I recently had one of the best meals of my life, and it was at Horizon Bar and Grill in downtown Roanoke. With Chef Scott Lockhart and general manager and cook Debbie Spangler at the helm, Horizon opened March 11, 2008, on the marketplace (where Wertz’s used to be). The restaurant originally strove to “bring a Southwestern…flare to Roanoke with unique ingredients and wild game”, but their main focus now is on bonding with customers and giving them the best possible food and ambience for a decent price (S. Lockhart, personal communication, July 6, 2011). And I can tell you this—the kitchen team has thus far not disappointed.
We began our meal with the Wild Mushroom and Curried Rice soup, which included chicken-of-the-woods and other fungi. My dining companion, T—a gluten-intolerant non-vegetarian—and I both ordered this to start, and it was scrumptious! The mushrooms were thick and hearty; the soup overall was lusty in spice and quite filling on its own.
Our shared appetizer was the Smoked Tofu Spring Roll, which you can see in the background of the photo of my soup. Now, I love Thai spring rolls and was interested to see Chef Lockhart’s interpretation. Four rolls were prettily served to us in a quartered glass dish and made for a delicate starter. Their flavor was excellent, with the smoked tofu cooked expertly and the expected raw shaved vegetables all fresh and crisp; the wrapper’s texture, however, was very thick, comparative to other spring rolls, and yet did not contain all the various fillings completely. This made for a messy roll but an enjoyable one. The dipping sauce was tangy, with sweet tamari in the forefront of flavors. (T was concerned there was soy sauce present but was assured there was not, and I didn’t taste any, either.)
Next, our mains. T got the Chana Masala over rice, which was also vegetarian and gluten-free. I tried a bite and found it suitably smooth, a bit saucy, and with a lovely hint of cinnamon in the background. It was definitely chana masala but mild enough to suit palates unaccustomed to drier, spicier versions. A good introduction to this popular North Indian dish.
My main was the Daily Risotto, done vegetarian-style. As each risotto was made to order, I didn’t feel too terrible about taking the server up on her suggestion that the kitchen substitute veggie stock instead of beef and not top it with the usual steak. And I have to say, it was excellent. Mouth-wateringly so. Multiple mushrooms, including more chicken-of-the-woods, which I love, plus spinach and hints of parmesan graced this robustly flavored dish. The scent alone was enough to get me drooling. As you can see from the photo, the presentation didn’t disappoint, either: a stunning silver wave enveloped my dinner. The portion size was ample, and though I tried my darndest to eat through this beauty completely, I was still left with a smallish lunch the next day. (Library co-workers = jealous!) Honestly, this risotto is one of the best dishes I’ve had in Roanoke, and I look forward to seeing it on Horizon’s menu again.
Last but not least was the dessert. I call my photo—of the Strawberry Cheesecake with Chocolate Graham Cracker Crust and White Chocolate Sauce—the “money shot” because you really can’t get any more (food) pornographic than that, don’t you think? Amazing. Fresh strawberries blended, seeds visible, within the creamy cake, set above a perfectly chocolatized crust. This would’ve been good enough for me. But then it was topped off with a melty, tawny sauce of white chocolate. Food porn gold! Really, I don’t even like white chocolate, and I liked this. A lot. T grinned alongside me, as she ate the top layer of the cheesecake and left the crust to me.
Overall, the food was interesting, well thought out, and well-prepared, with a few dishes being complete knock-outs. And let me just note, too, that the service is exemplary. I’ve never encountered anything less than winsome efficiency from any of the staff. I would definitely recommend making a trip to Horizon Bar and Grill next time you’re in downtown Roanoke.Horizon Bar and Grill 215 Market Street Roanoke, VA 24011 540-342-5133