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Dec 22, 2010 02:31 AM

Recommend best Richmond restaurants?

Am taking my husband to Richmond for a weekend in January for his 40th just to get away from the kids and relax (got a great deal on a B&B). Live in DC and know nothing about the restaurant scene there.

Am looking for one great wow restaurant for dinner on Saturday night and a great spot for Sunday breakfast and 2 lunch joints. We'll have a car so can travel and our whole weekend will be spent eating and sleeping. It'll be cold so wanna make sure wherever we are is more cozy than not...Thanks!!

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  1. Julep's is my number one spot for a nicer dinner. I also think it gives you a nice taste of Richmond flavor with some other Southern flavors mixed in, too.

    For Sunday breakfast, are you thinking brunch or more early a.m. breakfast? If you want something on the more inventive side, I'd suggest The Black Sheep or Empress.

    For lunch, do you want something light or something bigger? I like Can Can for a nice lunch (good soups and salads), or Sprout (all ingredients here come from VA, which is kind of cool). Also Secco is a neat wine bar with yummy snacks you could do for lunch, or you could stop for drinks later in the evening... Barrel Thief is another neat place for wine and snacks.

    Black Sheep
    901 W Marshall St, Richmond, VA 23220

    Barrel Thief
    5805 Patterson Ave, Richmond, VA 23226

    1. I like Acacia and Mille's for fine dining. McLean's is a great place for breakfast.

      Acacia Restaurant @ 2601 West Cary Street., Richmond, VA 804 - 562 - 0138.
      Millie's Diner @ 2603 East Main St., Richmond, VA 804 - 643 - 5512.
      McLean's Restaurant @ 4001 W Broad Street, Richmond, VA 804 - 358 - 0369.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Littleman

        McLeans has moved. New address is 3205 W. Broad St.. -- three blocks east of old location, same side of street.

      2. I like Juleps and Acacia. Different feels but both good. sensi is yummy but less inventive (italian/steaks).
        Sunday breakfast is fun at millies and black sheep. Classic brunch at the Jefferson hotel is a totally different experience (and would be instead of a lunch too) but a richmond tradition as well.
        I would say plan around what you're going to be doing - if you're going to the Poe museum, do millies then. For whatever meal. if you're wandering the shops of carytown, bonvenu isn't too bad. mom's siam is great thai. i think can can is dreadful even though it's adorable.

        unfortunately, a bunch of places i thought would be great only do lunch m-f.

        oh and if you like good indian food - seriously we have some of the best i've ever eaten anywhere at a few places in the west end - lehja and anokha. really great. better than i ever had in dc.

        1. I second Julep's, Acacia, and Millie's for dinner. Three of my absolute favorites for a special dinner out.

          If brunch is ok for Sunday, my favorite is Cafe Rustica, but they don't open until 11, so it might be more suited for lunch than breakfast. Same for Aziza's.

          For weekend lunch, I second recommendations from Can Can, Mom's Siam, and Secco in Carytown. Also in Carytown is Jean Jaques Bakery (I haven't tried it, but I have a close friend who swore by their soup & sandwiches). I enjoy Olio for lunch (in the Fan at Main & Meadow) - delicious sandwiches, yummy salads in the deli case, and a hard-to-resist cheese counter. [Disclaimer: I live in the Carytown area, so my opinions are heavily skewed to that part of town!


          Cafe Rustica
          414 E Main St, Richmond, VA 23219

          27 Replies
          1. re: Abby0105

            Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I booked my husband's 40th bday dinner at Acacia based on your suggestions. Dinner is at 8pm...where should we go before dinner for a drink. What's the difference in feel between the Jefferson and Julep's and which is closer to Acacia. Any other pre dinner drink spots you'd recommend? Something fun, cozy, different...

            Also, I've read all of the menus and websites for the places you've mentioned and can't decide whether to do Sunday brunch at Black Sheep or Millie's. How do they compare? What's the difference in feel/vibe?

            Also, can't decide where to have Saturday lunch...Could do Can Can, Secco, Millie's, Cafte Rustica, or Olio. Can you help me figure out the vibe difference here, too? Always hard to tell these things from the web...and they all look great! I want great food, great atmosphere, and fun. Thanks!!

            Black Sheep
            901 W Marshall St, Richmond, VA 23220

            1. re: palisades foodie

              i have to say, the best two brunches i've had lately are at stronghill dining company and lulus.

              millie's is in a totally different location than everything else.

              julep's is further from acacia than the jefferson. i think the jefferson is more cozy. julep's more different. there are tons of neighborhood spots in the fan close to acacia too. hmmm....

