Simple Eats in Virginia Beach is simply charming and delicious

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By: Judy Cowling
Virginian-Pilot correspondent
September 9, 2015
If you live in one area long enough, you are bound to see a restaurant change hands a few times. Over the past 20 years, I've seen three different eateries at one location in Virginia Beach. And the latest, Simple Eats, is hands down the winner.
Once a dingy bar, then a dark and moody restaurant, Simple Eats is now a bright and happy gathering place. After a major overhaul of the location previously occupied by H2O, Simple Eats opened at the beginning of June.

Simple Eats, 3152 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, 962-3676, simpleeatsvb.com
White-painted brick walls, tile floors and handwritten chalkboard specials give it a cottage feel. Large, round whitewashed tables with steel pipe legs and various handmade picnic tables with benches remind me of a farmhouse. The bar-height communal table in the center of the room solidifies the fact that this is an unpretentious, friendly place, and the new shaded deck out back is a perfect perch for those who'd rather dine alfresco.
My Portsmouth pal and I stopped in for lunch last week and were charmed by both the decor and the casual ease of the staff. We debated over what to order and settled on The Duck from the sandwich menu, rockfish tacos and a Sandy's Salad.

The menu is farm-to-table-fresh and inventive. My pink-tender roasted duck breast with pimento cheese, greens and a ripe tomato was served on lightly toasted sourdough bread. Who knew duck and pimento cheese went together so well? A small cup of mixed corn, beans, purple onion, okra, tomatoes and cucumbers made for a delightful side. This veggie mix changes daily based on whatever is left to be chopped up in the kitchen.

I've had mahi, cod and haddock in fish tacos but never rockfish, and we both loved the treat. Three soft oven-warmed shells were filled with the flavorful fish, chopped tomatoes, onions and big pieces of cilantro. Two juicy lime quarters provided just the right citrus zing to brighten the fish.

After 30 years of experience in restaurant management, owner Sandy Schmidtmann finally opened a place of her own and named a salad after herself. Sandy's Salad overflowed the bowl and boasted three thick slabs of tomato alternated with generous discs of mozzarella beside a pile of fresh salad greens, all drizzled with a thick balsamic glaze.

The cheery waitress tempted us by reciting the dessert selections. We agreed on the warm cherry crisp with ice cream. Made with canned cherries and a cake mixture dumped on top, it wasn't crisp and it didn't fit in with the farm-to-table menu. I expected seasonal fresh fruit and a more homemade feel. And a crisp should be crisp, right? But that won't keep me from going back. The Dirty Bird entree with barbecued shredded chicken atop heirloom potato, cantaloupe and habanero salad has my name all over it.
Simple Eats serves breakfast, lunch, early dinner, locally roasted coffee, Virginia wines and craft beers. Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Judy Cowling writes the column Turning Tables, which appears on HamptonRoads.com daily and every Wednesday in the Flavor section. If you have tips for her or restaurant news, email turningtables@pilotonline.com.