The Best Restaurants in Lexington VA & Natural Bridge VA for Foodies

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Located about halfway between Roanoke and Waynesboro, just over 10 miles west of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Lexington is arguably the most historic town in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. 

Created in 1778 and named after Lexington MA (where the first shot was fired in the American Revolution), the town of around 7,500 people is home to Washington & Lee University (founded in 1749) and the Virginia Military Institute (1839). 

The Rockbridge County area is also known for 50 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the burial sites of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and the farm upon which Cyrus McCormick invented the horse-drawn mechanical reaper. 

The area’s culinary offerings aren’t quite as extensive as some of the larger Blue Ridge Mountain towns we’ve visited (such as Asheville and Roanoke).

But the restaurants in Lexington VA offer a great balance between upscale foodie-friendly fare and budget-friendly options that appeal to the town’s nearly 4,000 college students. 

The best Lexington VA restaurants tap into the rich abundance of farm-to-table ingredients grown nearby, which include grits and grains from historic Wade’s Mill in Raphine, meats from Seven Hills Farm in Lynchburg, and Virginia maple syrup from Puffenbarger’s Sugar Orchard.

Read on for our guide to the best restaurants in Lexington VA for foodies, which also includes popular places in nearby Rockbridge County towns such as Natural Bridge and Steeles Tavern.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Overlooks in NC & VA

 

Best Restaurants in Lexington VA  & Natural Bridge VA Guide

  1. The Pink Cadillac Diner  (’50s-style diner)
  2. Haywood’s  (Fine Dining)
  3. Bistro On Main  (American)
  4. Pure Eats  (Donuts, Burgers & Beer)
  5. Southern Inn  (Southern)
  6. Steeles Tavern Manor  (Breakfast)
  7. Sweet Treats Bakery  (Baked Goods/Sandwiches)
Dining Room at Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge VA
Dining Room at The Pink Cadillac Diner

1. The Pink Cadillac Diner (’50s-style diner)

4743 South Lee Highway, Natural Bridge • 540-291-2378 • $

If you visit Lexington VA, taking a day-trip to the nearby tourist town of Natural Bridge is an absolute must. 

In one adventure-filled day, you can soak in the stunning beauty of Natural Bridge State Park, see geological wonders in the Caverns at Natural Bridge, talk to the animals at Virginia Safari Park, and marvel at the madness of Dinosaur Kingdom II.

The unabashedly nostalgic Pink Cadillac Diner complements this unusual array of attractions perfectly, offering an immersion in colorful ’50s culture that looks like a scene out of Happy Days.

Classic movie posters, album covers, retro signs, and more décor covers most every inch of the walls, while Elvis, Buddy Holly, and other mid-20th century icons rock the jukebox.

The menu is mostly classic “greasy spoon” fare, with hamburgers (including one vegan option), “Hound Dogs” (including Chicago-style), and “All Shook Up” Shakes among the most popular items.

All are served with fries, but we recommend paying the extra $1 to upgrade to Onion Rings or Sweet Potato Fries. 

The double-decker Elvis Burger (which includes cheese and special sauce) is delicious.

But don’t miss their hearty Cadillac Platters, such as Country Fried Steak, “It’s Our Recipe” Meatloaf, and Battered Fish-n-Chips, each of which comes with two sides and fresh baked yeast rolls.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Virginia State Parks in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Seven Hills Farm Filet at Haywood's Piano Bar & Grill in Lexington VA
Seven Hills Farm Filet at Haywood’s

2. Haywood’s Piano Bar & Grill (Fine Dining)

2 North Main Street, Lexington • 540-463-2508 • $$$$

Located in Downtown Lexington across the street from The Georges Inn (of which the restaurant is part), Haywood’s Piano Bar & Grill offers chef-driven cuisine in a casual, but swanky atmosphere. 

A great place for a romantic dinner in Lexington, Haywood’s offers live music (mostly pop/jazz standards) nightly, as well as a solid selection of beers (including several from local breweries), craft cocktails, and wines.

