By Marisa Marsey
Were you as ecstatic as I when you heard that the beloved Belvedere Coffee Shop & Diner was being resurrected in the spanking new Moxy Hotel at the Oceanfront? If you possess any VaBeachVa history, I’m guessing that’s a resounding, fist-pumping “YES!”
Perhaps you were a fan of the Eye Opener, a fried egg, parmesan-encrusted tomato slice and ham or bacon layered on a squishy-fresh onion roll; arguably the greatest breakfast sandwich under the sun. Or you might have been one of the legion who made the “secret” Belvedere sauce, the grace note of the “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-and-maybe-even-that” Belvedere omelet, the most requested side.
It’s where you could have first encountered Ray Labuen, OG griddle maestro (now owner of the eponymous Ray Ray’s at The Mayflower), been served by big-hearted Brenda Miklos who later ran the joint, or shot the breeze with Bob Stivers when the gracious, longtime manager of the adjacent same-name, five-story hotel popped in for a to-go.
The Belvedere was a coffee shop (the Guy Fieri-baiting “diner” appended only later in life) in the purest sense – pre-Starbucks, pre-triple-skinny-lattes-two-extra-pumps – complete with paper placemat menu bona fides. Locals and tourists alike knocked sandy knees on swivel stools or scooched into booths overlooking the boardwalk, the backs of their sunscreen-lathered legs sticking to seats like melted Swiss on the grilled Reuben’s corned beef.
The mirrored back wall meant everyone could watch the waves lap the shore no matter which way they faced, though that splendor faced stiff competition from the short order cooks filling tickets in balletic synch, prepping plates that could legitimately be classified greasy spoon yet somehow soared to Epicurean heights. Was it the tang in the salt air? The conversation and conviviality? Or just plain old seaside magic?
Alas, the half-century-old iconic coffee shop at 36th Street and Atlantic Avenue was demolished along with the hotel in 2020 to make way for a Hyatt Place.
Isn’t it ironic? J. Christopher Perry was one of us who mourned the loss.
He’s the CEO of Suburban Capital, the Virginia Beach-based hospitality company that developed the 13-story, 140-room homogenized hotel on the Belvedere’s plot. He grew up believing that there was, “Nothing better than sitting at the counter as a teenager and watching them make your favorite food!” When he became a father, he relished bringing his son there. (While dad’s top pick was the Eye Opener, his son favored the pancakes.)
Perry diligently tried to keep the coffee shop but couldn’t squeeze it into the Hyatt Place’s blueprint. As luck would have it, though, it grooves with the seven-story Moxy, another Suburban project, at 12th Street and Atlantic Avenue.
Moxy pulses with pluck. Inspired by European hostels, its rooms contain IKEA-like “hygge” furnishings (some feature two sets of queen-sized bunk beds!) with everything you need and things you never knew you lacked: a funky phone that tells bedtime stories, art you can literally rip off (pads of posters decorate the walls) and playful pillows stitched with cheeky epigrams (“Resting Beach Face”).
Lodgings are purposefully compact, comfy but not exactly plush and lush, to drive guests downstairs for mixing and mingling over games and drinks. A sliding board is slated to deposit fun-seekers from the second floor to the lobby’s bar which doubles as the check-in desk.
As a fellow Belvedere fancier uttered, “Its food is perfect food for a hotel whose focal point is a bar.”
Indeed, eggs, bacon, patty melts are nothing if not alcohol-absorbent, and its mimosas and Bloody Marys are well-suited for hair of the dog disciples.
Relabeled Belvedere South (since it’s situated two dozen blocks south of the original) and looking cryogenically preserved, the studied vintage-ness complements Moxy’s, well, moxie. Its seating capacity nearly doubled (56 including outside tables), but the orientation, the counter placed just-so to kibbutz with the cooks as they deftly scrape the flattop, the gleaming blue and white color scheme (déjà hue!) make it a flashback phenom.
Unlike the fountainhead, though, it doesn’t perch on the boardwalk (plus there’s no demi booth, sigh). The Moxy’s party-ready pool area runs along the back of the hotel, meaning you have to strain a tad to glimpse the ocean. Understandable positioning, and one not without compensation. The view of the neighboring Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum housed in the historic de Witt Cottage generates its own Old Beach vibe.
The menu, too, hews nostalgic with creamed chip beef on toast and a club house triple decker. Of course, some things didn’t age well (cottage cheese had to be cut) and updates appear (hello, breakfast bowl!). Hash browns, colorful with pepper and cheesy goodness, could go head to head with Waffle House.
Rob Murphy, Suburban Capital’s vice president of hotel operations, candidly admits that he tried to woo the Belvedere’s last manager to come on board for still more authenticity but she wasn’t able to join them. “But we got the pancake recipe from her,” chimes in Tim Scheetz, kitchen manager (another loyalist who grew up going to the original).
When I got a sneak peek last month, it wasn’t officially open for business so I can’t give an accounting of that Eye Opener. But by the time you read this, it will be and you can. Save me a seat at the counter!
Belvedere South Coffee Shop & Diner at the Moxy Hotel at 1201 Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach. Open 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. 757-452-4515. marriott.com/en-us/hotels/orfvx-moxy-virginia-beach-oceanfront