Whether you visit Virginia’s capital city on a road trip from Arlington to Virginia Beach, as a Civil War history lesson, or as your sole destination, exploring this town bisected by the wide James River and full of history is sure to build an appetite. From breakfast to brunch, from dinner to drinks, these are the best restaurants in Richmond, Virginia.
1. Millie’s Diner
If you enjoy starting your day with a filling breakfast, then head to Millie’s Diner, where the signature “messes” are sure to keep you satisfied until lunchtime (and maybe longer)! What’s a breakfast mess? It’s typically a melange of eggs, bacon or sausage, and potatoes topped with melted cheese. But Millie’s goes beyond basic breakfast meat using spicy Italian and andouille sausage — and even crawfish — in their messes. Even the veggie mess goes beyond the typical onions, peppers, and tomatoes by stirring in eggplant and carrots before adding an avocado garnish.
Pro Tip: If you are spending a long leisurely weekend in Richmond, then sip a mimosa (or two) while you linger over what’s perennially named the best brunch in town.
2. Nate’s Bagels
If you want a quick bite so you can get busy seeing the sights of Richmond, Nate’s Bagels is a delicious option for breakfast or lunch. Start your day by fueling up with a cup of joe and a bagel schmeared with cream cheese or filled with breakfast ingredients like egg, bacon, and cheese. If you visit for lunch, a variety of tasty sandwiches await. Classic bagel sandwiches include deli meat and cheese, egg salad, and lox. Or you go one step further and order something a bit more exotic like a reuben or banh mi. For vegans, Nate’s has converted their signature Ol’ Virginny — a sausage patty, fried egg, tomato jam, caramelized onions, and cream cheese — into the New Virginny that uses vegan sausage.
3. Can Can Brasserie
Travel to France without a passport by dining under French flags hanging from the ceiling in this Richmond restaurant. If you visit the Can Can Brasserie for lunch, try the quiche du jour with a green salad, a croque monsieur topped in mornay sauce, or a bowl of bouillabaisse packed with fresh fish and seafood. Start your evening meal with an order of escargot served in an herbed butter sauce with a silver basket of crusty French bread. For your main dish, try a steaming bowl of moules frites, fresh mussels steamed in white wine or sherry and served with a cone of crispy fries, or the boeuf bourguignon that tops potato puree with root vegetables, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, and braised beef. Be sure to save room for dessert so you can enjoy a trio of macarons, creme brulee served with a side of caramel ice cream, or a Napoleon (known as mille-feuille in France and on the menu at Can Can).
4. Carytown Burger And Fries
If you’re craving a juicy burger and crispy fries, check out Carytown Burger and Fries with two locations in Richmond, Virginia. While you can absolutely order a basic burger (or cheeseburger), their specialty burgers are truly unique. Try the Barnyard Brawl that adds bacon, a fried egg, a chicken tender, and two slices of white American cheese to a third-pound hamburger patty. If it’s creamy that you crave, try the portobello brie burger that tops a hamburger patty with grilled mushrooms and melted brie. Or spice things up with The Kicker, a burger topped with housemade pimento cheese, bacon, coleslaw, and spicy Sriracha ketchup. And Carytown goes beyond standard-issue fries with sides like sweet potato fries, tater tots, and poutine.
Pro Tip: Vegetarians and vegans don’t need to “steer” clear of this burger joint. Carytown Burger and Fries has plenty of meat-free substitutions including black bean, soy-based, and vegan patties.
If your Richmond sightseeing adventures include a visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, plan to enjoy lunch, brunch, happy hour, or dinner at Amuse. Enjoy appetizers, soups, sandwiches, salads, entrees, and more in a beautiful setting with art and artifacts from every corner of the world. For lunch, I recommend the lamb shawarma that layers thinly sliced shawarma meat on fresh pita topping it with tzatziki sauce and serving it with a side of cucumber tomato salad. Or take advantage of your proximity to the coast and enjoy the lump crab cakes, a bowl of mussels, or curry fried oysters. If you’re visiting Amuse for dinner, consider the pan-seared scallops or curry braised chicken breast with apricots, olives, and couscous.
