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Best Vegetarian Selection
Ipanema Café 917 W. Grace St., 213-0190 With a new chef, Oscar "Mac" McCrowell (formerly of Karsen's and Zeus Gallery Café), and a new sous chef, Will Wienckowski (formerly of Craftbar in New York), Ipanema owner Kendra Feather says she plans to revamp the menu — still keeping it mainly vegetarian — and lose the chalkboard. Drawing on the two chefs' talents, she says, is "going to be fun. We can pretty much attack any kind of food that we want to do." 2. Ellwood Thompson's 3. Café Gutenberg
Best Hotel Fine Dining
The Jefferson Hotel 101 W. Franklin St., 788-8000 It's hard to shake the upscale reputation, despite Lemaire's efforts to become more approachable. Ben Eubanks, The Jefferson's director of restaurants and wine, says, "The space looks more expensive than the menu is." Still, chef Walter Bundy's culinary artistry has earned raves, contributing to an experience that is fine indeed. And, of course, Sunday brunch at The Jefferson is a luxurious Richmond tradition. 2. Lemaire at the Jefferson 3. Berkeley Hotel
Best Restaurant Décor:
Balliceaux 203 N. Lombardy St., 355-3008 Owners Steve and Lainie Gratz pulled off the impossible: They designed a cohesive, eye-catching commercial space without relying on professionals. With their backs to the giant front window looking out on Lombardy Street, diners are transported by Balliceaux's interior to a city beyond Richmond where everything is hipper, more modern and absolutely on the cutting edge. 2. Can Can 3. (Tie) The Boathouse; The Wine Loft
Best Local Restaurant for General Excellence
(Tie) Acacia Mid-Town , 2601 W. Cary St., 562-0138; and Millie's Diner , 2603 E. Main St., 643-5512 Despite the consistent accolades that come his way, Acacia's Dale Reitzer says he and Aline, his wife and partner, are "always trying to fine-tune something, make something better." Similarly, Lisa Edwards, who runs Richmond mainstay Millie's with co-owner Paul Keevil, points out, "Our chefs are very creative. Our customers appreciate that they can have a new experience every time, pretty much." 2. Can Can 3. Mezzanine
Best Chain Restaurant for General Excellence
P.F. Chang's China Bistro 9212 Stony Point Parkway, 253-0492 With gluten-free and vegetarian selections, a palate-expanding children's menu, 44 wines by the glass, and numerous entrées in the $10 to $15 range, it's easy to see why this place is a crowd pleaser. Popular dishes include chicken lettuce wraps, Mongolian beef, and shrimp with candied walnuts, says Allan Ng, operating partner. Perhaps most important, he says, customers "know what to expect every time they come in." 2. Maggiano's Little Italy 3. Firebirds
India K'Raja 9051-5 W. Broad St., 965-6345 When India K' Raja opened in 1995, it was the first Indian restaurant in Henrico County, says Madhur "Tony" Sappal, co-owner with his wife, Alka. Now there's competition, but the Sappals are holding their own. Tony is the head chef, while Alka works the front of the house. "She tells me whether what I'm doing is right or not," he says. His culinary creations, such as Chicken Pasanda and Lamb Rangeela, are so popular that he's been known to conduct private cooking lessons at longtime customers' request. 2. Anokha 3. Malabar
Jersey Mike's Visit jerseymikes.com for locations Though the company traces its roots to a shop that opened on the New Jersey Shore in 1956, Jersey Mike's franchise growth started in 1987. A dozen stores have opened in the Richmond area, and Robby Waldrop, who owns eight of them, plans to add at least five more. Waldrop says the freshness — "We cook our own roast beef, make our own tuna salad" — and length of the subs stands out: a "giant" sub is 14 inches rather than the usual foot. 2. Subway 3. Stuffy's
Chipotle Visit chipotle.com for locations With eight Richmond-area locations opening since 2003 — and 1,000 nationally since 1993 — Chipotle is a fast-growing chain. Spokeswoman Katherine Newell Smith points out the emphasis on high quality ingredients: In Virginia, green peppers come from Parker Farms in Westmoreland County. Chipotle also uses Niman Ranch pork, Bell & Evans chicken, and Coleman beef, she says. 2. (Tie) Mexico Restaurant; Qdoba 3. Bandito's Burrito Lounge
Best Hotel Casual Dining