Executive Chef Jason Wilkins’ menu is relatively small, with just four appetizers and two salads to choose from. But everything we tried was sublime, combining fresh local ingredients with a dramatic flair for presentation. 

Case in point: The Filet Mignon from Seven Hills Farm, which was cooked perfectly, topped with Maître d’ Butter, and served with Air-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Beetroot Ketchup, Chive Oil & Toasted Seeds. 

We also loved the Scallops, which were served with Turnips, Horseradish, and Curry Oil. The scallops were huge and tantalizingly tender, with the puréed turnips and horseradish providing just the right amount of seasoning. 

All in all, this was one of our favorite meals we’ve had in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains region. 

READ MORE: The Best Restaurants in Roanoke VA (Virginia’s Blue Ridge)

Mushroom Bruschetta at Bistro On Main in Lexington
Mushroom Bruschetta at Bistro On Main

3. Bistro on Main (American)

8 N Main St, Lexington • 540-464-4888 • $$$

Lexington is a small town, with around 7,500 residents in a 2.52 square mile area. But because it’s also home to two colleges, Downtown Lexington restaurants can get crowded at times. 

Our trip happened to coincide with VMI’s Parents’ Weekend, and almost every one of the restaurants in Lexington VA we  visited was bustling with cadets and their families. 

So it’s a testament to the staff of Bistro On Main that they made us feel like a priority, even though we had no reservation and showed up right before a massive Friday night dinner rush.

The bartender even gave us some tips on the town while we waited for our food. 

Their diverse appetizers range from lightly fried Calamari and Vegetable Spring Rolls with a scallion-soy dipping sauce to a delightfully delicate Mushroom Bruschetta with a creamy white wine sauce so good, we ordered extra bread to dip in it.

Their entrees are more classic Southern fare, including Shrimp & Grits (with that same white wine sauce), Gumbo (with andouille sausage, chicken, and shrimp), and Grilled Salmon (with a maple-Dijon glaze and sweet mashed potatoes).

Coming on the heels of our afternoon carriage tour of historic Lexington, it was a great place for an intimate date night. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Luray VA (Gateway to Shenandoah)

Donuts at Pure Eats in Lexington VA
Donuts at Pure Eats

4. Pure Eats (Donuts, Burgers & Beer)

107 N Main Street, Lexington • 540-462-6000 • $

One of the most popular places to eat in Lexington VA (in part due to its close proximity to both colleges), Pure Eats is best known as a breakfast and lunch spot.

The retro-hip restaurant is located in the city’s oldest gas station: They even adapted the old Pure Gasoline logo to create their own inspired branding. 

Their tagline (“Donuts • Burgers • Beer”) leaves little doubt what to expect from the menu, but they do what they do very well.

The gourmet donut flavors change daily, but always include cinnamon sugar and sensational seasonal flavors. 

Other popular menu items include the Rockbridge Roll-Up (a burrito with eggs, cheese, salsa, and hashbrowns) and
The Keydet (1/4-pound Buffalo Creek burger with a fried egg, drizzled in hot sauce, with two hashbrowns).

They also offer rich Homestead Creamery milkshakes and a solid selection of local craft beers and ciders.

Pro tip: If you’re visiting on a weekend, it’s best to get there early, as the line to order at the counter stretches out the door and inside seating options are limited. But they do have an expansive outdoor patio with lots of tables. 

READ MORE: The 8 Best Breweries in Roanoke VA, the Heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge

Fried Chicken at Southern Inn Restaurant in Lexington VA
Fried Chicken at Southern Inn

5. Southern Inn (Southern)

37 S Main St, Lexington • 540-463-3612 • $$$

Located smack dab in the heart of the Historic District, the Southern Inn is the grande dame of all Lexington VA restaurants.

The history of the S Main St building in which the “contemporary American cuisine” restaurant resides dates back to 1828, and the Southern Inn was opened by George Macheras in 1932.

It was his wife, Florence, who expanded the business after George’s death 6 years later, and it stayed in the family until it was sold to George and Sue Ann Huger in 1998. 

The Hugers renovated both the building and menu to give it a more modern appeal, but the Southern Inn was nearly destroyed by lightning-induced fire in 2010.

