I got back from a terrific week in Virginia, with visits also to PA and MD, visiting the Civil War battlefield sites. Here are some recommendations and warnings:
1.) Avenue Restaurant, in downtown Gettysburg (a charming and bustling old town). Fabulous breakfast, but be ready for serious cholesterol what with the biscuits and gravy, sausage, eggs. Do try to the scrapple if you are new to Pennsylvania. Very good food and well priced. Excellent service.
2.) Farnsworth House, Gettysburg, PA - Charming restaurant that serves Civil War era food. We tried the very popular "game pie" which included duck, pheasant and turkey baked in a pie crust with a gravy. Excellent and interesting. I was not a big fan of peanut soup, but I could appreciate it. They also serve steaks and fish and so forth. The Pennsylvania style pickled watermelon rinds are strange and very (too) sweet, almost jellied consistency. The cole slaw was very sweet but my dad liked it. You should visit for the point of experimenting with old style eating. Very old Civil War era building. Only downside is that you have to sit outside to get the full menu and it was chilly the night we did.
3.) Nutter's Ice Cream, Antietam, MD. - This is just outside of the battlefield. This is THE best ice cream I have ever tasted, bar none. Very rich and creamy - probably ridiculously high butter fat content which makes it so yummy. On a Sunday afternoon there was a line of people stretching out the door, plenty of them locals. It was worth the wait. It is in a tiny, ancient old shop. There has to be a couple dozen flavors. I got the a scoop of strawberry cheesecake and another of peach and they blew me away. Very generous servings and very good price.
4.) Allman's BBQ, Fredericksburg. - Wow, what a disappointment this famous establishment was! It is simply awful. The ribs were overcooked, dry, grey, stringy, with no smokiness or flavor. The collard greens were a disgrace: bitter and with barely any of the ham hock in it. No love or care went into this food. And like the old Woody Allen joke, "Such bad food and such small portions." Insultingly small portions. The young waitress brought dishes for the four of us out separately with long waits in between, she couldn't remember who ordered what, and there was just one other table there. Really bad. To top it off, the prices were absurd. I felt ripped off. This old establishment is like a boxer way past his prime who doesn't know when to quit.
5.) Carl's Ice Cream, Fredericksburg - Not far from Allman's was another Chowhound suggestion, Carl's. Supposedly it's "frozen custard." Well, it was just ice cream and rather mediocre at that. And WAY over priced. I have no idea why this is considered so famous.
6.) The Smokey Pig, Ashland, VA - Not far from Richmond, this is a great restaurant. I really enjoyed the smokey, tender, perfectly seasoned pork ribs and the peppery BBQ sauce which accompanies it. The clam chowder was rich and tasty and loaded with clams, the crab cakes full of lump crab and not filler and very well seasoned. The complimentary hush puppies crisp and well seasoned. I tried their collards also and they were very tasty, earthy, slightly bitter, just the way they should be. Very comfortable place with good service and fair prices.
7.) Brickhouse Run, Petersburg, VA. - In Olde Town, this is a very welcoming Irish pub type restaurant. Excellent beer selection. I tried the smoked cod chowder which was phenomenal and a meal in itself with the richness and plenty of cod. Dad and I shared a big Farmer's Salad too and that was enough, but then they brought the fish 'n' chips which is a true British style. Not greasy, very generous piece of cod, and a thick golden crust. Everything rocked including the excellent service and fair prices. A lot of care goes into the food and service here. Highly recommend this.
8.) Cracker Barrel Restaurants, throughout region. - Okay, I may take some flak for this, but I think they do a very good and consistent job at this country-style chain restaurant. If you don't have the time and inclination to look for a high end restaurant, you can get good quality home-style food and excellent service at ridiculously low prices. We had the sampler dinner of meat loaf, chicken and dumplings and were very satisfied. Their breakfasts are large (try the pancakes which comes with real maple syrup). They have a very wide variety of everything.