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Dec 30, 2007 11:06 AM

Richmond, VA

What do you think are the best restaurants in Richmond? Here are some of my favorites that I go to regularly or I left knowing that I wanted to go back.

Pho So - This is the best Vietnamese restaurant hands down. Authentic food, great prices and family owned. Pho So is way better than Mekong and Vietnam 1. At Mekong you are paying for the atmosphere and below average food. At Pho So you are paying for excellent authentic food. #24 and #49 are the way to go. Their soup is also very good. You can always tell which Asian restaurants are the best because they are filled with Asian people.

Full Kee - This is the best Chinese restaurant in Richmond. Go for the dim sum breakfast. Lunch and dinner is your typical Chinese restaurant. Dim sum starts at 11am and they bring 2 carts around with food that you choose from. No other place in Richmond does this. This is the best authentic Chinese food in Richmond.

Davis & Main - One of the best fan restaurants. Tuesday nights they have live jazz. The crab cakes and salmon are amazing. They always have some interesting specials also. I'd rather go to a restaurant that specializes in something rather than serving everything imaginable. Great friendly bar and well trained wait staff. Excellent key lime pie for dessert minus the raspberry dressing.

Zeus Gallery Cafe - A little more expensive than usual, but fantastic food. Writing the menu on a chalk board is odd and hard to read. Our waitress was able to make recommendations. Fig and goat cheese salad and a great beef tenderloin.

Bacchus - Another fan favorite. Professional and very good waitresses. Very good seafood, pastas and duck. Excellent bar and drinks. Rather expensive, but worth it.

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  1. I like most of your recommendations, but I think Davis and Main is overrated - I've eaten there probably a dozen times, and only had one REALLY good meal. The rest were not memorable at all.

    I like Kuba Kuba, Millie's, Comfort, and Azzuro are probably my favorites, off the top of my head. Mama Zu's is sometimes not worth the hassle, but that's some good food, too!

    I know there are a lot of mixed reviews on this, but I still miss the Frog and the Redneck.

    1. Zeus Gallery is very good but can be inconsistent. Davis & Main...very overrated IMO.

      Edo's Squid is IMO the best restaurant dollar for dollar in Richmond. Also on my "Best of" list would be Comfort, Karsen's, Millie's and Chez Max. I was never a fan of Frog and the Redneck, but enjoyed the meal I had at Sneed's new place, Carena's. Azzuro is great for pizza and pasta but I find their meat/seafood dishes inconsistent. I also recently tried Lulu's and very much enjoyed it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Janet from Richmond

        I'm looking to take my girlfriend out to dinner tonight and we want to try something new. I have NOT been to Karsen's, Mamma Zu's, Rowland's, Cirrus or Escobars.

        I'm looking for a a quiet atmosphere and excellent food. Casual Fine dining. Food wise, I am looking for maybe stuffed mushrooms, fried oysters, duck, salmon. I love rich flavors. Seafood, beef, vegetables...

        What do you'all think?

        1. re: blumonk

          Edo's Squid comes to does Karsen's. I always enjoy Rowland though don't get there as often as I'd like (they don't take reservation for small parties so that's one issue).

      2. haven't eaten at any of the others you list but i had one of the worst meals i've ever had at davis & main. my husband and i both thought it was dreadful.

        i've had a pretty good meal at europa and at mama cucina (not fancy but homemade).

        i live in the west end so our staples are malabar and ichiban (think both are great).

        and as far as fine dining, i've had 3 VERY good meals at patina grill. i know not everyone loves them (and they might not be worth the drive if you live surrounded by restaurants like it) but i have to list them since they have some fab dishes. although my favorite is off the menu now.

        1 Reply
        1. re: AMFM

          oh and TOTALLY different but since we've had 2 parties done by TD's barbecue and everyone raved (and it's ridiculously inexpensive), i have to list them as one of the best places i've had food here.
          although it is in no way a great "restaurant" since you can't eat in.

        2. Somehow I can't understand the raves about Edo's Squid; the noise level and rowdy crowds remind me of a school cafeteria - the time i was there my main thought was to get out as fast as possible. Are there others who can praise Bacchus? I haven't been there in years. Tell me what you like at Karsens; I don't eat farmed salmon, and you need to trust the chef to find otherwise.

          23 Replies
          1. re: pollychowing

            We ate at Karsens last week and I enjoyed the seared sea scallops with andouille sausage - interesting riff on the ubiquitous shrimp and grits theme. My wife also enjoyed the roast duck with the red bean and ham cassoulet.

