SpunkyDiva Road Trip: Hidden Gems in VA Beach!
I don't know about you, but I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE to travel...even if it's in my own backyard. This President's Day weekend I had the opportunity to go on a little getaway with my Boo. We just went away for one night, but we always love to go on new "adventures" together. We get in the car and "just drive" - sometimes that takes us to a new local brunch spot...but sometimes it means a #ROADTRIP that's anywhere from a couple hours to four hours away. I've lived out here in the DMV area for almost 12 years now, but there are a TON of places I've never been to. This road trip we ended up in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area.
We stayed at the Marriott Springhill Suites Oceanfront property. The room rate was about $180.00 plus taxes. Maybe we could have found a cheaper one, but my Boo made the reservation and I'm a Marriott Rewards member so I'm good with anything Marriott owned. It's your typical Marriott decorated property. It did have free breakfast and free garage parking. I loved the big bowl of Chupa Chups lollipops they had at the front desk! Our room was on the 12th floor and it was more than adequate. Living room had a TV, kitchenette with sink, fridge and microwave, as well as a couch, coffee table, chair and desk setup. The king bed was closest to the balcony door. It was pretty cold at first, but we cranked up the heat!
My only "complaint" if there had to be one was with the bedding. The comforter bedspread was nothing more than a thick sheet and left much to be desired. I grabbed the extra blanket from the closet, but we also had to call the front desk and ask for more. Otherwise, the accommodations were adequate.
Now, on to the FUN stuff - FOOD & DRINK!
The first hidden gem on our road trip was right across the street from our hotel. It was this spot called "Scrambled" which you automatically assume is a breakfast spot.
What you don't expect to find is a local dive owned by Israel-native Haim Marko and family. They call it a "diner & bar" and let me just say it's definitely more than a "breakfast spot" which you can get there 24/7!
My Boo ordered an omelette with hash browns. I on the other hand ordered a lamb gyro with fries. What a pleasant surprise to find quite a few Mediterranean menu options - kabobs, hummus to gyros...and plenty more! It was truly a "diverse" menu from a palate perspective and I had sort of medium expectations. I was really surprised when I took that first bite into my food though. The gyro was seasoned to perfection...plenty of tumeric and just the right savory seasonings had my taste buds doing a "happy dance"!! My fries were fried to just the right crispness and came with salt AND pepper! (You don't understand, I'm a pepper fanatic - I got that from my Daddy, OK?!?!) The bar area was cute too. We noticed several drink specials and ended up trying a "Lemonana" which was homemade lemonade with mint, but we spiked ours with a shot of Tito's! The Lemonana part wasn't great and needed to be doctored up some. We tasted the mint, but was a little "weak" on the lemon taste.
Other than that, we loved the family-like, "local" atmosphere. The owner was very welcoming and friendly. He was also the "chef" came and spoke to us throughout our visit. You could tell how passionate he is about deliciously flavored food, cooking, and his customers. We would definitely recommend "Scrambled" and go back on our next visit! So, this hidden gem is "SpunkyDiva Approved" earning a "5-Pineapple" rating out of 5!
Hidden Gem #2 is called "Mojito Cafe" and we happened to truly stumble on it on our way to find a liquor store. It was cold, wet and rainy but we ventured out to find a liquor store and passed this place. I barely caught a glimpse of it but I did see the word "MOJITO" and that was ALL I needed! So after finding the liquor store, we typed in "Mojito Cafe" into Google Maps and a couple minutes later were at our destination. We figured we'd just have a drink (or two!) and then go back to the hotel and chill until we were ready for dinner.
We never expected to find that although this is a pretty small place, it was "jumping" and quite packed for a rainy Saturday night. The Latin music was pumping and the "vibe" was popping! They had a full kitchen and the food smelled delicious! I was still sorta full from hidden gem #1's meal, but we found two seats at the bar and quickly sat down.
From the menu, you can tell it specializes in a fusion of Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisine, but it also incorporates the flavors of other Latin/Spanish speaking countries from around the world. It was nostalgic for me because it tickled my Latina roots, had me dancing in my bar seat, and transported me back to my bday trip in Puerto Rico last April...and my "bucket list" trip to Cuba I'm dying to take this year!
I had a pineapple and passion fruit mojito. I ended up ordering the shrimp & grits special from the blackboard menu. My Boo ordered the beef tenderloins special also from the blackboard menu. We were too full to order dessert, but the couple next to us had the red velvet tres leches cake that was huge and looked YUMMMMMYYYY!!! (They said it was too and it was evident by them eating every last bite.) So, this hidden gem is "ALSO SpunkyDiva Approved" earning a "5-Pineapple" rating out of 5!
Our last hidden gem on this overnight VA Beach getaway is a breakfast place we found on the "Diner, Drive-Ins & Dives" list! The husband-wife duo, Lance & Cheri Shores, own this spot along with a 2nd location just down the road. They opened Citrus in 2006 and Cheri does all of the baking and has creative license with the menu's daily specials. The place was jam packed and buzzing when we got there around noon. We loved the "warm & friendly" reception we got after we checked-in. We went to the back "overflow" waiting/dining area aka the "back bar" area and ordered mimosas. I was most impressed with their creative mimosa menu! The 45-minute wait was cut when two people got up from the main counter area.
When I went to the front to return the buzzer, I met Lance who I recognized from the Triple D video! Then, when I went to sit down I saw his wife Cheri! My Boo is so adorable and such a big supporter of my #SpunkyDivaDiaries blogger life. He struck up a conversation with Cheri as she tried to take our order. He said he'd give her our order under one condition...that she'd take a picture with us because we'd seen her on the video. She laughed and said "OF COURSE!!" She called her hubby over and Boo took the picture of me with the owners for my blog.
I had the "Lynnhaven" with french toast and Boo had the "Cape Henry" with a homemade sweet potato biscuit which I took home with some yummy apple butter. It was delicious warmed up the next day for breakfast. Overall, this is a GREAT family-like atmosphere and a must visit in Virginia Beach! Check out Citrus, have a mimosa and let Lance & Cheri know that "SpunkyDiva" from Maryland sent you!
Location #2: 357 North Great Neck Road, Virginia Beach, VA 23454
Virginia Beach was a great little getaway that I'm sure come summer time will be full of people. The "strip" is like any other -- lined with hotels, restaurants, lots of retailers selling beach wear & products and has a "boardwalk" so you can take a stroll along the beach or ride your bike. I took a few pics from our hotel room of the beautiful view. It's cool to look for ships and boats far off into the distance. There's nothing like the feeling of waking up to the ocean and looking out at the horizon to wonder & daydream!
My last "treat" from the trip was on our way home going through this really cool under water tunnel. It's called the Hampton Roads Bridge Underwater (Undersea) Tunnel and it's 3.5 miles long (just the UNDER water part). At its lowest point I read it's like over 100 feet below sea level!