By Marisa Marsey
The Bee & The Biscuit is a honey of a place, corny as that sounds. Not just because those titular flakey, cakey quick breads are graced by butter compounded with local honey. Or because this picturesque Pungo bungalow dishing up breakfast and lunch bustles like a hive (expect a wait most weekends – albeit a pleasant one in a verdant venue with an ad hoc al fresco bar and board games). But mostly because everyone from the staff to guests seems so sweet-natured that a happy buzz permeates the place.
Conversation cross-pollinates from one table to another whether you’re seated inside, on the glass-enclosed porch, or outdoors on the bi-level deck cooled by ceiling fans or simply en plein air beneath a shade tree. On a sun-kissed Saturday, I bypassed the swarm at the hostess stand to snag a perch indoors at the first-come, first-served bar adorned with rich wood and whitewashed brick.
As I savored a zesty orange biscuit packing salty Smithfield country ham and melted Swiss sided with fresh fruit, a server admired my necklace, wondering if it was from the Chrysler where she blows glass, and the woman next to me recommended the blackberry mimosa. In what’s playfully called “Downtown Pungo,” The Bee & The Biscuit feels like the crossroads of country and cool. And whether you grew up on a nearby farm or come from further afield, you won’t be a stranger by the time your first cup of fair trade coffee empties.
Owners Karen and Joe Johnson, former Southern Californians, live just down the road. They opened in the erstwhile Pungo Grill in May, choosing the charming name for their eatery to spotlight bees’ indispensable role in making local produce (which they use as much as feasible – Pungo blueberries in the pancakes, whatever New Earth Farm stops by with such as orange cherry tomatoes). Biscuits convey their menu’s brunch-iness.
For those in the all-day breakfast camp, there’s a bounty including challah bread French toast filled with cream cheese and ricotta, Papa Joe’s breakfast tostada (crunchy corn tortilla blackened over an open flame, then piled with scrambled eggs, pulled pork, avocado, black beans, cheddar and salsa) and creative omelets. Sandwiches, salads and wraps – fruity chicken salad on whole-grain croissant; BLT in a bowl; “Go Green” (gluten-free vegan wrap with cucumber, avocado, spinach, tomato, corn, hummus); Tuscan chopped salad (fresh greens and mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, garbanzo beans, chopped turkey breast, thin-sliced salami, scallions, herb-parm dressing) to name just some – satisfy those leaning toward lunch anytime. Under the heading “Grains,” you’ll find steel cut oats with minced apples and almonds and an A+ acai bowl with granola, nuts and chia seeds.
As autumn deepens, look for cozy comforts like soups and stews, and a lit fireplace. Quiche is sometimes a special, which is how the warm, colossal cinnamon rolls taste even though they’re a staple.
Mimosas are always in bloom – from the classic and Man-mosa (OJ, bubbles and vodka in a mason jar) to flights in four flavors (perhaps pineapple, orange, grapefruit and pomegranate). Bloody Marys feature Virginia’s Finest-trademarked Ashburn mixes, and sangria and craft beer including O’Connor El Guapo and Back Bay False Cape are on hand. A stunning hammered copper espresso machine will delight coffee lovers.
When my affagato sundae arrived, someone had “fagato” add fresh whipped cream and sauce to the vanilla ice cream and espresso shot, but the oversight was quickly realized and graciously remedied. As I devoured the luscious dessert, the Johnsons’ daughter JoAnne Evangelista shared The Bee & The Biscuit’s backstory, a reminder that life is both bitter and sweet.
She and her sister married Navy Seals and were stationed in Hawaii before Virginia Beach, so their parents moved to the islands, too. Sadly, eight years ago, the Johnsons’ son Joseph died unexpectedly. Heartbroken, they relocated to Pungo to be near their daughters.
“The silver lining is that my mom and dad found this place and threw themselves into it,” says Evangelista. They restored the shingled 1919 Sears Kit home, painting it cheery yellow, white and gray, sprucing up lattice work and decorating with their logo’s honeycomb pattern. Sometimes, the entire family works here all at once, including the Johnsons’ granddaughters. JJ’s Eggs Benedict is named for Joseph, and he’s depicted in the 3-D wood artwork by the kitchen entry. Evangelista turns her wrist to reveal a scripted tattoo: Joseph. “We all got them,” she says.
Wearing their hearts on their sleeves, they’ve created a must go-to in Pungo. And a bit o’heaven on earth.
1785 Princess Anne Rd., Virginia Beach. 757-689-6243. Open Tues.-Sun. from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. beebiscuit.com. Most items $8-11. Available for teas, wine tastings and other special events. Overflow parking across the street.