Laura Rennie

guide to Harrisonburg: where to eat

Laura R.2 Comments
thanks to the many people groups in town as well as the demand for both cheap eats and fine dining, the dining scene in Harrisonburg is surprisingly diverse. I can't think of anything we lack!


where to eat...


BEST PLACE TO BLOW YOUR DIET - Jack Brown's located downtown and Tacos El Primo (aka The Taco Truck) located near JMU


a rather depressing photo from here
the photographer must have come in at 3:30 p.m. on a weekday or something, because this place is never empty! I've gone right when it opens at 11 a.m. and those barstools fill up FAST. the beers are just as famous as their burgers, but I've only ever had their food! their plain ol' cheeseburger is simple perfection, but my favorite is the Elvis - which has cheese, smoked bacon, peanut butter and mayo on it. "The Chiflet" is also delish - but "The Showalter," which is the same thing only served between two Krispy Kreme donuts instead of a bun, is even more mind-blowing. The website doesn't list all of their specialty burgers - I'm pretty sure they have two specialty burgers a day now. Don't be lame and just order a burger (haha sorry Doug if you're reading this) - get sweet potato fries and a fried oreo, too! You can share those, I won't mind. Dip your fries AND your burger in the lip-smackingly good Jack Brown's sauce. Also, people will tell you that the interior of the bar is super tiny. It is. There's only one table in the restaurant. BUT there is outdoor seating and there's a lovely heater out there and they put a blanket on each seat when it's chilly.
The Taco Truck at it's old location on South Main St.
and then there's The Taco Truck. I've never called it "Tacos El Primo" because the people who introduced me to it (hey, Amber!) called it The Taco Truck. (That was back when I was a features intern at the DN-R my sophomore year...fun times.) The truck has moved to a spot off of Reservoir St. between Cantrell St. and the Wal-Mart shopping center. so here's the deal - order a carnitas burrito (my personal fav), pay, sit at a picnic table and wait for your burrito, then take it from the chef and grab all of the napkins your hands can hold. it's a greasy lil bugger, but it's fabulous.


BEST FOR DATE NIGHT - The Local Chop and Grill House - just outside downtown

photo from the News Leader
Head to the restaurant side if you're looking for a unique fine dining experience - but I prefer the bar side for the more laid-back atmosphere and wallet-friendly meal. They've changed the bar menu around since I last went, but I would order the bison, steak and duck sliders with a side of duck fat fries. Hopefully my date would be willing to order something different so we could eat off each other's plates (that's the way I like it, baby!) If I went to the restaurant I'd order the white truffle risotto balls and a filet mignon with the local chimichurri and their yukon gold mashed potatoes and polenta w/ marscapone. Andy and I went to the bar side for our 2nd anniversary dinner and the restaurant side for our 3rd anniversary and both of us thought that if you can get just as amazing food for cheaper, why wouldn't you? So yea - bar all the way! The Local Chop and Grill is inside a neat old produce exchange building (we looked at renting an apartment here).

BEST FOOD TO PLEASE EVERYONE... PRESENTED BY THE WORST SERVERS - Dave's - downtown

a view of (and from) the taratsa, from here
Who doesn't like Dave's Taverna? What I love about Dave's is that everyone has "their dish" that they just can't get enough of, and everyone follows their rave with a rant about the terrible service. Cracks me up. Andy and I  are in love w/ each other, and Dave's pastitsio. I finally tried their steak and cheese on a pita, though, and people... if you like steak and cheese sammies... get on this one. Their tomato-mozzarella salad and spanakopita is super yummy, too, as is everything... mmm... I want. Oh, and eat on the roof if the weather is nice!
(does anyone else get a little worried by Dave's spiral staircase? every time I watch a drunk girl walk down it I think she's going to fall to her death. take the other stairs, girlfriends!)

pic of my fav soup by this blogger



BEST LOCAL FLAVOR - A Bowl of Good, located across from Eastern Mennonite University

My fav at A Bowl of Good is the tom kha gai bowl, which is a thai coconut chicken soup served over rice.
the maharaja bowl is also delicious, as is the bada bun bowl. I've only tried those three dishes, but I've heard great things about all of their food. 
BEST FOR HIPPIES (hehe. jk. no, but really.)  - The Little Grill, located just outside of downtown

from here

The Little Grill is best known for their Sunday brunch, but it has a varied menu that caters to vegetarians and vegans. I've yet to go to brunch, but I like their regular menu so I'm sure it lives up to the hype!

BEST FOR A MORNING DATE, with your guy or with a newspaper/book/Bible - Mr. J's

-sorry, no pic-

Whether you're getting a bagel w/ cream cheese or w/ breakfast or lunch goodness stuffed inside, Mr. J's Bagels and Deli is sublime. Their french toast bagel is super delish but when I get a breakfast sandwich I like to get it on an egg everything bagel. Mmm mmm mm. Mr. J's is classic Harrisonburg. I used to see the same person there every time I went - and I never went on a certain day or at a certain time! (No, he's not homeless - he just loves Mr. J's like every good Harrisonburgian...burgie...burgite...) There are multiple locations.

BEST ICE CREAM - Coldstone. Kidding, kidding. Kline's, duh!

from here


Kline's is something you're supposed to embrace when you live in Harrisonburg. With incredible custard-style ice cream and a weekly "special" flavor, it's not a hard place to love! When the students come back the lines at Klines triple in size - for good reason. I particularly enjoy the espresso chip (it's coming up, yay), chocolate peanut butter, peanut butter cookies and cream and banana (but then I have to get a second scoop so I can get one of banana and one of chocolate). My last trip was to try the lemon gingersnap and ohhh mannn was it yummy! There are two locations in Harrisonburg, and they never have the same specialty flavor.

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some of you will wish I had talked about Clementine or Beyond or Artful Dodger or Cally's (well guess what, Cally's CLOSED) or Taste of Thai (I know, I know... it IS delicious) or Blue Nile... but I haven't been to Blue Nile, and while I do like the other places, they aren't the best of anything in my book. Well, Clementine might have the best interior. Ok, I'll give it that one.
(I've heard Thai Cafe and Thai Flavor are just as good as Taste of Thai and that they're cheaper - I need to check those places out immediately. who is with me?)

we're getting some new places in town, such as "Flip-N-Burg-R" (yea. weird name, right? it's almost completed and it has two locations. one has a double drive through and everyone else in the H'burg got excited and thought it was a Sonic and I was all "Ew stop. Please don't be a Sonic - PLEASE let it be a Checkers!" but it wasn't and we were all mad.) We're also getting a pub, which should be amazing b/c the owner is the guy who own's Vito's (an incredibly lovely restaurant in an incredibly depressing Food Lion shopping center). Also getting Quaker Steak and Lube, which sounds... terrible. Cally's will become a Capital Alehouse, which I'm excited about even though I thought Cally's was a great restaurant.

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and that, dear readers, is my guide to Harrisonburg. if you wanna know about our nightlife, talk to someone who has really experienced it. One of these days I need to check out salsa night at the Dodger. My real dream, though, is to find some brainiacs to play Team Trivia with me at the Dodger or Clementine. Andy is incredible at trivia, and I surprise myself with what I know (thanks love for reading and crossword puzzles), but a) Andy's not here right now and b) I'm no good with political trivia or sports trivia. 

for the rest of my guide to Harrisonburg, click on the "guide to Harrisonburg" label at the very end of this post.