When Vintage Tavern underwent a six-week renovation in October 2018, the owners refurbished the dining room décor, expanded the bar and created a more casual meal option to add to their fine-dining repertoire. They also promoted Dave Walters to executive chef. If you don’t know him already, here’s a short introduction: Walters was born in Chesapeake and grew up in Western Branch. He started cooking at a young age and found that he really enjoyed it. He ended up going to Virginia Tech and graduated with degrees in biology and communications. He also met his future wife, Shanna, there.
Realizing that cooking was still his true calling, he went back to school at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona. After receiving his degree in culinary arts, he moved to Sonoma County, Calif. to be near Shanna, who had taken a position as a horse trainer there. They got married, and Dave continued his passion for cooking at several different restaurants, learning different styles and gaining experience and knowledge along the way. “I actually learned to pair food and wine at a place called Syrah in Santa Rosa, where we would do last-minute menu tastings nightly,” says Walters. “I would love to do some wine and beer dinners at Vintage in the near future.” In 2011, Dave and Shanna decided to return home to Virginia so they could be closer to family and friends. They found their home at Amazing Grace Stable, where they train horses and riders. Walters also joined the crew at Vintage Tavern as sous chef under Chef Sam McGann.
“I like the culture of Southern hospitality that Vintage was built around,” says Walters. “The guests know they will be taken care of from beginning to end.” Take the house reuben, for example. You might think it’s a simple sandwich, but Walters cures the brisket in-house for five days, then smokes it for five hours. With melted Swiss cheese, house-made sauerkraut and Thousand Island sauce piled onto delicious rye bread, you might call it casual elegance.
Other Chef Walters Vintage Tavern favorites include the 14-ounce Harris Ranch, all-natural ribeye topped with Affinee blue cheese, served with house-cut fries and pickled onion arugula salad. “This is one of my favorites because of the naturally grown beef we get from Harris Ranch Beef Company,” says Dave. “The beef is grass fed and grain finished with no antibiotics or hormones, and the cattle are treated humanely. All of that really reflects in the flavor.”
Two other house favorites include the Burrata with local beets, avocado mousse and pistachio aillade. Burrata is hand-pulled mozzarella wrapped around ricotta, then mixed with Chioggia beets roasted in a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, water and thyme. The second is Pan-Roasted East Coast Flounder with red bliss potatoes, spinach and Sofrito Sauce, which is made from sautéed red peppers, onions and garlic, then pureed with extra-virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar.
Walters is a big proponent of local sourcing. Vintage Tavern is proud to offer the freshest ingredients from Johnson & Sons Seafood (especially for soft shell crabs), Windhaven Farm beef, Mushrooms by Jenny (formerly Dave and Dee’s Mushrooms), Lilley Farms produce and Cross Country Farms produce.
“I love the relationship with our guests and with the farmers and foragers in the area,” Walters says. “I can constantly create fresh and exciting dishes that our guests love.” Walters considers his technique “ultra seasonal” when it comes to combining proteins with the fresh produce that comes to the door each morning to create exciting new menu items.
Currently, Walters is gearing up for the annual Pork ‘N’ Pinot event on April 7. This will be the 12th year the event is being held by Vintage Tavern, and it is expected to be even more spectacular than ever, featuring a smorgasbord of delectable Southern dishes made with pork. Make your plans now to come out and enjoy fun, excellent food and meet new friends.