Monday, June 24th, 2019

What the Gritz Story


Part bistro, part diner, with a touch of country

by Sheryl Williams

Owner, Dustin Hughes

Owner, Dustin Hughes

At What The Gritz—open, airy, and inviting—stress seems to melt away. Here is a place of refuge from busyness where, as the song goes, “the livin’ is easy.”

Visitors are greeted by a long, open bar with polished, light wood stools and festive, colorful hanging lamps. With a flat-screen TV for catching the news or latest sports scores and an artfully designed board listing available drink selections, this is definitely the place for quenching thirst on a warm day.

In the large dining area—bright and cheerful with plenty of sunlight—natural wood floors and charming wall decorations, many with upbeat messages, combine to make this a relaxing place to enjoy a delicious meal.

Located not far from Lynnhaven Mall, What The Gritz is part modern American diner with a touch of country, where visitors can find traditional, home-cooked comfort foods at reasonable prices. It’s also part bistro, where classic dishes are given creative, tasty touches and unique presentations. Open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a large variety of specials are offered that will appeal to any palate.

Making visitors feel welcome and at home is paramount to owner Dustin Hughes. “This is a place where you can get good food and good service in a nice atmosphere, inexpensively,” he notes. Familiar to many Chesapeake diners, Dustin also operates two restaurants in the Great Bridge area: Lockside and Vino’s. He has been enjoying meeting new Virginia Beach neighbors, making friends, and welcoming them to What The Gritz.

New popular blue plate and early bird specials are available throughout the day. One early bird special that’s in high demand is The Parkway, which is a classic breakfast—two eggs, choice of meat, toast, and hash browns or grits—for $4.99, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Another customer favorite—an original creation aptly named the Gotta Try It—features sausage, gravy, cheese sauce, biscuits, hash browns, an over-easy egg, and candied bacon, topped with fried sage, Hollandaise and chopped pickle.

Strawberry waffles, mimosas and Bloody Marys make breakfast at What The Gritz an event.

Strawberry waffles, mimosas and Bloody Marys make breakfast at What The Gritz an event.

“We also do a really good chicken and Belgian waffle dish,” Dustin adds enthusiastically. “It’s one of our number one sellers. It has a vanilla bean honey glaze drizzled over the top.”

For those who enjoy a refreshing breakfast beverage, Bloody Marys and mimosas are available all day, every day. And in keeping with their creative flair, the restaurant also offers a mimosa unique to them—made with champagne and fresh, homemade sorbet in strawberry, raspberry, and Key lime flavors with fresh berries added.

Popular lunchtime offerings include blue plate specials that change every few days, as well as regular specials featuring customer favorites: fish and chips, chicken and dumplings, Carolina barbecue, and one of their best sellers, meatloaf. At midday, the surrounding area bustles with workers from nearby businesses, all of them hungry and having limited time to spare. Located right in their midst, What The Gritz is the perfect place for them to relax and enjoy fresh, home-cooked food, and be served quickly at a reasonable price.

“We use fresh, stone-ground grits.
We make them every morning.
They are slightly coarser than instant,
but they are made from scratch
and are the real thing.”

—Dustin Hughes

For dinner, one of their signature offerings is the popular Early Bird Special, available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and featuring two complete steak dinners for $25.00. Each person enjoys a succulent six-ounce filet-cut sirloin served with new potatoes and broccoli. Besides being an outstanding deal, it’s the perfect alternative for diners who enjoy eating a little earlier in the day.

And for those who love burgers, Wednesday night at What the Gritz is burger night, when guests can enjoy a classic, juicy cheeseburger and fries for just five dollars.

The Early Bird Special—a six-ounce steak with new potatoes and fresh broccoli

The Early Bird Special—a six-ounce steak with new potatoes and fresh broccoli

Other customer favorites include homemade tater tots. Larger and plumper than the familiar ones sold commercially, they have been a big hit. “Everybody loves those tater tots,” Dustin says with a laugh. When asked if they contain any special secret ingredients, he answers with a mischievous grin, “Can’t tell you that!”

A long-time favorite of local diners is she-crab soup, and Dustin does not disappoint with his mouth-watering version. When a visitor is asked to describe it in a word, the answer comes quickly and with wide-eyed zeal: “Amazing!”

Considering their catchy, memorable name, a natural question arises about … their grits!  “We use fresh, stone-ground grits,” Dustin explains. “We make them every morning. They are slightly coarser than instant, but they are made from scratch and are the real thing.” They offer specialty grit dishes—or bowls—such as Steakhouse Style, with jack cheddar and grilled Angus steak, crumbled bacon, sour cream and chives. There is a Baja bowl with cheese, avocado, and bacon; and a Shrimp and Grits bowl featuring vegetables sautĂ©ed in a Cajun butter sauce.

Having grown up in the Virginia Beach area, Dustin enjoys reaching out and giving back to the community. As a youth, he lived with his family near the Plaza Little League fields, and he and his brothers and sisters all played ball there while they were growing up. Recently he has teamed up with the league to help with the cost of uniforms and other needed sports gear. “We all had so many great experiences playing ball there, so it feels good to help make those same opportunities available to kids today,” he explains.

In a hurried, loud world that can be stressful, it’s nice to have a pleasant, quiet place to escape, soothe the nerves, and enjoy great food. “When visitors come here, I’d like them to feel comfortable and at home,” Dustin says.

 In a place that seems to say, “Welcome! We’re glad to see you!”

Map courtesy of Google Maps

Map courtesy of Google Maps

What the Gritz

675 Phoenix Drive
Virginia Beach , VA 23452