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Jun 17, 2008 08:29 AM

City Eating in Richmond?


I recently moved to Richmond (the Fan, to be specific), and I'm looking for great nearby restaurants, and markets to buy good food and wine. I prefer to shop at locally-owned grocery stores, and I love the Farmer's Market on 42nd Street, but Ellwood Thompson's quality and selection have disappointed me. I've tried and enjoyed Mom's Siam, Sticky Rice, Can Can, 6 Burner, Kuba Kuba, and a few more.

Any restaurant suggestions (breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks...) in the Fan and downtown areas? And recommendations for the best produce, meats, seafood, wine, and cheese? I always enjoy trying little-known or hole-in-the-wall places.

Thanks for all your help!

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  1. In the Fan, Bamboo Cafe for lunch or Sunday brunch, Avalon for casual (tapas) dinner, Verbena for a nicer dinner and good brunch, Cafe Rustica for dinner (German influence and very reasonable wine list), Zeus Gallery Cafe for dinner and brunch, Lulu's for dinner and brunch, Comfort for lunch, brunch or dinner..good Southern food with a twist.. Belmont Butchery for meats, Fresh Market for cheeses, meat and seafood. For a special occasion dinner Sensi.

    For drinks Havana 59 for mojitos in a great atmosphere, Sensi for wine, and many assorted places for drinks such as Verbena and Delux.

    20 Replies
    1. re: Janet from Richmond

      have heard yellow umbrella for seafood.
      as far as grocery stores - ukrop's is local and i personally really like it. they have a great selection of local produce for a non natural foods store. and their joe's market at libbie/grove has a great selection of cheeses, etc.
      good foods groceries is eh in my opinion.
      second comfort and sensi as great high end places.
      the atmosphere at havana 59 is very fun. i have had some great dishes at cafe europa - but i think the chef is somewhere else now.
      decent food at white dog and 3 monkeys - at least there's a patio at the latter - but nothing overwhelming.
      have heard good things about rowland.

      1. re: AMFM

        The farmers' market in Forest Hill park is really good. It opens at 8 a.m. on Saturday and you have to get there early because they sell out early. Great produce, baked goods, bread, etc.

        Near VCU, Nile Ethopian is one of my favorite places to eat. I also love Thai Diner Too (over Mom's Siam).

        For wine and local meat/cheese plates you HAVE to go to Bin 22 in Carytown. It's a coffee shop during the day but it becomes a wine bar with light food at night. Also in Carytown, I love River City Cellars for wine. They do weekly wine and cheese tastings from 5-7 along with cheese classes and other stuff. I've also heard really good things about Grape on Main but haven't been in.

        For okay wine and a fun atmosphere, check out the events at James River Cellars. It's a winery a bit north of here. I'm heading out tomorrow for a festival with 3 other wineries. I also like the selection of cheese and some of the food at European Market on Main. Some stuff is high, but they've got some good stuff too.I love Julep's in the bottom too.

        For baked goods, check out Jean-Jacques in Carytown. I'm a fan of brunch at Starlite. It's nothing great on atmosphere, but the food is simple and good. The shrimp frittata is my favorite thing to order. I also love brunch at Zeus Gallery Cafe.

        1. re: princsoreo

          I've been going to the Forest Hill farmer's market every Saturday morning for the past few weeks. It's my new favorite way to start the weekend.

          River City Cellars is a good choice, and I've gotten good wines and cheese at Grape. I'll have to try out that James River winery.

          I tried Juleps this weekend and really enjoyed it. Thanks for the great suggestions.

          1. re: princsoreo

            Spent this Sunday afternoon at James River Cellars. The weather was perfect for sitting outside, drinking wine, and listening to music. Thanks for the rec!

          2. re: AMFM

            Find out anything on Rowland? Am curious to hear several critiques -

            1. re: pollychowing

              I like Rowland a lot. The menu features a lot of seafood and they tend to have numerous specials. My only complaint (and it's very minor) is it's small and they don't take reservations.

              1. re: pollychowing

                I hadn't been to Rowland in almost a year, and ended up there on Friday night in a group of four. In short, it was horrific. I've never had worse service in a restaurant in Richmond (save the last time I had drinks at Karsen's), and the food was "eh", at best.

