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Lemaire's Autumn Apple and Eastern Shore Bay Blue Cheese Salad made with Edward's bacon, caramelized cipollini bulbs, field arugula, walnut banana bread croutons and a pomegranate reduction. (Photo by Beth Furgurson)
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Judy’s Chicken, a nod to the late chef Judy Rodgers. Amish chicken brined with lemon, peppercorn and bay, served with chard, pan-seared Sub Rosa rye bread, and a sherry vinaigrette. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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Fried chicken thighs served with cast-iron potatoes, a slow-cooked egg and sausage gravy. (Photo by Steve Hedberg)
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White anchovies with grilled, marinated radicchio, fourme d’Ambert cheese and garlic dressing. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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Filet Mignon of Beef “Swellington" at L'Opossum. (Photo by Adam Ewing)
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Matzoh ball soup with fresh dill. (Photo by Ash Daniel)
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Server Ahmad Karimi dishes up an authentic Italian meal. (Photo by Ash Daniel)
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A wine tasting at Secco Wine Bar. (Photo by Ash Daniel)
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Chef/owner Mel Ozaq. (Photo by Ash Daniel)
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Artichoke, spinach and avocado “meatballs” over sautéed spaghetti squash with caramelized onion pomodoro sauce and grated Parmesan. (Photo by Beth Furgurson)
Of all the Richmond scenes, nothing beats dining. Sure, as a collection of food writers and dining critics, we may be biased, but our city’s restaurants create some of the region’s finest food, and you’ll find it at these 30 restaurants. We ranked the city’s best, from a mom-and-pop Eastern European gem in a strip mall to the leading white tablecloth experience. Just be sure you come hungry.
Lemaire is a stunner. Sky-high ceilings, marble, leather and artful plates of hyper-fresh local fare infuse your experience with a sense of majesty. Wrapped around the front of The Jefferson Hotel, the space is one of the most beautiful in the city — and while you’re luxuriating with a plate of Chesapeake Bay oysters or something slushy and filled with top-shelf bourbon, you can play the “How many presidents have stayed here?” game (the answer is 13). Executive Chef Walter Bundy’s menu strikes a comfortable balance of Southern, modern, classic and innovative, all exquisitely crafted by a refined, French-trained hand; he’ll be sorely missed after his exit at the end of the year to open a restaurant of his own, but Lemaire will no doubt continue to shine. The flawless service, stellar cuisine, admirable consistency and awe-inspiring ambiance make this our top restaurant for 2015.—Bird Cox
TRY THE decked-out fried green tomatoes; any preparation of the lusciously creamy jumbo sea scallops; happy hour, available at the bar — it’s one of the finest in the city.
This 42-seat rustic-chic corner joint is the epitome of Richmond’s food scene: a small dynamo run by a passionate team that sources impeccably made dishes you couldn’t replicate even with the same ingredients. There’s a bar scene, but no B.S.; a dedicated pastry chef delivering sweet and savory goodness; and you can pop in to buy speck, pork chops, Virginia oysters, German wines and local eggs at its retail counter. The vino and beer list is appropriate, affordable, eye-opening and paired volume-perfect with the best restaurant playlist in our city. —Jason Tesauro
TRY THE chicken liver mousse; beer-brined pork chop; schnitzel; schupfnudeln.
In less-skilled hands, Heritage, with its ambitious and seasonal menu, historical cocktails and succinct, all-American wine list, would choke on its own success. But restaurant owners Joe and Emilia Sparatta and Emilia’s brother, Mattias Hägglund, have worked three busy years at Richmond’s nationally recognized darling, smiling, while making service look like great fun. It seems the harder this classically schooled trio practices on our native bounty, the luckier diners get. —Genevelyn Steele
TRY THE evanescent red drum fish made meatier with house bacon; ramen bowl du jour; charcuterie and artisanal cheese boards — cool slate platters sculpted with jams, pickles and mustards — that are almost too beautiful to eat (or share).
