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Behind the Menu: The Stories Behind Some of the Most Iconic Restaurants in Newport News

To Know Them Is To Love Them

Have you ever eaten at a restaurant and wondered how it all began? Today, we delve into the captivating backstories of some of the city's most beloved dining establishments!

Azzurri Italian Restaurant

No canned tomatoes allowed

Giuseppe Fiorello was 14 when he moved from Sicily to Williamsburg to work in his grandfather’s restaurant, Maurizio’s. Now the owner of Azzurri Italian Restaurant in Hidenwood, Giuseppe is known for his made-from-scratch sauces and the recipes handed down from his mother in Palermo. One reviewer on Yelp described the restaurant like this: “This was my second visit in just a week and just like when I left the first time, I wanted to turn the car around and head back to order more.” Another review summed up her experience in one word, “Authentic.” Then she added, “That's it. That's all you need to know about this fantastic place.” It’s probably safe to say you won’t find canned tomatoes in this neighborhood gem!

Bonefish Grill

You won't find any bones in our fish

The very first Bonefish Grill opened in January 2000 in St. Petersburg, FL. Four years later, Michael Cogan opened his own Bonefish Grill in Newport News. Bonefish is known for its seafood-centric menu and its hand-crafted martinis – shaken no less than 20 times. One reviewer on Yelp described her experience with Bonefish Grill like this: “Mike Cogan, the managing partner, is AMAZING! He takes the time to get to know you and to take on your ideas. Mike catered a large party for us and it was the best food that we could have asked for.” Speaking of Mike, did you know that he ran a half-marathon in a recent One City Marathon? It was his goal to run the marathon as a way to recover from surgery.

Burger Theory

The theory? Skillfully-crafted burgers, of course

While Burger Theory is considered a franchise, no two Burger Theories are quite the same. The Newport News location – inside the Holiday Inn Newport News/ Hampton – offers more than 4,000 different combinations of burgers, a handpicked selection of bourbon and brews, and 10 televisions at its unique wrap-around bar. They also have an outdoor dining space, where you can keep warm by a fire pit on cool evenings year-round. Burger Theory took Newport News by storm when it opened in 2018. Upon its opening, Burger Theory became a new contender in the ever-growing “Battle of the Burgers” in Coastal Virginia. The restaurant also oversees the catering inside the Holiday Inn, hosting weddings, business meetings, graduation ceremonies, and other events.

Cove Tavern

This cove overlooks a delightful 5-acre fountain

Since 2013, Cove Tavern has been committed to satisfying its customers with great food and excellent service. Their menu and drink selections offer a hint of the tropics, transporting you to your favorite getaway without leaving the Peninsula.  Their dining room is perfect for date nights or dinner with the whole family, and their large outdoor patio is the perfect place to enjoy a meal and cocktails. A review on TripAdvisor gave the establishment five out of five green bubbles and had this to say: “If you are looking for a nice, mature hang-out spot with great food, great service, and live entertainment, look no further! Did I mention that parking is also free? Park in the garage and in just a few steps, you will be on the beautiful grounds of Cove Tavern!”

Fairways BBQ & Grill

Eat here after a round of golf

BBQ, golf and nature come together at Fairways BBQ & Grill at Newport News Golf Club. It’s here that the meat is smoked over hickory and wild cherry, and the platters are served with cornbread, honey butter and your choice of sides – one of the most popular being collard greens stewed with ham hocks and crushed red pepper. At Fairways, the sandwiches are all served with homemade chips or hand-cut fries. Reviews left on their website include statements like these:

  • “Delicious country cooking!”
  • “Everything was delicious, especially the mac-and-cheese!”
  • “Wonderful variety of delicious food!”
  • “A real hit!”
  • “Chicken and pork BBQ are to die for and those collards - yum!”
  • “Love love love Fairways BBQ and all of their country sides!”
  • “Comforting and delicious!”

Fin Seafood Restaurant

Fin-icky? No problem. You'll love Fin

Owner and executive chef, Kenny Sloane, a 2001 graduate of Johnson & Wales University, combines contemporary flare with traditional French cooking. He mixes vegetables grown on his 5-acre Sloane family farm with fish caught offshore and other proteins, providing an unforgettable food experience. She-crab soup, crab cakes, scallops, and Fin’s signature tuna tartare with sriracha ice cream are guest favorites. The atmosphere is chic and effortlessly elegant with an opportunity to watch the hustle-and-bustle happenings in the kitchen through an open window. As busy as Chef Kenny is operating Fin in Newport News and being a father of four, he recently opened a second restaurant in Suffolk!

