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Tucked quietly behind VMI’s warm ochre barracks, the historic district of Lexington, Virginia blends just the right amount of Main Street Americana with a certain citified allure.  The beautiful wrought iron balconies and pebbled walk leading to Stonewall Jackson’s kitchen garden and carriage are alongside gilded truffles, coffee shops, and sweet boutiques. Craftsmen are busy at work restoring the old buildings and hinting at the tenacity of the formidable gals. Downtown’s resurgence coupled with the surrounding beauty of the Virginia mountains creates an unbeatable combination, and while Lexington maintains a strong connection to its mountain roots, it also has sheltered renowned, boundary-pushing photographers such as resident Sally Mann and gallery owner Kat Kiernan.  As you can imagine, gallery shows around town can get a little interesting. So whether you are looking for a lovely block of artisan cheese, or a cozy farm to table dinner at The Red Hen, you’ll find Lexington has a charm all its own.

Blue Phoenix Cafe & Market 110 W. Washington St.

Sweet Things Ice Cream Shoppe 106 W. Washington St.

Nelson Fine Arts Gallery  This light filled gallery off Washington is always our first stop in town. Don’t miss the annual juried show each August with artists hailing from all over the Mid-Atlantic region. Nelson Gallery also represents a number of established local artists whose work is exhibited regularly along with spotlighted regional or national artists. 27 W. Washington St.

Wolf and Co. Antiques  We love this eclectic antique shop downtown. You’ll find folk art beside a Federal drop-leaf desk.  The owner worked at Sotherby’s; so not only does he know his stuff, but he can mix it up with the best of them. Wing through this well curated, small shop–you’ll be glad you did. 23 W. Washington St.

Artists in Cahoots  21 W. Washington St.

Make sure to check out First Fridays for Downtown Lexington’s Gallery Walk

Sweet Treats Bakery is known for its chicken salad.  While arguably very good, it was the warm, gently seasoned house cut chips that really surprised us. The memory of them makes us want to detour anytime we’re in that neck of the woods. 19 W. Washington St.

Earth, Fire, and Spirit Pottery 15 W. Washington St.

Lexington Coffee Shop  We love the vibe of this casual coffee shop.  The antique schoolhouse pendant lights, the local art on the walls, the neighbors’ mugs hanging on hooks–all give us a cozy feeling inside. This is the kind of place that makes you comfortable lingering over a cup or two.  9 W. Washington St.

The Cabell Gallery  5 W. Washington St.

Late April through Thanksgiving, pick up some local greens from the Lexington Farmers Market Wednesday mornings 8-12:30 in McCrum’s parking lot.  Intersection of Jefferson and W. Nelson streets

Stonewall Jackson House and Garden  Enjoy the gorgeous historic kitchen garden for free.  Walk to the rear of the property and inspect the carriage out back, or go the whole nine yards and tour the house.  8 E. Washington St.

Brew Ridge Taps 11 E. Nelson St.

Blue Sky Bakery 16 Lee Ave.

Washington Street Purveyors was voted best wine shop in the Shenandoah Valley by Virginia Living.  The amicable folks at Washington St. want to introduce you to something new. While the owner, Chuck, can certainly give you a great recommendation, he seems equally as happy to discuss Simpson episodes (or leave you to browse in solitude–it’s all good).  Pick up some Olli Salumeria while you’re there–“artisanal, slow cured salami made in Virginia.”  9 E. Washington St.

The Red Hen  Working with local producers, The Red Hen takes the best ingredients they can find to create one memorable dish after another. Chefs Matt Adams and Becca Norris design the menu daily. While you can’t know for sure what they’ll be serving, rest assured it will be amazing. The cozy gingerbread-trimmed abode seats a limited number of folks, so call ahead.  Better yet, head out early and have a custom cocktail on their patio and bring some friends. 11 E. Washington St.

Pure Eats  Redonkulous donuts and thick shakes–what more could you want?  We hear they serve a pretty mean burger as well. 107 N. Main St.

Sheridan Livery Restaurant  35 N. Main St.

Napa Thai  24 N. Main St.

Pappagallo 23 N. Main St.

Sixteen North 16 N. Main St.

Taps at The Georges Hotel 11 N. Main St.

Bistro on Main  There are not many who can pass up Bistro on Main’s signature beer bread. Owner Jackie Lupo knows how to please with satisfying options like the Grilled Filet Sandwich (when a light lunch just won’t do) and an array of winning dinner entrees and homemade desserts. 8 N. Main St.

