Brian Beard, owner of River City Food Tours (Heather Michelle Photography/River City Food Tours)
I’d eaten a small breakfast and even skipped lunch so I’d be good and hungry when I started my food tour at 2 p.m. on a Saturday. After six stops — and generous portions of smoked, pulled pork; Hawaiian macaroni salad; fettuccini with charred vegetables; and a chocolate, beet brownie, to name just a few — I had more than filled my empty belly. But even better than that, I had added six new restaurants to my “must-dine” list.
“There are a lot of great restaurants in Richmond, but it’s the smaller, undiscovered places where we want to take our guests,” says my guide, River City Food Tours owner Brian Beard. “Not only is there a better chance you’ll get to hear from the chefs or owners there, but you also might find a restaurant you would’ve never known about before.”
This year, National Geographic Traveler named Richmond one of its top 10 “Where to Travel for Food” locations — alongside New Orleans, Marrakech and Sicily, among others — so it’s of little surprise that the city’s food-tour business is gaining steam. In fact, Richmond Region Tourism now even has a tab on its website devoted to food tours.
“As Richmond is getting more tourists, we are certainly seeing that in our groups,” says Maureen Egan, co-owner of Real Richmond Food Tours*, the veteran in the business. Real Richmond’s guests have come from as far away as Australia. But their tours, which cover Manchester to Libbie and Grove avenues, also draw plenty of locals.
Not only do Richmonders pack the public tours, but they also book private tours for corporate events, bachelorette parties and even senior-citizen outings. Richmond Rides, owned by Catherine Illian, offers a special “Foodie Tour” of Church Hill, and all of her bike outings include a food stop.
In between enjoying the best cuisine of RVA on these 2 ½- to three-hour tours, you’ll also learn about the city’s history, architecture and current goings-on, and even hear a funny story or two. On my tour, I learned that Richmond’s east and west streets used to be lettered in descending order from the James River and were later lengthened to Ellwood, Floyd, Grove, etc. All this while sipping a strawberry-basil lemonade under a tree on Broad Street, proving just how delicious knowledge can be.
*Real Richmond Food Tours is co-owned by Susan Winiecki, editorial director of Richmond magazine, who had no hand in this piece.