Lynchburg restaurants offer groundbreaking cuisine and unique experiences.
With Southern hospitality, a revitalized downtown and one of the longest-running farmers markets in the country, it’s no surprise that Lynchburg is home to a flourishing foodie scene. Have a craving? Here, there’s a culinary destination to satisfy it. Read on for some of the best Lynchburg restaurants, from upscale steakhouses and popular pubs to artisan bakeries and intimate cafes.
Offering a blend of old and new, the William & Henry Steakhouse is the perfect complement to The Virginian Hotel, one of the city’s grandest, most historic properties. The stylish bar serves classics like the gin gimlet and old fashioned along with fresh creations like the Toasted Rita with coconut rim.
William & Henry is the restaurant of choice for special occasions and business dinners. While they serve an excellent crab cake, the 22-ounce, bone-in signature steak steals the show. The restaurant is named for the two operators’ fathers, William and Henry, who served in World War II and whose portraits hold a place of honor in the entryway.
For elevated pub grub and fresh seafood, locals have turned to The Dahlia since 1947. The Bedford Avenue mainstay is still family-owned. Patrons can come in five nights a week for happy hour and a game of darts, or they can settle in for dinner, with favorites like the Certified Angus Beef ribeye, fish and chips or signature tacos. For seafood lovers, the oysters on the half shell, organic salmon and seared scallops are always a good bet.
Saturdays are lively with the brunch crowd, who start their meal with a complimentary Bloody Mary, mimosa, screwdriver or red eye. It’s hard to choose between the Egg Surry — featuring cheese grits and hash browns topped with country ham, eggs, crabmeat and hollandaise — or the One-Eyed Belgian Bacon Cheeseburger between fresh waffles.
Every grocery store has a bakery department, but nothing beats a hometown bake shop.
“We love that locals make us part of their week, whether they’re coming in for local coffee and a little treat on a Saturday morning or purchasing products for friends or the office,” says Head Pastry Chef/CEO Maria Niechwiadowicz.
To ensure the highest quality, Maria uses commercial-grade flour like King Arthur as well as local grains, like Deep Roots Milling, Grapewood Farm and Wade’s Mill, which she says yields a deeper, more earthy flavor.
This spring, The Flour District and its partner business, Scratch Pasta, will move to 2204 Bedford Avenue. The former Dr. Pepper warehouse is sure to become the city’s next foodie destination. Guests can sit down with an artisan pastry, shop for local pasta and unique wines, or enjoy a sit-down meal at Truss.
Maria is a home-trained pastry chef with Polish and Scandinavian family influences. “I grew up with a lot of cookies and sweets during the holidays,” she says. “My soul pastry is the cardamom knot, a brioche bun with cardamom and sugar that bakes in a beautiful little knot. It just speaks to me.”
Isabella’s Italian Trattoria has been serving the Lynchburg community for more than 14 years. The family-owned neighborhood restaurant offers contemporary northern Italian cuisine with an emphasis on local ingredients.
“We’ve really evolved over the years to adapt to our customers’ tastes and preferences,” says owner Cheri Barauskas. “They travel regularly and bring back ideas to us.”
Isabella’s makes its own pasta, including ravioli, bucatini, orecchiette and pappardelle. They also look to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program for most sustainable fish to offer on their menus, such as barramundi, trout and rockfish. Recently, they’ve been incorporating Calabrian chiles in their sautéed mussels and gourmet pizzas. Isabella’s offers seasonally inspired specials, from roasted butternut squash salad in the winter to pasta primavera in the summer.
“Since we’re a community restaurant, we love supporting other community businesses, from our furniture by local craftsmen to our ground beef and flank steak from Seven Hills Food,” says Cheri.
Long-time favorites remain the dried fig salad, lobster bisque, chicken parmesan and lasagna. Just be sure to save room for dessert — the blood orange olive oil cake with mascarpone mousse is made in house at one of the most beloved Lynchburg restaurants.
Open seven days a week, Iron & Ale is a popular choice for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch. The second-story balcony is a favorite perch for sipping a fresh mocktail, craft cocktail or one of three dozen beers on tap. Game days are a big draw with fans gathered around 15 televisions and a 150-inch projection screen.
Iron & Ale gives a fresh take on appetizers, wraps, salads and sandwiches with gluten-free and vegetarian options. Groups nosh on shared plates from beer-battered fried pickles and pulled pork tater tots to poutine and Nashville hot chicken sliders. Burgers are made with pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free Virginia Angus beef from Seven Hills Food.
Located near Randolph College, Rivermont Pizza has been a Lynchburg staple for 15 years. Pies are made-to-order in the wood-fired oven with housemade mozzarella and dozens of gourmet toppings. While traditional Margherita and red sauce pizzas are on the menu, there are plenty of more creative options. The Connie Hall features Thai sauce, tofu, daikon sprouts, jalapeños and crushed peanuts, while the Pistachio Pesto is topped with roasted chicken and goat cheese. Gluten-free crusts and vegan cheese are also available.
An extensive list of libations includes cocktails, wine, nonalcoholic beers and draft beers from Virginia breweries and beyond. Guests can also purchase beer and wine on-site at Ned’s Beer Shop. Be sure to put this pizza place on the top of your Lynchburg restaurants to visit.
Former chef at Rivermont Pizza Shawn Merrow transformed an old building downtown into a beautiful, intimate restaurant. With just 11 tables, Grey’s is open for dinner three nights a week and brunch on weekends. “We wanted to focus on a small affordable menu with Southern influences,” says Shawn.
Every week specials are written out in colorful chalk. Shawn says he loves the freedom of creating new dishes that don’t have to be defined. A few of the menu mainstays include the Korean fried chicken, smoked trout cake and shrimp and grits, all artfully plated.
Husband-and-wife team Ken and Jessica Hess signed the lease for County Smoak in February 2020, so when the pandemic hit there was no looking back. “Starting a business during COVID was difficult but our customers have been so supportive of us,” says Ken.
To give back to the community that supports them, County Smoak donates free meals to the Lighthouse Community Center and created a Thankful Thursdays program. “If you’ve lost your job, are going through chemo, your radiator is out, or you’re just having a bad day, we will feed you no questions asked,” says Ken. They are he perfect choice for when community meets food and one of the Lynchburg restaurants you can feel good supporting.
Both trained chefs from the Culinary Institute of America, Ken and Jessica both bring something to the table. Along with being a barbecue pitmaster and teaching cooking classes, Ken brings experience from the Greenbrier and the Homestead resorts. Building on her Jewish heritage, Jessica creates authentic comfort foods like matzo-ball-inspired chicken and dumplings.
“Before we opened, we spent three months doing barbecue competitions around the country and trying different restaurants,” says Ken. “We knew when we opened our own place, we had to get everything right, where the menu was well-crafted and unique.”
By Laura Lee
Laura Lee is a Virginia-based freelance writer who loves to explore the state with her husband, two boys, and dog, Lillian.