So this is a regular conversation in our house:
Him: Where do you want to go for dinner?
Me: I don’t have a preference. You choose.
Him: What are you in the mood for?
Me: Anything downtown sounds good. You choose.
Him: (Exasperated sigh) Ok, I’ll give you three choices and then you have to choose.
Me: (Exasperated sigh) Fine.
I make so many decisions all day long. Choosing one downtown restaurant from more than 30 awesome ones isn’t one I care to make because you really can’t go wrong. I will admit, our favorites usually make the negotiation cut and we sometimes forget about how many amazing choices there really are.
Taste of Downtown, March 5-11, is a great opportunity for us—and all of you—to get out there and discover a new favorite or three. Many of the downtown restaurants are participating by serving up innovative menu items and creative collaborations, unveiling their spring menus, or offering special pricing. Plus, it’s JMU Spring Break so you’ll have the town to yourselves.
But back to deciding where to eat.
You could make it a battle-of-the-burger week and try out a new one every night. Cuban Burger is partnering with Autumn Olive Farms—a local heritage pig farm, favorite of chefs, and supplier to the Inn at Little Washington—to make a chorizo burger with pickled red cabbage slaw and avocado aioli. Most of us have the burger rotation memorized at Jack Brown’s, but during Taste of Downtown, they’re rolling out some new burgers you won’t want to miss. I’m most excited about the Peggy Sue and the Inspector Clouseau. Down the block at Jess’, they’re whipping up a Philly Cheeseburger with sauteed peppers, onions and mushrooms, cheese and mayo. It’s not quite a burger, but Union Station is curing and smoking their own pastrami and piling it high on a sandwich with fried pickles, Lager mustard, and Swiss cheese. Close enough in my book.
Looking for something a little fancier? I still come across people who have never been to the Joshua Wilton House which is shocking to me given the fact that they’ve been serving some of the best food in the Valley for more than two decades and were a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement. During Taste of Downtown, you can enjoy their refined-Virginian cuisine with a 3-course dinner for only $45. I guarantee it will bring you back time and again. Or try the specials at their sister restaurant, Local Chop and Grill House.
Harrisonburg is quickly becoming a beer town and during Taste of Downtown, the breweries are finding creative ways to land on your plate. The always-delicious Bella Luna is partnering with Brothers Craft Brewing, pairing beers with a 3-course menu. They are also using Brothers’ beer to make maple coffee stout gelato at Bella Gelato. Yummo. The folks at Cuban Burger are collaborating with Three Notch’d Brewery to brew a plantain Belgian ale. Three Notch’d is also pairing up with Friendly City Food Co-op to feature a special dish on the hot bar that highlights one of their beers each day. Pale Fire Brewing Co. is giving away free bruschetta appetizers from Food.Bar.Food when you buy a pint of beer. Bruschetta for free. Just like that.
Which just might make you hungry for a whole meal of delicious global comfort food at the aforementioned ever-charming Food.Bar.Food. Swing by for lunch, happy hour and dinner specials and check out their new spring menu. Clementine is also unveiling their new spring menu along with new art and daily live music.
If you’re a timid eater, international restaurants can feel intimidating. Be brave and march right into BoBoKo, a tiny Indonesian spot that impresses me every time I go. For Taste of Downtown, you have the opportunity to try Indonesian Rijsttafel or ‘Rice Table’ consisting of rice and 10 small side dishes—an excellent way to get a taste of lots of menu items and a surefire way to make you want to come back for more. Taj of India is offering their lunch buffet for $9.95 and is another fun and non-committal way to introduce yourself to Indian cuisine. Up the street, the Indian & American Café serves more traditional Nepalese-style cooking. Try their delicious vegetable biryani if you go. Or pay a visit to Beyond for some Asian fusion flavors and a beautiful sushi roll. Magnolias, the newest kid on the block, has familiar and creative burritos, tacos, salads and margaritas. Try the fried egg and Spanish chorizo taco or the masa-crusted shrimp taco.
Speaking of shrimp, Billy Jack’s is kicking chicken to the curb for the week and focusing on shrimp. Think shrimp caesar salads, po’ boys, and tacos. Shrimp sticky nuggs anyone? Or try some southern cooking at Jimmy Madison’s. I’m not sure how they’re planning to make beer can quail or what Spam Dynamite is but you better believe I’m going to find out.
Have the kids in tow? Ruby’s Arcade is extending their half-price pizza happy hour to include free games from 4-6 pm. Head to Kline’sfor dessert and grab a hot fudge brownie sundae or to Dream Cones for a double fudge brownie banana split with mixed nuts and all of the toppings you could ever want. If you like pizza, your kids will love the personal-sized pies at the Golden Pony.
Or introduce your kids to a healthy option at Pulp! Try an açai bowl and add a free fresh fruit topping or check out their new smoothie menu. Produce sourced from the Harrisonburg Farmers Market is making an appearance on five small plates at Capital Ale House. The Little Grill Collective is offering locally-sourced breakfast and lunch specials and The Artful Dodger is rolling out seasonally-inspired breakfast and brunch dishes and local craft cocktails.
See! How hard it is to choose?
Written by Kirsten Moore, a marketing professional, writer, food lover and serial entrepreneur. She and her husband have mad love for Downtown Harrisonburg and have made it home along with their three sons and two dogs.