Give me 8 places you eat in Richmond

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…


14 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Marsha on August 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    OK, Phil, now add “restaurants” to category list!


  2. Posted by Ellen on August 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Joe’s Inn – favoite breakfast spot – love “the most requested omlet”





    Buzz n’ Neds

    Mamma Zu

    Stronghill – new to my list!

    Rising FAVs: Halligans, Little Mexico, The Boathouse @ Rocketts Landing


  3. Posted by richmonddoc on August 28, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    My top 8 (from a vegetarian perspective):

    –Ipanema (the first place we take visitors)

    –821 Cafe (comfort food)

    –Strange Matter (creative/interesting stuff, great fries/vayo)

    –Cous Cous (variety, and cool atmosphere)

    –Elephant Thai

    –Asado Los Catrachos or Mi Casita (the first is a Honduran place, the second Salvadorean); similar options, super authentic.

    –Cafe Gutenburg

    –Joe’s Inn on Shields

    Honorable mentions: Black Sheep (like what they have, but veggie meal selections are not as great as I’d like), Kuba Kuba (not a huge # of veggie selections, but what they have is very good–especially the Cuban take on huevos rancheros), Strawberry Street (an early favorite when we moved to Richmond, still a solid option), Sticky Rice (veggie sushi beyond plain cucumber rolls and avocado)


  4. Well, I have three kids so we don’t go out very often to places that aren’t chains, but when my husband and I can sneak away, here are our favorite places in no particular order:

    Bottom’s Up Pizza
    Pescado’s (in Midlothian)
    Kuba Kuba
    Nacho Mama’s
    Joe’s Inn (Bon Air)
    Athens Tavern (our favorite, favorite)
    Q BBQ


  5. Tastebuds in Northside
    Cafe Rustica (ate there tonight)
    Acacia (eat at the bar and watch the bar artisans at work)
    Kuba Kuba
    Q BBQ

    This is the list for the moment. At anytime it could change…


  6. Posted by Dena on August 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    In no particular order:

    Joes Inn on Shields – cannot live without the Spaghetti A la Joe. The Margarita on the rocks – Rocks!

    Cafe Rustica – great food, great owners

    Celito Lindo – great fish taco; best Margarita in town

    Maldini’s – great fried calamari, pizza and food

    Baliceaux – best cucumber martini in town, Incredible food

    Kuba Kuba – best pialla absolutely delicious

    Edo Squid – love the food especially the cannellini beans and arugula.

    Mekong – life is not complete without their bowl of noodles.

    Cafe Ole’ – cannot live without Betsy’s veggie burrito

    Now I’m getting hungry!


  7. Posted by Jean on August 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Maldini’s on Forest Hill Avenue. Best pizza anywhere; my parents come down from DC for it. Excellent all around Italian, a great staff. Many cuts above the usual. Food’s less salty than usual restaurant fare.


    • Maldini’s is now on my list of places I need to go and I will make that happen soon. That list sounds like a good follow-up to this blog post. Thank you Jean!


  8. Posted by John SMitty on August 27, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Cafe Ole is disgusting, except the salsa is not that bad.

    Bottoms Up pizza is not even pizza. It’s a poor excuse version of a pizza slut


  9. My favorite eight, in no particular order:

    1. Can Can Brasserie – Great for a fancy lunch.

    2. 8 1/2 – Technically take-out but the best pizza in Richmond, without a doubt.

    3. Olio Bistro – Home of my favorite sandwich, ever, the Arc de Triomphe.

    4. Edo’s Squid – Eggplant parm from heaven.

    5. Paradise Diner – They do breakfast right.

    6. Millie’s Diner – For a special occasion dinner.

    7. Akita – Crazy good sushi if you can wedge yourself in the door.

    8. Avenue 805 – Cheap Date Night cannot be beat.


  10. Great idea for a post, here are mine in no particular order.
    Dot’s Back Inn – Cafe style food with a quality twist.
    Chiocca’s – Great sandwiches big enough to share. Love the atmosphere.
    Halligan’s – Hidden barbecue gem.
    Mekong – Awesome beer, owner, staff, and food.
    Caliente – Good beer selection nice mix of food.
    Kuba Kuba – Don’t get there enough, everything is awesome.
    Chicken Fiesta – Rotisserie chicken to die for and great owner.
    Bottom’s Up – One of our go-to places.

    Honorable mentions; Sticky Rice, La Milpa, Celito Lindo, O’Toole’s, Coppala’s, Q-BBQ, Alamo, and Banditos. We love Thai but haven’t adopted a restaurant here in RVA.


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