Virginia’s Best Kept Secret… Downtown Fredericksburg!

Life recently took me to Fredericksburg, Virginia for a 5 day trip. Unfortunately, we stayed in a Clarion in strip-mall hell and it was only happenstance that my craving for Thai food took us to a new part of town. That’s when I realized we had not only discovered great Thai food at Bangkok Thai, but we had found the true heart of Fredericksburg, Carolina Street. I wondered why no one had ever told us about the quirky downtown, full of antique shops selling civil war memorabilia, book stores with both new and used books, coffee shops, bars, and restaurants with endless varieties of great food; basically it’s a unique mix of old, traditional businesses and buildings with enough hipster thrown in to make the place sing.

Caroline Street in Fredericksburg, VA

Riverby Books on Caroline Street.

The atmosphere of downtown brought us back the next day, earlier in the afternoon so that we had time to look in the stores and mull over where we would eat dinner that night. In a lovingly crowded antique shop, I found an old edition of Galápagos: World’s End by William Beebe. Published in 1924, it’s conversational tone and old black and white photos grabbed my attention. Don’t know if it will prepare me for our eventual trip to the Galápagos but it will definitely make for an interesting conversation piece once we arrive in Ecuador. Across the street at The Blue Canary, I discovered my new desk, a 1960’s vintage piece with brushed metal handles, drawers the perfect width to hold pads of paper, and painted an ideal pale turquoise, guaranteed to make it mom’s desk rather than anyone else’s! A couple of used bookstores and a few more books later (an old FoxFire original, worth blogging about all on it’s very own; a bird book from East Africa with travel notes and all; and A Dragonfly in Amber, a re-read for myself. Don’t tell anyone, but I can resist time travel lit, especially when it involves a hunky Scotsman and his adventure-prone time-traveling wife.)

Neon Light at Coolrick’s Drugstore

I had my heart set on eating at Soup and Taco, a simple and small restaurant offering authentic Mexican food. An online review said they had the best empanadas outside of Argentina. I’ve missed my empanadas and I could think of nothing else until, I have to admit, passing FOODĒ. The idea of empanadas faded and we found ourselves being reeled into a food experience. It wasn’t just their chalkboard out front, or all the folks eating on the bricked in porch, or that my husband had read about them online. It was the entire package. Warm bread, goat cheese and fig jam sounded tasty too… that was their top appetizer for the day. And the experience promised to be unique. FOODĒ offers gourmet meals without the stress of an upscale restaurant. Drinks are served in mason jars – iced tea and water in the big ones, wine in the small ones. Service at your table is limited to the first round of drinks and the arrival of your meal, otherwise, you take care of yourself like a big kid. Need more water? It’s not far from the table. You order your meal up front at the register and pay when you order… no tipping necessary. Then you sit back, enjoy a bottle of fine, local Cabernet Franc while you wait for your dinner to arrive, and chat with your friends. You can also make eyes at the cute young toddlers running around. They love it when I wiggle my fingers at them. Guess I have a way with younger men.

The steak dinner at FOODE.

I had the sausage and polenta – yummy flavors though I could have used twice the polenta and half the sausage. This is comfort food afterall. The tomato sauce was spot on. The two guys with me ordered steaks that were cooked to medium perfection. The fries were an excellent addition and the brocolli rapini was so good that I ate half of what was on my husband’s plate. We didn’t have room for dessert, but I may go back for that when I pick up my desk. Then I can try the empanadas at Soup and Taco as well! And maybe an ice cream soda at the soda fountain in Coolrick’s Drugstore. If I lived in Fredericksburg, I think I would gain weight.

We ended the evening with a walk through the National Cemetery, just a short drive away from downtown. For some of you, that will sound rather strange but there is beauty to be found among gravestones in the fading sunlight. It isn’t a joyful beauty, but a poignant one.

Tree at sunset in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.

Flowering dogwoods dotted the wide expanse and the hillside meant we watched the sun fade away bit by bit, leaving only the very tops of the trees kissed with light. We saw unmarked graves with as many as seven bodies interred, the soldiers unidentifiable after the heat of battle. As a military wife, I will always be grateful that my husband makes it home from deployment. I am more than grateful that we no longer slay thousands in a single battle. I am sad that we kill at all and am one of those optimistic few that believe the way in which we wage war is slowly changing and that, one day, war will no longer be the answer. In the meantime, it’s good to remind ourselves of past wars, reflect on the current ones, and strive not to repeat any of them.

Monument at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.


3 thoughts on “Virginia’s Best Kept Secret… Downtown Fredericksburg!

  1. They have a Christmas house tour and carriage/trolley rides. Next time you go there are 2 good toy/kid’s book stores on the main street. Culpepper is also a lovely stop – main street and lots of farm land (grass-fed beef, sustainable leaning). You’ll have to post pix of the desk.


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