41012 Lafayette St., Richmond, Virginia 23221
At Stella’s, co-owner and namesake Stella Dikos continues to convert one Richmonder after another to her delicious, modern twist on authentic Greek cuisine. Favorites like moussaka are both homey and exotic, while small plates like Stella’s Kalamari — sautéed calamari with artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and capers — are jam-packed with fresh flavor. The bar menu also pays tribute to Dikos’ homeland, with authentic wines and a cocktail menu featuring options like the Bright White, a refreshing blend of Skinos Mastiha (a liqueur made from resin gathered from the mastic tree), lemon juice and soda. A Richmond dining mainstay, Dikos has been bringing quality Greek cuisine to the local scene since the 1960s, and the latest iteration of Stella’s is no exception. —Megan Marconyak
TRY THE brunch, specifically the loukoumades,or Greek doughnuts, which arrive hot and drizzled with honey.
During the last few years, Richmond has been heralded as one of the hottest dining cities in the country, and The Roosevelt is, arguably, the restaurant that broke the city onto the national scene. Chef Lee Gregory’s deft touch transforms familiar dishes and adds a Southern spin with the help of local ingredients, making plates such as his Southern Poutine — fries covered in pimento cheese and sausage gravy — emblematic of modern Richmond dining. —Piet E. Jones
TRY THE Berkshire pork chop with chili glaze and pickled okra; fried chicken thighs with a slow-cooked egg and gravy (at brunch); Seersucker cocktail, in which bourbon and sweet tea syrup mingle with a charred frozen lemon.
How good is this kitchen? Four of Richmond’s top executive chefs (representing The Roosevelt, Dutch & Co., Perly’s and A Sharper Palate) all earned stripes under chef/owner Dale Reitzer’s tutelage. It’s white-tablecloth ethos with blue-collar effort: Acacia’s finesse and mastery are byproducts of doing things the right way, aka the hard way. While Reitzer’s breaking down whole fish, don’t be surprised to see his 10-year-old serving bread or his 13-year-old blanching veggies. It’s a family affair, and Reitzer’s wife and partner, Aline, is the first to greet you. Her game-face isproof that while it’s won all of the awards, Acacia still plays like it’s got something to prove. —Jason Tesauro
TRY THE white anchovies; duck salad; crab cake and daily fish specials.
Not every dining experience can be full of intellect and whimsy, but chef and owner David Shannon will be damned if these traits aren’t brimming from every plate that departs his Oregon Hill kitchen. With a skilled staff and a penchant for the colorful, L’Opossum provides some of the city’s most creative and ambitious meals, nearly every dish a cheeky, well-executed approach to fine dining, in some of the city’s most eccentric surroundings. —Stephanie Breijo
TRY THE skillet-seared foie gras with seasonal accoutrements; “Fabergé egg” with caviar, salmon and champagne gelatin; Laura Palmer cocktail, which comes wrapped in plastic.
On paper, a menu that blends bold Italian dishes with Jewish comfort food in an intimate, futurismo-inspired setting seems like a strange union, but Dinamo mesmerizes, much like its spinning fan in the front window. Locals will recognize some of the minimalist menu from sister restaurants Edo’s Squid and Mamma ’Zu — but Dinamo firmly stands on its own. And everything you order could be the best version of that dish you’ve ever had.—Catherine Amos Cribbs
TRY THE crostini with smoked whitefish salad; squid ink fettuccini; lamb meatball hero.
Deliciousness awaits at Enoteca Sogno. This quiet North Side restaurant offers simple fare with an impressive (and reasonably priced) Italian wine list. Each dish begs to be paired with a regional wine, and the knowledgeable staff can readily assist with your selection. Share the white bean, arugula and shrimp crostini. Follow up with pesto over fresh tagliatelle or a nightly special for best results. —Perry Matthews
TRY THE pan-seared sea scallops with balsamic reduction, coupled with Prosecco. Sublime.
Wine tastings are a wonderful way to find words for what you like, but Secco takes it to a whole new level. Every Monday night, the wine bar holds a flight night, which is a tasting of several wines held together by country, grape or characteristics. Secco’s food — designed to pair well with its thoughtfully curated wine selection — is delightful. A knowledgeable staff, wine events and a large offering of labels give Richmond a great way to learn. —Hollister Lindley
TRY THE fried chickpeas with sea salt and Aleppo pepper —wonderful complex flavors from three simple ingredients.
