“These are beer-battered ramps,” the Local Roots Restaurant server said while placing a platter down on the table.
Thinking I didn’t hear her properly, I asked, “They’re what?”
Lightly golden brown straws ranging from half an inch to an inch in length sat in front of me. Some were single tubes while others had small branches, looking like miniature barren trees. Underneath the deep-fried coating I knew something dark green was underneath yet had no idea what it was. For all I knew, it could be deep fried caterpillars.
“They’re ramps, I foraged them myself,” she said, “spelled R-A-M-P, like a wheelchair ramp. Enjoy.”
The petite server with her dimpled smile, dainty nose and brunette hair pulled up in a loose ponytail with a handful of hair framing her face reminded me of a forest fairy. I envisioned her prancing through the local woods and fields parting grasses in search of these green things called ramps.
Turns out ramps are wild leeks, popular during spring in Appalachian states, including Roanoke, Virginia, where Local Roots is located. And, they’re mighty tasty, too. Underneath the delicately battered crunch was a light, refreshing onion flavor. They were served with a side of a dipping sauce which I didn’t try. In addition to ramps, depending on the time of season, other foraged foods are served at this farm-to-table restaurant include nettles and dandelion leaves.
Located in historic Grandin Village, which dates back to the 1920s, Local Roots sits across the street from the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op and next to the restored 1932 Grandin Theater. The restaurant practices S.O.L.E.: Sustainable, Organic, Local and Ethical which means Sunday brunch, lunch and dinner menus change depending upon what’s available from local farms.
Because of this, the menu changes frequently. During my April lunch, in addition to the beer-battered ramps I sampled thinly-sliced bison tongue with mustard and a fresh slaw which was savory and a bit tangy and a fruit and cheese plate with creamy cheeses from area dairies.
The main course was a deep-fried catfish sandwich. The fish fillet was mild and rested on a bed of slightly bitter kale slaw, topped with sweet, thin apple slices all nestled in a freshly-baked, toasted and crunchy hoagie roll. Although I could have ordered hand-cut, thick-sliced fries, I munched on the homemade potato chips which typically accompany sandwiches at Local Roots.
My beverage of choice was Foggy Ridge Hard Cider handmade in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It was light, crisp and almost like biting into a bubbly apple. The beverage menu included Virginia beer and wine along with handmade cocktails such as Figgy Maple and Pear Blossom.
As for dessert, well, the menu sure looked tasty but I ended up at walking off some of my lunch by visiting nearby Viva la Cupcake and Pops Ice Cream and Soda Bar, and that’s another delicious post.
My afternoon at Local Roots was more than just a lunch stop to fuel the body. Although forest fairies really didn’t forage for my food, the afternoon was a deliciously flavorful Virginia Blue Ridge adventure served up in one sitting. Yum-ola!
Local Roots Restaurant
1314 Grandin Road SW
Roanoke, VA 24015
Open Tuesday through Sunday, call for times.
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. They have not reviewed this post and opinions are my own.