Haywood’s  This elegant corner bistro serves small plates meant to be shared.  While the flavors are familiar, Chef Harris’ execution is impeccable. The menu is seasonal, but if you find Brisket Sliders with shallot jam or Pork Cracklin Cornbread, you’re in luck.  With sweets like the Panna Cotta Sandwich made with rhubarb syrup, or a classic Pavola, dessert might be hard to resist. 2 N. Main St.

Pumpkinseeds  When we last visited, the chalkboard sign outside declared, “The cutest darn store ever.” We would tend to agree.  Fetching dresses, nifty gifts, fun jewelry and decor–Pumpkinseeds is apt to lighten your mood, if not your wallet.  Go by and see ’em. 1 N. Main St.

Ladles & Linens Kitchen Shoppe  One of our favorite stops in Lexington, Ladles & Linens has plenty to inspire you to get back in the kitchen. Things you’ve always wanted or never knew you needed, until now. 13 S. Main St.

Walkabout Outfitter carries all you need to gear up for the great outdoors, including some items to help you look stylish on the trails or off. 21 S. Main St.

Pronto Caffe Gelateria  You’ll often find a passel of smiling folks lingering at this bright eatery downtown. The modern hybrid covers all the basics and does it well: coffee, wine, gelato.  After you finish off one of their particularly tasty sandwiches, gild the lily and ask for an affogato made with Pronto’s Salted Caramel Gelato (or maybe Almond Joy, if that’s the way you want to roll).  They even offer a sorbet version, “drowned in Moscato”.  What a way to go. 26 S. Main St.

Cheese to You  Whether you are looking for some Cypress Grove Truffled Tremor (aged goat cheese studded with black truffle) or a wedge of Appalachian (Farmstead raw milk cheese) from Galax, Meg can hook you up. She’ll tell you anything you need to know, including wine pairings. 32 S. Main St.

Gladiola Girls 34 S. Main St.

Southern Inn Restaurant  When you reach the iconic Southern Inn Restaurant sign, you know you’re about to partake in a bit of Lexington history. Closing in on its 80th year, Southern Inn has seen a few changes.  Its latest incarnation offers plenty to keep the legacy alive, from baked brie to a local vegetable tartlett or the Grand Marnier Creme Brulee. We are big believers that every Southern brunch needs some good corned beef hash served over potato bread and scrambled eggs. Thank you, Southern Inn, we’re happy now. 37 S. Main St.

Southern Girls  This little design shop off Main carries some smart rugs, furnishings and accessories. Traditional, with a touch of modern, Southern Girls can help you create a pretty room with a healthy dose of spunk. 121 S. Main St.

Frank’s Pizza & Subs  511 E. Nelson St.

Cocoa Mill Chocolatier   Oh,Cocoa Mill how you enchant us with your Limoncello Truffles, Coffee CaramelsDark Chocolate Espresso BeansSmores Bark…need we go on? 123 W. Nelson St.

Old Lex Mercantile  Once you’ve tasted really good balsamic vinegar, you won’t want anything else. Old Lex Mercantile can help you out with that and plenty of other gourmet items. They also carry premium olive oils and feature products from one of our favorite pasta makers Bombolini of Richmond,Va. On the heels of the newest bronut craze, Old Lex carries the heavenly treats direct from MarieBette Cafe and Bakery in Charlottesville. Don’t pass over The Pie Chest’s savory pies either. 113 W. Nelson St.

The Bookery Limited  For those who love nothing more than to immerse themselves in a great book, don’t miss the opportunity to pour through the shelves of new and used paperbacks and hardcovers at The Bookery.  They specialize in Civil War, Virginia, and Southern literature. 107 W. Nelson St.

The Palms Restaurant 101 W. Nelson St.

Books & Co. 29 W. Nelson St.

Mano Taqueria  3 W. Nelson St.

Salerno Pizzeria Bar & Bistro is a beloved neighborhood restaurant. You won’t find anything high brow here.  You will find calzones of an unusual size.  Order the small; it is still a hefty meal. This friendly joint serves pizza by the slice (or the pie).  Their cheesesteaks are rumored to be pretty righteous too. 115 S. Jefferson St.

Kind Roots Cafe  It might seem a little unorthodox that this cafe is located inside a gym, but hey, we’re down.  With specials like sweet red pepper and corn gazpacho, you can put down Roots anywhere. Virginia Living voted them the best place for lunch in the valley. Try the Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger and definitely get a smoothie.  Keep in mind the breakfast sandwiches are mighty tasty, and you don’t even have to get up early (a.m. sandwiches served until 11). 790 N. Lee Hwy.