A gorgeous setting, gracefully understated service and consistently delicious, creatively prepared dishes are all reasons this restaurant in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has become a Richmond dining standout. Without abandoning menu favorites (like crab cakes), chef Greg Haley keeps things interesting with seasonal updates and dishes inspired by the museum’s latest exhibition. This month, look for French-accented food and drinks that complement “Rodin: Evolution of a Genius.” And make sure you leave time to browse the pre-World War II German Expressionist art downstairs. —Tina Eshleman
TRY THE curry fried oysters; ratatouille; crab cakes; champagne cocktails.
12320 E. Grace St., Richmond, Virginia 23219
Rappahannock boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, an open kitchen and an enormous multi-sided raw bar, which is the hub of this nationally acclaimed restaurant. The décor is modern yet comfortable, allowing the focus to stay on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients masterfully prepared by Dylan Fultineer, the executive chef. The star here is Virginia’s native oyster, which the owners were instrumental in saving from near extinction in the Chesapeake Bay. Enjoy the diverse people watching, as well as seasonal and regionally inspired dishes. —Karen Cauthen Ellsworth
TRY THE raw oysters — start your meal sweet and briny with a dozen raw oysters; Prosecco on tap; seafood paella made with Calasparra rice, Old Salt clamsand merguez sausage.
13400 N. 27th St., Richmond, Virginia 23223
It takes two, as the saying goes, and it’s thepairing of Dutch & Co.’s stellar chef duo — Caleb Shriver and Phillip Perrow — that keeps this Church Hill restaurant refreshing, innovative and exciting, no matter the menu (an impressive feat, considering the intense focus on seasonality). A contemporary and detail-oriented bent delights guests with unusual creations such as fennel pollen labneh or savory porridge with roasted pear, all accented by a creative beverage program overseen by co-owner Michelle Peake Shriver. À la carte or prix fixe, it’s one of the most exciting meals you’ll find in the city. Don’t neglect the specials board, where artful $5 small plates allow for inexpensive indulgence before the meal itself. —Stephanie Breijo
TRY THE Perfect Egg; seasonal cheese composition; blood sausage served any which way; smoked-salmon rillettes; Honey Pot — the restaurant’s signature dessert.
It’s rare to find a spot that does a little bit of everything at a consistently high level, but Saison is that rare exception. Whether it’s a creative slate of cocktails or a unique twist on Southern and Latindelicacies throughout its rotating menu, this gem in the heart of Jackson Ward doesn’t disappoint. And don’t get me started on the local sirloin burger orthe not-so-secret brunch-time fried chicken biscuit available in its market. —Beau Cribbs
TRY THE pickled seafood escabèche; Saison Burger; fried chicken biscuit at brunch; oxtail sopes;family-style fried chicken on Sunday.
15618 N. 1st Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219
Eating at The Rogue Gentlemen is less a meal and more an experience — an experience you often find in travel magazines, but rarely in real life. Put down that travel magazine. Since January of 2014, it’s been found on a corner in Jackson Ward, where an Elby Award-winning cocktail program meets adventurous dishes. To fully experience the joys of TRG, put down that menu, too. Don’t even look at it. Choose the options that leave your meal in the competent hands of both bar and kitchen staffs; owner Johnny Maher and his team will titillate your taste buds and treat you to an evening you won’t soon forget. —Piet E. Jones
TRY THE Dealer’s Choice cocktail, where youpick the liquor and a style, then let the bartendercustomize your tipple; tasting menu, where you select the number of courses for a small meal or a grand evening.
164348 Pouncey Tract Road, Glen Allen, Virginia 23059
It’s billed as “modern Mexican,” but Maya’s menu actually plucks flavor and spice from multiple Latin American cuisines and places it in this vibrant Short Pump restaurant and tequileria. Beautiful presentation and house-made extras such as hot sauce, salsas and not-your-typical guacamole make each dish memorable. The lively atmosphere and detail-oriented service shine bright with refinement without hitting over-the-top. —Robey Martin
TRY THE catch-of-the-day ceviche (if you love ceviche, spring for the trio) — all acid and flavor; tamale resplendent in the tangiest of tomatillo sauce.
The first thing that makes Pasture one of the city’s top hangout spots is its mood-lifting juxtaposition of wood tones, sea greens and glossy white hex tile. Compounded by amazing snacks like black-eyed pea falafel and fried pickle chips, dining there is almost a sunny and cheerful mini vacation. Chef Jason Alley’s deceptively simple fare demonstrates the creative, modern potential of classic Southern dishes while Beth Dixon’s killer cocktail program refreshes. —Bird Cox
TRY THE boiled peanut hummus and pimento cheese, both excellent starters; barbecued pork chop entrée by way of one of Pasture’s well-dressed, seasonal salads.
