When they could find oysters, corn or venison, the Jamestown settlers feasted like there was no tomorrow because often, there was nothing left in the larder for long periods of time. John Smith and company lived on boiled barley in water for months.
Times may still be uncertain, but there's no escaping a good meal in the 60-mile stretch between Jamestown and Richmond. Aside from the places we visited, here are some options.
Indian Fields Tavern
With spoonbread as a side dish and bread pudding for dessert, old-Virginia gustatory traditions live on in this 1890 farmhouse east of Richmond, entering its 20th year as a genteel dining spot in the countryside. Chef/owner Erich Von Gerhen's finesse with crab cakes, steaks and smoked Surry sausages is made more blissful by the screened-porch seating. Open daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. for lunch and dinner, Sunday brunch. Reservations preferred; diners must be seated by 3:15 for lunch, 8:45 for weeknight dinners, an hour later on weekends. 9220 John Tyler Memorial Highway, Charles City, 829-5004.
Edwards Virginia Ham Shoppe
Before getting on the ferry, load the picnic basket with ham sandwiches and snacks, or get a souvenir ham (boneless is around $30). This local landmark in Surry County has a front porch just right for polishing off a barbecue, a smoked turkey sandwich or a sample of city ham a less salty version for ham lightweights. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. 11381 Rolfe Highway, (757) 294-3688.
James River Pie Company
Just up Jamestown Road from the settlement is one of the area's best-kept food secrets. Pizza and pot pies are rich, soups and sandwiches are delectable, and the range of nut and fruit pies is reason to save serious room for dessert. Takeout only, except for three concrete benches out front. Open Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 8 p.m. 1804 Jamestown Road, (757) 229-7775, www.buyapie.com.
Blue Talon Bistro
Chef David Everett is pleased that he's back in business after a fire closed this popular spot for several months. At this Williamsburg spot expect serious comfort food, a nice wine list and an easy attitude. Get morning pastries and coffee starting at 8 a.m. daily, lunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m. daily (until 8 p.m. Sundays). 420 Prince George St. in Merchant Square, (757) 476-2583, www.bluetalonbistro.com.
Acclaimed cuisine with chef/owner Tom Power Jr.'s bistro-style, seasonal menu. Specials could be scallops, tenderloin, lamb shanks or spring quail. Baked Alaska is prepared with huckleberry ice cream, or try the tequila blood-orange sorbet or the Brazil nut pie with Jack Daniels ice cream. In Williamsburg. Dinner only, 5-10 p.m. daily. Nonsmoking. 410 W. Duke of Gloucester St. (757) 229-3333.
Desserts are big in Williamsburg, and renowned chef Marcel Desaulniers started the revolution. Busy with tourists, this remains one of the best-known restaurants in town, and an enduring one, now led by chef Michael Holdsworth. The patio is prime for people-watching while dining on American seasonal cuisine. Open for lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, dinner 5-9:30 p.m. In Williamsburg, 403 Duke of Gloucester St. (757) 229-8610. www.thetrellis.com
Seasons Restaurant of Williamsburg
Chef Demetrise Edwards offers delicious steak, seafood and crab cakes. And the location is right: a block away from Duke of Gloucester Street and within sight of the DeWitt Wallace Museum. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 110 S. Henry St. (757) 259-0018. www.seasonsofwilliamsburg.comBack to the cover story.