              1. re: AMFM

                had another great brunch today at stronghill. was an hour wait at black sheep and since one in our party had to head to the airport so we couldn't wait. the homemade biscuits and gravy were again a hit. but i had the lox benedict - house smoked salmon, fried goat cheese, poached egg, and red pepper hollandaise over a toasted baguette. insanely good. my mom got the meatloaf sandwich and liked that as well. just want to make sure it's appreciated.

              2. re: palisades foodie

                For pre-dinner drinks, I'd suggest The Jefferson (Lemaire, specifically) over Julep's for location. Plus, The Jefferson is beautiful, it's worth planning an extra few minutes to walk around the lobby :)

                For Brunch, Millie's and Black Sheep have similar vibes (and similarly long lines later in the morning). Parking is a little easier at MIllie's. I truly don't have a strong recommendation between the two - they're both favorites.

                For lunch on Saturday - Can Can and Secco are only a couple of blocks from each other, so they'd be easy to compare if you want to make a last minute decision. Secco is much smaller (only half a dozen or so tables and 20ish seats at the bar) and the waitstaff is usually very friendly. Can Can is a large, bustling brasserie (Bistro Bis is a DC comparison that comes to mind, though Can Can is less formal). The atmosphere at Olio is a small market & deli case with a few tables. You'll see lots of people come to get take out (similar to Figs Fine Foods near you if you're in Palisades). Cafe Rustica doesn't serve lunch on Saturdays :(

                1. re: palisades foodie

                  If it were me, I'd decide on brunch based on what time you're up Sunday. If you're on the earlier side, head to Black Sheep. If you're later, then do Millie's. Part of the fun at Millie's is that the owner serves up Bloody Marys, Mimosas and Evil Keevils (his own brunch punch concoction) if you have to wait for a table, so it's a bit more favorable for waiting than Black Sheep. Also, I think Black Sheep opens earlier. Both places have what I'd call casual, eclectic feels.

                  For pre-dinner drinks, I'd vote Jefferson. It's worth seeing and has a nice, cozy bar as others have said. Julep's is really nice too, but it's kind of out of the way. Acacia also has a fabulous cocktail list, so you could also possibly plan to get there early and have a drink before you sit down. If you skip Secco for lunch, it's also in the area if you want wine before dinner.

                  For lunch, I'd probably do either Can Can or Secco. Olio is good, but I feel like Can Can and Secco are more special than Olio, which is more of an upscale deli environment. It's definitely good (the arc de triomphe sandwich always hits the spot!), but you order at a counter and your food is brought out. Can Can and Secco are more full-scale experiences. Personally, I love Secco for wine, build-your-own cheese-and-meat plates, innovative tapas and more, but as I said before, Can Can is a nice spot for soups, salads and raw oysters. As Abby said, Can Can is more bustling brasserie and Secco is more intimate. I too love the Secco servers for their friendly wine and food rec's. So, I guess it depends on what you feel like eating and what kind of atmosphere you want.

                  Black Sheep
                  901 W Marshall St, Richmond, VA 23220

                  1. re: princsoreo

                    Super helpful, guys! Thanks...I'd like to go to Secco but my concern from looking at the pics is it will feel too much like Acacia on a smaller scale. Am I right or not?

                    1. re: palisades foodie

                      WOuldn't say acacia and Secco are all that similar.

                      I'm actually not bowled over by Acacia - I'd go around the block to Avalon - but its a good place, and is worth going to

                      1. re: BostonCharles

                        I agree that Acacia and Secco aren't that similar. Acacia is a trendy restaurant (I've been impressed with the food with the exception of 1 visit, which I'll chalk up to a fluke) and Secco is a wine bar. Acacia is pretty main-course-centric. Secco is more small plates.

                        I'd go to Acacia for a nicer end meal complete with apps, entree, dessert.

                        I'd go to Secco to enjoy a few wines by the glass, design my own meat and cheese plate, and enjoy one or two inventive tapas. They also have awesome pates. Secco is more heavy snacking, Acacia is more traditional dinner. I like both.

                        I've found Avalon to be very inconsistent. Sometimes the food is great, sometimes lackluster. It'd probably not be on my must-visit list. Or, I'd go for a snack (their Brussels Sprouts are to die for!) but not a meal. Just my 2 cents!

                        1. re: princsoreo

                          and i have rarely found a better dessert than i consistently find at acacia. one of my favorite things about the place.

                          1. re: AMFM

                            huh. I'll try to go by Acacia this weekend, and see if I change my mind. I admit that much as I love desert I'm trying not to order it these days... I'm at my usual winter point of overindulgence, but with less exercise than usual.