TJ's at The Jefferson 101 W. Franklin St., 788-8000 While Lemaire is known for its wine dinners, TJ's and chef James Schroeder (the former sous chef at Lemaire), have been focusing more on dinners that pair dishes with beer. Also, in addition to casual fare, he's introducing entrées that can be shared family-style, such as seafood fettuccine (a blend of house-made squid-ink and egg-yolk noodles with mussels, shrimp and scallops). "It has notes of refinement," Schroeder says. 2. The Jefferson Hotel 3. T-Miller's at the downtown Marriott
Best Burger Sliders
Carytown Burgers and Fries 3500 1/2 W. Cary St., 358-5225 Sliders aren't actually on the menu here, though owner Mike Barber says he's thinking of trying them out as a sample product. A hometown favorite that won in the "Best Nonchain Burger" category last year, Carytown Burgers and Fries had its 10th anniversary in January. Given all the varieties on the menu, Barber calls it "the amusement park of burgers." 2. Ruby Tuesday 3. Firebirds
Best Regional Wine/Vineyard
Barboursville Vineyards 17655 Winery Road, Barboursville, (540) 832-3824 The wine in Virginia is getting better and better, and Barboursville Vineyards has some of the best. Winemaker Luca Paschina chose vines specifically suited to the soil and conditions of the Piedmont region of Virginia. And it's no coincidence Italian varietals such as Nebbiolo and Barbera flourish here. "Our climate is very favorably similar to the Piemonte region in Italy," says Paschina, "and climate is crucial." 2. James River Cellars 3. New Kent Winery
Best Restaurant for Dessert
The Cheesecake Factory 11800 W. Broad St., 364-4300 Of the 34 varieties of cake available here, the most popular by far is Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake, introduced on July 30, 2009 — "in honor of National Cheesecake Day," says Brad Peterman, assistant general manager at the Short Pump location. With layers of red velvet cake and cheesecake covered by cream cheese frosting, he adds, "It's amazing." 2. Can Can 3. The Desserterie
Best Local Coffee
Ellwood's Café 10 S. Thompson St., 612-1827 Miles Quillen of Ellwood Thompson's Local Market is quick to credit Blanchard's Coffee Co., the source of Ellwood Café's locally roasted joe, and its owner, David Blanchard. "He's in the café, if not every day, every other day … making things go smoothly," Quillen says. Ellwood's baristas all go through training and know how to do latte art designs, he adds. "We used to have a girl who could do skulls." 2. Crossroads 3. Starbucks
Best Spot for a Lunch Meeting
Café Caturra Visit cafecaturra.com for locations Thanks to free WiFi and the promise of fast service — the goal is to deliver orders eight minutes after they're placed — Café Caturra does a brisk lunchtime business at all three Richmond-area locations, says spokesman Dexter Brown. Customer favorites include the raspberry-walnut salad, the curried chicken-salad sandwich and the Cuban panini. 2. Panera Bread 3. Can Can
Best Comfort and/or Soul Food
Comfort 200 W. Broad St., 780-0004 You'd think it would be impossible for a restaurant named "Comfort" to fail to win this category, and fortunately for chef and owner Jason Alley, Richmonders agreed. Macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, and some of the best mashed potatoes in Richmond keep diners feeling safe and satisfied when Mom's kitchen is closed. Alley's favorite comfort food? "A tomato sandwich," he says. 2. Croaker's Spot 3. The Black Sheep
Best Brunch Menu
Millie's Diner 2603 E. Main St., 643-5512 Brunch at Millie's "has taken on a life of its own," says co-owner Lisa Edwards. "It's basically a giant party every Sunday." Anticipating a wait, some regulars bring lawn chairs and newspapers, rig up some shade and drink coffee before coming in for a Devil's Mess omelet, a crab-and-egg enchilada or another creation by brunch chefs Ben Day and Jim Hamilton, she says. 2. Can Can 3. The Jefferson Hotel
Best Late-Night Dining
Third Street Diner 218 E. Main St., 788-4750 Third Street is up-tempo for the post-bar crowd. Then about 5 a.m., a mellow mood sets in as early-shift workers stop by breakfast. And sometimes the two groups cross paths. Patrons of after-hours clubs know that Third Street's "first call" is 6 a.m. So when those clubs close at 6, "people who are still up and about … come to us to continue their fun," night manager Kyle Lebo says. 2. River City Diner 3. (Tie) Capital Ale House; Galaxy Diner
Best Takeout Food