            They had a lamb shank special that night that other tables seemed to enjoy as well. We would have ordered that dish but the waiter asked us how we would like the lamb cooked. Since we like dishes such as lamb shank to be fall off the bone tender, we are bit perplexed by that question and didn't want to risk a chewy shank. As it turned out, I think we just had an undertrained waiter, as became more clear as the evening progressed.

            1. re: pollychowing

              For me, the noise and crowds are part of the Edo's going there with a crowd for family style and I have never had a dish there that wasn't terrific. I've never even had what I would call an average meal there. It's constantly "OMG, this is SO good" and that combined with the noise, the smell of garlic, etc. is wonderful. Also, I have never had a dish overcooked or undercooked...I'm amazed at their consistency, especially with seafood and pasta. I wish they had better parking..that's my only gripe and one I know they don't have control over.

              I love the tuna at Karsen's. Some of the best I've had. Their crab cakes are very good also.

              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                We decided to check out the new place called Cirrus on Main St.

                Summary: Not that great, not interested in returning.

                The Good: I'll start out with the good. No reservations and we were seated promptly. Cool clean white interior, which is a big change from all the dark hard wood of the fan. Very clean inside. Not too loud. There was a neat silent water fall on the back wall and a mute flat screen TV at the bar. The food looked good. It looked like someone had taken the time to make sure it looked perfect.

                Waitress: Typical waitress. No complaints, but nothing that exceeding our expectations. No smiles, no eye contact. She looked like they didn't want to be there. However, she kept an eye on our table and was quick. Order was correct. Checking out with the credit card was quick and painless.

                The Food: Nothing really blew my mind. Nothing was memorable. There was nothing that made me feel like returning to this place. The bread was room temperature, hard as a brick crust, slightly burn on the bottom. I'm not sure if they were going for the European crunchy crust and lite center or not. I ate the center. Regular bread. Nothing amazing about it. We had the mushroom stuffed with crab cake appetizer, which was exactly that. Nothing really memorable about it. Not many flavors other than the mushroom and crab cake. Very natural I suppose, trying to make solid foods taste...well like they are suppose to. We both had the duck as our entrees accompanied with raisin couscous and cooked pears. I'll start with the duck. Not as good as the duck I had at Bacchus about 3 weeks ago, but Bacchus was a few dollars more. It was cooked very much like pork and even tasted like pork. We told our waitress to cook it medium-rare to medium or whatever the cook suggested. Personally, I would have liked it a little more rare. The couscous seemed like something different to put on the menu besides mashed and sweet mashed potatoes, which everyone is doing now. However, it was just kind of blah. I'm not a big fan of couscous in the first place. The raisins made it tolerable, but I ate about 1/2 the portion they gave. There were a few green beans that were cooked to perfection. I was expecting a more fruity flavor from the pears. Instead I got a mouth full of vinegar and red wine flavor. I think I would have preferred something else, maybe not a fruit with the duck. I thought I'd try it out though. No dessert, no drinks.

                Conclusion: Not recommended. I'd rather go someplace that I've been before and knew that the food was going to be great. The food is more important than the interior and look of a restaurant.

                Also, the entire time we were there, there was this annoying guy wearing jeans walking up and down the restaurant. I guess he was a manager or part-owner of the restaurant. He didn't seem like he was doing anything, just walking around inspecting everyone. A few times I thought he was coming over to our table to talk to us, but he slithered past like he was patrolling the area. I hope he's not taking a portion of the waitress' tips. He nodded with a straight face as we left.

                1. re: blumonk

                  not memorable. exactly how i would describe many trying to be cool restaurants in richmond. sorry your night wasn't great. maybe next time! :) happy new year! here's to better in 2008...

                  1. re: AMFM

                    Yes, maybe next time. On New Years Eve my girlfriend and I decided to stay home and cook. Great idea! Thanks. Happy New Years to you too!

                  2. re: blumonk

                    Dh and I went to Cirrus a few weeks ago and were disappointed as well. In that area Rowland and Six Burner are much better. Also Avalon is really growing on us. It's our daughter's favorite so we've been there quite often in recent months and they do tapas much better than Si does IMO.

                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                      Ipanema Café

                      Summary: Highly recommended. Fresh and tasty. Great for lunch or light dinner.

