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How to Spend 24 Fabulous Hours in Richmond, Va.

How to eat very well in the artsy, festive city

A close-up shot of croissants filled with meat and cheese,
Savory pastries from Richmond’s Sub Rosa Bakery.
Sub Rosa/Facebook

At under two hours from D.C. (ok, sometimes a little longer with traffic), Richmond is the perfect destination for a long weekend getaway from the city. And it’s an impressive destination from places beyond Washington, whether someone is looking for a hip music scene, an artsy vibe, a dose of history, or most importantly, a delicious meal (with reliably good service throughout the city). Here’s where to sample some of its best culinary options within the confines of a day trip — check out this map of city essentials for those with more time on their hands.

8 a.m.: Pastry stop at Sub Rosa bakery

A trip to Sub Rosa is an essential part of any Richmond itinerary for their exquisite pastries. Croissants are a major specialty, with savory flavors such as salami and cheese, and sweeter versions including a large sour cherry and pistachio one. Breads are another focus, from sesame rye to rosemary-flecked flatbread. The key is to order a few options to go (prepare to wait in line for a few minutes, though arriving first thing helps), and then head over to...

9 a.m.: Breakfast at Perly’s

Speaking of lines, it’s not rare for Perly’s to generate a sizable one almost immediately on a Saturday (weekdays are more chill), so you’ll be grateful to have a pastry to keep you company while you wait to enjoy the diner’s modern interpretation of Jewish classics. Consider options like corned beef hash, “schlubby” dill fries topped with cheese and corned beef, latkes and knish, bagels with fish, hot dogs topped with everything from chicken liver to sauerkraut, and a fine matzoh ball soup. Their beet-spiked Bloody Mary riff with an everything bagel seasoning rim and pickled garnishes is a must-order addition.

Other ideas: A “Bronchfest” burger at Cobra Burger, Drag Brunch at Godfrey’s

Three pierogi atop vegetables with sour cream on top.
Pierogi from Perlys.

ACTIVITY INTERLUDE: Head to the Maymont

How many destinations offer Japanese gardens, an active otter, and grazing goats all at one location? This historic estate and park has an impressive nature center focused on the life within Virginia’s rivers, an extensive animal collection ranging from a petting zoo to an extensive bird of prey exhibit (there’s also bison and a Black bear on premises), and several ornate gardens, including Japanese and Italian-influenced designs. It’s a nice place for a picnic, but you’ll probably want to focus on walking and digesting those pastries and Jewish egg rolls.

1 p.m.: Lunch at Lillie Pearl

Southern fare is an excellent option to explore in Richmond, and Lillie Pearl does a fine job embodying Southern African American Cuisine with thoughtfulness and flair. Take dishes like the short rib egg rolls, with their intriguing mix of braised beef short ribs, collards, pimento cheese, vegetables, and Thai basil sauce. The lunch menu is more focused on salads and sandwiches (think fried chicken, slab bacon BLTs), but if there’s an opportunity to eat off the dinner menu, don’t miss the tender braised lamb shank perched atop Jollof rice. The restaurant group is also behind Buttermilk and Honey Fried Chicken and Jubilee.

Other ideas: Edo’s Squid for Italian, Barbecue from ZZQ, Kuba Kuba for Cuban

Two pieces short rib atop red rice with scallions on top.
A short rib dish with Jollof rice at Lillie Pearl.
Lillie Pearl/Facebook

3 p.m. Beer Break at Ardent

More than 30 breweries call the Richmond area home (find help narrowing the field here). A good one for a quick cameo is Ardent (it’s also right by ZZQ if you decide to swap smoked meats for Lille Pearl around lunchtime). The kid- and dog-friendly patio is a great place to sample a summery Saison or a tart Gose.

Other ideas: Grab a pint at Hardywood or The Veil

OR alternately:

ACTIVITY INTERLUDE: Shopping in Carytown

Instead of beer, it might be time to break up all this snacking with some shopping. Carytown is a fun strip of shops that’s easy to wander through in an hour or two. Look for a new read at Chop Suey Books, something to listen to at Plan 9 Records, a quirky gift at Mongrel, some nostalgic candy from Rocket Fizz, some Asian snacks or gifts from either Tokyo Market or Sen Organic Market (don’t miss the extensive selection of onigiri), or wander through the many vintage clothing options. If you need a quick cocktail break since you skipped the beer stop, the Jasper opens at 5.

5 p.m. Oyster snack at Rappahannock

Oysters are a fabulous option in Richmond, and you know they’re coming straight from the source at Rappahannock Oyster Company’s own restaurant in Richmond. The big beautiful bar in the center of the place is an excellent place to sidle up for a crisp glass of white wine from a knowledgeable bartender and a platter of oysters (or even some caviar or ceviche). If you're coming from D.C. and already get to enjoy the Wharf location of this restaurant company, the nearby Birdie’s is a great alternative for oysters, icy martinis, and marinated shrimp.

8 p.m. Dinner at Metzger

The German-influenced Metzger is a destination restaurant for those looking for inventive takes on dishes like schnitzel (enhanced with curry mustard) and knoedel (recently made with chickpeas and eggplant as sort of a falafel riff). The late summer menu showcased ingredients like corn and tomatoes in artful salads and chowders; this is another place where booking a seat at the bar is an amiable option. Chef Brittanny Anderson is also behind the Alpine-influenced Brenner Pass.

Other ideas: Stella’s for Greek, Conejo for Mexican, Southern fare at the Roosevelt

A big schnitzel cutlet topped with sauce and chopped apples.
A schnitzel dish from Metzger.

10 p.m.: Cocktail at Saison

Richmond is a fun place to drink, and beer lovers and cocktail fiends can both find plenty to choose from at this classy destination. Creative cocktails like the Osaka Train Station combine ingredients like pisco, peach, sour orange, cognac, Branca Menta, yuzu, lime, and ginger. Seasonal small plates like a Thai crab and cucumber combo are a nice snack if you’re somehow still hungry.

Other ideas: The aforementioned Jasper, Heritage

12:30 p.m. Keep it simple at GWARbar

Who knew BalSac the Jaws ‘o Death brought decades of restaurant industry business to the table? Everyone’s welcome at GWARbar, a partnership between the band and Rappahannock’s Travis Croxton (fans of the group will enjoy the memorabilia scattered throughout the bar). It feels funny to call a bar blasting a metal soundtrack and playing Japanese horror films on the television “chill,” but if it isn’t too crowded, it’s actually a pretty relaxing place to unwind (cocktails lean strong and syrupy, so just order a beer or a rail drink here). There’s also a late-night menu of junk food (with a sizable amount of vegan options).


The Lindon Row hotel (which has a decent brunch) is right around the corner from Perly’s, and it’s an easy stroll to Rappahannock, Saison, etc. from The Graduate and Quirk hotels (both of which have rooftop bars). For something closer to downtown, The Berkley’s got an old-school feel (though is a little dated); there are plenty of chain options there, too. The fanciest hotel in Richmond is probably the Jefferson.

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