8 1/2 401 Strawberry St., 358-8505 When 8 1/2 caught fire, a lot of people in the Fan and beyond were upset. Who would make them ziti for dinner or fiery little pizzas loaded down with garlic? Owner Ed Vasaio says, "It was a month's worth of work to come back from the fire. People were keeping in touch while we were closed, though, and we were gratified to see them all come back in." 2. Sticky Togogo 3. Mekong
Best Outdoor Dining
The Boathouse 4602 Millridge Parkway, 744-2545; 4708 E. Old Main St., 622-2628 One advantage at both the Rocketts Landing (on the James River) and the Sunday Park (on Swift Creek) locations is that on the deck, it's cooler than most other places in the summertime. Owner Kevin Healy says, "The water temperature in Swift Creek is still much cooler than the air, creating a cooling breeze off the lake, and the same is true for ... the James River." 2. Legend Brewing Co. 3. Café Caturra
Best Restaurant to Splurge
Ruth's Chris Steak House 11500 W. Huguenot Road, Midlothian, 378-0600 Yes, you can drop up to $41 on a high-end steak for a birthday or anniversary dinner. But for a less pricey experience, you can now visit the patio or lounge at Ruth's Chris and order the Prime Burger with bacon, grilled onions and your choice of cheese for $12. 2. Acacia Mid-town 3. Julep's
Best Restaurant for Groups
Mekong 6004 W. Broad St., 288-8929 Mekong knows how to handle a large group. It has a back room to accommodate lots of people, plus long tables, Lazy Susans, and of course, great food, an amazing beer selection and attentive service. Most important, this is a restaurant that welcomes children. 2. Maggiano's Little Italy 3. Can Can
Best New Restaurant (since June 2009)
Balliceaux 203 N. Lombardy St., 355-3008 Richmonders quickly figured out how to pronounce the impenetrable collection of letters that make up Balliceaux's name once they sampled chef Russell Cook's crispy braised pork belly. Things were a little rocky when Balliceaux opened with a bang instead of a whisper, but customers persisted until the staff found its feet without stumbling over all of the acclaim. 2. The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing 3. Bonvenu
Ruth's Chris Steak House 11500 W. Huguenot Road, Midlothian, 378-0600 Consistency and quality are the keys to success at Ruth's Chris, says general manager Mark Ainge: "Don't mess with perfection." That doesn't mean everything stays the same. A newly renovated patio, with an accompanying lower-priced menu, made its debut in May. And pianist Darryl Emerson entertains guests inside on Fridays and Saturdays, while musician Pat O'Brien performs outside on Thursdays. 2. Fleming's 3. Morton's
Best Local Seafood Restaurant
The Hard Shell
1411 E. Cary St., 643-2333
She's the hardest working woman in the local restaurant business. Michelle Williams co-owns The Hard Shell, deLux, Europa, The Hill Café and Water Grill under the umbrella of Richmond Restaurant Group Inc. The Hard Shell was her first, and fortunately its bounty of seafood has been unaffected by the Gulf oil spill. "Oyster and shrimp prices are up 25 percent, but supply is still readily available," says Williams.
3. The Boathouse
Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue
1119 N. Boulevard, 355-6055
During the July Fourth weekend, with a boost from the Flying Squirrels and from owner Bruce "Buz" Grossberg's rib-cooking appearance on Man v. Food, Buz and Ned's broke sales records five days in a row, Grossberg says. "Saturday was the busiest day. We probably put through 1,300 people." He plans to expand his customer base by opening a second, larger location in late September in the former Fuddruckers location on West Broad Street near Parham Road.
2. Q Barbeque
3. Extra Billy's
Best Buffalo Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings
Visit buffalowildwings.com for locations
They sell a lot of wings at Buffalo Wild Wings, and part of the reason is that they offer 14 different sauces, from the traditional hot sauce to Parmesan garlic sauce. That way, no one at the table gets left out. Nationwide, the company sold about 4.5 million wings during Super Bowl Sunday, and it averages about 62 million wings per year overall.
3. (Tie) Glory Days; Mojo's
Most Inspired Menu
3433 W. Cary St., 353-2186
Kaffir lime leaves are just one of the exotic ingredients Graywolf Farms in Amelia grows for Mezzanine co-owner/chef Todd Johnson. He is dedicated to the idea of using fresh, local ingredients on the menu. "Graywolf Farms grows just for me," he says, "and maybe one other restaurant in Richmond, which allows me to be creative, and for them to push me and me push them with new and different ingredients."
