By Shana Meganck
Native of Richmond, VA
As my friends can attest, I love the task of finding the perfect restaurant for just about any day or night out. But before I can just start listing Richmond’s best restaurants, I have to ask questions.
- Why are you going out?
- What type of food do you like?
- What type of atmosphere do you want?
- What do you like to drink?
- How many people?
The list goes on and on, because the truth is that it’s nearly impossible to determine the “best” restaurant without first determining what kind of experience the person has in mind.
So, when asked to write a post about the best restaurants in Richmond, I started to think of a way to categorize them: best restaurants on a budget, best restaurants for a celebration, best date spots … but it was way too hard.
Instead, I decided to narrow the list to the top five restaurants you could find me in on any given night of the week. They may not be the snazziest restaurants or the most unique, but they are my favorite restaurants in town because they have a great atmosphere and great menus. And for the most part, they are reasonably priced, which is always a nice perk.
Stella’s 1012 Lafayette St., 804.358.2011
If it’s my birthday, I call Stella’s. If I just got a promotion, I call Stella’s. If I have company in town, I call Stella’s. This is definitely my go-to celebratory spot in town. I remember going to the “old” Stella’s as a kid and Stella handing me cookies through her kitchen window. While the free cookies were the highlight 25 years ago, that is the last thing on my mind when I sit down at Stella’s today.
I dream of the hummus, grape leaves (the best I’ve ever had, seriously), shrimp ouzo, spanakopita, salmon over wilted spinach, artichoke moussaka, and the salted caramel gelato. And I’m never disappointed when I walk out the door. If that isn’t enough to get you in the door, then I can assure you that the service is incredible and the atmosphere is perfect for a big night out—or a small one. The only thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to make a reservation well in advance because this place is not exactly a hidden gem in Richmond.
Bacchus on Main 2 N. Meadow St. at Main, 803.355.9919
If I’m not celebrating at Stella’s, then I’m definitely at Bacchus. The pasta dishes are huge bowls of garlicky heaven (and so cheap!), the bread is the best in town, the shrimp and scallop scampi and grilled calamari make me want to stop typing and drive over there right now. Oh, and the peanut butter pie is a must-try. It’s not too hard to get a table, but the bar is also a perfect spot to split a bottle of wine and appetizers. The only drawback I can come up with is that you will have to shower and soak your clothes in scented detergent when you leave because you will exude garlic for days.
The Continental 5704 Grove Ave., 804.285.0911
When I still want a bar atmosphere, but I don’t want to be pushed and shoved by drunk college kids, then The Continental is my first choice. The atmosphere is bright and lively. The bartenders are incredibly friendly. The cocktail menu is fun and different (check out my favorite, the Mile High Club). There is outdoor seating, which is always a great option on a nice day. And, the food menu offers great bar favorites done right, like the wings and burgers, as well as great salads, amazing beef brisket, and my hands-down favorite option, the sweet and savory vegetarian pancake. It may sound like an odd combination, but order it and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Black Sheep 901 W Marshall St., 804.648.1300
If you are a sandwich person, which I definitely am, then Black Sheep is the place to go. Their diverse sub (excuse me, “battleship”) menu will blow your mind. I haven’t tried one that isn’t amazing nor have I ever heard a complaint. If you’re a first-time visitor, then, no question, order one of their battleships or one of their other famous sandwiches, like the Ms. P. If you’ve been there a time or two and are ready to try something new, then turn your attention to their brunch options, which never disappoint. And be sure to order the banana pudding for dessert! If you’re anything like me, you’ll be trying to recreate it for every family holiday event.
Joe’s Inn (The Fan) 205 N. Shields Ave., 804.355.2282
When you can’t decide where to go, the answer is always Joe’s. While one appealing factor is that it’s right in my neighborhood, it also has one of the best happy hours in town, spaghetti that is always delicious, breakfast all day long, cheap mimosas on the weekends, an incredible beer menu, and you’ll are sure to run into at least a few people you know. This is definitely the “Cheers” of The Fan.
What’s beyond these five spots?
A number of newer restaurants in town are really helping to put Richmond on the food-and-beverage map:
- Saison. Order the cocktails … all of them. Then check out their eclectic dinner menu. And get at least one, two, or three desserts.
- Heritage. While I’ve only eaten at Heritage once, I tried all six things at my table and I would order them all again. It’s been on the top of my list to revisit ever since.
- Rappahannock. The atmosphere is great, the food is fresh, and there is Prosecco on tap. Enough said, right?
These are just my favorite places in town and not necessarily the best spot for your next anniversary dinner. If you’d like me to put my matchmaking skills to work for you, shoot an email over to me through Hope Katz Gibbs at email@example.com.
Shana Meganck was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, which has given her plenty of time to jump around from restaurant to restaurant in town in hopes of finding the best spots to dine for every occasion. Her love of Richmond, having a good time, and enjoying great food and drinks combine to create her expertise on the topic of where to eat in Richmond.
Meganck’s background is in advertising and public relations. She recently earned her PhD in Media, Art, and Text from Virginia Commonwealth University and is currently the director of Account Management at Initiate-It, an advertising communications agency.