Richmond is just getting started.

By Zoe Denenberg
March 10, 2020
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Robbie Caponetto

Richmond, Virginia is a city with a deep and complicated history, but lately it has gained a reputation as a hip landing spot for young professionals and young businesses. The eclectic city is home to picturesque row homes that could give Charleston’s Rainbow Row a run for its money, and craft companies like Belle Isle Moonshine that swear they couldn’t have planted roots anywhere else—but Richmond has recently gained traction as one of the South’s next big food destinations, ranking up with Nashville and New Orleans as one of the South’s Best Food Cities in 2020. Not only is Richmond home to this year’s South’s Best New Restaurant, Alewife, but in recent years the city has seen a remarkable outpouring of culinary creativity. Dine at any of these hot spots and you’ll soon understand that Richmond’s culinary ascendance is just beginning.

Alewife

“Here, Szechuan peppercorn-dusted oysters and scallops with carrot-miso butter feel at home alongside cornmeal biscuits and refried lentils,” Priya Krishna writes of Alewife, voted the South’s Best New Restaurant 2020. “It’s a place that [chef and owner Lee] Gregory says exemplifies the growing diversity of Richmond’s population and foodways.” Order the Siren’s Song—a signature sampler platter that changes by the hour, repurposing the night’s food scraps or odds and ends into supremely innovative Mid-Atlantic tasters.

Left: Photo: Robbie Caponetto
Center: Alewife, in the historic Church Hill neighborhood | Photo: Robbie Caponetto
Right: Monkfish with seaweed vinaigrette | Photo: Robbie Caponetto

Longoven

Longoven is an exciting new player in Richmond’s diverse dining scene, bringing sophistication and refinement to a city known for its relaxed groove. You’ll find dishes like Poached Black Bass and Seeds Risotto on the a la carte menu, but the real standout is the tasting menu, which promises a night of complete culinary indulgence.

Mama J’s

From the relaxed dining room to the generous portions of fried chicken and catfish, this South’s Best local restaurant feels like home. Mama J’s is Richmond’s go-to spot for true Southern soul food; if you didn’t bring your appetite, just snag a seat at the bar—the signature drinks are all named after members of the family.

Sub Rosa Bakery

Led by brother-sister duo Evrim and Evin Dogu (who received James Beard Award-semifinalist status in 2019 and 2020), Sub Rosa Bakery takes ‘homemade’ to new extremes: They “mill their own stone-ground flour from Southern-grown grains and bake homemade bread in a wood-fired oven,” writes Hannah Hayes for Southern Living. “Evin's morning selection of delicious chocolate croissants and pastries filled with fig and Manchego cheese provides reason enough to schedule a wake-up call.”

Sub Rosa Bakery owners Evin and Evrim Dogu are siblings and James Beard Award semifinalists.
Robbie Caponetto

GWARbar

The restaurant may be named after a heavy metal band (Gwar) and decorated with fake blood splatters, but after one glance at the menu, GWARbar immediately defies any expectations or easy categorizations. Here, you’ll find a menu that sets cauliflower nuggets and house-made seitan (cheekily named “Hail Seitan”) beside half-pound house ground beef cakes. Don’t leave without tasting the homemade twinkies, which are waffle-battered and topped with maple whipped cream.

WATCH: 2020 South's Best Food Cities

The Roosevelt

Tucked away in Richmond’s Church Hill area sits The Roosevelt, a neighborhood gem where you can snack on BBQ Pork Rinds and split small plates like Maple Glazed Carrots and Buttermilk Fried Oysters. The century-old building has been home to numerous restaurant concepts—from seafood to Mexican—but The Roosevelt’s pioneering role in Richmond’s culinary growth has cemented its status as a modern RVA institution.

John Murden

L’Opossum

This formal, yet funky fine dining restaurant essentially encapsulates the spirit of Richmond—it is artful and excellent, but it still doesn’t take itself too seriously. L’Opossum’s clever, elegant menu features playfully named dishes like “Les Escargots à la Ham Biscuit” and “Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras in an Autumn Frame of Mind.”

Other spots not to miss: Perly’s for Jewish deli boards, Helen’s for brunch, Kuba Kuba for Cuban café culture, Stella’s for Greek, and Little Nickel for charming tiki food + drink.