                            An aside - the chef left Avalon and the sous chef moved up, but I've no complaints about the change

                            1. re: BostonCharles

                              Went back that weekend - 3 times going to Acacia in the last couple of months. Won't be doing it again for a LOOOOONG time. It's fine. Just fine. For the money, there are a lot better places in the area that I'd rather go to.

                              My wife and I decided it was our 5th favorite place that month. Which would be fine, but the prices don't justify that.

                              I honestly think the decor thrills people, like Balliceaux (which is dreadful). Its very un-Richmond. But I've lived in Miami and London and NYC - the warmed over Richmond version doesn't excite me. I'd rather a place that looked like it belonged in Richmond, and served better food.

                              1. re: BostonCharles

                                that's so interesting. i've lived other places too and eaten a lot of high end food in my day. and i hated the first incarnation of acacia because i thought it tried too hard. but on all four or so times i've been there acacia's food has impressed me. and some out of towners - boston, NYC, etc, i've brought with me. actually i find the place too loud and the service sometimes annoying. bummer. hope it hasn't gone downhill. only eaten at balliceaux once. there i do like the decor. had a good, interesting meal, but don't judge a place on one meal.

                                one point though - i've often done the prix fixe at acacia which is an AMAZING deal. so i've NEVER had the thought that it's not worth the money. may be part of the difference. 3 courses for $23. and on tuesday there's half price bottles of wine in addition. great deals.

                                1. re: AMFM

                                  I've heard good things about the prix fixe, and it takes price out of the equation, could see that making sense. Keep meaning to try it, haven't yet

                                  Currently am a big fan of water grill in carytown. Recommended by a friend from manhattan, ironically, and totally justified. Best fried green tomatoes in Richmond so far (but ehh shrimp and grits)

                                  We go to Bellytimber a lot for burgers, it's kid friendly. think it's an offshoot of mezzanine. Loud bar scene, but good food. I'd rec the Mexican pizza.

                                  Racine is another bar with really really good food. One of my favorite places in Richmond currently

                                  1. re: BostonCharles

                                    good to hear. wouldn't have guessed racine had good food.

                                    have only had lunch at water grill. was good. but lunch so not profound. have heard good things. loved cafe rustica (i know, finally) recently.

                                    1. re: AMFM

                                      Yeah, food at racine is surprising. Creative guy with good execution in kitchen

                            2. re: AMFM

                              I bet we could start a whole new thread about dessert!! For some reason or other, I've never been blown away by any of the desserts at the higher end places in town. Surprisingly, I found CanCan to be very inventive and delicious. Most places, it almost seems to me that chefs try too hard to be cutting edge and the desserts never taste as good as I think they will. Thoughts?

                              1. re: nyctripper

                                only places i've loved desserts were acacia and juleps.

                                1. re: AMFM

                                  Chez Foushee also has pretty tasty desserts.

                                2. re: nyctripper

                                  Azzurro, IMO, has by far the best desserts in Richmond.

                                  Having said that, the single best dessert in Richmond IMO is the banana pudding creme brulee at Comfort, but overall Azzurro gets my vote.

                                  Azzurro Restaurant
                                  6221 River Rd, Richmond, VA 23229

                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                    never had dessert there. food's always been ok though. sometimes really good. never bad. will have to try since it's a nice place to sit.

                                    1. re: AMFM

                                      Tarrant's has the best bread pudding I've ever had.

                                      1. re: LilMac

                                        never had theirs. stronghill's is my favorite.

                                    2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                      Havent had desert there, but was really surprised by how good the food was the one time we ate there. Haven't gone back because it seems so far out of the city, and we have so much good Italian closer.

                                3. re: princsoreo

                                  DON"T go to Secco's if you are hungry and of modest means - however, I recommend the carefully measured wine choices. The menu, written in tiny print, is indicative of the portion size to come. The food descriptions are quite wordy, - a lot to say about little. If you order three plates, you'll have an average size entree, and a tab of $40 (plus $16 or so for the wine). That would cover one person.
                                  If you sit at the bar, you have to struggle to remain on your stool, and not slip off on the floor.
                                  Needless to say, I left afer a $60 tab, and went over to Cancan for some vittles.

                                  1. re: princsoreo

                                    Sadly, have to agree on Avalon. Had one great meal there, and every one since has been worse and worse. Think they changed chefs :-(. Can no longer recommend it, last eal was downright bad.

                                    Currently like magpie a lot. Think chef was the chef at stronghill, out on his own now

                                    1. re: BostonCharles

                                      i never ate at avalon till about 2 months ago and had a great meal. that said i had really low expectations because i'd heard bad things. but everything i had (and i was in a big group so we tried a lot) was really good.

                                      1. re: AMFM

                                        Good to hear. It was great, but really went downhill so I haven't been back.