There are many sushi restaurants in Richmond, but the sleek atmosphere, attentive service and standout fish brought Umi Sushi Bistro to the top of our list. Umi delivers the whole package. A large menu features raw and cooked appetizers, beautifully presented sushi rolls, a long list of sushi and sashimi, plenty of sake, plus affordable lunch specials. Make sure to ask about the delivered-fresh-daily fish specials like toro (tuna belly) and live scallops — this is where serious sushi lovers will find favorites not on other local menus. —Megan Marconyak
TRY THE tuna tataki — flavorful tuna kissed with a light sear, in a tangy sesame-soy sauce.
19411 N. Harrison St., Richmond, Virginia 23220
Ed Vasaio is a culinary Midas: Everything he touches turns to food gold. Opening Mamma ’Zu in ’93 brought the garlic-loving masses to Oregon Hill, and in 2000, the unstoppable Vasaio repeated his success next to Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus with the more formal Edo’s Squid. Both restaurants offer Italian cuisine with juice glasses for affordable wine, and here-now, gone-the-next-minute fresh specials. Consistency and execution make it hard to determine which restaurant should come out ahead, resulting in our list’s only tie. If you don’t want to take our word for the merits of both of these spots, ask Bruce Springsteen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Grace Potter or Ruth Reichl. —Robey Martin
At Mamma ’Zu, TRY THE orecchiette with peas and Gorgonzola; fascinating scungilli; steak; anything in tuna sauce.
At Edo’s Squid, TRY THE skate wing; mind-bendingly tender braised fennel; sliced duck tenderloin.
India talks and chef/owner Mel Oza translates with a French accent. Escargot and seared scallops in a masala den? Oui! All corners of his homeland are mined: Find Kerala-inspired dishes, from India’s veg-centric south coast and Portuguese-smacked goan-style plates of tomato and chiles. Open with cocktails — they mix a mean Sazerac here. Settle into a high-backed booth, then let Oza run your table food- and wine-wise. He knows both well. Be game for new pairings, and ready to learn India’s culinary history via the quotation marks on the menu. If you opt for the tasting menu, prepare for a righteous evening at this low-key Carytown snuggery. —Genevelyn Steele
TRY THE Karavali prawns; tomato-coconut soup; lamb Vin d’Alho; Malai Palak-Chenna “Mal Mal”; Pondicherry escargot, seared sea scallops in Tellicherry cauliflower cream.
Entering Buckhead’s is a slide back to all that was good about steakhouses in the 1950s: warm paneling, first-rate service, quiet music and a sound level that encourages conversation. But this is not just another steakhouse. The seafood, the steak, the appetizers and the wine list, which offers more than 700 labels, all make it a fabulous restaurant. Restaurants are often put under by bad service; this will almost never be a risk at Buckhead’s. It may not be an everyday stop, but it is a stop well worth making. —Hollister Lindley
TRY THE pan-seared scallops with potato gnocchi; crème brûlée; New York steak; sautéed wild mushrooms with beurre blanc; chocolate terrine.
You can’t miss Wendy Kalif, Bistro Bobette’s vivacious owner. Part host, part event organizer, part magician, she is one of the chief reasons Bobette feels so cozy and inviting even among the high ceilings, stark black paint, exposed brick and starch. Her husband, Executive Chef Francis Devilliers, delivers exceptional, expertly prepared French-inspired cuisine that’s elevated perfectly with a predominantly French wine list. —Robey Martin
TRY THE chickpea crêpe with cucumber and yogurt; French-baked escargot; any and allfish specials available.
From traditional dishes like saag paneer to fresh takes on Indian cuisine such as grilled tandoori lamb chops, careful attention to each element is what puts Lehja on our list. Whether you stop by for the two-course lunch specials — choose the homemade soup of the day for your starter — the three-course brunch specials, or dinner, which is accompanied by a carefully curated wine list, you’re certain to enjoy delicious flavor combinations served by skilled wait staffers who are never too busy to talk you through unfamiliar menu items. —Megan Marconyak
TRY THE Gobhi Manchurian — spiced, marinated cauliflower florets in a soy-tomato-chili glaze; Bombay-style bhel, offered only during the weekend prix-fixe brunch as a starter — it’s a combination of puffed rice, chopped mango, chopped vegetables and tamarind sauce.
