Tag Archives: Harrisonburg

Sushi Jako

I have kept meaning to put this post up for awhile now. Whenever my friend is craving sushi, which is pretty often, she always insists on going to Sushi Jako.

My first time visiting I’ll admit I was going in with low standards. I was used to the sushi at Beyond downtown and to go elsewhere just seemed plain wrong. Plus Jako is in a shopping center and that to me never seems like a tempting place for food. Although as I am typing this I am beginning to realize how some of my favorite restaurants are in shopping centers. Hmm, perhaps when I’m extremely bored I’ll look into that some more.

When you walk into the place there is not much to write home about. A fake croaking frog acts as their bell to sound when customers enter and a sign reads “Please Watch Your Step.” The floor is completely level so I’m still confused about that one.

There are a few tables to sit at or you can take a seat at the sushi bar and watch your food be made right in front of you. My friend and I went for a table during both of our visits. We didn’t want to have to deal with any awkward small talk like one may have to do with a bartender. “So, uhh how long have you been rolling sushi?” Silence —frog croak — silence.

The wall of Jako’s is a giant beach mural with a few real seashells super-glued randomly throughout. Much like the frog and the sign, I’m not getting a connection with this decoration.

After enjoying the beach scenery, I decided to start out with the salad. During both visits my friend ordered the miso soup. And both times (with different waiters) I was given miso soup as well. I don’t know why this is, but lucky for them I never wanted to make the correction. The soup is delicious, whether you order it or not.

I absolutely love asian salads, mostly because of the gingery salad dressing. The size of the salad doesn’t hurt either.

Jako has plenty of Japanese and Korean food to offer other than sushi. If sushi is not what you’re looking for they also offer tempura, noodles, and teriyaki dishes. But sushi is what I was looking for and that’s what I checked off. Yes, checked off. Like most sushi places, you can pick your sushi and quantity simply by taking a given piece of paper and checking off what you want. Interactive dining!

I chose the crunchy spicy California roll and the Washington Roll (top of picture).

While the Washington roll was good, with cucumber, masago and crab, I found myself wanting more of the spicy California. Plus, I have to say sometimes having the fish eggs, which were on the Washington, can make  me a little uneasy. The spicy sushi, with crab, avocado and masago also had what seemed like bread crumbs rolled around the outside of it. Even better, this sushi was never to spicy.

Jako has made me a fan and I know I will be going back for some more sushi — and miso soup if my friend orders it.


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Tacos El Primo

Every time I drive to class and prior to experiencing the frustration of looking for a parking spot, I always pass the giant blue taco truck. When I lived in NYC this past summer I noticed it was the norm to order food from a truck. I saw cupcake trucks (delicious), schnitzel trucks,  and rice ball trucks throughout the city and the prices were always a steal compared to the other dining places around. But, it seems as though plenty of JMU students are a bit wary when it comes to ordering tacos from a truck in Harrisonburg.

I went with my two friends who were willing to experience the truck. This one has only been in the area for about a year while their other taco truck has been in the area for a few years.

The menu is pretty simple at Tacos El Primo, as is there method of payment: cash only. Maybe not that simple is their hours. The sign says 10 am-10pm seven days a week, yet when I drove by at 8 pm the truck had closed up shop. Go during lunch or dinner time and you should be fine.  You have the selection of tacos, quesadilla, burras (note: when you google image this you get donkeys. I’m not fluent in Spanish but I’m going to say they’re burritos), and tortas. The torta is a Mexican sub with your choice of meat. I went with a steak taco and chicken quesadilla.

With both the taco and quesadilla a cup of a spicy sauce came along. I was happy that I ordered a bottle of water. The soft taco with cilantro was delicious and was the perfect amount for the dollar price tag. While we sat and ate our tacos the nicest lady ever continued to cook up our quesadillas. It was getting windy outside but we battled the weather and sat out at one of the two tables. When our quesadillas were ready I set mine down on the plastic table to get a quick snap shot for my faithful blog readers! Within two seconds my entire plate blew up into the wind and suddenly my dinner was laying on the pavement. I felt horrible, but then out of nowhere I heard the nice taco lady utter the words, “I’ll make you another one.” Could she be nicer? YES. She brought the food to my car. Curbside!

