rustic wooden door and you will immediately feel like you stepped into a traditional European dining room. With its dark wooden modelings, dimmed chandeliers, wooden antique chairs, deep red table cloths paired with fresh smells of homemade goulash and owners Adolf and Anna welcoming you into their beloved establishment, you will no longer need to jump on a plane to get a taste of Eastern Europe. Their menu items are tantalizing, and classic dishes await like their La Raclette Valaisienne appetizer (crisped Raclette cheese served on a sizzling plate with lyonnaise potatoes, capers and thinly sliced pickles), Wiener Schnitzel, Cassoulet Maison (a rich, slow-cooked navy bean casserole containing beef, artisan ham and homemade smoked sausage which gives it a rich smoky flavor). End your meal with a sweet bite, a warm Palacinki which comes stuffed with seasonal fruit and cottage cheese.
Tucked among shopping malls in our Military Highway neighborhood, Tamarind is an unpretentious restaurant serving up the most authentic – and only – Indian street food in the area – Chaat. Chaat is an assorted savory snack typically served at every roadside track, from big outlets to small carts in India, Pakistan and rest of South Asia. Their menu may be intimidating to those who have never dipped their taste buds into Indian street food before, but rest assured, this family-owned and operated restaurant will guide you through any hesitations and answer any questions you may have. Try dishes like their Samosa, a crispy pastry stuffed with cumin potato, peas, coriander and served with tamarind and mint chutney, Gobi Manchurian, cauliflower coated in a Manchurian sauce which is made from scratch, or settle for a classic Curry Chicken with Rice. And while an Indian restaurant’s curry spiced air sparks memories of flavorsome meals, it’s their scrumptious homemade cuisine they purposely brought to Norfolk that will keep you coming back for more.