We all know James Madison University food rocks. Rocks so much that it’s #5 in the nation, but obviously #1 in our hearts. Once you branch out of the bubble of dining halls and dollars, though, you’ll realize that the good ole Harrisonburg, a small town with a big heart, has so many good, diverse eats that you may just want to start trying each place during the time you have at JMU. Seize every opportunity, my foodie friends, we live in an extraordinary time where it’s easy to have an All-American burger one night then sushi from a place across the street the next. #blessed
If you’re looking to try out the deliciousness that Harrisonburg has to offer, then this is your one stop link that’ll help guide your unsure taste buds to a restaurant that will hopefully leave you feeling more satisfied than you do after getting that 11th like on Instagram bringing you from usernames to numbers.
1. When you want your meal with a side of mountains: Dave’s Taverna
With a menu guaranteed to suit any fancy you may have, and outdoor seating on a deck that takes in quite the mountain view, Dave’s should be first on your list of restaurants this fall. On days when the weather is nice, expect to stick out a little bit of a wait because the deck is a hit for groups to gather and grub.
What to order: Depends on your state of mind, and stomach. If you would consider yourself calling in a drunk order, the buffalo balls could be your saving grace. If you’re swinging by during the week for a bite to eat with friends go with the gyro, or if you’re not feeling greek, the steak and cheese sandwich. Either way, make sure to get a side of the chips because they’re homemade.
Location: 810 Port Republic Road, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (about a five minute drive from campus).
2. When you or your friends are vegetarians: The Little Grill Collective
First off, mad props to the employees at The Little Grill Collective because this worker-owned restaurant is up and running each day thanks to their unified effort. Teamwork makes the dreamwork. Closed on Meatless Monday, but open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday, The Little Grill Collective is the place you can grab a bite to eat with vegetarians, vegans or really any person who loves food because their fresh, local ingredients are mixed and cooked into meals that leaves even hardcore carnivores questioning whether this veggie-tale lifestyle is for you.
What to order: For breakfast, the stack of wheat blue monkey pancakes are always a hit. For lunch, fall in love with their falafel on the Go Ask Alyce sandwich.
Location: 621 N. Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (about an eight minute drive from campus that’ll take you just beyond the downtown strip).
3. When you want a place that embodies JMU: Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint
An all around favorite for anyone who goes to JMU, Jack Brown’s will always deliver a satisfying burger topped with anything from mac & cheese to peanut butter. There is limited table space, but don’t be discouraged because take out is always an option and they recently started a delivery service. Take this quiz to find out which Jack Brown’s burger you are before the next time you bite into their all holy burgers.
What to order: The Greg Brady, obviously. Saturday burgers are also cool because the compilation of toppings on the Freestyle burger changes each time, so make sure to give their Facebook a look to see what the cooks whip up the next Saturday you head downtown.
Location: 80 S. Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (an easy 10 minute walk from The Quad).
4. When your parents are in town and they’re footing the bill: Local Chop and Grill House
When the parentals are in town and you want to take them to a nice place to eat, look no further than a higher end dining experience at the Local Chop and Grill House. Your group will be feeling fancy and fine as you order top notch entrees locally sourced from the Shenandoah Valley.
What to order: 8 oz. sirloin topped off with anything from the dessert menu, which was voted the best dessert menu in VA by Virginina Living magazine.
Location: 56 W. Gay Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22802 (located in the old City Produce and Exchange building, about eight minutes from campus).
#SpoonTip: This place is also great for a date night, but make sure to have that reservation because their tables fill up real quick.
5. When it’s Taco Tuesday: Tacos El Primo
Tacos El Primo is home to the best tacos in the ‘burg. Don’t hesitate to give this place a try next time you pass it on Reservoir. It may not be a key location, but it for sure holds the key to any taco loving heart. They also have quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, and other authentic Mexican plates for low, college budget friendly prices.
What to order: Four carne asada tacos.
Location: 1110 Reservoir Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (three minute drive from the Hillside parking lot, and 10 minute walk from the Village dorms).
#SpoonTip: They’ve also since opened a restaurant called Taqueria El Primo (literally a restaurant dedicated to the art of taco construction). Check it out at 1751 S. Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801.
6. When you want to get your drink on: Wolfe Street Brewing
With board games, a food truck park featuring our one true love that is Grilled Cheese Mania, trivia nights, and live music, Wolfe Street Brewing has become a hot spot for the 21 and over student crowd. And now a word from our Editor-in-Chief, Gillian Dukoff on why you NEED to go to Wolfe Street Brewing:
“Wolfe Street Brewing is one of the best spots downtown because it’s tasty, inexpensive craft beer with a great outdoor space that has games. Definitely make sure to get there on a night when they have live music. Oh, also, Grilled Cheese Mania on weekend nights FTW.”
There ya have it folks, get there ASAP.
What to order: Beer.
Location: 120 W. Wolfe Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
7. If you’re a b*itch or bro who brunches: Food.Bar.Food
Taking comfort food to whole new and healthier level, Food.Bar.Food should be your weekend brunch spot for sure. You’ll be a firm believer in the brunch or die motto after you eat their food with ingredients even fresher than you, mixed to perfection and served on plates that’ll give you a table-scape photo racking in those Insta likes all day long.