                Among the highlights:

                -- Waiting 15 minutes for a waiter to come by our table. When he did, he pulled out his notepad and said, "do you know what you want?" When my boyfriend asked what the fish special was, the waiter replied, "Oh, wow, have I not told you the specials yet?" Um, no. You haven't even told us hello.

                -- It took nearly an hour to get our appetizers, which included oysters on the half shell, a butterbean cake, a bowl of soup (more on that in a minute) and something else I can't remember.

                -- Somewhere in the hour it took for us to get our appetizers, I ordered a second martini. After twenty minutes, I asked after its whereabouts, and our waiter apologized and said he had forgotten, and would go make it. Ten minutes later, I asked again, and was told that it was "in the shaker" and someone would bring it over. Despite his assurances, I asked for a glass for the wine that was on the table, and he attempted to talk me out of it, since my drink was "on the way". Another ten minutes later, my martini was delivered, and was made completely wrong-- i.e., not dirty in the slightest. I could barely swallow the sip I took, and my boyfriend went to the bartender to tell her that it was incorrect, since we hadn't seen our waiter in ten minutes. She came over and apologized, and offered to make a new one, but I declined, fearing another 40 minute wait, and just asked for a wine glass. Please. Again. Moments later, I saw the bartender mocking me for declining the replacement drink. (Hint: I'm sitting ten feet away, facing you. Save your nasty comments for when you're behind closed doors.)

                -- We waited another 20 minutes after our appetizers were cleared for our simple green salads and bread. The salads were delicious, but my boyfriend was presented with a beet salad, instead of the complimentary green salad that comes with entrees. The genesis of the mixup? When the boyfriend asked if the soup special was hot or cold, the waiter replied "cold", and BF ordered it. Our waiter returned moments later to say that it was cold, and BF changed his order to the beet salad. When our appetizers came, the soup came out-- hot-- and BF's appetizer beet salad arrived with our salads. Sigh.

                -- After another long wait, our entrees finally arrived, and everyone was distinctly underwhelmed. BF ate about four bites of his fish, and another member of our party maybe ate two bites. Not only didn't anyone stop by the table during the entree course to see how things were, no eyebrows were raised when they cleared a table of mostly-untouched plates.

                -- Dinner for four (appetizers and entrees-- no desserts) took over two and a half hours. Not because we were lingering, but because of interminable waits between courses. Needless to say, we were more than ready to leave when our check finally came.

                It was evident to everyone at our table that the meal was almost comically bad, and it HAD to be obvious to the waitstaff that things were going less than smoothly. However, at no point did our waiter or the bartender apologize for the confusion or waits or even say anything like, "We've got a large group up front that's jamming us up-- we're really sorry for any issues you've had."

                Needless to say, Rowland is off of my list for good. It wasn't so much that the night didn't go smoothly, because every restaurant can get in the weeds or have an off night. Rather, the restaurant is off of my list because despite a clearly "off" experience, no one ever made the effort to apologize or explain the situation to us. There are plenty of restaurants in town (Verbena, Zeus, Bacchus, Six Burner) that offer far better food, far better service, and a far more pleasant experience.

                1. re: NOLACail

                  that sucks. sorry. i've never been but had heard it was good - but it was definitely about 6 months ago.

                  1. re: AMFM

                    Wow! Glad to see what you posted! Was planning on a visit.
                    Okay, I have a Bacchus discount, so we're off. what to order - fish? and 6-Burner- what to try there?

                    1. re: pollychowing

                      I'd get seafood or pasta at Bacchus. Six Burner is "okay", just another Fan place IMO,nothing special. They had some good truffle mac and cheese but a friend went last week and said it was no longer on the menu. She ordered crab cakes and said they were just okay (she's a crab cake freak and an expert at Richmond crabcakes <g>) but that the cheese grits served with them were great.

                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        so who does she think has the best richmond crab cakes?

                        1. re: AMFM

                          Bookbinders, Bookbinders Grill, Brio, Flemings, and Pescados

                      2. re: pollychowing

                        I really like Six Burner. I'd go on a week night and try a dinner special. It comes with 3 courses for about $28 and everything's usually made fresh.

                        1. re: princsoreo

                          I had a great meal at Six Burner a couple of weeks ago-- sauteed calamari for my appetizer and softshell crabs for my entree. Interesting and different without being uncomfortably avant garde on a low-key Friday.

