Zero in on the action by spending a day in one of Richmond's most soulful districts.

Velma Johnson at Mama J's Kitchen
Velma Johnson at Mama J's Kitchen
| Credit: Scott Suchman

Why We Love It: Jazz, soul food, and African-American enterprise have always been the cornerstones of this historic neighborhood, and they're also driving its revival.

Our Perfect Day: Start with a seasonal sandwich—say, the Brie, strawberry, spinach, and egg panini ($9)—at the colorful, loft-like Lift Coffee Shop & Café ( before starting an art crawl along Broad Street. Keep an eye out for Gordon Stettinius' fine-art photography space Candela Books (, the newest addition to Gallery Row. Then visit the 28-room Victorian urban mansion that was once the home of Maggie l. Walker (, free admission), the first African-American woman to found a bank, and The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia (, $5 admission). Don't miss dinner at Mama J's Kitchen (, where Velma Johnson cooks up Southern classics such as country-fried steak ($7).

Top Tastemaker: Michael Ng is on a mission to beef up the Ward, buying up storefronts on Second Street and opening his new lunch spot, Thai Corner (804/343-2009), in one of them.

The Ideal Souvenir: Albums from Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and James Brown—all of whom used to perform at venues on Second Street, aka "The Deuce"—at Steady Sounds (

Everyone's Talking About: The Hippodrome Theatre (, a 1914 theater that just reopened after decades of dormancy and a $12 million Art Deco-inspired renovation.