If it’s been a minute since you’ve made the trip down I-95 to Richmond, now is the time to return. Dine near the scenic James River, pick up natural wines at newcomer Celladora, and soak up the culture of Richmond’s arts and museum districts. It’s easy to stay well fed in Richmond thanks to these 18 essential restaurants, which represent just a snapshot of the the stellar food and hospitality River City has to offer.Read More
18 Essential Restaurants in Richmond, Virginia
The abundant dining scene in Virginia’s capital offers classic soul food, Jewish deli fare, and much more
1. Lehja Restaurant
Richmond’s outdoor mall Short Pump Towne Center houses this modern Indian jewel with a jaw-dropping wine selection from master of hospitality Sandjeep “Sunny” Baweja. Lehja excels at delivering both regional classics like the seafood kerala curry or expertly spiced biryani as well as inventive specialties, including a stuffed paneer tikka and shrimp chicken zafrani.
2. Brenner Pass
Top Chef contestant Brittanny Anderson’s ode to the food and wine of the Alps, Brenner Pass offers a spacious, modern setting to enjoy fondue in Dansk pots, potato-topped flammkuchen (an Alsatian flatbread), or a dry-aged cote de boeuf au poivre. But save room for a trip next door to Black Lodge, a fun-loving dive bar born during the pandemic where barman James Kohler’s killer cocktails pair nicely with the “Tower of Power” — a selection of hot dogs, patty melts, and French fries that satisfy late-night cravings in one fell swoop. Looking for something just a skosh more German? Head to Church Hill to sister restaurant The Metzger, where the Frühstück Brett (charcuterie, pretzel roll, soft egg) at brunch is an unmatched delight.
3. ZZQ Texas Craft Barbeque
Consistently regarded as Richmond’s best barbecue, this Texas-style ‘cue joint coaxes smoke into an array of supple, meaty treats. Load up the tray with pulled pork shoulder, massive beef ribs, and, of course, the marbled brisket. Friday-only homemade pastrami is worth a special weekly trip. Try it by the pound or in a sandwich with homemade kraut and “giddy-up” sauce. The team’s new next-door burger spot, Eazzy Burger, is a collaboration with neighboring Ardent Craft Ales.
The scent of garlic and oregano welcomes you before you ever open the door at Stella’s, a welcoming Greek neighborhood spot from the Giavos family. Fill the table with flaky tiropita, keftedes (lamb and beef meatballs), and flaming mushroom saganaki, and prepare to share. Greek comfort food in ample portions includes braised lamb over butter noodles and the deliciously creamy artichoke moussaka. Around town, keep an eye out for six locations of Stella’s Grocery, a market specializing in pre-made meals and gourmet goodies, each one with a little something special.
Longoven’s covered garden patio is a true oasis in the middle of rapidly developing Scott’s Addition. Find a seat among the flowers from which to enjoy Longoven’s seasonal snacks, or reserve a table inside the serene dining room to try inventive tasting menus bursting with creativity, with attentive service to match.
This relaxed and homey corner cafe offers some of the best sandwiches in the city. Try one of several “Croques,” like the Croque Park Avenue with black forest ham, gruyere, spinach, and garlic aioli under a blanket of mornay sauce, or the Scuffletown Chicken Sandwich, a classic version with big chunks of chicken and a pickly twang. Garnett’s happy hour ($3 glasses of wine and pints of beer, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) and week-long $33 date night special (any two menu items and a bottle of wine or pitcher of beer after 6 p.m.) are two of the best-kept secrets in Richmond. When on the city’s Southside, visit Garnett’s sister restaurant, the modern fern bar Laura Lee’s.
7. Edo's Squid
At the top of a flight of carpeted stairs sits this consistently-packed Richmond institution for rustic, Italian-American dishes like scungili (conch) insalata, braised fennel, and spaghetti with crab meat. Sister restaurant, Dinamo, offers a more casual take on the vibe, with crostinis and homemade pasta. And for takeout, try another sibling restaurant, 8 ½, with crushable heroes, seasonal antipasti, and some of the best pizza the city has to offer.
8. Restaurant Adarra
Named one of Esquire’s best new restaurants in 2020, Adarra marries Basque flavors and cooking philosophies with hard-to-find, easy-to-enjoy natural wines from around the world. Seafood, especially conservas, is the star of the show, and chef Randall Doetzer draws out its full potential with his arsenal of garlicky, paprika-tinged sauces. Whether you’re in the cozy dining room or Adarra’s charming back patio, there’s not a bad seat in the house (but you’ll need a reservation to get one).