The chicken quesadilla was delicious and cheesy. It was much bigger than I thought it would be for $3. My friends were surprised that when they asked for sour cream it was an extra 50 cents, but the grand total for all the food was really nothing to complain about. My meal plus the water was $5.

New York City is a long way from Harrisonburg, but even here, truck food is delicously cheap.


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I have been wanting to go to Pennybackers for some time now and it took a classmate’s recommendation to actually get me to do it. I mentioned the sandwich restaurant to my food writing classmate and within two weeks she was giving me her four-star review. While I love a good sandwich, once she mentioned soft mini pretzels I knew I had to get to Pennybackers.

The brick building is pretty narrow but walking inside the place I became less focused on the tight squeeze and more so on the welcoming atmosphere. The brick makes it way into the interior of the restaurant as the walls, and wooden floors and booths cover the downstairs and upstairs. While the decorations are welcoming, it took about five minutes for my friend and I to even be greeted by an actual person. This was due to an apparent “credit card fiasco” upstairs.

The antique-feel to the place is fitting given that this building dates back to the 1850’s. A little more history is stated on the menu as well as an explanation as to the penny designs on each table.

Sitting on many of these tables were customer’s beer filled mason jars. Yes, mason jars. I knew I was going to be ordering a lot of food so I had to sadly pass on the jar. Next time Pennybackers, next time.

Immediately I ordered the pretzels ($3.99) served with a spicy mustard. The pretzels are unsalted and crispy on the outside, fresh and hot on the inside. The mustard was delicious but my friend and I opted for the honey mustard for dipping.

Our sandwiches came quickly and after scooping up the last bit of honey mustard with my pretzel, I was moving onto the signature sandwich — the Pennybacker. Described on the menu as roast beef, honey turkey breast, ham, hickory smoked bacon this clearly is not the sandwich of choice for a vegeterian. The sandwich was also topped with lettuce, tomato, swiss cheese and the Pennybackers sauce. The sauce turned out to be pretty hot, but with all the meat and toppings it helped keep my water refills to a minimum.

All the sandwiches at Pennybackers are served with tator tots and a pickle. The meat is thickly cut and they don’t go light on the amount.

My friend ordered the Monetery. The grilled citrus pepper chicken breast covered in avocado, bacon and provolone cheese (side note: my friend went with blue cheese crumbles instead. Pennybacker’s was more than willing to make the change) topped with tomatoes and onions served on ciabatta.

She ended up taking half of hers home and about three hours after leaving Pennybackers she suddenly went “Oh, I’m so excited I still have my sandwich.” While I didn’t have leftovers to look forward to, upon hearing her delight I couldn’t help but look forward to my next visit…with mason jars.

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BEYOND for Lunch

I made it to Beyond, the “Asian Infused” restaurant downtown for lunch today. Even at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Beyond had their share of customers. Although this picture does not prove that previous statement…

They say it’s better to have a large lunch and a small dinner. I tried to follow that rule and ordered a good amount of food. Albeit, I am currently eating sugar coated dough at 10 p.m.

When ordering the burger from Beyond, I went with the side salad rather than the french fries, and got the white wine vinegrette dressing. It was a pretty simple salad with romaine and tomatoes. The dressing was just as simple.

My friend and I also decided to split the Dukes sushi roll and that came with some miso soup. I’ve never really been a fan of miso soup since to me it’s just broth. Nonetheless, I still had some of it. I was more excited when the sushi came out.

To the left is the Dukes, drizzled with teriyaki and rolled with shrimp tempura and spicy crab meat. I was surprised how big the sushi serving size actually was for their decent prices. When it comes to sushi, I love to get the tempura as it adds an extra crunch to the softness of the rice. But hey, that’s just my opinion. To the right is my friend’s shrimp tempura roll with avocado.

