Bite Into Richmond, Virginia

Taste the commonwealth.

Bite Into Richmond, Virginia

By Hope S. Philbrick

“I love Virginia,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe, speaking at a celebration of Virginia food hosted at Rappahannock Restaurant.

His tone sounded sincere, not like he was just rattling off the state’s tourism slogan. And while eating Virginia foodstuffs, it’s easy to get on board with his enthusiasm.

“I love Virginia products. And I love agriculture because I understand how important it is to growing our economy.”

Plus, it yields lots of yummy stuff to eat.

“We’ve got great wine, great ham, great oysters, great cider, great peanuts, great beer…” McAuliffe said, his voice trailing off as he contemplated the plethora of Virginia grown edibles. “We’ve got it all here, folks.”

“Our wine business is booming. Virginia wine is now tied with Texas for fifth place—and we’re going to beat Rick Perry if I have to drink every bottle myself!” he joked. (Though, to be nit-picky, that rank refers to production not sales.)

“Our craft beer business is doing great,” he said. “In fact, I may be the first governor in the history of government to have installed a kegerator in the Governor’s Mansion. I know Thomas Jefferson is looking down saying, ‘Way to go, Governor!’”

Even if you don’t happen to meet and/or get to party with Governor McAuliffe when you’re in town, all you need to celebrate Virginia’s culinary accomplishments are taste buds.

Here are a few places to start in Richmond:

Amuse Restaurant
Located in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, this fine dining restaurant is helmed by Chef Greg Haley, who takes a seasonal approach to his serious works of culinary art. The cool, swanky vibe of the dining room lures locals and visitors who want to see the scene as well as a few who want to be seen—so come for the food and drink, stay for the people watching, and linger for the great views. Menus change frequently, but always present a range of options to please any carnivore, vegetarian and/or gluten-free foodie. Creations like oxtail chili, curry fried oysters, jumbo lump crab cake, hushpuppy fried catfish, mapo tofu, pork belly noodle bowl, and more are inspired by local ingredients. The bar boasts an impressive list of art-inspired cocktails, all perfectly handcrafted, earning its reputation as “one of Richmond’s worst-kept secrets.” Lunch and happy hour are served daily but dinner is only served on Thursday and Friday and brunch is only available on Sunday, so plan accordingly because you don’t want to miss this one-of-a-kind, original masterpiece of a dining experience.

Max’s On Broad
It’s a little disconcerting to learn that Max’s on Broad opened in 2013: To an out-of-towner, its old school vibe makes it seem like it’s been around for generations, which we’ll take as a sign of how well it’s been embraced by the community. The menu offers a wide array of Belgian- and French-inspired options at various price points. From highfalutin foie gras and escargots to lowbrow hamburgers and French fries, there’s something for every palate. Entrée options range from seafood to steaks, plus pasta, salads, sandwiches and specials. The bar offers 20 beers on tap (mostly Belgians) as well as wine and specialty cocktails. Virginian Thomas Jefferson adored French cuisine, and Max’s On Broad ensures modern Richmonders have ready access to fresh renditions of classic French dishes that have influenced regional dining since the 18th Century.

Bite Into Richmond, VirginiaThis casual eatery so enamored locals that the owners opened a second restaurant (PastureQ) in Charlottesville. It’s easy to hop on board with locals’ opinion: Fresh, approachable flavors consistently impress across the menu that offers inspired updates to favorite Southern classics like pickled vegetables, grilled chicken, fried clams, and pimento cheese—don’t miss it—to dishes that blend Southern fare with international influences like black eyed pea falafel, beef tartare and more. “We use the best products we can from a group of some of Virginia’s best farmers and producers,” says Chef Jason Alley. “Local ham, Virginia cheeses, fresh fish and shell fish, meat, and vegetables all make their way onto our menu seasonally. Our extensive craft beer list is also Virginia heavy, with all of our beers coming from east of the Mississippi River.”

Bite Into Richmond, VirginiaBite Into Richmond, Virginia

Named one of the best new restaurants in 2014 by Esquire magazine, Rappahannock is a “farm to table” restaurant unlike most: The farmers—in this case, oyster aquaculturists—own the restaurant. So you can trust the oysters on this menu are fresh, local and the best available. The raw bar is a key draw; don’t miss the native Rappahannock River Oysters from the owners’ farms. Seafood dominates the menu with options like salmon, trout, scallops, octopus and more, though turf lovers will appreciate alternatives like wagyu beef cheeks, lamb, snails, pork and other creative options. The originality of the preparations impresses as much as the quality of the ingredients. Wash down your meal with craft beer and wine or a signature cocktail.

Bite Into Richmond, VirginiaBite Into Richmond, Virginia

The Savory Grain
The menu changes with the seasons, in order to showcase the best Virginia products. The vibe in the dining room changes even more frequently, depending on who’s eating when—so while I stumbled into a girls’ night out with groups of girlfriends at every table within earshot, there’s no predicting with whom you might share the room…though locals say that vibrant camaraderie is the norm. The menu aims to offer something for everyone with classics like Virginia peanut soup, oysters Rockefeller, pimento cheese, meatloaf, and clams served alongside contemporary dishes like grilled apple salad, chicken fried quail, spaghetti squash, sea scallops and more. Local beers and ciders are on tap.

Bite Into Richmond, VirginiaWPA Bakery
Co-owned by baker David Rohrer—winner of the 2014 Elby for Best Pastry Chef/Baker—and restaurateur Kendra Feather, this neighborhood bakery serves a range of sweet treats including pies, cakes, sticky buns, soft pretzels, muffins, and more. Traditional nibbles are sold by the slice or (in case of cakes and pies) whole and are available alongside vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Of course, a coffee/espresso bar ensures you can enjoy your treat with the perfect hot or cold sip.

@21plusTravel Tip: For more good eats, head on over to The Jefferson Hotel.

More Information…

Visit Richmond

Visit Virginia

– Photos © HSP Media LLC

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion. Thanks to Visit Richmond and Visit Virginia for hosting my visit. 

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. She became a freelance writer and editor because she believes that work and fun should not be mutually exclusive. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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