By Visit Loudoun

Last summer, at the height of lockdown, Loudoun restaurateur Nils Schnibbe opened a BBQ restaurant in downtown Leesburg. Named Schmidt’s (after his German great grandmother’s maiden name), the restaurant served tangy Texas and Carolina-style smoked meats, and was particularly noticeable for its lively outside scene, with seating at picnic tables under a tented canopy strung with fairy lights. 

“It was a tough time and we had to innovate,” recalls Schnibbe, who is also the owner of Sidebar on nearby King Street and Mo Better, the restaurant and beer garden in Round Hill. “Our original business at the Schmidt’s location was the pop-up bar 14 Loudoun, but with all the indoor restrictions it was neither feasible nor safe. We had to come up with a food scene and outside space.”

Walk past Schmidt’s on any given night, smell the smoky richness of the ribs and brisket, and see the fun (socially distanced) outdoor scene, and it’s clear 14 Loudoun’s loss has been the BBQ lover’s gain. 

Shifting gears—turning lemons into lemonade—has become second nature to many of Loudoun’s restaurateurs this past year. Fortunately, they are not doing it alone. 

Last month, in an effort to support the local restaurant industry, Visit Loudoun, the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce and Loudoun Economic Development unveiled the #LoveLoudounFood Restaurant Sweepstakes, an entertaining new social media campaign aimed at driving customers to local eateries through the winter. 

Running through mid-March, the campaign encourages people to dine in or order out from their favorite Loudoun restaurant, post a picture of their meal on Instagram using #LoveLoudounFood and tag and follow the restaurant they order from. Do that and have a chance of winning one of three dining experiences from a local restaurant.

The nature of those dining experiences? 

A Super Bowl family meal for six; Valentine’s Day dinner for two or a St. Patrick’s Day Dinner for six at three select Loudoun restaurants chosen by campaign organizers.  

“I love the campaign and it’s already getting great buzz,” Schnibbe said. “I picked up the campaign material—posters, postcards—right away, and we were immediately adding it to our social media stories.”

Visitors to Schmidt’s, Sidebar and Mo Better will find campaign material in the restaurants and in takeout bags, and Schnibbe said he noticed more diners than usual taking photographs of their food. 

As for the three winners, they will be chosen randomly and DMed on Instagram when they have won. 

Diners can post entries from any Loudoun restaurant they dine at or carry out from. Need inspiration? The campaign site connects visitors to a list of restaurants that have signed the Loudoun Is Ready pledge to meet the latest safety guidelines outlined by the Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The website also features a Restaurant Randomizer that will suggest a place to dine.

For more information, go to