2. Acacia Mid-town
2232 W. Main St., 358-7870
Sticky Rice bends the boundaries of sushi almost to the breaking point. But that's a good thing. Get a bucket of Tater Tots to hold you over while you wait for a Godzirra roll (shrimp, avocado, cream cheese, spicy sauce, cucumber, tempura crunchies and tobiko) or perhaps a Drawn-N-Buttered (shrimp, lump crab meat, cucumbers and scallions, served with garlic butter). All the traditional favorites are available as well.
Best East End/Mechanicsville Restaurant
8005 Creighton Parkway, Mechanicsville, 559-3663
Michael Cohan wants to make sure you eat your breakfast, and he's done that by serving an extensive menu of homemade biscuits and pancakes, as well as omelets and eggs Benedict for the past five years at Riverbound Café. When the menu shifts over at night, fried shrimp, burgers, and chicken and biscuits inspire dedicated loyalty among his many Mechanicsville customers.
3. Hanover Tavern & Pub
Visit mexico-restaurant.com for locations
It comes out of the kitchen fast and furiously at Mexico. And that's what makes this the perfect place for families to tote their impatient, tiny diners. A lot of us had our first encounter with Mexican food at the Garcia family's restaurant, and we've watched it grow from one little eatery on Horsepen to eight locations in Richmond and the surrounding area (plus one in Fredericksburg).
2. Casa Grande
3. Nacho Mama's
Best Place for a Date Night
4602 Millridge Parkway, 744-2545; 4708 E. Old Main St., 622-2628
It's a thin line you have to walk on a date. You don't want to seem too serious (an expensive restaurant) or too casual (a cheap restaurant) when you're with someone you really like. The Boathouse is perfect, says owner Kevin Healy, because "if the date is going well, you can stay and move outside for dessert on the deck. And if the date is going really well, you can take your date for a walk down by the water." After that, you're on your own.
2. The Melting Pot
Best Neighborhood Restaurant
205 N. Shields Ave., 355-2282; 2616 Buford Road, 320-9700
The Joe's Inn location in the Fan has been around forever, but the bar just got a makeover. "We've revamped the bar from six taps to 22 and have 50 different bottled beers," says general manager Tina Kafantaris. "We have a thriving happy hour now, and it's a whole new audience for Joe's." And if you happen to be on the South Side, Joe's Inn Bon Air has been serving that neighborhood since 1997.
3. Dot's Back Inn
Best Wine Bar
Visit cafecaturra.com for locations
Café Caturra prides itself on offering a selection of hard-to-find wines, in some cases made from grapes customers likely haven't tasted before. Baristas ask customers what they enjoy and offer suggestions from the selection of 30 wines, 24 of which are available by the glass. "We encourage people to taste the wine before they buy it," adds spokesman Dexter Brown. For the best bargains, stop by from 3 to 6 p.m. any day of the week.
2. The Wine Loft
3. Barrel Thief
Best Cheap Lunch
Christopher's Runaway Gourmay
400-3663 or christophersrunawaygourmay.com
This year is the 25th anniversary of Christopher's Runaway Gourmay, and hungry diners downtown still line up for owner Chris Zecchini's pasta salad with fettuccine, feta cheese and tomato, among other offerings, especially when it's hot outside. You can call ahead as well, and Chris himself answers the phone. "Most people are surprised that there actually is a real Christopher of Christopher's Runaway Gourmay, and that he's on the phone talking to them!"
Best Small Plates/Tapas
Europa Italian Café & Tapas Bar
1409 E. Cary St., 643-0911
Richmond Restaurant Group's Michelle Williams introduced Richmonders to the concept of tapas when she opened Europa in 1995. "There was definitely a learning curve getting people used to the idea of small plates, " she says, "but now it's very widely accepted."
3. Cous Cous
Best Outdoor Views
4602 Millridge Parkway, 744-2545; 4708 E. Old Main St., 622-2628
Between its two locations, the Boathouse boasts the best views while dining in Richmond. At Rocketts Landing, the restaurant is perched on the bank of the James River, looking at the city from the east — a less common perspective since the city expanded westward at the turn of the last century. The Boathouse at Sunday Park is situated on the Swift Creek Reservoir in Midlothian, and its deck juts out over the water.
2. Legend Brewing Company
3. Can Can
Best New York-Style Pizza
Mary Angela's Pizzeria
3345 W. Cary St., 353-2333
Mario Lo Presti, who runs Mary Angela's with his brother-in-law, Joe Oliveri, likes to keep his pizza simple. "I don't try to overdo it with spices," he says. "I want them to taste the sauce, the cheese." And while the recently remodeled restaurant offers more than two dozen toppings, Lo Presti's favorite is the Margherita, topped with basil and mozzarella.
