Take a detour off the Blue Ridge Parkway for international flavor.
Four Red-Hot Roanoke Restaurants
The Chesapeake rockfish at Stephen's is served with what has tobe the best grits cake on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
| Credit: Charles Walton IV

Frosted glass, red banquettes, white walls, Sputnik-esque chandeliers, and old films playing over the bar collide to make a retro setting at this cha-cha new restaurant. The menu is just as creative. At $59, chef Andy Schlosser's five-course tasting may be the best upscale treat in town. If you enjoy spring rolls, don't miss the crispy appetizer, served here with a succulent crab salad and a sweet sambal dipping sauce. For the more adventurous, the sushi rules. Metro's take on a classic tuna roll will surprise maki veterans with its strong smoky flavor. It comes with incredibly fresh, fluffy wasabi and a delicious aji-amarillo sauce whipped up from Peruvian yellow peppers. Don't worry if your tastes run a bit traditional--the menu changes nightly but always includes dishes for those who prefer their meals more, um, well done. I splurged on the obscenely decadent Prime beef tenderloin and lobster tempura, served with a vegetable ragoût bathed in Gorgonzola cream ($36). Wash that back with one of Metro's giant martinis, and you'll really feel you've gone back to the 1950s. 14 East Campbell Avenue; (540) 345-6645. Appetizers: $7-$13, entrées: $22-$36. Tastings: five courses $59, seven courses $79.

Stephen's Restaurant
For fish of a different stripe, amble down to this Roanoke classic. The staff here knows what they're doing and runs the room with a quiet efficiency. When it comes to ordering, however, take their advice. Stephen's publishes a "Waitstaff's Menu," and I found the choices and wine pairings to be spot-on. A light and flaky grilled fillet of Chesapeake rockfish, caramelizedVidalia onions, tomato coulis, and warm sherry vinaigrette was definitely the strongest flavor combination in any main course I sampled in Roanoke. A killer grits cake finished out the dish with a Southern accent. The dessert, too, ranked the best in town: a blueberry-and-blackberry cobbler, topped with crème anglaise, vanilla ice cream, and crispy honey-pecan brittle. Wow. 2926 Franklin Road SW.; (540) 344-7203. Entrées: $22-$28, desserts: $6.

Nawab Indian Cuisine
Not your typical curry-in-a-hurry house, Nawab enchants with the freshest vegetables, surprising twists on Indian classics, and bargain prices. Slightly nervous to try Indian food? The bread alone is worth your trip. Nawab bakes naan--a buttery, clay oven-fired masterpiece--and eight other bread varieties. And though the dinner menu is easy to read, informative, and understandable to first-time partakers, go for lunch. The buffet--a giant smorgasbord of chicken; lamb; curry; vegetables; and desserts, such as mango pudding--will impress, especially at $6.95 per person on weekdays. 118-A Campbell Avenue, SE.; (540) 345-5150. Appetizers: $3.50-$7.95, entrées: $8.95-$16.95.

On the Rise Bread Company
It's not a dinner spot, and you may be hard-pressed to find a place to sit, but this tiny bakery certainly qualifies as a spectacular food find. Beginning at 9 a.m. every Tuesday through Saturday, enjoy heavenly French country sourdough, dense raisin-walnut bread, rosemary sourdough, and pungent Russian rye. Yeast dinner rolls, honey-wheat bread, Swiss seven grain, semolina, and Jewish rye come flying out at 10:30. An hour later, buttermilk sandwich bread, Alexander rolls, and yeasted baguettes arrive. I filled the trunk of my car with bags of perfect loaves to take home to friends and family. I think you will too. 303 Market Street; (540) 344-7715. Breads: $3.95-$4.15.

This article is from the May 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.