9. Jamaica House Restaurant
Around since 1994, owner Carena Ives recreates the Jamaican food of her childhood, like jerk chicken, curry goat, and beef patties, from a small restaurant on Broad Street. At its new location (just a few blocks down from the original), channel Caribbean vibes while sipping fresh-pressed juices while awaiting a whole crispy-skinned snapper escovitch.
Over the last decade, Saison has cemented itself as a hip but focused New American neighborhood spot, and for good reason. Dishes like the pillowy buckwheat gnocchi appetizer and the roasted chicken show the refined skill of Saison’s chef de cuisine Marc Rhodes. With just 10 tables, it’s best to make a reservation, or come for a late-night menu and seat at the bar and prepared to be wooed by cocktails like Cool as a Coconut with spiced rum and an herbaceous blend of bitters. Next door, Saison Market is an all-day cafe with a wine and beer shop and espresso bar.
11. Mama J's Kitchen
From the heart of historic Jackson Ward, James Beard Award-nominated Mama J’s Kitchen feels like just that, a mother’s kitchen that leaves patrons feeling full and loved. Crispy fried catfish, candied yams, and baked macaroni and cheese, and a legendary peach cobbler are a few of the soul food standards that bring back Mama J’s devoted following for meal after meal.
12. Soul Taco
Soul food meets Latin American flavors at this playfully clever Jackson Ward taco shop. Try the buffalo cauliflower taco and the oxtail al pastor in a grown-up “happier meal” — two tacos, a beer, and a toy for $10. Or, fire up the taste buds with an order of Flaming Hot Cheeto Elote Loco, and then mosey a couple doors over to Suzy Sno for an icy, New Orleans-style snowball to cool things down.
This charming Jewish delicatessen in the heart of downtown is known for impressive fish boards loaded with bagels and cured specialities like smoked trout and silky gravlax with all the fixings. All the Ashkenazi comfort food favorites are here, from the baseball-sized matzoh ball soup to chopped liver to knish, but Perly’s truly shines when riffing on the classics, as seen in the Shapiro Schnitzel sandwich with crispy schnitzel, pickled cauliflower, and fiery zhug sauce.
Inn at Little Washington alum David Shannon showcases the fantastic twists on exquisite French fare he’s refined throughout his fine-dining career. Luscious dishes include swank bank (lobster mac and cheese) and a Fabergé egg “bedazzled” with caviar and dill cured salmon, plus “vodka-powered accoutrements et les jigglés de la Champagne rose.” L’Opossum captures the eclectic spirit of its Oregon Hill neighborhood, between a phallic stained glass window and bathroom bursting with clowns. Try the very fun, plastic-wrap-covered Laura Palmer cocktail with gin, Dolin Blanc, cherries, and lime.
15. Sub Rosa Bakery
Wood-fired breads made from locally-grown, house-milled grains and the flakiest seasonal pastries fill the case at this Church Hill bakery owned by brother-and-sister duo Evrim and Evin Dogu. While pastries like the fig and cheese croissant and seeded braid usually enjoy the spotlight, sleeper hits like the earl grey cookie or Turkish pogaca (a biscuit-like dough stuffed with feta) hold up nicely for the trip back home. Bonus: a small but excellent selection of natural wine and cider available to-go.
16. Cobra Burger
Former butcher shop owners Adam Musselman, Joshua Franklin, Melville Johnson IV, and Mike Epps took their deep meat knowledge to Church Hill, where they sling freshly ground beef patties every night but Tuesday. Grab a bottle of wine from the exquisite Second Bottle shop one block over, and take the goodies to Libby Hill Park for a picnic with some of the best views in the city. Then come back the next morning for the silly sloppy breakfast sandos of “Bronchfest.” The Church Hill neighborhood is also home to hip hangout Pizza Bones.
The South’s best new restaurant of 2020 according to Southern Living, Alewife is all about sustainable Mid-Atlantic seafood and the waterways that surround the Chesapeake Bay. Start with one of beverage director Andon Whitehorn’s ethereal cocktails while you peruse the chalkboard specials, which change frequently and display the full range of chef Bobo Catoe’s creativity and sheer excitement for ingredients. Plan ahead with reservations for this always-bustling spot.
Grisette’s menu flexes on French classics (think steak frites and fluke en papillote) with a sincere commitment to using local and peaking ingredients. And then there’s the wine. Affordably priced and exceedingly drinkable, any pour pairs nicely with chef Donnie Glass’s curated smorgasbord of charcuterie. When in The Fan, snag a seat on the patio at Jardin, a wine shop with selections by the glass plus snacks from the Grisette family.