Thankfully they rebuilt it, updating the interior décor and adding colorful modern art while also retaining the historical charm of the place. 

Their menu offers a similar balance of tradition and innovation. There are classic Southern favorites such as Smoked Trout Dip and Pimento Cheese- Fried Green Tomatoes (served with red pepper jelly and micro greens), as well as international options such as Baja Fish Tacos (with a great chipotle-lime marinade) and Veggie Spring Rolls (with sweet & sour sauce).

For entrees, we chose their signature Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and sautéed local veggies, and their Grilled Pork Loin with apple salsa, fried kale, cider-braised greens, and mashed sweet potato.

Both were perfectly cooked and seasoned, and we agreed that the Southern Inn ranked among our favorite places to eat in Lexington. 

READ MORE: The Appalachian Culture & History of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Bread Pudding at Steeles Tavern Manor near Lexington VA

Bread Pudding at Steeles Tavern Manor

6. Steeles Tavern Manor (Breakfast)

8400 N Lee Hwy, Steeles Tavern • 540-377-9494 • $$$

We’ve visited lots of different hotels and B&Bs on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC and VA, but we’ve never recommended staying at one primarily because of its food. 

Despite being located in tiny Steeles Tavern (17 minutes north), we’d rank the breakfast we had at Steeles Tavern Manor above many of the meals we had at other Lexington VA restaurants

Owners Dana and Trey Tumminello source their ingredients directly from Shenandoah Valley farms and markets.

Eggs from Redbud Ridge Farm, bacon from Buffalo Creek Farm, grains from Wades Mill, Virginia maple syrup, and coffee beans from a roaster in Fredricksburg taste remarkably fresh.

But of course the ingredients are only as good as the chef who’s using them, and “Dana’s Kitchen” crafts delicious dishes that are practically bursting with flavor.

Their Bread Pudding with fresh berries was as decadent as any we’ve had in New Orleans, and their cheddar cheese grits and crispy bacon provided a welcome savory counterpoint to the sweetness.

B&B guests can also order other foodie-friendly packages, including a Crabtree Falls Picnic, Beerology 101 tasting of local brews, Charcuterie Boards, and a make-your-own Steak Dinner for cabin guests.

Steeles Tavern Manor has plenty of other reasons to recommend it, but I’d honestly stay there again just for the food!

READ MORE: Tips for Tackling the McAfee Knob Hike Near Roanoke, Virginia

Cupcakes from Sweet Treats Bakery in Lexington VA
Colorful Cupcakes from Sweet Treats Bakery

7. Sweet Treats Bakery (Baked Goods & Sandwiches)

19 W Washington St, Lexington • 540-463-3611 • $

We discovered Sweet Treats Bakery when they catered an event at Natural Bridge, to celebrate the state park’s certification as an International Dark Sky Observatory. 

But as delightfully light and fluffy as those cute cupcakes were, this Downtown Lexington bakery has a lot more to offer than mere comely confections. 

In addition to cupcakes, cookies, croissants, specialty cakes, wedding cakes, fruit pies, and flourless torts, Sweet Treats also features a full breakfast and lunch menu. 

From bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches and custom omelets to French toast, pancakes, and waffles, their budget-friendly breakfast is one of the best deals in town (most options range from $4-$8.25). 

The lunch menu includes soups, salads, and several burgers (including a spicy Texas Burger with BBQ sauce and jalapeños, and a great Mushroom & Swiss Burger with bacon).

There are also a dozen or so sandwiches, including hot and cold options (try the Hot Cuban or the Gyro) and several vegetarian-friendly choices (try the Portobello Melt).  –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

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We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Bret grew up camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia and North Carolina with his parents, and the couple both spent childhood summers on the water with their grandparents. After becoming empty nesters, they yearned for a pristine place where they could escape the hustle and bustle of the city, commune with nature and family, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle that leaves time to appreciate the simpler things in life. Join them and their team as they explore the region, offering expert insights on Blue Ridge travel as they search for the perfect mountain home.