Pro Tip: Open 365 days a year, admission to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is always free. And on special days, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, Amuse offers a special holiday menu.
6. The Roosevelt
Less than a mile from the James River, you’ll find The Roosevelt at the corner of 25th and M Streets in Richmond’s oldest neighborhood. Step inside the brick-colored turn-of-the-last-century building for some of the best Southern-inspired dishes in RVA. Start your experience by sipping a craft cocktail and nibbling on cornbread spread with whipped maple butter, crispy pork rinds dipped in pimento cheese, or buttermilk fried oysters. Then select a main dish starring everything from seared sea scallops to buttermilk fried chicken sandwich to pork paired with pimento cheese grits.
Pro Tip: I’m not sure if I’d call it a sibling or a cousin, but The Roosevelt is related to several other fantastic restaurants in Richmond, Virginia, including Laura Lee’s and Garnett’s Cafe.
7. Metzger Bar And Butchery
For a filling dinner inspired by Richmond’s butchers, tanners, and German immigrant population, head to Metzger Bar and Butchery in the city’s Union Hill neighborhood. Enjoy classic German dishes like tender chicken schnitzel, a thick pork chop with sauerkraut, and creamy spaetzle. And because no German dish should be served without a pint (or more) of beer, look for several draft options that pair perfectly with pork, potato, and cabbage dishes.
Pro Tip: Fill your belly while burning off a few calories by taking a walking food tour.
8. Proper Pie Co.
With bragging rights to a 2020 Traveler’s Choice award from Tripadvisor, Proper Pie Co. is a delicious destination for a main meal and a sweet treat wrapped in flaky crust. Step through their pie hole (the front door) for sausage rolls and savory pies filled with everything from steak and cheese to jackfruit BBQ that will make my English son-in-law feel like he’s back home. Then polish off your meal with a sweet slice that ranges in a variety of fruity, nutty, chocolatey, and creamy flavors. I recommend the sour cream and blueberry or the mango coconut custard.
Pro Tip: Get additional insight on where to eat, stay, and play in Richmond, VA.
9. Carytown Cupcakes
Another great way to satisfy your sweet tooth in Richmond is to visit Carytown Cupcakes. Of course, you can count on basics like chocolate, vanilla, carrot cake, and red velvet, but I love the excitement of extraordinary cupcakes like Oreo peanut butter, banana pudding, churro, and grasshopper. And if you’re visiting Richmond with a food allergy or a dietary restriction, you’ll be delighted to see several gluten-free and vegan cupcakes on the menu. Even better, Carytown Cupcakes doesn’t just make the basic flavors gluten-free. Instead, enjoy flavors like salted caramel, rocky road, and fudge round without gluten.
Pro Tip: As long as you can commit to a full dozen, Carytown Cupcakes will make any off-menu flavor you like (including anything you have in mind that’s not listed on their website) with at least 48 hours notice.
10. Pearl’s Bake Shoppe
Another sweet spot for cupcakes in Richmond is Pearl’s Bake Shoppe. In addition to all the standard flavors you’d expect — like vanilla cake with vanilla frosting (also known as Plain Jane) and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (also known as Double Trouble) — you’ll find a delightful dozen (or more) specialty flavors including vegan, gluten-free, and gluten-free vegan. Although the selection changes regularly, look for unique specialty and seasonal flavors like chocolate-covered strawberry, beignet, tiramisu, bourbon pecan, and Virginia’s President.
Pro Tip: While it’s not a restaurant, chances are, if you like good food, you like good whiskey. If that’s the case, then check out Reservoir, a distillery in Scott’s Addition. This historic district, nestled into the hairpin curve of I-195 and I-95, is filled with breweries, taprooms, and distilleries in renovated warehouses.
From a filling breakfast to start your day to a treat before bedtime, these fantastic restaurants in Richmond are sure to satisfy your taste buds.