ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) – After the town of Abingdon, Virginia was nominated for possibly its fifth win in USA Today’s Best Small Town Food Scene competition, News Channel 11 spoke to local businesses to see what sets them apart.
Rain has occupied its own space in the Abingdon food scene since 2010, and was founded by a veteran of the area’s kitchens.
“It’s more of a homegrown kind of thing,” Ben Carroll said, the executive chef and owner of Rain Restaurant. “Most of us are from around these parts. There’ve been a couple people that have come in from out of town but the vast majority are people that are from the area, have stayed in the area and have either come up through the restaurant scene here in town and decided to branch out like we did.”
Carroll said he started early, like many other restauranteurs in town. As a teenager, Carroll could be found in fine dining spaces all around Abingdon.
“There’s more restaurants now in Abingdon than ever before, so it’s good to have competition,” Carroll said. “It keeps you sharp.”
Sharing his taste is an important part of Carroll’s work, and is the driving force behind his menu choices.
“I think every chef and every owner, if they really have a vision of what they want to do, they want to be able to share that experience with other people,” Carroll said. “Things that you really enjoy yourself, you think well if I enjoy this then it stands to reason they’ll enjoy it too.”
Carroll’s weapon of choice is seafood – he pulls fresh catches from Maine, Alaska and and other fishing capitols of the country.
“There’s so many options and so much variation when it comes to fish and seafood, so that’s what we’ve tried to do,” Carroll said. “And then offer people stuff that kind of pushes their boundaries a bit.”
Building that connection is a big part of Abingdon’s standout food scene, bringing customers along for the ride means they chefs can offer unique items that you don’t see often the Tri-Cities.
“Once you’ve gained the trust of people they’re a little willing to try something that they may not have before,” Carroll said. “It’s been fun, it’s good to see people trust us a bit.”