I think you can tell a lot about a person by where they like to eat. Richmond has so many great restaurants with such diversity. Where you choose to spend your time and money for just one meal is one thing, but associating and aligning yourself with places you consistently — your favorites — is another.
What are your eight most favorite places you go to dine out in the Richmond area? It could be because it is easy for you, food is good, price is right, close to home, it makes your favorite dish — you name it.
There are just two rules to this quest: 1) Must be local restaurants; 2) Must NOT be a national chain. I had to clarify just to make sure there was no cheating.
Here is mine in reverse alphabetical order:
Strawberry Street Cafe, 421 Strawberry Street: A favorite for the food, atmosphere and social diversity. Date night 20-somethings, art students, high-class, Fan District walk-ups, and I can take my kids — I’ve eaten there probably 50 times.
Sidewalk Cafe, 2101 West Main Street: I love the food and the beer. I also love that I’ve been going there for years and it’s just comfortable and still makes me feel like I’m cool.
Mezzanine, 3433 West Cary Street: Shrimp and grits. I have great appreciation for the food, but one of the owners is a childhood friend of my wife and he’s from Martinsville, our home town. The restaurant has gotten great reviews and the Carytown scene is better with Mezzanine. (The rhyme was an accident).
Mamma Zu, 501 South Pine Street: Oregon Hill is such a mysterious part of town for me. I love the quirkiness and unique vibe that neighborhood has. It says “don’t mess with me.” The restaurant with attitude has it Oregon Hill’s back. I love it. I love the food.
Kuba Kuba, 1601 Park Avenue: Seafood sofrito. Food so good. Coolness. Tres Leche Cake. My wife and I go there as a first choice for dates. An escape.
Kitchen 64, 3336 North Boulevard: I had to have a Northside restaurant on this list. The third restaurant on my list owned by Katrina & Johnny Giavos (Sidewalk and Kuba Kuba). The thing about Kitchen 64 is there is less testosterone, more of a female touch of class and the food is still good. Atmosphere inside is good too, considering the surroundings at the on ramp to Interstate 64/95.
Chiocca’s, 425 North Belmont Avenue: One toaster oven that makes the best sandwiches ever. Located in the basement of a house on the corner of Belmont and Kensington avenues. My old hangout for at least five years after I got out of college. My dad used to eat there in the 1960s and nothing has changed since. Top all that.
Benny’s BBQ, 2919 Hathaway Road: So many reasons, but mostly Benny’s has my favorite barbecue in Richmond. Sliced beef. Yum. I had to have a place with diner-style food on there, and Benny’s has never let me down. Traditional eatery when I kayak since it is up the hill from Pony Pasture.
Honorable mentions: Joe’s Inn, 205 N. Shields Avenue; Bandito’s Burrito Lounge, 2905 Patterson Avenue; Cafe Ole, 2 North 6th Street; Northside Grille, 1217 Bellevue Avenue.
Obviously I like medium-priced places that serve standard American fare. Reliable, consistent, convenient, fun, easy and I don’t have to dress up or pretend that I’m somebody. All serve a good beer or glass of wine and most have been around for several years. I could take my kids to any of them if I wanted to without offending anyone.
Also, I’ve lived in the Museum District, Near West End and Lakeside neighborhoods for the past 18 years and all of these restaurants are close by.
This list omits all of the great Mexican restaurants in Richmond. I love Mexico Restaurant on Horsepen Road the best (the Garcia family has always treated me well), but I classify the majority of Richmond’s Mexican restaurants as local chains due to their great networking and team approach — but that is a topic for another post.
In case you are wondering, why 8 places you eat? Simple: “Eight” and “eat” roll off the tongue well…