What to order: There’s no better way to start you weekend mornings than with the Food.Bar.Food Brunch Bowl.
Location: 126 W. Bruce Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (a 15 minute walk from The Quad).
8. When you want some live music with your food: Clementine
Two words: event calendar. Check it out, and see the next time you can have some good eats while jamming out to a live performer.
What to order: The shrimp, andouille & grits appetizer gives you a little taste of creole cooking in the ‘burg and is the perfect starter for a jazzed out night of quality food, drink, and tunes.
Location: 153 South Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (a 10 minute walk from The Quad).
9. When you’ve got the munchies, drunchies, or any greasy late night craving: Chanello’s
CHEESY BREAD is the answer. Always. Delivered right to your door and an acceptor of Flex as a payment, Chanello’s will always be there for you Dukes who find yourselves too drunk to pull together a snack, but just capable enough of dialing 10 digits.
What to order: Please reference line one. If you’re feeling adventurous, top it off with some bacon.
Location: Unimportant, here’s the number that will save your spinning world next Friday night: 540-574-4700.
10. When you’ve got a sweet tooth: Bella Luna Gelato & Pastries
For all of you study abroad people, or anyone who fancies a good ole’ cup of Italian ice cream made with ingredients fresh from the Shenandoah Valley area, Bella Gelato is the shop of your dreams. You’ll be so in love with every bite of chocolate you take that you won’t even care that there may or may not be remnants of gelato lining the rims of your lips.
What to order: Blackberry for gelato, lemon for sorbet.
Location: 49 W. Water Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (a 15 minute walk from The Quad, tucked away on W. Water Street).
11. When you’re tired of Starbucks and Dunkin’: Greenberry’s
Starbucks will always be there for you, anywhere you go. Europe, across the states, small towns, big cities. Dunkin’ as well. But you should, even if only every once and a while, branch out of your basic coffee sphere and give Greenberry’s a try next time you need a caffeine fix. It won’t disappoint. Also, they have a drive-thru, so there’s really no excuse not to go.
What to order: The coffee of the day. Also, they have “Fair Trade Fridays” so give one of those blends at try next time you stop in on a Friday.
Location: 400 S. High Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (across the street from Memorial Hall, 10 minute walk from The Quad).
12. When you’re doin’ it for the Insta: Pulp
Trendy, healthy, and guaranteed to rack up those likes on the ‘gram, Pulp should be your go-to Harrisonburg spot for an açai bowl. Did I mention it’s delicious? Because it’s so freaking good. Who knows? You may finish your bowl feeling so healthy that a spur of the moment lifestyle change happens, and you buy yourself one of the bikes staring you in the face as you were stuffing your face with açai goodness.
What to order: Definitely get the O.G. because it’s the real original gangsta of bowls.
Location: 135 S. Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801, right inside Shenandoah Bicycle Company (it’s a five minute drive from campus or a 10 minute walk from The Quad).
13. When it’s Cheesy Thursday and all the dining halls are packed: Grilled Cheese Mania
We spooners are huge Grilled Cheese Mania fans, and could rave about all things cheesy and absolutely delicious at this food truck for days. Their Classic Johnny makes you feel thankful for the culinary genius who thought melting cheese on carbs then cooking it in butter would taste good. If you’re interested in learning more about this cheese heaven, there are at least nine other reasons GCM should you your new lunch spot.
What to order: The Mama Mania is hands down what you should absolutely order next time you hit up Grilled Cheese Mania. Grab a napkin because you’ll be drooling after hearing these ingredients: Mozzarella cheese, basil pesto, and tomato. #ohbaby
Location: 1321 S. High Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (about a 10 minute drive from campus when you factor in traffic and street lights). For those of you who are 21, find GCM at Wolfe Street Brewing Thursday through Saturday nights from 8:00 to 11:30 pm.
14. When you need to grab lunch for under $10 between classes: Which Wich
Take a break from the deli bar at PC Dukes and try out Which Wich next time you’re feeling a sandwich for lunch. If being adventurous isn’t enough of a motivation, I can think of seven reasons why you need to go to Which Wich.
What to order: With so many options (and all of them so delicious), I can’t even imagine recommending one and only one sandwich. You decide.
Location: 291 University Blvd #102, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
#SpoontTip: They take FLEX. Any place that takes Flex as a form of payment is a friend to all Dukes.
15. When you’re hungover: Mr. J’s Bagels and Deli
Not much else can cure that nauseating headache you have after a night of dancing and slamming back can after can like a bagel from Mr. J’s. Bless up for multiple locations: if you need a bacon, egg and cheese ASAP, then drive the extra distance because you won’t have much of a crowd. If you don’t mind shouting, bumping, and running into people you know (basically a hungover soul’s nightmare), then head on over the Mr. J’s on E. Market.
What to order: Everything bagel with taylor, egg, and cheese.
Locations: 1731 S. High Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 OR 1635-37 E. Market Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22801 (closest to campus: eight minute drive) OR 1741 E. Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22801
And there ya have it, your ultimate guide to dining around JMU. If you’re looking to keep up with all things food, check out Spoon University at James Madison University on Facebook and follow us on Instagram. #NeverForks