                      This was my first time at Ipanema Café on Grace St. It's in a basement and the menu is written on a chalk board just inside the restaurant. We thought we would try it out. There was one waitress and she was friendly and quick. I had the smoked gouda and tomato sandwich and my girlfriend had the BBQ turkey wrap. We both got the sweet potato fries and a small side salad with ours. Both of them were great. Extremely fresh and tasty. Someone spent time on these dishes and it showed. Fresh bread and great tasting ingredients. The sweet potato fries tasted like sweet potatos rather than just french fries like Kitchen 64's sweet potato fries. The side salad was tossed in a very light asian vinegar style dressing with garlic and sesame seeds. Delicious! This place is definitely for the VCU crowd and their regulars are typically the vegetarian/vegan/hipster type crowd. However, the food was great and beyond what we expected. I give this restaurant a 9.5 out of 10. We waited a little longer than expected for our food, considering the few people in the place, but it was worth the wait.

                      Conclusion: I will be returning. No too pricey either. I was out the door paying less than $25 for 2 including 20%+ tip. Yummy!

                      1. re: blumonk

                        have heard good things. glad to hear another good report. it's not a place my hubby would likely go :) but maybe i'll get there one of these days. glad you had a better meal.

                        1. re: AMFM

                          I haven't been to Avalon but I have to say I was happy with the offerings and stylish decor of Si. Much better than Europa.

                          Thanks blumonk, for the review of Cirrus. I had been wondering but haven't been out to try it yet. Looks like I'll give it a pass. And a big "RIGHT ON" regarding Pho So. We go at least a couple of times a month.

                          Count me in as someone who loves the food at Edo's Squid but can't stand the decibel levels. I'd much rather go to Mamma Zu - easier to park, more casual atmosphere, great (similar) menu.

                          My favs (not already mentioned): Kuba Kuba, Comfort, Can Can, Zuppa, Patina, Pho So, Pomegranate, and the best Chinese in town, IMO, China Star.

                          Any thoughts on Sensi?

                          1. re: hopkid

                            I really enjoy Sensi. The pasta is fabulous and I also like you can get a "first course" portion if you like. Good wine list, etc but it is expensive. Dh swears by the veal chop.

                            1. re: hopkid

                              Last trip to Avalon was the best in a while. It was a fall seasonal menu and everything was quite good. I think the difference between Mamma Zu and Edo's is actually more about reservations and credit cards, but I actually like the Mamma Zu food just a bit more. They tend to have escarole from time to time and I see more interest in the food there. BUT, my office is across the street from Edo's so I am there often.

                              We have been regulars at Pho So #1 since they opened in the previous location--best fast food in Richmond!. If you are adventurous, try some of the smaller places in the neighborhood behind Pho So...really great lunch at the bakery back there! But, if you are less adventurous, the House of Vietnam in Short Pump prepares excellent, well seasoned, Vietnamese and Chinese food, and they are very accomodating.

                              I still like the original Thai Diner on Broad St. (Westland Shopping Center) They have the best Pad Thai in town.

                              Staying in the West End, I really like Ichiban, off Ridgefield Parkway. The sushi is always fresh, and they do some innovative rolls and raw fish treatments. They are opening a new location up in the Short Pump Mall area--I hope things don''t change at my location.

                              I don't know China Star, but I can't beat Full Kee for chinese in Richmond. The dim sum is good, but their cantonese noodle soups are fantastic, especially the shrimp dumplings. Get an order of roast pork or roast duck from the hangars in the window and an order of one of the many green vegetables--my current favorite is the snow pea leaves sauteed with garlic--and you'll see why there is no Chinese restaurant even close to this in the area.

                              We don't go to Patina any more. The last 2 meals were pretty to look at, but short on flavors. Can't spend that kind of money and consider using the salt shaker! Maybe we'll give it a try this year. BUT, in the same shopping center is a gem of a small Indian restaurant: Malabar!!

                              I ate lunch recently at Cous Cous and was surprised by some of the choices and the quality of my meal--it was quite good.

                              Finally, Buzz and Ned's is worth the trouble. The pulled pork is the best in town, and the brisket is outstanding...but the wait is long!!

                              okay, I am hungry now!

                              1. re: chefsalad

                                you must live near me. i've only been to patina in the last 6 months but 3 times and all have been really good. love ichiban and malabar. i like td's barbecue - not had buzz & ned's yet. will have to try the rest suggested. didn't know ichiban was expanding. ugh. agree with you that i hope it doesn't hurt. the staff there is the BEST. both there and malabar are GREAT with my little ones.

                                1. re: chefsalad

                                  I forgot about Thai Diner. Yes, it's our favorite Thai place as well. And Cous Cous, Rowland, and Six Burner are places on my list to try. I'm on the fence about Karsen's.

