ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL)- There are more than 30 independently owned restaurants in the town of Abingdon. That number has helped the town a spot in U.S.A. Today’s 10 Best Small Town Food Scenes five years in a row.
“The reputation really stems from the town’s desire to really have only privately owned businesses on Main Street. So therefore, we end up with a lot of really great privately owned restaurants and businesses that really want to try to strive to succeed,” said Josh Fuller, the owner of the Tavern.
While Abingdon is known for it’s food scene now, there are a few restaurants that set the bar. The Tavern is one of them.
Fuller has only owned the restaurant since 2019 but it’s been in operation for almost 30 years.
“It’s the longest-running restaurant in the area,” said Fuller. “It’s also supposed to be the oldest bar in the state of Virginia that’s remaining.”
Built in 1779, the Tavern serves up a lot of history.
“It was originally built as a tavern and over overnight in stagecoaches it was also the first post office of solid Blue Ridge Mountains,” Fuller said. “It’s supposed to be haunted as well, so you have a lot of people like to come in for that purpose, as well as the fact that the building is probably about 70% original.”
Known for being a steak restaurant, one menu item is a customer favorite.
“It’s got to be the stuffed filet. It’s probably been the best seller going on almost 30 years now. It’s filet stuffed with shrimp, herb cream cheese, ricotta cheese, bacon, spinach. And it’s topped with a Marsala reduction. It’s fantastic, unlike anything you really had anywhere else, said Fuller. “We do have baked salmon. We have fresh North Carolina rainbow trout. We also have different specials that are brought in from Hawaii overnight- as far as mahi mahi, I think we’ll get tuna, swordfish, so we’ll get all kinds of different things. And on a regular basis, we have different specials nightly as well as the the regular menu.”
Just up from the Tavern on Main Street, you’ll find The Peppermill.
“Everything that we do is made fresh here and there’s nothing pre-made. So, you know, it makes a difference. I think that makes a big difference,” said co-owner Mitzi Smith. “We strive for consistency above all. When somebody comes here and has something that they really, really like, they want to have it again to taste exactly that way. So we try to strive for that above all. And we just try to make people feel special.”
The casual fine dining restaurant is in the heart of downtown in a historic home.
“It was built by the Carson family in 1909 and he was in the railroad business and it was remodeled into the restaurant in 2008,” said Smith. “And they there’s been two other restaurants before us and everything is original in the house as well. It’s still got all the original brickwork and woodwork. Everything, everything is original.”
Mostly known for its seafood and pasta dishes- the Peppermill’s head chef and co-owner, Paul Fultz says the kitchen is where he is the most creative.
“One of my specialties is a chicken marsala. it’s completely different from anybody else’s. It’s pan-seared and then it’s got marsala wine, mushrooms and some heavy cream, a wild rice. It’s one of my favorites,” he said. “The Salmon Veracruz is probably one of the best dishes. I don’t eat seafood myself. But I’m not here cooking for me. I’m cooking for my customers.”
That creativity is what keeps people coming back to a town with so many options
“I worked at a chain restaurant as a kitchen manager for a couple of years and then just wanted to get out in the chain stuff and get into actual cooking instead of just playing pretend and cooking like they do in the chain restaurants,” Fultz said. “Everybody might have a same dish on the menu, but it’s not going to be the same as it is here. And a lot of our chefs are very creative with what they do, and I’m trying to be as creative as them to keep up and make sure that we have a good reputation and keep consistent.”
This story is just a taste of the town as Abingdon is filled with restaurants. We featured some of the same and additional restaurants- like Foresta, Rain and others in our Abingdon Eats series.