The holidays can be stressful enough without compounding the situation with visiting family members that may or may not always share your same values. Let’s face it, some of them just make the yuletide a little less gay. And some are just crazy mofos.
But it is the holidays, and they are family.
One solution: pile everyone in Cousin Eddie’s tenement on wheels and enjoy a nice night out at one of Coastal Virginia’s amazing restaurants.
A well-executed meal, a good bottle of wine, and a lovely atmosphere of low lighting and soft music can soothe the savage beast, and by savage beast, I mean your mother-in-law.
Here are five fabulous places to splurge this season on eats and drinks that your guests will be Facebooking back to their friends in Nebraska about.
1. Byrd & Baldwin Brothers Steakhouse
Opening in 2006, the owners of Byrd & Baldwin Bros. Steakhouse set out to fill a void of a traditional steak and chophouse in downtown Norfolk. Housed in the circa 1906 building of the same name, Byrd & Baldwin Bros. Steakhouse sets out to deliver a memorable dining experience, and in our case they fulfilled their mission.
Eat: Start the table off with a dozen (or two) freshly shucked oysters, served with cocktail sauce and fresh horseradish. The beautifully marbled Harris Ranch Beef ribeye, aged on site for a minimum of 21 days, is a favorite of mine. It’s the holidays; live a little and add a six ounce cold water lobster tail.
Drink: I love seeing a nice selection of Virginia wines here. The Boxwood Left Bank Bordeaux Blend, from Middleburg, is bold and beautiful and perfect with steak.
Byrd & Baldwin is at 116 Brooke Ave., Norfolk. Call 757-222-9191 or visit www.ByrdBaldwin.com.
2. Le Yaca French Restaurant
I understand your hesitation at bringing relatives from that side of the family to a French restaurant, but while completely refined, this is not one of those fancy-smancy places. Le Yaca offers a comfortable, relaxed Old World feel; the amazing food from the kitchen seals the deal.
Several unique dining rooms accommodate guests. Soft colors, ivory linens, fresh flowers and attentive service set the tone that you are in for something special. And you are.
I was delighted to hear owners Chef Daniel and wife Joy Abid are opening a location in Virginia Beach in 2017.
Eat: Chef Daniel’s Le Crabe is a gorgeous Frenchified take on crab cakes; this large cake, with almost no binder, is pan-seared and served with beurre blanc sauce. Entrees come with a choice of onion soup (get it), soup of the day or house salad. Order escargot for the little brats at the table and tell them later they ate snails.
Drink: start off with a round of French 75 cocktails; the boozy mix of cognac (or gin), Champagne, lemon juice and sugar is named after the French 75mm field gun of World War I. And, that’s because you drink enough, you’ll feel like you’ve been shelled. Finish dinner with a bottle of bubbly and watch Aunt Bethany get giggly as a school girl.
Le Yaca is at 1430 High St., Williamsburg. Call 757-220-3616 or visit www.LeYacaWilliamsburg.com.
3. Salacia Prime Seafood and Steaks
Winter, spring, summer or fall, you come to Virginia Beach for the views, and the soaring floor-to-ceiling windows opening out onto the sand and surf are just what your family from Landlockedia will ooh and ahh over.
With a dining room like this, you know you are in for something special. A small-ish room makes it cozy and clubby. Modern accents, amazing service and incredible food help appreciate why this is a AAA Four Diamond-designated restaurant.
Seafood is always a treat here; Salacia and sister eatery Catch 31 source fresh and local, and the steaks – aged prime beef – are truly amazing.
Eat: Start with he paper-thin slices of prime tenderloin in the Beef Carpaccio, so good even your mother will eat raw meat. It’s garnished with a dressed arugula salad, white truffle oil and shaved parmesan reggiano. The Argentinean Arrachera, a 12-ounce marinated skirt steak with chimichurri, is phenomenal.
Drink: The wine list is impressive; I’d grab a Tempranillo with my skirt steak. And I’d start with a clubby cocktail to match the surrounding, a well-made, classic Manhattan, Mad Men style.
Salacia is inside the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront hotel at 3001 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach. Call 757-213-3473 or visit www.SalaciaVB.com.
4. Vintage Tavern
Your kinfolk should be impressed with Vintage Tavern the moment you pull up to the imposing two-story, wood and stone craftsman-inspired restaurant; we are. The attention to detail carries inside to the quaint tavern-style bar, cozy fine dining room, garden terrace and veranda.
The restaurant, open since 2006, serves what they call seasonally southern cuisine. We concur. Every meal we’ve had here has been firmly rooted in both the season as well the region. Oh, and delicious, too.
Eat: Now is the time to showcase the region. Start with the Taste of Southern Goodness, a platter with biscuits, deviled eggs, pickles, country ham, tavern sausage and housemade preserves. Spend three bucks more for goodness sake and add the pimento cheese. The House Smoked Baby Bake Ribs gets my attention, served slathered in molasses barbecue sauce and with sides of double cheddar macaroni and cheese and housemade pickles.
Drink: Uncle Lewis doesn’t have to drink the Tavern Tini with his pinkie extended, but he may want to after one side of this dirty vodka martini served straight up with bacon and blue cheese stuffed olives.
Vintage Tavern is at 1900 Governors Pointe Dr., Suffolk. Call 757-238-8808 or visit www.VintageTavernVirginia.com.
5. Zoës Steak and Seafood
Zoës is an intimate, upscale-but-not-pretentious 16 table fine dining restaurant, pleasing palates by delicious dishes from Executive Chef Jesse Wykle. Zoës is one of only a handful of Four-Diamond restaurants in Virginia.
When making a reservation, ask for the large curved booth that faces the open kitchen, sit back and relax in the plush, velvety seat and enjoy the show. Bonus, you will be near the knives in case anyone at your table gets out of hand.
Wykle’s creative menu focuses on seafood and steaks. Complimenting those is an extensive, perfectly curated wine list.
Eat: the 16-ounce Boneless Reserve Angus New York Strip is steak perfection. Get it with the smoked veal demi sauce. Steaks come with buttermilk chive mashed potatoes and grilled broccolini. And for all that is holy, don’t let Uncle Lewis order it more than medium-rare.
Drink: anything that sommelier extraordinaire Marc Sauter recommends.
Zoës is at 713 19th St., Virginia Beach. Call 757-437-3636 or visit www.ZoesVB.com.
Outwire757.com is pleased as punch to welcome Hampton Roads’ own Patrick Evans-Hylton as a regular columnist. He is a Johnson & Wales-trained chef and an award-winning food journalist, covering tasty trends since 1995 in print, broadcast and electronic media. Evans-Hylton is publisher of Virginia Eats + Drinks Magazine. Subscribe free at www.facebook.com/VirginiaEatsDrinksMag
Five Fabulous Eats + Drinks is his column, exclusive to Outwire757.