The tried-and-true mussel is versatile enough to have at lunch, enjoyed as a main meal at dinner or is perfect for a late-night nosh with drinks.
The French classic sounds simple enough — mussels steamed in white wine, garlic and parsley, served with a side of fries. Can Can Brasserie presents a dish that's anything but simple. From the presentation of mussels that seem to be intentionally layered in a pyramid to the perfectly crisp fries, the dish puts you at a café on a busy street in Paris. The larger of the two portion sizes offered easily serves up four to five dozen mussels — and don't forget the French baguette to soak up all of the broth. 3120 W. Cary St., 358-7274 or cancanbrasserie.com .
Zuppa di Pesce
If variety is what you are looking for, Mamma 'Zu has it covered. Order this seafood stew composed of spaghetti tossed with fish, clams, shrimp, calamari and, of course, mussels, lightly coated in tomato sauce or with just garlic and olive oil. It's served in what could be described as a small bathtub of a dish, so tie a cloth napkin around your neck before you dive in. 501 S. Pine St., 788-4205.
Pull in any night of the week, and the mouth of the pizza oven at Azzurro will roar at you if you choose to sit at the bar. Order the mare chiaro as an appetizer before pizza and prepare to be served the best of both worlds. You can choose mussels and clams with garlic, olive oil and wine alone, or add a light red sauce with perfectly cooked al dente pasta. 6221 River Road, 282-1509 or azzurros.com .
Camarones y Mejillones de Kuba Kuba
You won't find any Cohiba cigars at Kuba Kuba but you will find mussels like no other I've had. Mussels and shrimp swim in an amazing tasso-ham and cilantro-lime broth — the charred citrus from the lime combined with the saltiness from the ham take this dish to a whole new level. It's served with perfectly toasted Cuban bread, but you may consider picking the bowl up to toss back anything that remains. 1601 Park Ave., 355-8817 or kubakuba.info .
Gung Chem Chep Xao Hanh
Mekong is known as the beer mecca of Richmond, but you'll also find green mussels stir-fried in a ginger-scallion sauce deep in the menu under chef's specials. The hearty pieces of ginger and onion sautéed in brown sauce coat the large mussels, and the flavors pair nicely. Accompanied with your choice of brown or white rice (great for sopping), this dish can be ordered mild or as spicy as you like. 6004 W. Broad St. 288-8929 or mekongisforbeerlovers.com .