Hanging out in Merroire. Photograph by Tyler Darden.
With 1,109 miles of coastline along the Chesapeake Bay and the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers, the Northern Isthmus, a picturesque peninsula off the coast of Virginia, is about three hours from Washington. Its growing food scene is defined both by its water workers and their rich trophies and by the generosity of the farmers who work on this green patch.
Your first stop in the morning should be local (4337 Irvington Road, Irvington)an invigorating cafe where strong coffee is combined with friendly service and a casual breakfast.
Next: Chesapeake Donat Co. (500 Dr. Rappahannock, White Stone) for colorful rounds like lemon cream, maple bacon, and “Homer,” a Simpsons-inspired pink-iced donut studded with rainbow sprinkles. For hearty breakfasts Car Wash Cafe (481 N. Main St., Kilmarnock) there is a soft-shelled Benedict killer crab. Bonus: you can wash your car nearby.
If you would like a picnic lunch, please click here. river market (1 Dr. Rappahannock, White Stone), a grocery/deli offering wide-jawed sandwiches. For a seated meal Lee (30 S. Main Street, Kilmarnock) specializes in home surf and turf – a hefty crab cake sandwich, plenty of burgers, southern snacks like fried green tomatoes and hush pappies, and generous wedges of pie.
Cooking for yourself? Head to Miss Mary Seafood (758 Dr. Rappahannock, White Stone), a first-class fishmonger whose ice troughs are full of fresh oysters, crabs and fish. Pit stop on Old farm truck market (453 Dr. Rappahannock, White Stone) required for local produce, small batch food, cheeses made by Nano-Creamers in Virginia and Maryland, and loaves courtesy of regional bakeries, including Richmond’s award-winning Sub-Rosa. Speaking of bread oven bakery (549 Dr. Rappahannock, White Stone) Ideal for pastries, biscuits, pastries, pies, cakes and breads.
After all this running around, take a breather in Ditchley Cider Works (1571 Ditchley Rd., Kilmarnock) with a glass of slightly fizzy, not too sweet Rivah cider. You can also purchase home-made sausages from traditional grass-raised pigs and cows.
Your obligatory dinner order at with the flow (572 Dr. Rappahannock, White Stone)run by Chef Devin Rose and his wife, Katie, who looks after the house. His seasonal cooking is a strong expression of contemporary Virginia cuisine. The couple recently divided the space of the restaurant to make room for Moor, a small liquor store and market filled with many Virginia-produced products – Shack sorghum hot sauce, Lindera farm vinegar, Twenty Paces cheeses. On Fridays and Saturdays, it serves a simple lunch menu of sandwiches and small plates.
Another decent option: Merroir (784 Locklies Creek Rd., Topping), a fresh tasting room on the banks of the Rappahannock. It is owned by the enterprising cousins behind the Rappahannock Oyster Co. and will keep you up to your neck in freshly caught seafood and as many oysters as you can eat.
Where to stay
Suitable for children and pets Tides Inn (480 King Carter Dr., Irvington), right on the water, is a longtime favorite. While you’re there, book a lesson ranging from a delightful interactive oyster farming class to other pottery and cocktail making classes.
Spend a day at Belle Isle State Park (1632 Belle Isle Rd., Lancaster), where you can rent canoes and kayaks to sail the Rappahannock and adjacent streams, tidal wetlands, and tranquil coves. Alternatively, you can rent a bike or go hiking on the easy trails. Keep your eyes open: bald eagles, blue herons and hawks are plentiful.
Connie Zheng icons.
This article appears in May 2022 Washington edition.