Small Town Adventures: Your guide to Marshall, Virginia

If you want that small town vibe but don’t want to forgo a first-class food scene, Marshall should be on your radar.

people dining at a large table outside of a double decker red bus
Johnny Monarch’s ‘bustaurant’ hosts diners on a recent evening. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation)

Population: 1,480

Drive Time from NoVA: 45 minutes

Small Town Charm

This town may have a population of just under 1,500, but—thanks to a band of enthusiastic restaurateurs—its gourmet pedigree attracts foodies from Virginia and beyond. Marshall was known as Salem until 1881, when the town’s name was changed to honor a native son, Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, who was born in Fauquier County in 1755.

Located in the Virginia Piedmont, Marshall’s rolling farmlands unspool into the forested terrain of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In addition to its must-try restaurants and wineries, residents of this small town share a passion for spending time outdoors and honoring the region’s equestrian and agricultural heritage. They support efforts to preserve historic buildings, transforming them in innovative and sustainable ways. Visitors will find that although Marshall has expanded in recent years, the businesses remain hyper-local, working cooperatively with area artisans, vineyards, farms, orchards and ranches to make sure all achieve success.

the whole ox store with goods and lights
The Whole Ox offers locally raised and butchered meats. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation)
Must Sees

Marshall’s food and drink scene is what put it on the map, with must-try restaurants in the center of town and a number of wineries nestled in its rolling hills. Among the celebrated restaurants is Field & Main, which was ranked sixth in the pages of this magazine on its annual “50 Best Restaurants” list. Field & Main showcases ingredients from neighboring farms, and the kitchen obsessively tests recipes until they’re perfect: case in point, the replication of the iconic In-N-Out Burger, only better.

woman prepping radishes with green leaves at the whole ox in marshall va
A chef from The Whole Ox preps a feast. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation)

For those with a sweet tooth, try Red Truck Rural Bakery. The fact that it’s out of the way didn’t stop both Oprah Winfrey and former President Obama from giving it a thumbs up. Winfrey’s eponymous magazine called it one of its fave food stops, while Obama tried the pie in 2016. Every pastry, bread and cake is made in-house daily, and its homemade granola and sweet potato bourbon pie are remarkable. The Whole Ox is a nose-to-tail butcher and cafe owned by longtime Marshall resident Amanda Luhowiak—aka “the duchess of pork.” Marshall’s new neighborhood gathering place is Decker Square, a wine garden flanked by two double-decker buses revamped for food and beverage service. Johnny Monarch’s “bustaurant” serves diner favorites like meatloaf and tomato pie, while The Bubble Decker is a wine bus owned by Cave Ridge Vineyard, known for its sparkling wines.

people dining at a large table outside of a double decker red bus
Johnny Monarch’s ‘bustaurant’ hosts diners on a recent evening. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation)

Marshall is a vortex of creativity, so take that energy and create something special at Big Dog Pots Pottery, an art studio offering daily classes and walk-in pottery painting. The family-owned art gallery features handmade ceramics inspired by the Piedmont landscape. Shoppers find it hard to resist the custom-blend herbs and tea supplies at the wellness boutique, Flying Heron Herbs Spices & Teas. Tri-County Feeds occupies a two-story barn that stocks equestrian gear, men’s and women’s clothing and pet products.

The bucolic scenery around Marshall is dotted with welcoming wineries and breweries, but Barrel Oak Winery & Farm Taphouse produces both (and ciders too). The dog-themed tasting room allows furry friends to cavort while their owners imbibe. The outside garden serves wood-fired pizzas in season, and the views of the countryside are hard to beat.

World-class equestrian events are a big attraction in Fauquier County. Great Meadow in The Plains is the place to watch thoroughbreds compete in events like the International Gold Cup, Virginia Scottish Games, steeplechase racing and Twilight Polo.

virginia canvas pillow with colorful design
A throw pillow with Virginia pride from a local shop. (Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation)
Make it a Weekend

The Rooms Up There, located in downtown Marshall, is a historic inn that was formerly a storehouse, circa 1805. Three suites share a lounge for guests to congregate, drink coffee and play games, and the television-free accommodations ensure guests will connect with each other and truly feel that small town vibe. Bonus: Breakfast at the Red Truck Rural Bakery is included in the rates. For something with a resort feel, Airlie is 15 minutes from Marshall. Plan a long weekend to take advantage of the resort’s activities—biking, wine dinners, farm tours, swimming, yoga classes, fishing, archery and clay shooting, to name a few. Stay in Airlie lodge, a historic outbuilding, or the four-bedroom cottage.

What the Locals Know

Neal Wavra, owner of Field & Main, says he loves living in Marshall for the quality of life and how he is nourished by the beauty around him. “Being in nature prompts creativity, it energizes me. It’s where my ideas come from,” explains Wavra. “The livable pace in Marshall enables you to be present. When someone comes in, we have more time to spend with them, and that connection is meaningful.” He says guests will find Marshall most alluring when they stay for a moment and settle in; when they absorb the easy pace, meet the people and enjoy the ambiance of the town. “At first, you’ll find it’s a mini escape where people genuinely care about each other. Then you realize that the connections you make are more than an escape, they are what you’re longing for.”

This post is a part of our May 2020 print issue‘s cover story, “Small Town Adventures.” For more travel guides, subscribe to our Travel newsletter.

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