As of Jan. 28, 2014, with approval of the city council of the city of Harrisonburg, Downtown Harrisonburg has adopted the designation of a Downtown Culinary District. Harrisonburg is the first city in Virginia to receive this designation.
Several factors contributed to the recognition of Harrisonburg’s Downtown Culinary District. Many large, food-related businesses, including City Exchange, Wetsel Seed, Cassco Ice, Rocco Feeds and Shenandoah’s Pride, started in Harrisonburg and made a national impact on the food industry. Additionally, with a wealth of farms and agricultural-related businesses in the city and surrounding Rockingham County, Harrisonburg quickly became a leader in adopting the farm-to-table trend in all aspects of its food-related heritage, culture and economy.
Today, Harrisonburg has grown into a destination for culinary enthusiasts. Downtown Harrisonburg boasts more than 30 unique and locally-owned restaurants and eateries, ranging from mainstream to ethnic, fine dining to casual, locally sourced to international ingredients and beyond. Complementing these popular eateries are more than 15 food-related businesses, including a year-round farmers market, specialty wine and beer shops, food tours, cooking classes and bed and breakfasts.
The city also celebrates the area’s vibrant food culture and welcomes visitors to experience it through annual events, including the bi-annual Taste of Downtown Week, Rocktown Beer Music Festival, Valley Fourth’s Grillin’ at the Pavilion Cook-off, National Food Day Farm-to-Table Breakfast, Vegan Night Out, Chocolate Walk and the Rocktown Fall Beer Festival. These events allow local restaurateurs, local businesses, and food-lovers to collaborate, create and share unique dining experiences.
The new Downtown Culinary District designation adds to an impressive list of accolades for Harrisonburg’s foodie scene. In 2013 alone, Harrisonburg and its food-related businesses received notable mentions or awards in the Washingtonian, Blue Ridge Outdoors, Wine Enthusiast, Travel+Leisure, Huffington Post, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, The Daily Meal, Virginia Living, Southern Living, The Local Palate and many other local, regional and national publications.