Peter Chang’s nondescript façade in the middle of a western Henrico County shopping center has become the stuff of legend since it first opened its doors in 2012 – and for good reason. This is the perfect combination of real-deal Sichuan cuisine, unique takes on traditional favorites and recipes from the wildest corners of chef Chang’s impressive imagination. If you’re in the mood, try something adventurous like the whole braised fish in chili sauce or the Guangdong Gulu Duck in sweet and sour sauce. And please take the menu phrase “hot and numbing” seriously.
- 416 E. Grace St., Richmond, Virginia 23219
A half-century ago, East Grace Street was adorned with some of the city’s best retail shops. Today, thanks to chef/owner Jason Alley and business partner Michele Jones, the corridor is yet again a destination. A green and blue dip-dyed oasis, Pasture offers Alley something Comfort never could: experimentation. This ain’t your grandma’s Southern cooking, but you’ll still recognize local farms featured in dishes like the Chicken-Fried Mushroom or the Hoppin’ John, a bowl of spicy Carolina Gold rice with house-cured bacon and home-grown Whippoorwill peas and cowpeas. House-made snacks and accouterments abound, from pickles to hot sauces and cream cheese — and, of course, the Virginia-inspired cocktails.
- 8510 Patterson Ave., Richmond, Virginia 23229
With its dark wood, library-like framework, time-tested service and meaty, come-hither looks, Buckhead’s reminds me of a pair of Ray-Ban classic Wayfarers. Tom Cruise playfully undie-danced in them. Sexy-smart Claire Underwood rules House of Cards from her tortoise-shell specs. Just like the mounted stag’s head that hangs in this iconic, independently owned chophouse, those lenses radiate a moneyed, sporty chic. Flavorfully aged New York strip, buttery escargot, rangy single-malt Scotches, rich, Bordeaux red wines; Buckhead’s serves unfailing comestibles that, like Wayfarers, trump cheap imitations and never go out of style.
- 1301 W. Leigh St., Richmond, Virginia 23220
Every dish at The Magpie is Owen Lane’s heart on a plate. (OK, that sounds offal. Ba-dum ching.) But seriously, folks, the sheer beauty of the food he puts forth will tell you everything you need to know about how hard he works. He’s also one of the only chefs in town who regularly serves wild game like rabbit and boar; familiar favorites shine, too, like smoked hanger steak complemented by a salted egg yolk. Additionally, the level of front-of-the-house precision matches back-of-the-house creativity. It’s one of Richmond’s most transcendent dining experiences.
- 1627 W. Main St., Richmond, Virginia 23220
No matter where you are, what I call a “restaurant trifecta” doesn’t exist on every corner. By this, I mean a creative chef, an effortlessly accommodating front-of-the-house manager and a skilled mixologist all under one roof. Not only does Heritage have all three, but they’re all in the same family. In two short years, chef Joe Sparatta, his wife, Emilia, and her brother, bartender Mattias Hägglund, have become synonymous with crafting consistently excellent dining experiences — from the first sip of a Bitter Giuseppe (Cynar and Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth) to the last bite of duck with farro, black garlic and hazelnuts — right in the heart of the Fan District.1223 Bellevue Ave., Richmond, Virginia 23227
Red sauce and mozzarella alone do not an Italian restaurant make. And lumping the cuisine into one category is as fruitless as calling everything with smoked pork shoulder and vinegary sauce “barbecue.” This isn’t just Italian, it’s Piedmontese — Northern Italian. Restaurateur Gary York toils as much over the seasonal menu as he does the wine list; they share authenticity, finesse and brilliant curation. Enoteca Sogno embraces simplicity — fresh herbs, gnocchi, Taleggio cheese — and goes out of its way to maintain integrity even as trends and techniques tempt us toward what’s new. Here, they speak fluently a regional dialect of delicious that is worth preserving in an unadulterated state.415 N. First St., Richmond, Virginia 23220
Serving up arguably the best soul food in Richmond, Mama J’s is as much a city staple as fried chicken is to Southern cooking — speaking of Southern-fried classics, be sure to order the catfish nuggets to kick off your meal in salivatory style. Daily specials like pot roast and barbecued chicken are well worth a try, though diners can’t go wrong with any menu mainstays. Whether you’re stopping by for a stick-to-your-ribs meal, a cocktail or a slice of chef/owner Velma Johnson’s trademark cakes or cobblers, odds are you’ll feel right at home, and the friendly staff wouldn’t have it any other way.
- 1209 E. Cary St., Richmond, Virginia 23219
Yes, Bistro Bobette isn’t cheap. And yes, the parking situation in the Slip isn’t optimal. But whatever your first course is — or even just the perfectly toasted baguettes you snack on while you decide — will make it all worth it. Richmond doesn’t have a ton of options for genuine French cuisine, so when you get hit with salty haricots verts, the kind you could eat in place of fries and never look back, potato salad with house-made mayonnaise, or a tartine piled with vegetables sautéed to exactly the right consistency, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered going elsewhere. This is real food, expertly prepared and suited to any palate. And that’s saying something.
- 101 W. Franklin St. (in The Jefferson Hotel), Richmond, Virginia 23220
With its captive audience at The Jefferson Hotel and its Richmond traditions, Lemaire has every excuse to engage the cruise control and coast into its third decade. But since its 2009 renovation, chef Walter Bundy has modernized Lemaire into one of RVA’s essential dining experiences. The menu, as much as the décor and service, are polished, elegant and inviting. Lemaire embraces its Virginia roots and showcases local, seasonal and artisanal bounty not with a polite nod, but with front-and-center focus. Most impressively, unlike its first incarnation, Lemaire 2.0 is as relevant for momentous occasions as it is for date night, family Fridays on the patio or late-night munchies at the bar.
10411 N. Harrison St., Richmond, Virginia 23220
There is nothing quite so Richmond as spending a cold winter evening with family or friends at Edo’s Squid, sharing a plate of carbonara, as the snow falls quietly on the city below. But while Edo’s may be known for some of the best pasta in town, it’s the rest of the menu that truly elevates the place: simply prepared seasonal meat and fish that require the highest quality ingredients lest the simplicity allow any flaws to become glaring. Take their soft-shell crab, available starting in May each year, lightly fried ‘til crispy and topped only with a chiffonade of basil — all other molted crustaceans will forever pale in comparison.
111719-21 E. Franklin St., Richmond, Virginia 23223
This Shockoe Bottom mainstay may be joining Rappahannock and Pasture on Grace Street this spring, but its modern take on Southern classics isn’t going anywhere. Succulent crab cakes, shrimp-and-grits and impossibly crispy fried green tomatoes have kept Julep’s high on Richmond’s list of favorite eateries, but anything Executive Chef Randall Doetzer creates will surely wow. Pair his braised rabbit with lentils, pork belly and local veggie cassoulet with wines from Virginia and the Old World. Or sip one of several genteel cocktails, such as the Jewell-UP with rye and house-made burnt orange-mint syrup.
1223 W. Marshall St., Richmond, Virginia 23220