                                  As for BBQ, while I like Buz and Ned's, Alexander's is just as good in my opinion and it's a lot closer to my house in Short Pump. It's touted as Virginia BBQ so no brisket but their ribs are great.

                                  And definitely try to get out to China Star (corner of Cox and Three Chopt), chefsalad. All of the local Chinese expats I know swear by it. I have to say that I do like Full Kee as well for the Cantonese experience and the dim sum.

                                  1. re: hopkid

                                    How long has it been China Star? We go to Tony's from time to time with soccer and baseball teams, but it has been a while since we ate in that Chinese restaurant...we'll have to give it a try. We have always loved Dan Alexander's place, but his hours are so irregular that we miss it more than make it. I remember in the old days when he had the family 9.95 special: 1 lb of pulled pork, large container of slaw, beans, sauce, and a six-pack of kaiser rolls. With a gallon of sweet tea (or a Diet Cheer Wine for me!) it was a perfect take-home meal.

                                    As for Ichiban, we spoke to them before the holidays and they are taking the old San Francisco Grill (??) spot up near Betucci's at Lauderdale and Broad, across from Short Pump Mall. She is keeping the Ridgefield location for her sister to run, but her focus will be on the new spot. I hope they keep the sushi chef or hire someone as good. Keep in mind West Enders: not only is Ichiban opening their new spot, but a new Sushi and Japanese Steakhouse opening on the other side of Short Pump in the new shopping plaza out near Stranges. At least these aren't more of the chains we have been flooded with.

                                    Has anyone eaten at either the new sushi restaurant or off-shoot of Mary Angela's Pizza (Carytown) that have opened on the other side of Twin Hickory out near Chee Burger-Chee Burger?

                                    MORE INDEPENDENT RESTAURANTS TO SHORT PUMP!!

                                    PS I heard the Track in Carytown is good again. I was the chef there for a long time, but only recently have I heard great things about the kitchen...anyone checked it out?

                                    1. re: chefsalad

                                      Back in the day, we used to go to The Track at least once a month. Allison was a terrific waitress there (this was 99-01 time frame as best as my memory serves) and the menu was always interesting and the food terrific. We had a falling out with management one evening concerning a group of us and refused to go back, but perhaps with the changes and enough time has passed to give it a try.

                                      1. re: chefsalad

                                        We've been going to China Star for at least 3-4 years. Not sure how long they were there before that. I'd be interested to hear what you think. I also hear what you say about Alexander's. They do have some strange and irregular hours.

                                        While I also like Ichiban I really wish we'd get one decent Japanese restaurant that does other dishes well. I think we have some good sushi but lack decent yakitori, katsu, etc. What I wouldn't give for a decent okazuya or ramen shop! And please, no more Japanese steakhouses!

                                        What's the name of the new sushi place in Twin Hickory? Anyone been to the place in Innsbrook with the conveyor belt service? Could it be any good?

                                        1. re: hopkid

                                          I recently tried Sushi Go Around and it was okay. If you go when it's not busy there isn't much actually on the conveyor belt, but a sushi chef stands in the middle of the restaurant and you can shout out what you want and he'll make it. The prices are pretty cheap and orders come in the form of a half role so you can try more things. My only complaint was that the menu was pretty bare bones. If you like inventive sushi like at Ichiban or Osaka you'll be disappointed with the selection. The atmosphere is really cool, though. I think it's worth a trip.

                                  2. re: hopkid

                                    Just came to mind is a new Mexican place on Quioccasin, Tortilleria San Luis. They make their own corn tortillas every day and have a small menu of authentic tacos and gorditas. One day they even had lengua! It's mainly take out and I think they may add things to the menu as time goes on.

                                    1. re: hopkid

                                      Where on Quioccasin is this? I'd love to try it.

                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                        It's in the strip mall that used to have Custom Shoe Repair, Custom Tailors, etc. but burned down a few years ago. It also has a Brazilian restaurant that was recently written up in the Weekend section of the T-D. It's on the south side of the street just past Quioccasin Station (where the Food Lion, Wendy's, and El Chapala are). It's a strange strip mall in that it is positioned perpendicular to the street.

                                        1. re: hopkid

                                          it's right past regency/ starling drive. will have to check it out. thanks for that too.

                                          1. re: hopkid

                                            I know exactly where you are talking about...thanks!

                                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                              Has anyone been to the Brazilian place? It's also on my list of new places to try.

                        2. Well, we're off to Karsen's tonight; last time it wasn't so good (my DH ended up with one shrimp for dinner); at least we'll understand the menu bettr.