After feeling pretty full from only 3 rolls, my Beyond Burger came out next. I ordered it medium but the waitress informed that the meat is actually beef and pork so ordering it medium would make the meat fall apart and I would find it nearly impossible to eat. I was a little surprised that the menu doesn’t inform the customer of the dual meat action.

The burger meat was crumbly and I could definitely taste the pork in it. Even more flavors came out because of the bits of bacon, caramelized onions, lettuce, cheese and lobster sauce. Yes, lobster sauce. Not sure what lobster sauce is and I’m not sure whether or not it belongs on a burger. It was a little spicy red sauce that added some zing to the burger. Another plus to the burger was the bun comes lightly toasted. I must admit though, I would choose a Jack Brown’s burger over this one any day.

My other friend went with the sandwich of the week. Grilled chicken with honey mustard, lettuce, mozzarella cheese, and tomato all on honey wheat bread that resembles Texas toast. Once again, the bread came lightly grilled.

The hit of the lunch table was my friend’s jumbo lump crab cakes served under a sriracha chiptole cream sauce. Sriracha is a chili sauce and the chipotle made my friend have to down two glasses of water during her lunch. Even though she was extremely hydrated by the time we left, she was really happy with her choice.  Note: She’s from Maryland and has high standards when it comes to crab cakes.

The modern atmosphere complimented by the modern dishware and menu made this lunch date really enjoyable. Even better were the reasonable prices at Beyond. My burger was only $7. The sushi was $11 and that was put on my friend’s bill. Er, that reminds me I still need to pay her back for that.

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Shank’s Bakery

After spending three hours getting my car shoveled out, I decided it was about time to start doing some food reviews.  I started off pretty small and ventured in (finally) to Shank’s bakery downtown. About a year ago my friend got me a scone from here and it was delicious. Needless to say, my sweet tooth had high hopes and I wanted to try some new things at the bakery.

It was around 4:30 when I went into the bakery. I stood there for about three minutes trying to decide what to get. A lady behind me swiftly grabbed a loaf of bread from behind me, purchased it and left. I was still deciding which cookie I wanted. I was then side tracked by the Valentine’s Day treats. That took about another two minutes.

I finally decided on the snickerdoodle cookie and molasses cookie. I threw in the pumpkin pecan bread for fun. My total? $2.20. It’s always nice to get a cheap food review in. But, I have to say I would have been pretty mad if I spent anymore money on the cookies.

Both cookies were hard and the molasses cookie was especially hard to chew. It wasn’t until I got till the center that there was some freshness to the cookie. The molasses cookie also had an overpowering flavor of some sort of spice and I actually ended up not finishing it.

I decided to have some of the pumpkin bread in hopes that Shank’s could redeem itself. The bread was fresher than the cookies, but this was in no way a stand out. I guess I should have stuck to that scone.


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Jack Brown’s Again

I went on a carb overload last night and got the burger of the day at Jack Brown’s. I have heard people speak of the Greg Brady burger but I knew I had to experience it myself.

The Greg Brady is Jack Brown’s delicious burger topped with homemade three cheese mac and BBQ chips. I was a little wary about mac & cheese on a burger, but apparently pasta and burgers are becoming a trend. Really, the cheesy macaroni made the burger taste like well, a cheeseburger. The chips added a lot of crunch to the juicy burger.

I also got a side of the sweet potato fries which were deliciously sweet. Even better when I got to dip it in the Jack Brown’s secret sauce.

Of course when going to Jack Brown’s I now always have to get the one dollar fried oreo.

This trip also made me realize one of my goals before graduation. While some may have the goal of obtaining a job, mine is to eat every burger at Jack Brown’s. Yeah, I have pretty big goals. Two down, five to go…


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The Local Chop & Grill House

Well, it only took me five months to make my way downtown and eat at The Local Chop & Grill House. Whenever I would mention to friends how badly I wanted to go the chophouse their reactions were always along the lines of “Oh my God. It’s so good.” Indeed, they were right.

