Eat & Burn: Roanoke, Virginia

Culinary walking tour of the “Star City” combines eating and exercise for guilt-less yum.

By Hope S. Philbrick

There are more restaurants per capita in Roanoke, Virginia than any other community in the state.

That makes it a prime location for a restaurant-hopping walking tour.

20140301_110130Larry Landolt launched the Historic Downtown Food & Cultural Tour in his adopted hometown of Roanoke after enjoying culinary walking tours in other cities. His eclectic mix of restaurant stops, quirky sense of humor, architectural appreciation, and historic knowledge helped his tours quickly become popular with both locals and visitors.

Each three-hour tour features seven tasting stops within Roanoke’s Historic District. At each stop you’ll get bites and sips of classic and contemporary Roanoke fare for a flavorful overview of the city’s dining scene. In between stops, you’ll learn facts and anecdotes about the city from the tour guide—including several culinary curiosities like the fact that from 1958 to 1961 Roanoke held the title for consuming more Dr. Pepper than anywhere else in the world.

Tours begin at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center (est. 1882), which was voted one of the “Top Historic Hotels” in the U.S. and is home to a restaurant famed for its peanut soup and spoonbread.

Other stops include the city’s newest Lebanese restaurant; the popular upscale restaurant Billy’s (est. 1979), which served a cup of flawless shrimp & grits alongside the award-winning Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager; two artisan bakeries; an independent coffee café; and the iconic Texas Tavern (est. 1930), which Southern Living crowned one of the “100 Places to Eat Now.”

Roanoke VA - Lebanese cuisineRoanoke VA - Billy's shrimp & grits and Devil's Backbone Vienna LagerRoanoke VA - Bread Craft






The walking tour has a leisurely pace, so you shouldn’t have to jog to keep up with the group and will have plenty of time to get answers to any questions. While you will be served enough food to satisfy for lunch, portions are small enough to avoid over-indulging. Walking between stops helps burn at least some of the calories consumed.

20140301_131748Walking and talking and tasting is a memorable way to explore Roanoke.

@21plusTravel Tip: The tour includes a copy of the Downtown Roanoke Dining Guide, which offers information about restaurants plus discounts. So, if the tour interests you, plan it early in your visit to maximize the Guide’s value.

Odds of Encountering Children: Slim. In the tour’s official FAQs posted online, the answer to the question about whether children are allowed on tours reads, “While we offer both adolescent (8 – 12) and child (7 & under) tickets, the tour is three hours long and some children have a limited attention span and therefore the tour may not be appropriate for some. Parents, who know their children best, should assess the situation individually. Since there is a lot of standing and walking, please consider this when deciding whether the tour is appropriate for your child.” We appreciate the tour operators’ straightforward stance on this issue. There were no children on our tour, thus we have no evidence as to how a tour guide might deal with unruly children on a tour.

More Information…

Roanoke’s Historic Downtown Food & Cultural Tour

Visit Roanoke

Visit Virginia

– Photos © HSP Media LLC

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. She’s reviewed restaurants for several Atlanta-based newspapers and magazines for more than 10 years. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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