Thursday, September 28, 2023

Poquoson’s 185 Restaurant Offers Upscale Comfort Food With a Twist

185 Restaurant in Poquoson was opened by long-time friends and catering partners Lenora Garland and John Chesney. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Lenora Garland)

POQUOSON — 185 Restaurant in Poquoson is the type of local spot where everybody knows your name.

“We’re that little restaurant where when you walk in the door, I look up and say, ‘Hey Reggie, what’s going on?’ or ‘Hey, Jeremy!’” owner Lenora Garland said. “When they walk in, we know their names.”

Located at 185 Little Florida Rd (hence its name) the breakfast and lunch restaurant hails from Garland and her long-time catering partner John Chesney.

The two met at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, where Chesney managed the kitchen and later taught Garland how to cater. 

Together, the two went on to serve upscale comfort food all over the Hampton Roads area for around 16 years.  

Garland and Chesney found a little building that was the former location of Scorpios Deli, a diner in Poquoson, and used it as a commissary kitchen.  

“Then we said we need to make more money – let’s open a restaurant,” Garland recalled. 

185 Restaurant opened Feb. 26, 2020 and has been a hit among Poquoson locals.

“Our food is really good,” Garland said. “It’s all homemade.”

Garland describes the restaurant as having a “comfortable, easy-going vibe” with a coastal theme to fit in with Poquoson.

The interior of 185 Restaurant was designed to have a coastal, comfortable vibe. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Lenora Garland)

Garland, a Poquoson resident, said that the whole city was a customer for her, catering for many places and events, such as the Poquoson Seafood Festival. 

“That little building just felt perfect for me to have this safe, cute place that was in the town I lived in,” she said.

She said that much of the restaurant’s support has come from the community. 

Friends donated old wood furniture to the restaurant, and local artists provided art work for the restaurant’s interior. 

“People tell me they feel like they’re at home in their kitchen,” she said. “It’s eclectic.”

For three weeks, the restaurant stayed busy.

Then COVID-19 hit, and like many restaurants, 185 turned to carry-out orders.

By May 2020, the restaurant reopened with outdoor seating complete with umbrellas and a fountain. 

“Our outdoor seating has just grown to the cutest little place,” Garland said. “It looks like a little French café on the side of the building.”

For the last year and a half, Garland and Chesney have been cooking up breakfast and lunch foods and serving large portions with a goal to leave customers with full stomachs and leftovers to take home.

“We get lots of compliments on our hospitality, our warm cozy feel and our delicious large portions,” she said.

One of the staple items on their menu are their French-style three-egg omelets, which are flipped to be large and fluffy. 

“You will never get a runny omelet from us,” Garland said.

Their smoked-brisket omelets and sweet potato biscuits are some favorites among customers.

Their fried chicken BLT with avocado is a favorite among customers. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Jasmine Elizabeth Goretskie)

When the sweet potato biscuits come out of the oven, the restaurant smells like Christmas because of the cinnamon,” Garland said.

Their brisket is another big favorite, which they smoke right at the restaurant for hours, typically about 70 pounds at a time. 

This summer’s special is their Jerk Chicken Sandwich, a grilled chicken breast with homemade jerk seasoning, hot pepper jack cheese, house-made pineapple mango salsa with jalapenos and Sriracha Aioli. 

“When you come to 185, you’re gonna need lots of napkins,” Garland said. “It’s big messy food. But people always say that it doesn’t matter because it’s so good.” 

185 Restaurant is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Garland recommends that those coming on the weekends should make reservations because it gets busy, which she loves.

“I have been overwhelmed and so happy with the wonderful customers and staff that we have,” she said. “There are times when we’re short staffed or have an abundance of staff, but they have all been hard-working, wonderful people. And our customers supported us through COVID in the most kind, generous ways.”

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