Still dancing from 2004, white-tiled Can Can Brasserie (3120 W. Cary Street. Tel: 804-358-7274. cancanbrasserie.com), with its long zinc-topped bar, is an authentic French bistro in the heart of bustling Carytown.
In the early 1900’s, Richmond’s Jackson Ward neighborhood was an epicenter of African-American culture. Today, the resurgent “Harlem of the South” is home to one of America’s top soul food restaurants, Mama J’s (415 N. 1st Street. Tel: 804-225-7449. mamajskitchen.com). Since 2009, Mama J herself, Velma Johnson, has wooed diners with family recipes dating back 50 years. The fried chicken is reason alone to go.
For sweet treats, make a beeline around the corner to Sugar and Salt (416 N. 2nd St. Tel: 804-251-0475. sugarandsaltrva.com). Formerly executive pastry chef at Richmond’s grande dame Jefferson Hotel, owner Sara Ayyash’s artful cakes and other customized confections are museum-worthy.
The COVID-19 lockdown scuttled my planned visit to experience the recent wave of hotspots. Tabled for next time, these include Longoven (2939 W. Clay Street. Tel: 804-308-3497. longovenrva.com), a globally inspired fine-dining anchor of the culinary-driven transformation of the Scott’s Addition Historic District. This fast-evolving former industrial area is also home to Alpine-influenced Brenner Pass (3200 Rockbridge Street. Tel: 804.658.9868. brennerpassrva.com) from the owners of German- inspired Metzger Bar and Butchery (801 N. 23rd Street. Tel: 804- 325-3147. metzgerbarandbutchery.com).
Others notable venues include Basque-influenced Restaurant Adarra (618 N. 1st Street. Tel: 804-477-3456. restaurantadarra.com), and The Broken Tulip (3129 W. Cary Street. Tel: 804-353-4020. thebrokentulip.com), with its seasonal “farmers, fishermen and foragers of Virginia” menu. In pivoting to curbside, takeout, and delivery mode like everywhere else, Richmond’s restaurateurs have rechanneled their inventive energy into fighting spirit.
“Competitive but collaborative, our chef community is really pulling together,” said Kevin Clay, founder of Richmond-based Big Spoon Co., a premier communications agency for food, beverage, and hospitality brands. “And Richmonders are doing their part,” added Clay, whose own efforts include hosting a webinar series featuring local restaurateurs and creating a Facebook group, RVA Dine & Drink, which had attracted 17,300-plus members and counting in early June. “Everybody is working on ways to help.”
Thomas Jefferson called Lynchburg, which he frequented from his nearby private Poplar Forest (poplarforest.org) retreat, “the most interesting spot in the state.”
After three visits in the last two years, I can confirm Lynchburg’s atmospheric appeal. Bring your walking shoes, camera, and appetite as satisfaction for all three awaits in the downtown and riverfront core.
About 70 miles southeast of Charlottesville in the Blue Ridge foothills, the steep, tiered topography of the City of Seven Hills invites and rewards discovery at every turn.
Dating to 1757, when 17-year old John Lynch established a James River crossing for his family’s ferry business, Lynchburg later prospered in tobacco, trade, manufacturing, and banking. By the early 20th century, it was the nation’s wealthiest city of its size.
With passing freight trains providing a nostalgic soundtrack to the past, the former “Pittsburgh of the South” wears its late 19th century industrial heritage well. Look for the evocative ghost lettering on downtown’s many former warehouses and factories.
Architectural legacies include the 17-story Allied Arts Building, an Art Deco gem that evokes New York’s Rockefeller Center. The adjacent Hilton-flagged Virginian Lynchburg (712 Church Street. Tel: 434.329.3200. thevirginianhotel.com) elegantly updates the former 1913 Virginian Hotel.
Stepped with war memorials, nearby Monument Terrace rises steeply to Court Street, where the Lynchburg Museum (lynchburgmuseum.org) is housed in an 1855 Greek Revival courthouse.
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Lined with antique stores, barbershops, hardware stores and restaurants, historic Main Street’s time capsule appeal includes the Academy Center for the Arts (600 Main Street. Tel: 434-846-8499. academycenter.org). Anchored by a restored 835-seat theater from 1905, the venue presents diverse arts and entertainment programming.
Other places to stretch your legs include the 1809 Old City Cemetery (gravegarden.org) and Blackwater Creek Trail which includes passage through an 1852 rail tunnel.
In this walking city, the road to boutique hospitality and dining leads straight to the Craddock Terry Hotel and Event Center (1312 Commerce Street. Tel: 434-455-1500. craddockterryhotel.com).
Opened in 2007, this award-winning 44-room property connects the former Southland factory of the legendary Craddock-Terry Shoe Company with the adjoining 1896 King William Tobacco warehouse.