Harpoon Larry's Oyster Bar

You can thank Larry for these oysters

For 22 years, Harpoon Larry’s was a popular seafood restaurant in Hampton. It moved to Newport News in 2013 after its lease expired. For nine years, the fish house and oyster bar has made 621 J. Clyde Morris Boulevard its home. When it moved from Hampton to Newport News, the restaurant grew from 15 to 40 tables and its bar doubled in size. In a nod to its beginnings in Hampton, oyster shells were brought from the old location to create a decorative wall in the Newport News restaurant. Family owned and operated, Harpoon Larry’s specializes in fresh local seafood delivered straight to its back door. From the cocktail sauce to the desserts, everything on the menu is made in-house.

Hayashi Sushi & Grill

The chef really puts on a show here

The owner of Hayashi Sushi & Grill, Lenny Sean, moved to the U.S. from South Korea in 1983 when he was 17. After graduating from Denbigh High School, he attended college in Florida. Sean spent his early years working in restaurants and learning about Japanese cuisine, so he decided in 1997 to open his first restaurant, called Hayashi Ramen & Grill, in Williamsburg. Ten years later, he opened Hayashi Sushi & Grill in City Center. Hayashi features a hibachi grill, sushi bar, and a traditional sit-down restaurant, along with a large bar and an outdoor seating area. Recently, Hayashi Sushi & Grill won gold in the Virginia Media’s 2020 Best of Contest in the category of “Japanese Restaurant/Sushi” restaurants in Newport News.

Hilton Tavern

No need to live in Hilton to enjoy this tavern

In 2016, Lorain Cosgrove, owner of Cozzy’s Comedy Club, took over Hilton Tavern with a partner. Along with their variety of rotating beer taps, the establishment is known for its baby back ribs, pork barbecue, wings, sausage, and brisket – smoked and grilled in an outdoor kitchen. They also make their own dressings and sauces in-house, along with a “secret” rub for their meats. The corned beef used in their Reuben sandwiches is slow-cooked for five hours, and their crab cakes are made with very little filler – mostly lump crabmeat, buttery crackers, eggs and a little mayo. As for “adult beverages,” they offer sours, wheat ales, amber ales, IPAs, stouts, porters, lagers, pilsners, and small-batch seasonal brews. Hilton Tavern is a popular neighborhood destination where people come to relax after work!

Indulge Bakery & Bistro

Life is short; eat dessert first

Indulge is a European-style bakery and bistro nestled in the heart of Historic Hilton Village. All of its baked goods are made from scratch with the highest quality ingredients. It serves breakfast and lunch daily and specializes in fresh seasonal specials, along with custom cakes for all occasions – weddings, birthdays, showers, and all other things worth celebrating! Their handcrafted chocolate truffles are made with the finest Belgian chocolate, fresh cream, fruit, and spices. No preservatives or artificial flavorings are ever used. Additionally, the restaurant has an extensive catering menu, ranging from a ballroom bash to a backyard barbecue.  They also have a great selection of beer and wine and hold special events throughout the year.  A recent review on Yelp called the breakfast sandwich and latte “amazing,” and highly recommends the business, giving it five out of five stars.

Midtown Eats

A restaurant in front of a sandbar

Midtown Eats, located in front of Sandbar Pub, is a locally owned restaurant, specializing in slow smoked barbecue, seafood po'boys, macaroni and cheese, and “other good stuff,” according to their Facebook page. And lucky for us, there’s TONS of “other good stuff.” For starters, their appetizers range from tuna bites, crab balls and cheese curds to smoked nachos, BBQ cheddar balls and boneless wings. Their slow-smoked BBQ is served in sandwiches and wraps and runs the gamut from ribs, pulled pork, and smoked chicken to sliced brisket, smoked London broil, and a Texas-style smoked Reuben. They also serve salads, soups, stews and gumbo, stuffed baked potatoes, along with burgers and seafood – including steamed shrimp. A newcomer to the state recently wrote, “The sausage gravy was the best we have had since moving to Virginia!”


Mediterranean cuisine in the "News"

When Russia invaded Afghanistan, Daud Amiri (now chef and owner of Saffron), escaped by walking to another country. With $10 in his pocket, he eventually landed in Queens, NY. After putting himself through college, he worked in restaurants as a bus boy, waiter, manager, and eventually a partner in a Queen’s restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine. With family in Virginia, Daud moved here in 2013 and often joined them for dinner in local restaurants. Lacking Mediterranean choices, he decided to open his own restaurant in 2015 and chose Newport News’ quaint neighborhood Hilton Village. Offering the same menu he established more than 30 years ago in New York, Daud’s mission is to “serve delicious, affordable food that guests will want to return to week after week.”

