Top Five Must-Eats at Downtown Harrisonburg

Harrisonburg, a little town amongst the many valleys of Virginia known for it’s abundant array of good eats – But this time, I am not talking about James Madison University’s highly ranked food in the US; rather, this is about those few places that you cannot afford to miss, whether you are a visitor or a townie.

While I usually have an inclination toward anything classy and luxurious when it comes to dining out, it should be kept in mind that 90% of my composition is the ‘traveler’ genes that have over the years helped me to develop mastery in the art of food-hopping, i.e. getting the best eats representative of the culture of a town, under a tight budget and a time limit. This is one of those budget-friendly yet adventurous kind of food-hops, especially if you are a college student who doesn’t want to spend more than $10 on full meal with desserts, prefers everything in a short span of walk and likes the lively downtown!

So without further ado, The 5 classic must-eats at Downtown Harrisonburg are:

  1. Chai @ Indian American Café


Chai at Indian American Café is absolutely magical. Not just because it is made using imported tea leaves and spices that freshen up your tired mind or make just about every momentary conversation worthwhile, but because of how much love Ramasuri (the owner) puts into it. She and her husband who run the restaurant together are from Nepal, and believe me when I say it, they are the sweetest couple in the world. They remind me of my grandparents!

If you love authentic Indian food, this is the to-go place. With any dish that you try, you can tell their hearts go into making it. A nice snack to go with Chai would be Samosas or the Chicken Spring rolls for appetizers.




Address: 91 North Main Street
               Harrisonburg VA, 22801
Timings: Mon-Sat: 10am-2.30pm, 5-9 pm
                  Sun: closed
Phone: +1 (540) 433-1177


  1. Popcorn @ SHIRLEY’S- Gourmet Popcorn Company


At first I thought, who in the world eats popcorn just for fun!? Turns out, popcorn is after all eaten by people who aren’t just going to the movies. Now picture this, you are Charlie and you win a Golden Ticket to see Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory; except in this scenario, it’s Shirley’s popcorn factory. Yes, that’s precisely how creatively the place is designed- it just makes your inner child come to life!

Everyone is allowed samplers before they pick. I went for the Cheddar flavor instead of their most famous Buckeye Chocolate Caramel flavor only because the caramel felt too sweet for my tongue. Their small bag, which is actually way more filling than you’d expect, cost me $5.96. It was enough to feed both my friend and I.



The downside to this place is that there is no seating for guests and it’s only a take-out or stand in queue. But then again, you are food hopping, so it’s totally worth the shot!

Address: 102 S. Main St.
               Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Timings: Monday – Wednesday   10am-8pm
               Thursday – Saturday   10am-9:30pm
               Sunday   1 – 7pm, 
Phone: +1 (540) 208-7601
  1. Pizza @ BENNY’S:


You are missing out if you haven’t tried the famous $5 over-sized pizza slice at Benny’s Pizza. ‘Home of the Virginia Slice’, their logo shows the triangular shaped Virginia-map, which I thought was a genius design as a metaphor for the shape of a pizza slice.

Fresh off the oven, their pizza tastes delicious. There is something so fun about eating a 28” slice; I have never seen such huge pizzas anywhere abroad so far. Not to mention, the ambience- college students, pizzas and beers. It feels just right at my age. They have only a few topping choices but because they are such low-priced, they allow you to B.Y.O.T i.e. Bring Your Own Toppings. I went for the cheese slice, while my friend got the sausage slice. We both found it very filling for a lunch stop by.




Address: 64 S. Mason St.
               Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Timings: Mon-Thu: 10.30am-11pm
                  Fri-Sat: 10.30am-3am
                  Sun: 10.30am-10pm
Phone: ‎+1 (540) 432-6400
  1. Sticky nuggets @ BILLY JACK’S Wing and Draft Shack


There is a reason why this place is ALWAYS buzzing with people. Obviously, Demand > Supply. They say, you don’t graduate James Madison Uni or leave Harrisonburg for good without trying the heavenly $5.50 Sticky nuggets at BJ’s.

Billy Jack’s has a very country feel with the friendly staff, an open bar, almost tattoo-like retro wall art, a sports TV and loads of number plates from all over US hanging on wooden cabin-like interiors. Being under-aged, I couldn’t drink there, but oh the nuggets, they were like nothing I had ever tasted before. It’s not just the nuggets though, I heard from many friends that their brunch menu is to die for.




P.S. If you are under 21, make sure you go before 10 pm, else you will be kicked out like I was this once.

Address: 92 S. Main St,
               Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Timings: Mon-Wed: 11am-12am
               Thu-Fri: 11am-2pm
               Sat: 10am – 2am
               Sun: 10am-12am
Phone: +1 (540) 433-1793
  1. Ice-cream @ BELLA GELATO


Gelato, lattes and croissants- a little Italy in the middle of the Burg. For me, Bella beats Kline’s Dairy Bar any day. There is a certain warmth to this place’s aura, with the lively waiters and scenic paintings that take you far, far away. Bella’s two scoop-cone or cup (that I usually get) looks way more expensive for a $4 bill, hats-off to their level of classiness in terms of display.

Moreover, it couldn’t have been located in a better spot; it is right across from Cuban Burger and Beyond Restaurant and right next to the parking lot. Nothing beats the view of downtown night lights flickering with every car that passes by and people that side-walk, as you look through glass windows lost in your own thoughts, the smell of a croissant and a coffee, maybe the voice of a friend- a very New York-ish feel, except the ‘people rushing’ part.




Address: 49 W Water St,
               Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Timings: Mon-Thu: 7am-10pm
               Fri-Sat: 7am-11pm
               Sun: 9am-9pm
Phone: ‎+1 (540) 217-5657


And this is it folks, my top five picks for delicious downtown bites! Now go and try them for yourselves! what are you waiting for?

*All the pictures in this post are original and subject to claimed but not legal copyrights. The cameras I used to capture these pictures are Canon EOS 50D and my iPhone 7. For more information, contact me via email or leave your comments in the section below. Please feel free to provide feedback or just share your thoughts! 🙂


Arushi Sachan


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