8 Delicious Off-Campus Eats: Harrisonburg Va, James Madison University
Spotlight on College Dining, A small Virginia town with big eats.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I chose JMU for my undergraduate education, it was not because of a bustling downtown or vigorous nightlife (off campus, that is). James Madison University prides itself in its campus life – its beautiful quad, its highly acclaimed dining options, and its constant renovations and improvements. It took me a few months into my freshman year to realize that only a mile away from campus were several delicious alternatives for when campus food (yes, even if it is ranked fourth in the nation) gets old. Here are a few of my top picks for anything from happy hour to a nice dinner out or just something sweet!
1. Dave’s Taverna
Recently moved to the top of Port Republic and Devon Lane, Dave’s Taverna is a family owned restaurant that’s a favorite of the locals with prices that college students can appreciate. Offering dine in through 12 AM and take out until 3 AM, Dave’s is great for a sit-down dinner (with one of the best sunset views in Harrisonburg, courtesy of its new location) or a late-night snack. They offer their famous steak and cheese as well as a variety of vegetarian and vegan options as well as a few Greek classics, making it a great stop no matter who you have with you.
Don’t forget to pick up your ‘Eat my pita!’ sticker!
Be sure to try: Steak and cheese, Veggie pita
2. Union Station Restaurant & Bar
A dining experience set on preserving the history of Harrisonburg, Union Station prides itself in not only its extensive menu but also its excellent hospitality. The restaurant features hearty American grill selections while the bar offers specials for every night of the week including “Tini Tuesday” ($5.00 specialty martinis) and “Tap of the Week Thursday”. What started as a depot for passenger service on the B&O Railroad line became a restaurant you have to experience!
Be sure to try: Black bean cakes, The Cannonball burger
3. Strite’s Donuts
Doughnut lovers; come one, come all. Now featured in multiple Harrisonburg quick stops and gas stations, Strites donuts are a weekend (and let’s face it, everyday) necessity. The closest location to campus and permanent one from 10 AM to 6 PM is inside the Liberty Gas station on Port Republic Road. Family run since its opening in July of 2004, Strite’s started as an original donut truck and spread to its multiple locations while expanding into stores. These donuts, baked fresh daily, are easily the Shenandoah Valley’s best-kept secret.
Be sure to try: Bavarian cream filled, Pumpkin, Blueberry (who am I kidding, try them all).
4. Earth & Tea Café
Located on South Main near the lovable Cat’s Cradle, Earth & Tea Café offers not only an extensive menu of incredible teas but also an enchanting ambience that can’t be found anywhere else. The café offers breakfast at 9 AM on weekdays and brunch every Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM as well as lunch and deli options throughout their open hours. The tea selection includes a variety of Green, White, Black, Oolong, Herbal, and Rooibos options as well as my personal favorite, the iced tea of the day. Stop in for a large pot of tea at only $5.00 and a small or cup to go for $3.00. They’re open until 10 PM on Friday and Saturday nights to offer an “international lounge setting” to downtown Harrisonburg, so be sure to stop in!
Be sure to try: Open face pear sandwich, Black bean mango wrap, Peaches and flowers tea
5. Klines Dairy Bar
The infamous ice cream shop of Harrisonburg is featured on either end of South Main Street for convenience wherever you’re coming from. Originally located in the Kline’s household and served to customers through their window in 1943, the shop continues to serve basic flavors like vanilla and chocolate with an added twist of their flavored powders and syrups. Whether you’re in the mood for a waffle cone, a milkshake, or a banana split, Kline’s will give you the drive-through price option with the homemade taste.
Be sure to try: The flavor of the week, of course! Especially if it’s Peanut Butter Cookies n’ Cream
6. Jack Brown’s Joint
Boasting 100 craft beers and an award winning burger menu, Jack Brown’s is perfect for a great meal or a night out. Jack Brown’s hosts an Oktoberfest as well as the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival, creating an atmosphere any beer/burger/music lover can appreciate and décor to talk about as well. “Good food, good beer and good times” are all waiting for you at Jack Brown’s, located in downtown Harrisonburg.
Be sure to try: The Chiflet, Fried oreos
7. Bella Luna
Featuring a simple menu focused on their wood-fired pizzas, Bella Luna gives Italian a twist with a Neapolitan-inspired thin crust and all locally grown ingredients. The authenticity of the restaurant is reflected in not only the cooking methods but also the restaurant itself, with wood slab structures and entirely opens dining spaces. Bella Luna is the perfect place to go for pizzas and pastas for the whole family or a simple date night.
Be sure to try: The $5.00 Happy Hour pizza, Ring of Fire pizza
8. Clementine Cafe
I may be biased, but don’t worry – I know I’ve saved the best for last. Clementine’s has the “total college feel” with only the comfort that a Harrisonburg restaurant can bring. As if the food weren’t good enough, Clementine’s features local art on all its walls, live music daily, and an outdoor patio adorned with lanterns (Ruby’s). You can have your special event catered by Clementine’s or even rent the lounge for a night, but nothing beats the atmosphere of a good local show and great local food at the perfect student prices. Check it out yourself, because I’m getting hungry just writing about it.
Be sure to try: Everything. I’m serious (Especially the goat cheese salad and the fried house chips).
Upcoming shows: The Barefoot Movement (10/5); Lexie Hayden, Keelan Donovan, and Savannah Philyaw (10/8).