Sage Kitchen at Anderson's

Sage is just one spice in this kitchen

Anderson’s Garden Center is a third-generation, family-owned business that first opened in 1958 as a simple roadside stand selling orchids. Today, it’s a popular destination for shopping and dining. In late November 1988, an expansion made room for the opening of the Showplace Café, a small eatery with four tables. In 2006, the café was remodeled and fashioned after garden centers in Europe where people linger, socialize, and dine. In 2016, a second location opened in Virginia Beach, and both restaurants were re-named Sage Kitchen at Anderson’s. The Newport News eatery can serve up to 175 people. Sage Kitchen has been “farm-to-table” since 1998. Choose from home-baked breads and homemade soups, bowls, sandwiches and salads. If you haven’t tried their chicken salad, it’s time you do!

Saté Kitchen

Where Southern American roots meet Asian sizzle

Located in the bustling City Center off Jefferson Ave, Saté Kitchen has its roots in a food truck that graced Newport News as a mobile eatery in 2020. Chef Kyle Fowlkes, the mastermind behind Saté Food Truck and Kitchen restaurant, began his culinary journey as a sous chef at Embassy Suites by Hilton-Hampton Convention Center. Rising swiftly, Fowlkes assumed the role of executive chef at a mere 28 years old. However, the tides shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to his furlough and a necessary realignment of his culinary vision. In response to the challenges, the Saté food truck emerged, offering patrons a taste of Fowlkes' culinary prowess. Now, diners can savor his exquisite creations in the refined ambiance of Saté Kitchen. Indulge in tantalizing appetizers such as mac n' cheese egg rolls, crispy pork belly, or smoked brisket wontons. For mains, tempt your palate with dishes ranging from shrimp & grits to lobster rolls. And to sweeten the deal, the dessert menu boasts delights like strawberry shortcake spring rolls and crème brûlée. Planning your visit? Tuesdays are dedicated to tacos and make your own margaritas, while Wednesdays offer a chance to unwind with half off wine bottles.

Smoke BBQ

There's nothing better than Smoke to flavor this meat

This neighborhood restaurant and bar opened in Greater Hilton Village at the end of December 2011 by Steve and Kathy Walters. Prior to its opening, the couple had operated a catering business in Smithfield for about four years. The catering business grew so quickly that it only made sense to open a restaurant. The menu is huge, with appetizers ranging from deviled eggs and sweet potato fries to mozzarella sticks and loaded tater tots. Entrees include pulled pork and chicken, as well as baby back ribs, pork chops, salmon, and fish & chips. They also serve salads – house, wedge, Cobb, and southwest – along with sandwiches, burgers, and brick-oven pizzas. A covered outdoor patio includes a 40-foot ceiling heater for those who prefer eating outside in the brisk night air.

The Melting Pot

Fondue at its best

Did you know the first Melting Pot in Newport News, run by different owners and shuttered in June 2015, was located at the same location as the current Melting Pot? Then, one year to the day, Jason Shea and Chad Hornik re-opened after remodeling the interior and making changes to the exterior, which included patio seating. Jason, who is also partial owner of The Melting Pot in Wilmington, NC, wanted to expand his business to Virginia, where he is from, so he could be closer to his family, especially his grandchildren! Since the re-opening, they have had such positive response with guests returning that Jason wanted to involve the community more, so fun events such as “Military Mondays” and “Thursdate” are now offered!

The Twisted Crab Seafood & Bar

Seafood with a twist

Gloves and bibs are all you need at this seafood eatery inside Patrick Henry Mall. The Twisted Crab Seafood & Bar, found near Macy’s, is a restaurant known for its Cajun-style seafood boils, fried seafood baskets, and its mouth-watering sauce options. Crab legs, shrimp, oysters, lobster tail and crawfish are just some of the many choices available. A recent Yelp review gave the restaurant five stars, noting that her server was great and “very knowledgeable about the menu, giving us recommendations, and keeping our drinks full!”  Another reviewer said she and her husband were happy with their meal choices, which were the shrimp bucket and fried fish with hushpuppies. “I loved mine and will happily get it again in the future!” The restaurant operates five other locations in the area.

Whatever restaurant or restaurants you choose to patronize, we hope you and your loved ones enjoy the experience and the time you’re able to spend together. As always, thank you for your commitment in supporting our city’s local dining scene!