                          At Bacchus, I always, always, always get the polenta with gorgonzola...and sometimes have them make a double order for my entree. Their lamb is always good, as is their gorgonzola pasta. The clams and mussels are great, too.

                          Can you tell who is starving for dinner right now? :-)

                          1. re: NOLACail

                            I'm still also a newbie to Richmond, but not really... So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed my meals at Edo's Squid, Millie's Diner and White Dog. I also think that Thai Diner is the best Thai Restaurant in town, they have a Broad St location as well as a loc in Carytown. I used to go to Jumpin J's in Churchill for brunch and music on Sunday mornings but unfortunately the place closed down. I have had the best brunch there and they put this balsamic vinegar reduction on pretty much anything and everything they make.
                            The osso bucco and sweetbreads at Mama Zu's are worth the wait. Oh and their pasta in gorgonzola sauce for lunch is pretty fantastic!
                            As far as breads and pastries are concerned, I'm still searching for a bagel place and a good loaf of sourdough bread....

                            1. re: b3ngs

                              Ditto on looking for a bagel place! Those big chains are depressingly bad. I'm really missing my favorite Sunday brunch of bagels and lox. Any good delis around?

                                1. re: agoldman

                                  Sigh.......that's what I miss most about home! I don't know of any deli's around here.
                                  But I found this . . .

                                  1. re: b3ngs

                                    FYI - since you reposted this. They are the best i've had in richmond. i still go and like the bagel sandwiches. but they aren't the best i've ever had. people from out of town are usually not blown away - but they aren't stuck with no good bagels!
                                    definitely worth a try though.

              2. I am a fan of 3 Monkeys on Main for brunch.
                I've got to agree with everyone who recommended River City Cellars. The staff is knowledgeable, and their selection is excellent.

                1 Reply
                1. re: hstch05

                  Great call on River City Cellars! It may not qualify as "city eating" (although I can easily make a meal out of cheese and pate'), but they deserve recognition for being delightfully accessible without "playing dumb". When I first graduated from college, Julia and the now-departed Cate were extraordinarily patient and generous with their knowledge of wine, cheese, cooking, and Richmond.

                2. Loved our evening at Bacchus Weds nite - good service, not too noisey (a more mature clientle), and a good selection. Found a pleasant Malbec, and had an all in one dinner of seafood brochette with shared sides of sauteed spinach - the best, and, of course as recommended, the polenta w/gorganzola. DH liked his rib eye, and we finished with their good choc homemade icecream.
                  Everything was cooked perfectly; we'll be back.

                  1. We love The White Dog, Comfort, CanCan, Emilio's (the only real tasca / tapas bar in Richmond), Enoteca Sogno, La Milpa, Mekong, Sahara, 27, Croaker Spot, El Caporal, Chianti (Italians from Brooklyn who know how to cook), Azzuro (Romans who know how to make a wood-fire pizza), Benny's, Country Style Doughnuts, and my husband loves good old Joe's Inn for a buttload of spaghetti every once in a while. Belmont Butchery has great meats, fresh local eggs and a little cheese. Good cheese shops in Ellwood Thompson's and Whole Foods, but the Carytown Kroger now carries a good selection of the same cheeses in a small case in the deli. Kroger also has the only local milk, creme, buttermilk and half and half I've found. It's Homestead Creamery, from Burt Chimney, VA, and they also carry their fresh butter in the section of the dairy case where the prepackaged Kraft cheese and Horseradish and stuff are. Small and large chunks. Don't let the extremely thick look of the buttermilk and cream fool you into thinking they've gone bad; we used to get fresh milk from our neighbors and this is how the really fresh stuff looks. The dairy guy at Kroger told me people won't buy it because they think it's curdled - they're used to watery-looking milk.

                    4 Replies
                      1. re: NXS

                        i'm guessing the chianti in gayton crossing. i know others who like it and i've had some okay dishes (i've tried again since it's so close to me) but i really think it's not that good. just mho.

                        1. re: AMFM

                          The Chianti in Gayton Crossing is closed, now another restaurant in that building "EurAsia" (sp???)

                          1. re: NXS

                            it's NOT closed. Eurasia is next to it. and is nice. i've eaten there.