2. A NY Slice
3. Bottoms Up
Best Asian Restaurant
6004 W. Broad St., 288-8929
Few people knew much about Vietnamese food 15 years ago when Mekong opened its doors, except for veterans of the Vietnam War, says owner An Bui. "A lot of people thought we either served Thai or Chinese food. They would ask for things like pad thai or General Tso's Chicken." Fortunately for Richmonders, Bui was patient with us, and now, educated and hungry, we can't do without Mekong's authentic cuisine.
2. P.F. Chang's
3. (Tie) Ginger Thai Taste; Peking
Best North Side Restaurant
3336 N. Boulevard, 358-0064
Kitchen 64's owner, Katrina Giavos, loves being able to introduce customers to a neighborhood some may not be familiar with. "People come from all over; whether it's from the highway or Chesterfield, it's cool not only for me but for this community" to have such a diverse population discover the streets and houses of North Side on the way to Kitchen 64. "Everyone has supported us, and I really feel like a part of the North Side community now."
2. Dot's Back Inn
3. Northside Grille
2900 W. Cary St., 359-6969
Coppola's Deli has anchored the corner of Cary Street and Colonial Avenue since 1982. Owner Tom Roukous sells a lot of Industrials (an Italian hero with mortadella, Genoa salami, capicola ham and provolone, plus Coppolla's signature hot and sweet peppers), but his most unusual sandwich is the Cheese Columbo with eggplant. "It's unlike any other sandwich," says Roukous, "and we have lots of people coming in just for that."
2. New York Deli
Best Downtown Restaurant
(Tie) Comfort , 200 W. Broad St., 780-0004; and Millie's Diner , 2603 E. Main St., 643-5512
Broad Street east of Belvidere has changed a lot since Comfort owner Jason Alley opened his restaurant in 2003. "When we first opened," he says, "the only places open after 5 p.m. were us and The Jefferson." Millie's co-owner Lisa Edwards credits the revitalization of Broad Street with bringing more people downtown, where hotel concierges often recommend the restaurant to their guests.
2. Café Rustica
3. Tarrant's Café
Best Fan Restaurant
1601 Park Ave., 355-8817
The quintessential neighborhood restaurant provides good food, a friendly wait staff and a place to take the kids without dirty looks from other diners. Kuba Kuba owner Manny Mendez was fortunate in his location because not only can he offer the Fan all those things, but he has a park right across the street where restless children can play while their families wait for a table.
2. Joe's Inn
3. Strawberry Street Café
Best Shockoe Restaurant
(Tie) Bottoms Up Pizza , 1700 Dock St., 644-4400; and The Tobacco Company Restaurant ,
1201 E. Cary St., 782-9555
Since 1991, the Bottoms Up Loaded, piled high with meats and vegetables, has been the most popular item on the restaurant's menu. Dirk Graham remembers making even more extravagant pizzas for customers. "A few had 14 or 15 toppings — by comparison, our loaded pizza only has eight." Plus it was pricy. "When you pay $50 to $60 for a pizza," says Graham, "that's pretty unusual."
Meanwhile, the Tobacco Company put Shockoe Slip on the map 33 years ago as one of the first restaurants to revive an area of flood-prone and mostly abandoned warehouses. Recently, owner Jerry Cable decided to reinvigorate the restaurant's roots as a fine-dining steakhouse. "No longer is The Tobacco Company Restaurant the place you bring your friends to have a cocktail and then head down the street for dinner," says company spokeswoman Rachel Grove. "We are a destination restaurant."
2. The Hard Shell
Best South Side Restaurant
13126 Midlothian Turnpike, 379-7121
Chef and owner Todd Manley knows his way around a fish. He mixes Latin and island flavors with perfectly cooked seafood to create dishes that taste like a burst of the ocean. For those on the other side of the river, a new Pescados has opened on China Street in Oregon Hill.
2. Bonefish Grill
3. The Boathouse at Sunday Park
Best Far West End Restaurant
3416 Lauderdale Drive, 360-8217
Chef and owner Brian Munford of Patina Grill makes sure that diners in the Far West End can find items such as cornmeal-dusted oysters served with apple-mint remoulade or Szechuan tea-smoked duck with wild rice and mushu vegetables. This is fusion cuisine the way it ought to be — inventive, distinctive and always tantalizing.