In 2014, Gregory partnered with Chef Joe Sparatta and farmer Matt Gottwald to create Southeast cuisine-driven Southbound (southboundrva.com). In 2012, Sparatta had brought his Michelin background (David Bouley and Eric Ripert) and Relais & Chateaux credentials to Richmond with Heritage (1627 West Main Street. Tel: 804-353-4060. heritagerva.com).
Having since exited the Roosevelt partnership, Gregory’s latest siren call is Alewife (3120 E. Marshall Street. Tel: 804-325-3426. alewiferva.com). Southern Living named his Church Hill homage to Mid-Atlantic seafood as the South’s Best New Restaurant for 2020.
Feather’s serial success includes Church Hill’s WPA (Well-Made Pastry Alliance) Bakery (wpabakery.com); long-running Garnett’s Café (garnettscafe.com), and fern bar tribute Laura Lee’s (lauraleesrva.com).
Thomas Leggett, or “T”, the mastermind mixologist behind The Roosevelt’s craft cocktail program, went on to open The Jasper (jasperbarrva.com).
Other still buzzing fixtures include Dutch & Company (400 N. 27th Street. Tel: 804-643-8824. dutchandcompany.com). Sinful pleasures at this 2012 Church Hill pioneer include the Honey Pot, a flavor bomb of milk and honey panna cotta, gingersnap crumble, lemon, and blueberry in a ceramic beehive.
Described by the Washingtonian as “the Szechuan master chef who inspired a Deadhead-like following,” James Beard finalist Peter Chang, having already blazed a spicy trail from Northern Virginia to Atlanta, attracted yet more “Changians” in 2012 at his first Richmond-area Peter Chang China Café (11424 W. Broad St. Glen Allen. Tel: 804-364-1688. peterchangrestaurant.com).
These and other award-winning successes put Richmond on the national foodie map, including 2014 recognition from Departures as “The Next Great American Food City.” The creative surge continued that summer when David Shannon opened L’Opossum sur la Colline de l’Oregon (626 China Street, Tel: 804-918-6028. lopossum.com).
Playfully named for its Oregon Hill location, L’Opossum is a risque riff riot throughout. The interior décor, with help from Richmond punk rock bassist Greta Brinkman (Debbie Harry, Moby) includes Star Wars collectible plates and chain-swag lamps. In this theatrical food porn palace, the culinary collars match the design cuffs via French/Southern matings such as the “Vegan Orgy on Texas Beach” and “A Succulent, Young & Nubile Chicken.”
In 2016, Shannon was a Beard Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic semifinalist; in 2018, Southern Living crowned L’Opossum as the South’s Best Restaurant. “Invention is a key ingredient in Richmond,” said Shannon, who previously worked as executive sous chef at the fabled Inn at Little Washington (see Wine section). “That’s what makes the city so interesting.”
Richmond’s culinary creativity stands on a bedrock of tradition. Longstanding pillars include another Shannon alma mater, Helen’s (2527 West Main Street. Tel: 804-358-4370. helensrva.com).
Housed in a 1912 pharmacy, this celebrated haunt was originally D’s restaurant (1927). In 1935, owners Humbert and Marie Donati passed the business to their daughter Helen on her 21st birthday. She stamped her high-energy personality on the venue, which flourished as a juke joint popular with the swing dancing set. Helen, who passed away in 1967, also reportedly hosted a female-only speakeasy in the basement.
Today, her spirit animates an all-welcoming social scene as John and Leslie Tuite, owners since 1994, keep the party going. Along with seasonal Southern brunch and dinner fare, notable bar action includes “Helen’s Thursdays.” Originated as an intimate post-dinner gathering for the restaurant’s many LGBTQ staff members and friends, this queer-driven bar night is one of the coolest events in town.
Another culinary temple is Stella’s (1012 Lafayette Street. Tel: 804- 358-2011. stellasrichmond.com). Stella Dikos arrived in Richmond from Greece in 1961 and joined her husband’s Village Café. Paraphrasing Richmond Magazine, she welcomed the “unorthodox cast of characters that called this bohemian stomping ground home with open arms.” Now 79, Richmond’s gastronomic goddess still holds court at the third incarnation of her eponymous Greek restaurant.
Perly’s Restaurant & Delicatessen (111 E Grace Street. Tel: 804- 912-1560. perlysrichmond.com) also hails from 1961. From Jewish classics to the Oy Vey sandwich, “It’s Yiddish for Delicious” at this Art Deco institution. Fun cocktails include the “Larry David,” blending vodka or gin with house-made celery soda.
Following a legislative blessing in 2012, Richmond’s craft beer industry skyrocketed. Today, 30-plus breweries span the metro area, including two-location Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (2410 Ownby Lane. 804-420-2420. hardywood.com), where governing House Bill 359 and Senate Bill 604 were ceremonially enacted.
Richmond’s original beer patriarch is An Bui. In 1995, the Vietnamese émigré and his two brothers opened Mekong (6004 W. Broad Street, Henrico. Tel: 804-288-8929. mekongisforbeerlovers.com). Serving authentic Vietnamese fare, the restaurant has made CraftBeer.com’s “Great American Beer Bar” list several times since 2012 for its wide selection of international and limited-edition brews. In 2014, “Chief Beer Officer” Bui opened his neighboring The Answer (theanswerbrewpub.com) brewpub.
Old Original Bookbinder’s (1865-2009) was a Philadelphia landmark famed for its 350-capacity lobster tank and celebrity clientele, the Rat Pack and mobsters included. In 2000, the Taxin family, owners since the 1930’s, brought “Bookie’s” to Richmond. Housed in a restored tobacco warehouse, Bookbinder’s Seafood & Steakhouse (2306 E. Cary Street. Tel: 804-643- 6900. bookbindersrichmond.com) is for hearty plates like the Coffee Crusted Steak and hands-on hospitality of John and Jayme Taxin.