Make Orange County, VA Your Food Destination!
Some would say a vacation is only as good as the food you eat during the trip. With that in mind, you can count on having a memorable trip when visiting Orange County, Va., because you’ll certainly be eating well.
A hidden gem for foodies close to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Orange County, Virginia, has a long history filled with flavorful, one-of-a-kind eats. After all, it isn’t just the birthplace of late chef Edna Lewis, known as “the Grande Dame of Southern Cooking,” but is also home to the “fried chicken capital of the world”.
Chef Edna Lewis grew up in Orange County’s Freetown before going on to have a successful career at New York City restaurants and writing four popular cookbooks, including “The Taste of Country Cooking,” filled with dishes inspired by life in the South. While Lewis, who was even referred to as “the South’s answer to Julia Childs,” passed away in 2006, her recipes live on at some restaurants in Orange County through the Edna Lewis Menu Trail.
The trail, which aimed to celebrate several of the chef’s signature dishes, gave diners the chance to try some of Lewis’s most popular recipes while dining at restaurants throughout the county. While the trail ended in May, some of the eateries continue to serve Lewis’s dishes, like The Vintage Restaurant near Orange, where her sticky ribs are featured on the lunch menu, and The Barbeque Exchange in Gordonsville, which still serves the chef’s Brunswick stew.
Speaking of Gordonsville, the small town is another reason Orange County should be a must-visit for any foodie. It has been famous for its fried chicken since residents began serving it to train passengers traveling through in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The town, which has garnered such nicknames as the “chicken-leg center of the universe,” celebrates this unique part of its history by hosting the Gordonsville’s Famous Fried Chicken Festival every year.
The event, set for Oct. 7 this year, will include a fried chicken cook-off as well as a pie contest, a wine garden and an array of arts and crafts tables with homemade goods up for grabs. During the cook-off, locals as well as visitors from all over, armed with secret seasonings and their own original recipes, will compete to see which fried chicken reigns supreme.
(And if you want to attend, you’re in luck! We’re giving away two tickets to the festival, a stay at a local B&B, a wine-tasting package and two tickets to James Madison’s Home Montpelier Museum. Head over here to try to win!)
Of course, you don’t have to visit during the festival to get your hands on a plate of memorably mouthwatering fried chicken. The Gordonsville Ice House serves crispy yet juicy fried chicken alongside award-winning beer in a relaxed atmosphere year-round. Meanwhile, Coopers Cookin’ and Catering in Orange offers delectable fried chicken made from scratch using a family recipe passed down through generations. You can also catch Barbara’s Soul Food on Wheels, which travels throughout the county and often has fried chicken on its menu.
If you’re craving something besides fried chicken, there are an assortment of restaurants in Orange County serving everything from specialty pizzas to fresh seafood and so much more.
The Market at Grelen in Somerset has a café offering a unique and diverse lunch menu that you can enjoy while surrounded by the natural beauty of the area. Whether you try the rosemary radish chicken salad, pimento cheese deep or cheddar chive biscuits, you’re bound to be happy with your choice. Just make sure you also save room for one of their homemade ice cream flights too.
For a brunch that’ll have you feeling full and satisfied all day long, head over to Spoon and Spindle in Orange. Offered on Saturdays and Sundays, their brunch menu is filled with craveable dishes like a fried chicken burrito, oyster scrambler, catfish and grits, breakfast fried rice and more. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try the “bonuts,” which consists of two fried biscuit donuts, blueberry jam and lemon royal icing.
Wanting a little entertainment with your meal, Forked on Main in Orange often has live music as well as a full menu of dishes that’ll have you coming back for more. From the pan-seared pot stickers to its mushroom pesto campanelle to the beat and goat cheese salad, Forked on Main offers a diverse line-up of delicious dinners. If you’re not sure what to get, try their signature shrimp and grits made with fried shrimp, cheddar cheese grits, corn, baby spinach and Tasso ham. You won’t regret it.
There are also several wonderful pizza restaurants, from Mario’s Pizzeria in Orange to Fabio’s Pizzeria in Gordonsville, where you can grab a slice of freshly made pizzas. At Iron Pipe Alewerks in Orange you can get handmade, brick oven pizzas like the Kick’n Chicken, which is made with hand-stretched dough, barbecue sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese, topped with chicken chunks, red onions, jalapeño peppers and a sprinkle of bacon.
No matter where you decide to sit down for a meal during your visit to Orange County though, there’s one thing that’s certain – you’ll be telling everybody about how great your vacation was for years to come.