You hear “wood fired” and your mind immediately goes to pizza. At least mine did. Boy was I ever wrong. It was the first thing owner Clint Compton told me after shaking my hand, “Oh we’re not a pizza place.”
Compton started his business with a mobile wood oven, catering pizza around Hampton Roads, but the pizza menu at new brick-and-mortar location Hearth Wood Fired Cuisine and Craft Beer is just a small part of the overall vision. Even bartender Chris Strickland commented that the menu took him by surprise before he started at Hearth. “I thought it would be mostly pizza with the wood oven. It’s not. It’s the reverse.”
One of the best things about this place, located at 605 Virginia Beach Boulevard in Virginia Beach, is that it’s Hampton Roads through and through. For starters, Compton is a local; starting his foodie career at Rudee Inlet mainstay Big Sam’s as a dishwasher when he was a teenager at First Colonial High School. Even the wood detailing on the walls and bar came from locally downed trees. The only thing NOT local is the wood oven imported from Italy (“We wanted the real deal,” explained Compton) but the tile work around it was done by a local artisan.
The other best thing about Hearth is the menu, which is also super local so it’s a little hard to pin down. Because Hearth tries diligently to use locally-sourced ingredients, it’s a fresh, seasonal menu. For the summer season, be prepared to see fresh veggies, local eggs, and summer staples with fresh flavor.
Looking back, I have a little menu remorse. I wish I had tried the octopus. But despite the dish that got away, everything I did sample was excellent. The grilled asparagus featured a six-minute egg with a runny yolk and a grilled lemon which made the vegetable delightful and rich. Empanadas are always a crowd-pleaser, and Hearth’s had just enough of a kick of red pepper to make you reach for your drink.
The short ribs entree can only be described in the taster’s reaction: eyes closed and “yum!”. It started as a special on the menu and stuck, and what we got was savory comfort food that stuck in the mind and the palate.
Of course we tried a pizza. The Margarhita pizza is a good barometer for any pizza connoisseur and this one did not disappoint. Fresh basil, a delightfully crispy crust, and a special nod to a simple, but delicious sauce that was smooth, added just the right amount of flavor compliment, but didn’t overpower the fresh ingredients (or glob up on your crust or plate.) In fact, the sauce was so note-worthy that I got the recipe. I was happy to learn that it’s very simple and flexible to my family’s tastes. And now I’m sharing it with you.
- 4 quarts canned Roma Tomatoes with juice
- 1/2 c. Red Wine Vinegar
- 2 tbsp Salt
- Blend ingredients with an immersion blender
- Cook on stove top, add spices to taste
- Add a thin layer to pizza and cover with toppings of your choice
The menu remorse continued to dessert. I tried the Dark Chocolate Pudding Cup and the Apple Cobbler, which were both terrific ways to end the meal. The Cobbler was done in the oven and was yummy and classic. Just when I thought I would pop, Chef De Cuisine Brad Bonham brought over a sample of Sweet Corn Panna Cotta, not yet on the menu. It was sweet, cool, delightfully different, and definitely worth returning for.
Hearth is a little on the higher end price-wise, but it’s worth it. Go for fine dining or just to hang out at the bar with your friends, it’s equipped for both.
Check out Hearth on Facebook here!