I guess the good reviews are to be expected given the management. Craig and Bert Moore, the original owners of the upscale Joshua Wilton House decided to add another impressive dining experience to the Harrisonburg area.

It was about ten degrees the night my mom and I went to the restaurant and we were greeted by a bundled-up valet when we pulled into the full parking lot. I never would have thought a restaurant would have valet in downtown Harrisonburg. I suppose that goes to show you how impressive and upscale Harrisonburg’s dining scene has really become.

The chophouse is located where Downtown 56 used to be — in an old warehouse. The warehouse still has “Poultry, Eggs” painted on the brick front.

Inside the restaurant, wooden floors and a large staircase were the first things I noticed. To the left was the bar which has a different menu, a stage and an English pub look. Musicians play on weekends at the bar too. My mom and I were seated in the dining room and got a seat upstairs looking over the lobby of the restaurant.

Upon sitting down my mom and I were also quick to notice that everyone dining seemed to know each other. Seriously, look at the guy above. I think he talked to about five different tables. I felt relieved when I recognized someone from school and said hi.

The walls of the dining room have photography of local food such as squash and berries. In fact, much of the menu features food from local farms, hence the restaurant’s name.

My mom and I started off with an appetizer and a drink. But while we waited we munched on a basket  of their homemade salted focaccia bread with two types of olive oil for dipping, one regular and one infused with chives.

Our appetizer was the Arancini de Riso. In other words, fried risotto balls. Underneath, there was a cilantro  aioli that added some more flavor to the lightly fried parmesan risotto. My only complaint was that I wish my mom and I didn’t have to split the third one. I easily could have had all three to eat for myself. While my mom got a mojito, I went with a  blackberry fresca cosmo. Many of the drinks at the chophouse have their own homemade juices.

One thing I love about this restaurant’s menu is the amount of options. There are 11 different meat or seafood options that can be paired with 15 different types of sauces. Even better, you get to choose two sides. I went for the 8 oz. Filet Mignon, medium rare, with a savory veal demi glace sauce, 4 onion risotto and haricot verts with terragon and brown butter.  The second I cut into the filet and saw the perfectly cooked meat I knew I was in for a delicious meal.

The risotto was creamy without an overly onion flavor. The sauce was a perfect pairing to the filet. My mom went with the U-10 scallops, the risotto and a local root vegetable confit for her meal.

The sauces on the menu are categorized in one of three groups: sweet, savory and spicey. The above sauce is a mangoHoisin BBQ that was something like a sweet and sour sauce.

Another thing I like about the chophouse’s menu is how it labels what foods are actually from local farmers. In capitalized letters, the word “LOCAL” comes before the menu item. For example, one dish, the LOCAL honey and lavender ice cream has ingredients from the lavendar farm off Rt. 33. Yes, there is a lavender farm in Harrisonburg. There’s even lavender lotion in the chophouse’s restroom.

Our only complaint after our entrees was the service. My mom asked for a glass of wine prior to eating her scallops but that $6 glass never came. Lucky for our waitress, the food outshined her mistakes and we decided to order some dessert.

My  mom ordered the seasonal fruit crisp, with apples and cranberries, and I went with the LOCAL creme brulee. The fruit crisp had a shortbread crust that went well with the tartness of the fresh cranberries.

The dish was still hot has the homemade vanilla ice cream melted on top. My creme brulee was thick with actual vanilla beans throughout.

From start to finish I must say kudos to the executive chef, Ryan Zale. Zale once worked at the Little Inn in Washington (which was recently featured as one of the best restaurants by the “Washingtonian”) and he also previously showed his culinary skills at the Joshua Wilton House.

The LOCAL food has really made The Local Chop & Grill House standout. As we handed our tip to the valet (yes, he was outside that whole time…good thing there was a space heater) I kept saying to my mom how delicious the entire meal was. I think I’ll now spend my semester trying to find reasons to dine again at the chophouse. Friend’s birthdays? Good grades? Job offers? Uh, got a haircut? Yeah, I’m sure I’ll find a reason.


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