Lexington Coffee Roasters has consistently earned high scores from Coffee Review and were included in the top 30 coffees. We imagine that’s a good thing. What we know for certain is their insistence on preparing the beans in small batches results in the freshest, most divine cup of your daily fix. 2345 N. Lee Hwy.

Hull’s Drive-in Movie Theatre  Yes, we still like to imagine we are in the movie Grease at the drive-in.  You can too.  2367 N. Lee Hwy.

Muchacho Alegre   2809 N. Lee Hwy.

Blue Lab Brewing Co.  This mighty microbrewery is small, but fierce. They offer five excellent year round craft beers, but if you want to stray from Hefe or Belgium Wit, they’ve got plenty of seasonal brews to intrigue you.  The Coffee Chocolate Stout and Green Chile Ale are two of our favorites. Live music on the regular and Drinkn and Thinkn trivia begins at six on Thursdays. TEMPORARILY CLOSED, stay tuned for new location

Lime Kiln Theater has been weaving its magic since 1967. Catch an incredible performance under the stars and keep the arts alive. Check out their calendar of music and performance art here. 607 Borden Rd.

BeamMeUp BBQ and Cafe  Get there early because when the smoky deliciousness is gone, they close for the day. 411 Lime Kiln Rd. Closed Sunday and Monday

Kenney’s is a throwback to a simpler time. Their crispy chicken and fried biscuits served with packets of honey have developed a cult following. Picnic tables out front for seating, and cash only is how it is done. When in Rome…635 Waddell St.

Farm to You is “all local, all the time.”  Sourcing from over thirty farms, Farm to You does the legwork for you. Just drive over and shop to your heart’s content (like any grocery); or subscribe online, place an order and pick up.  Farm to You has everything from kraut to grass-fed beef. Eat local.  637C Waddell St.

Boxerwood Nature Center  Whether you are out for Music in the Garden or a Full Moon Walk, Boxerwood is one of the best places in time to spend a little time and unplug. 963 Ross Rd.

Foothill Mama’s BBQ Juke Joint 141 E. Midland Trl.

Lex Mex Tacos

Looking for a great place to hike or run?  We love The Chessie Nature Trail. But this area is full of gorgeous hikes (and places to muddy your mountain bikes), so check out Rockbridge County and Buena Visa’s extensive list of trails here.   You’ll see why Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine named Lexington top mountain town!

Side Trip:

Devil’s Backbone Outpost Brewery  This award-winning brewery has an outpost in the lush Virginia countryside. Try the World Beer Cup Gold winner Vienna Lager, or get in the mood for Fall with the Pumpkin Hunter. DB offers flights for an easy way to sample more. Devil’s Backbone Outpost Taproom and Biergarden opens at 1pm everyday. 200 Mosbys Run, Roseland, VA
© 2021



8 Responses to Lexington

  1. Ellie Boylan

    Nice review of the town in which I live. It makes me want to take a vacation at home!

  2. E.G.

    Lovely description of our town. We love the fact that you can live within walking distance of everything and can survive without a car.
    You might want to add The Palms on Nelson St. We have eaten there quite a few times and have never had a bad meal.

  3. Patty Williams

    Don’t forget a trip to Sweet Things Ice Cream! After 30 years of making home made ice cream and hand rolled waffle cones, it is a Lexington landmark!

  4. T J Tremmel

    …and you have missed WareHouse Gallery Art & Pottery at 302 McLaughlin Street representing the five artists that work and live in the building—Made in Lexington’s Industrial & Arts District.

  5. Stephanie

    Don’t forget Blue Sky Bakery – they have the best tuna melt! The Sheraton Livery is also a delicious restaurant with outdoor seating. Frank’s Pizza serves the best pizza outside of Italy, with a $6.50 large cheese pizza special every Wednesday. And certainly include Sweet Things (the Oreo ice cream is to die for) and the Warehouse Gallery! There are many wonderful restaurants in Lexington, though I would not recommend Salerno’s among them.

    • Doug

      And what about Cool Springs Market my choice for great selection of healthy food products.

  6. jenny

    Great blurb on my great little town–with a name like “Hip GREEN Scene” I assumed that items focused on would be eco friendly?! But unfortunately many of the restaurants you included use only Styrofoam containers. And you missed the greeniest caterer in VIRGINIA and the smallest certified green farm to table caterer internationally–full circle catering. Come on back and try some truly hip green Lexington food!


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