Second restaurant by Virginia Beach couple combines great flavors with a friendly, colorful atmosphere.
By Pete Newell | Photos by Shannon Moffit
Delynda Rowell has been trying to get out of the foodservice industry since she first joined it at the age of 15.
She got degrees in business, psychology, and biomedical anthropology. She worked as a yoga instructor and in landscape design. But with apologies to Michael Corleone, just when she thought she was out, the food mafia pulled her back in.
In 2014, Rowell and her husband, Kevin, opened Whiskey Kitchen, a popular joint in Virginia Beach that offers a wide array of booze and some great comfort food. Then, in April, they followed that success by opening Civil Libation a few hundred yards away.
“I’ve always wanted to open a bistro,” Rowell says. “Someplace that offers a familiar and unique blend of American favorites.”
Civil Libation’s menu is an interesting mix of flavors and styles. From crispy butternut squash rings to barbecue pulled jackfruit, it has something for most tastes. And while not a vegan restaurant – the prime rib is one of the most popular dishes, after all – there are several vegan options on the menu.
Selecting an appetizer was easy for me. The Flamin’ Hot Mac & Cheese basically smacked me in the face. Rowell tapped into her southern California culinary roots to introduce a dish of heavy, creamy macaroni and cheese, topped with crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. I was stunned at how well the two flavors worked together.
It was difficult to choose an entrée from such a diverse menu, so I went with Rowell’s recommendation and selected the scallops. The restaurant served the dry-packed scallops on a bed of homemade street corn that was pan-roasted with Cotija cheese, chipotle peppers, butter, cilantro, onion, garlic, and roasted red pepper.
The sides of garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed greens were a bonus to an already satisfying and scrumptious meal.
A dinner at Civil Libation would not be complete without one of its signature “Crafted Libations.” The Friends W/Benefits was the perfect choice; a light and refreshing take on a Paloma that featured fresh limes and lemons, 1800 coconut tequila, thyme agave syrup, and grapefruit juice. Garnished with a wedge of grapefruit and a spring of thyme to enhance the aroma, the cocktail gives an upfront taste of grapefruit while the coconut sneaks in on the back end.
The drink menu is hand-drawn and water colored, a nifty detail that Rowell is proud to point out. In fact, her enthusiasm fills about every aspect of her bistro. The 18-person “community table” is so people will sit down next to strangers and leave with new friends. Rowell’s friend made the artwork that adorns the dining room walls.
The overall light and airy ambience is a direct reflection of its owner, who gets giddy as she describes how much she loves the look of the bathrooms or the artistry of the hand-poured concrete bar.
“It’s not about the bottom line for me, it’s about our guests,” said Rowell. “This is about a guest experience, and you don’t succeed without a good one.”
Where: 2135 General Booth Blvd #132, Virginia Beach, VA
When: Sunday–Monday, 4-9 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday, 4-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 4–11 p.m.
More info: (757) 689-3900