The Orlean Market is a restaurant, but it also really is a market: a truly convenient pre-convenience-store store where you can buy everything from mousetraps and 30-weight motor oil to Spam, Cheerios, and Jell-O. This being the 21st century, it also stocks artisan beers and interesting wines, a complete repertoire of Virginia’s own Route 11 potato chips, and some pretty fancy cheeses. If you don’t want regular coffee, there’s cappuccino.
The restaurant menu includes ham biscuits, barbecue, sandwiches, and burgers, plus such daily specials as corned beef and cabbage (I happened to visit on St. Patrick’s Day), Cuban paninis, and chili. Tables are scattered around the store and in an adjoining dining room.
I really liked my buttery-crisp grilled Cuban sandwich and made-to-order house salad with its balsamic reduction decoration, but all that faded into the background when, as I was about to eat, a lady walked in carrying a just-frosted coconut layer cake to put on the counter next to the Amish-made apple walnut pie and praline peach pie. I got the first slice of that coconut cake. It was magnificent, the cake itself fresh and sunny, the frosting extra thick and sweet. The wizard who made it regularly bakes cakes for the Market, about one every other day. The last time I visited, the cake du jour was hummingbird cake — spicy, tropical … unforgettable.