By Allie Zaleski
Billy’s of downtown Roanoke offers a unique, speakeasy-style spin on an evening out. Set on the corner of Market Street and Salem Avenue, is the perfect place to slip in after a day of shopping or exploring downtown if you want a classic atmosphere and exquisite Southern-style cuisine each day for lunch or dinner, and brunch on Sundays.
Walking into Billy’s, it is easy to get swept up in the grand atmosphere with soaring windows and low, wicker chairs that create a club-like feel. As you explore further, drawn in by the low lighting and the enticing smells, the clinks and chimes draw your eye to the beautifully carved figureheads supporting the fully stocked bar.
As if this is not enough, the exposed brick of the walls and the intimately spaced tables (enough to eavesdrop on your dining companions, but not too close to be noticed) create a sense of anticipation and coziness.
The service was friendly and attentive, and our waiter was more than happy to answer any questions and attend to any dietary needs that we had. The rest of the staff appeared polite and interested in getting to know the customers, giving a more casual feeling to the relatively upscale decoration.
And of course, the food. The shrimp and grits was a surprisingly light dish despite its heavy, rich roots. The tomato perfectly balanced the sharp cheddar creaminess and the seasoning was perfect, with the salty ham being neither overpowering nor underwhelming.
The Prime Rib sandwich was bursting with flavor, as the robust au jus combined with the sharp, peppery horseradish sauce.
The All-American burger lived up to its name, packing in the classic cookout flair of a backyard burger, but was elevated by careful execution– medium-rare was just that, and each bite was juicy and flavorful.
The smoked cheddar smashed potatoes, however, constituted the most sincere and satisfied “Mmms” of the night. Expertly blended with creamy cheddar cheese and the perfect skin-to-potato ratio, these smashed potatoes were fluffy and smooth, the textbook definition of mashed potatoes.
As the meal progressed and the dining area filled up, the mood became more jovial and relaxed, with patrons at the bar dancing and laughing with friends and music getting more upbeat. Between watching the gaiety and being able to watch passers-by through the windows, the excitement at Billy’s never seemed to end.
All in all, it was a memorable and pleasurable experience, with excellent food, an addictively intimate atmosphere, and friendly staff. The prices are a bit steep, but the quality of the food certainly makes up for that, and the options range from family-friendly to gourmet-sided dishes.