Peter Chang’s food can be downright theatrical with its orchid-shaped garnishes, steaming stone pots, trappings of woven bamboo and wildly alluring fragrances of garlic and chili. The multilayered flavors of Sichuan cuisine live up to every bit of the anticipation, especially for those who love a “hot and numbing” spice level. It’s not the spot you visit for sesame chicken — not because they don’t have it, but because you’dbe doing your inner culinary adventurer a majordisservice. —Bird Cox
TRY THE crispy dry-fried eggplant; tea-smokedduck with onion rings; Bamboo Fish; any varietyof hot pot (emphasis on hot).
As soon as you step into Belmont Food Shop, it’sapparent that you’re somewhere special. The chalkboard menu, the prohibition-era décor, the 20-ishseats — it just feels different in all the right ways. Notto mention the atypical $30 prix-fixe three-course menu filled with some of the best (albeit unassuming) seasonal dishes the Museum District has to offer. Though this spot is widely beloved, 2013 Elby Award Rising Star winner Mike Yavorsky, chef and owner, has found a way to make you feel like you’re eating at the best-kept secret in town. —Beau Cribbs
TRY THE crab and avocado appetizer; braised shortribs with spoonbread; craft cocktails featuring house-made cola.
Many restaurants work with farmers to carefully select their ingredients. Lucy’s, in historic Jackson Ward, takes that cooperation to the next level by actually owning a family cattle farm. While not a traditional steakhouse, by using the beef from Monrovia Farm, owners Jason and Amanda Lucy deliver inventive and delicious beef dishes that are trendy while still being hearty, home-style meals, pairing their daily special of aged beef with everything from horseradish gratin potatoes to tomato pie. —Piet E. Jones
TRY THE Monrovia Farm burger; steak cut of the day; Pork & Eggs — pork loin and poached eggs in scallion hollandaise; Non “Spaghetti and Meatballs.”
The Black Sheep may be best known for its Man v. Food-approved fleet of supersized subs named after Civil War battleships. And indeed, these subs are some of the most creative we’ve seen — just look at the CSS Virginia, stuffed with fried chicken livers, green onions, Granny Smith apples and rémoulade sauce. But Black Sheep really shines at brunch, when dozens of diners wait in line for a taste of its Cajun-influenced fare like pork grillades and grits, and bayou biscuits and gravy. —Erica Jackson Curran
TRY THE Breakfast Batteau, a baguette slathered in sweet potato butter, crispy fried duck, eggs and ricotta salata; house-made apricot applesauce; USS Lafayette with its spiced shrimp and artichoke hearts; mushroom and cashew pâté.
Adrian Sava greets new customers with a small speech along the lines of: “We serve authentic Romanian food here. No hot dogs, no hamburgers!” That sets the tone for an intimate experience in which diners are treated like guests in the home of the gregarious Sava and his wife, Ligia, who does the lion’s share of the cooking. And while European Taste also serves Greek, Italian and German dishes, we recommend sipping some Staropramen, a smooth and tasty Czech beer, and soliciting Adrian’s suggestions on what to order. —Tina Eshleman
TRY THE sarmale, made of slow-cooked beef, porkand rice, wrapped in house-pickled cabbage; garlicky house-made Transylvanian sausage (mici); langosh,fried bread stuffed with feta.
This cozy, classic Italian spot is, in a word, unpretentious. After 15 years in the Richmond dining scene, Bacchus doesn’t need bells and whistles to fill its dining room — its culinary consistency and comfortable atmosphere leave the tables packed nearly every day of the week. It’s almost always full of neighbors and regulars, whom the staff greets like family. The menu, unusually long in today’s restaurant world, is a cohesive collection of old-school Italian-American favorites and seasonally influenced dishes. Like the best Italian meals should, Bacchus’ food tastes like love. —Eva Colen
TRY THE pasta in a Gorgonzola sauce; veal scaloppine;sautéed kale with almonds and whole cloves of garlic;Kobe beef meatballs.