HARBOR’S EDGE in Norfolk, VA .
If you want to find the best restaurant in Norfolk, Virginia, just ask the residents of Harbor’s Edge Retirement Resort, although they may be just a little biased! But don’t take their word for it – taste for yourself some of Chef Meier’s handiwork at The River Terrace, overlooking the Hampton Roads Harbor, and you’ll know what they’re talking about! This is country club dining for people who enjoy dining at a whole new level.
Harbor’s Edge is a full-service Retirement Resort, offering residents a very high standard of hospitality services and resort amenities along with access to a medical clinic and three healthcare service-levels. And at every service-level, the dining experiences are overseen by Chef Meier and his team of experts.
As baby boomers have begun to move into Retirement Resorts, they’re demanding a higher level of Senior Hospitality than previous generations. And they’re finding it at Harbor’s Edge, where every meal is an enjoyable and memorable dining experience.
“Many of our residents are well-traveled and adventurous with food — and we need to keep up with that,” says Chef Beat Meier, Executive Chef and Vice President of Food Operations. “But others are more traditional in their tastes.” That’s why the focus is on giving residents a variety to choose from. “We’re very similar to a country club – with a little bit of everything,” he explains. “And we also accommodate special requests — which is something people really appreciate. We don’t ever like to say no.”
And with that in mind, Harbor’s Edge goes above and beyond with every meal they serve. There are currently three restaurants onsite, but with the construction of a second residential tower underway, more will soon be added within that location. And they’re all first-class. Just ask the residents.
Café Norfolk serves casual cooked-to-order, as well as grab-and-go food for breakfast and lunch. The River Terrace provides residents with a full-service dining experience. “This is not like dining at many retirement communities,” Meier explains. “Residents order off an extensive menu that combines traditional favorites along with daily and weekly specials.”
Harbor Room is used for special events as well as Friday and Saturday theme nights like “A Night in Paris.” And the Horizon Lounge, on the 15th floor, is the place to be for Wednesday Wine Down — a happy hour event perfect for meeting up with friends.
Meier, who has more than 30 years of professional experience at country clubs and high-end resorts, certainly knows his food — and his clientele. It’s very clear that one of his greatest pleasures is meshing the two. The rest of his culinary team feels the same. Many have formal training and professional hospitality experience, and other have worked their way up, learning from the best.
But it doesn’t stop with having professional and experienced staff on hand. Harbor’s Edge also takes great pride in serving meals that are fresh and locally-sourced whenever possible. Meier explains that this practice not only creates a relationship with the community, but also ensures that the food is both fresher and healthier, with fewer chemicals. “We even buy our honey from a local bee farmer and we get fresh-catch fish and seafood every other day,” says Meier. “People are familiar with many of the farms around here so that makes it fun.”
“We even buy our honey from a local bee farmer and we get fresh-catch fish and seafood every other day.” — Chef Meier
And when it comes to making the food, the Harbor’s Edge culinary team loves the opportunity to create meals that combine the “healthy” with great taste and presentation. “Everything is done from scratch,” he says, adding that since salt is a concern for many residents, they use of a lot of salt-free seasonings and even make their own soup stock. A lot of food is also grilled or steamed.
So…. is healthier food a priority for Seniors these days? “Well, yes and no,” laughs Meier. “The majority of the residents want to see healthy foods on the menu — but when it comes to ordering, they sometimes just have to go with the comfort food!”
And that, he says, is why the restaurants offer a little of each – combining them when possible. “If the food was just healthy, people wouldn’t be happy,” he says. “They like a little bit of balance.” And since resident input is vitally important to their overall dining satisfaction, Harbor’s Edge has formed a Resident Dining Committee to share food ideas and concerns with Chef and his team.
Information-sharing goes both ways. Monthly “healthy cooking classes” that focus on fitness and nutrition are very well attended. Staff members share their expertise — and the residents are eager to learn.
For those that prefer pairing a fine wine and good food with their education, Harbor’s Edge also hosts wine dinners with menus planned around a specific wine — and someone from a local vineyard coming in to tell the story behind the wine.
That’s why restaurant ambiance is also an important part of the mix. “It’s a big part of the whole dining experience,” agrees Meier. “We want our restaurants to feel warm and classy – not like a cafeteria. They’re modern – but not uncomfortable.” He says the restaurants are currently undergoing a renovation, which includes new carpeting and chairs with wheels. They even changed out the glass-top tables to improve the dining room acoustics.
Meier calls this the best job he’s ever had. Each day is spent working in a fully-equipped modern kitchen with professional staff and beautiful dining venues. “But what really makes it so great is the people that live here,” he explains. “They appreciate the creativity, attention to detail and care that goes into both the food and the overall dining experience.”
And that’s exactly what they get at Harbor’s Edge. It’s a match made in dining Heaven.