What to Eat, Drink, and Do in Richmond, Virginia
It’s fashionable for in-the-know foodies to rave about Charleston, Louisville, and Birmingham. But there’s another venerable star worth pinning on the map of the New New South. Look for Richmond, Virginia, at the intersection of cobblestones and street art, where antebellum brick and wrought-iron heritage merge into a mash-up of Portland cool, Brooklyn artisanship, and Austin weird. Oh, and a river runs through it, with waterfront parkland offering sublime single-track hiking and mountain bike trails within a stone’s throw of the State Capitol.
Metzger Bar & Butchery
One of RVA’s newest gems is a chef-owned dynamo that sources impeccable ingredients and serves modern European dishes set to the best soundtrack in the city. Don’t miss the chicken liver mousse terrine with Riesling gelée, beer-brined pork chop, or schupfnudeln (potato dumplings).
Owned by the team behind the acclaimed, family-owned Rappahannock Oyster Company, this unpretentious but sophisticated bay-to-table restaurant offers some of the city’s finest Chesapeake oysters, creative cuisine, and regional craft brews.
A Turkish brother and sister mill their own grain in the backyard of this wood-fired bakery in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood, where they turn-out world-class bread and pastries made from heirloom varieties of wheat, corn, and rye.
Let celebrated barman T. Leggett stir a Richmond-inspired Quoit Club Punch (rum, brandy, Madeira, lemon, and sugar) while you choose between Barboursville Octagon and Linden Hardscrabble from the 100% Virginia-sourced wine list.
Head to this European-inspired wine bar for small-batch wines by the glass (the menu includes more than 40 options, plus bottle options) and Mediterranean bites. The impressively curated wine list also includes an off-the-menu Reserve list, “secret stash,” and flight of the week.
Lamplighter Roasting Company
It ain’t booze, but it’s the best coffee in town. Lamplighter’s Addison Street location is ground zero for Richmond’s coffee scene and the centerpiece of a hip block of shops and vittles that’s not in any tourist brochure.
Along the same corridor where white-gloved ladies once browsed fine department stores, a slew of hip shops like Rosewood Clothing, Blue Bones Vintage, and Steady Sounds Records are the centerpiece of a dozen walkable blocks of downtown chic.
Skip the strip malls and slip down this boulevard of indie retro outlets featuring one-of-a-kind goods galore. Want to be treated like a regular? Say “hi” to Connie at Halycon while you admire her vintage Halston dresses.
Whether seen from high ground at the hallowed Hollywood Cemetery or Libby Hill’s historic vista, or from sea level while on a paddleboard off of Belle Isle, the river is the centerpiece of Richmond’s outdoor fun. Bring your bike, your dog, a picnic, and swim trunks.
First Fridays Art Walk
By day, marvel over masterworks at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art (VMFA), but by night, the city’s art scene spills into the street art, murals, handcraft boutiques, and pop-up galleries along the downtown Broad Street corridor.
From St. John’s Church (the site of Patrick Henry’s famous, revolution-spurring “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech) and the Slave Trail (a walk that traces the city’s role in the slave trade, beginning at the Manchester Docks and winding through the former slave markets and past Lumpkin’s Slave Jail) to the Federalist Valentine Museum and the house of civil rights activist Maggie L. Walker, Richmond’s many walking tours offer a peek at the city’s fascinating, often tumultuous 400-year history.
This brand-spanking new venue is as boutique as it is bespoke. Hotelier Katie Ukrop’s career in art galleries shows in every quirky original painting and sculpture, as well as her peerless choice of finishes, furnishings, and foodstuffs.
RVA’s grand dame opened in 1895 and remains a vibrant and genteel destination for highballs, ball gowns, and a time warp through two centuries of Richmond class.
Do yourself a favor and experience the historic city while ensconced in one of its distinct neighborhoods. A primer on where to stay: go to Church Hill for history and hipsters; the Fan for architectural charm, child-friendly amenities, and cool eats; and Jackson Ward/Scott’s Addition to see historic districts transitioning in real time.