By Pete Newell | Photos by Wes Watson
Virginia Beach’s Repeal Bourbon & Burgers has made a living since opening in 2015 on two simple tenets: offer a diverse menu of sumptuous burgers, and give customers a craft cocktail experience unlike anything else at the Beach.
Anonymously tucked away between a pizza joint and a convenience
store on 22nd Street, Repeal’s muted exterior gives it the feel of an Old West saloon. Take one step inside, however, and you’re transported to a 1920s speakeasy.
An homage to Prohibition-era spots, Repeal is a cozy and intimate location for those who love good drinks. With more than 100 brands of bourbon and whiskey stacked to the ceiling behind the bar, it’s clear Repeal takes the sweet brown liquor seriously. They even offer pours of their own exclusive, hand-selected bourbon from Fredericksburg’s A. Smith Bowman Distillery, which they bottled themselves.
For the uninitiated, the options can be intimidating. So while vets of the spirit can comfortably slide in and order up their favorite drink with the snap of a finger, Repeal has a staff that specializes in guiding novices through the process.
Probably the most popular option is the old-fashioned. Repeal allows
customers to “build their own,” which requires they choose a whiskey,
garnish, and bitters. Craving a smoky drink? You got it. Want something a little spicier? Not a problem.
I went with the dealer’s choice and let the bartender build my drink. I was rewarded with a sweet concoction, perfect for a cold, dreary night. He mixed 1792 Small Batch Bourbon with Bittermen’s Elemakule Tiki bitters, giving the drink a faint taste of cinnamon and allspice. A dash of simple syrup with a black cherry and orange peel finished off the recipe.
Repeal bartenders have become experts at mixing and matching the perfect combinations of ingredients to suit each customer. Careful thought and consideration go into every drink.
“1792 Small Batch Bourbon is a ‘high rye’ bourbon,” explained Shawn Bender, Repeal’s general manager. “We used it with the Tiki bitters to pair with the caramel and vanilla notes.”
When it came to choosing one of the 13 burgers on the menu (one for each year of Prohibition), I again deferred to the experts. The staff favorite is the Fire & Brimstone burger; an intense treat that complimented the tropical sweetness of my drink.
A 100 percent grass-fed, half-pound patty arrived smothered in
gooey jack cheese sauce, peach habanero chutney, house-made Sriracha aioli, and topped with crispy Tabasco onion strings. Bookend all of that goodness on a brioche bun, and you have a burger unlike any in the area. If beef isn’t for you, veggie and turkey burgers are also available.
Just when I thought my night at Repeal couldn’t get any better, I took a bite of its famous Truffle Mac N Cheese. Despite being a side, the creamy bowl of pasta nearly stole the show and made for a savory companion to the spicy burger.
The world is full of burger bars. Some good. Some not so good. But whatever you do, don’t sleep on Repeal. The combination of taste
and expertise has produced an Oceanfront destination that begs to be
“We want every person that leaves here to have had a unique experience that they won’t find anywhere else,” Bender says.
Repeal Bourbon & Burgers
Where: 202 22nd St., Virginia Beach
When: 11 a.m.-midnight Friday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Sunday–Thursday
More info: www.repealvb.com