- Nia Alexander
Nia’s Favorite Foods: RVA
A list of my favorite places to dine and things to eat in Richmond, Virignia
This post Part I of a mini collection all about things to do in Richmond.
Fried Oreos and loaded butterfly chips
I mentioned in my last post that the definition of Richmond is open ended, so I’d like to believe that some of the things I am about to share may not be on many “Best Things To Do in Richmond” lists simply because every website seems to define Richmond a bit differently. Well, I am a world travelling Richmond local here to tell you that everything I am about to name is in “Richmond” or within 30 minutes of any given definition of “Richmond.”
This post may not be the wordiest, but it may get kind of long because there are a lot of things to do in (or around) Richmond. So, just chillax while you scroll through the photos, read my little blurbs, and if you really want to know more about something you see know that every place on this list has some manner of website and/or social media account, so you will easily be able to find it with a quick internet search.
This first post in my mini collection about things to do in Richmond is all about food. In case you didn’t know, I am a pescatarian with a predominantly vegetarian diet. I am also lactose intolerant, but through a very particular balance of remembering products’ dairy content, being careful with my quantity, and use of the occasional Lactaid supplement, I am able to eat dairy products comfortably whenever the craving strikes. To top it all off I’ve got a handful of oral food allergies and a thing about food textures, and when all of these things combine, it makes for a semi-unique eating experience. I say semi-unique because Richmond honestly gives me a lot of cuisine options, so when I go out to eat with others there’s usually more for me to eat than just fries. That is one of my favorite things about the U.S. overall: We have a lot of food options for vegetarians, vegans, allergy sufferers, and even the meat eaters.
This list is in no particular order! I hop between different parts of town and different types of food. Have fun exploring as I did.
Ruby Scoops – Ice cream! I only recently found out about this place after moving abroad, but the things they post on social media look delicious, fresh, and made with a whole lot of love.
Soul Taco – Serving some of the most delicious tacos I have ever had.
The mural outside 821 Café and a photo of the bar
821 Café – One of my favorites places! They have really good vegetarian options. I had some kind of vegan tuna salad and it was incredible. They also have good breakfast and it’s a really nice environment to eat in or order takeout from. Also affordable, so always a plus.
Food trucks – Richmond has a lot of food trucks. At one point in time there were weekly, monthly, or yearly food truck events where a bunch of food trucks would park in the same field or on the same street. Some trucks that come to mind are ones that serve banh mi, Greek food, grilled cheese, and Filipino food (see Auntie Ning’s), and a mysterious silver crab cake truck that served some of the best crab cakes I have ever had.
Thai Top Ten – Really good and affordable Thai food, one of my favorite places.
Sandston Bistro & Shakes – It is one of the few places around that still sells malt shakes. It also sells regular milkshakes and gyros.
Sandston Smokehouse and some of its food!
Sandston Smokehouse – A barbeque restaurant with really good sides. I am sure other vegetarians out there can relate to going to a restaurant with your friends or family and seeing that the only meat-free options for you are side dishes. Often those side dishes are lukewarm at best, but this place serves sides that are genuinely really good. My top picks are their fried cauliflower, jalapeño mac & cheese and cornbread (and you should know that I don’t often give out cornbread compliments).
Standing in front of Country Style Donuts with a half dozen!
The donut racks and my favorite flavor: Maple
Country Style Donuts – My favorite donut place. Affordable, very fresh, open 24/hrs, and has been consistently good for my entire life. I like their donuts because they aren’t overwhelmingly sweet (like Krispie Kreme) and they stay fresh for a couple days once you take them home (unlike Krispie Kreme, which starts to “sweat” by day #2). As you might can gather from that last sentence, getting donuts from this place will make you rethink big donut chains.
Sushi King – When someone told me this was a "sushi buffet," I was immediately grossed out. However, instead of piles of raw fish rolls slowly warming beneath a smeared sneeze guard, Sushi King prepares everything to-order. You essentially pay one flat rate and order as much or as little sushi as you want! There are plenty of cooked sushi options and non-sushi options too. My personal favorite is the Volcano Roll.
Sugar Shack Donuts – While on the topic of donuts, I’ve got to mention Sugar Shack. I appreciate Sugar Shack because of the variety of flavors they have, flavors that can get a little zany sometimes.
Tay Ho – One of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants, especially to sit down in. Of course that’s not really an option now, but their takeout is good too! I especially like their tofu vermicelli bowl.
Taro bubble tea
Kung Fu Tea – There are a few bubble tea places around Richmond, but Kung Fu tea gives lots of dairy free options. It can get a little pricey, akin to Starbucks, but I didn’t mind it that much because it was an uncommon treat that I could actually digest.
Natalie's Taste of Lebanon – Lebanese restaurant that is really good. It’s a good place for individuals and large groups. They also had some sort of orange blossom tea that might just be the best tea I have ever had.
Miso tofu bowl
Roots Natural Kitchen – They serve a variety of mix & match bowls (stuff like kale, tofu, rice, chicken, beans, vegetables, a variety of sauces, etc.). The food was really of quality and I suppose its location holds a special place in my heart. It is located in the middle of VCU’s campus and the corner where it is located was abandoned, in shambles, and quite possibly a junkie hangout. Then one day renovations started happening and, boom, a new restaurant appeared, one that had multiple food options for me to eat. I have eaten at that restaurant twice, both times with two of my best friends, and that really means something to me.
Bottoms Up – Gourmet pizza restaurant in Shockoe Bottom, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Richmond. Sounds boujie, and maybe it kind of is, but a pizza place is a pizza place. It’s a casual place to eat at and good for delivery too.
Red Eye Cookie Co. and their red eye cookie
Red Eye Cookie Co. – My favorite cookie place. Getting their cookies during uni was a little bit like comfort food and the staff was always so sweet (word play not intended, but I’ll accept it enthusiastically). Their namesake cookie—the red eye—is made with a little bit of coffee, and much to this non-coffee-drinker’s surprise, I still found it delicious. Truth is, though, I’ve never had a disappointing cookie from them and they are always the perfect texture.
Insomnia Cookies and their cookiewich
Insomnia Cookies – Funnily enough, this was my partner’s favorite cookie place. They made an ice cream cookiewich that he still talks about to this day. They have quite the ice cream selection and, as you may have inferred from the title, they are open very late into the night.
My Wawa hoagie
Wawa – Wawa is a chain of gas stations with a really developed convenience stores. They’ve got coffee, donuts, and a variety of mixed seasonal beverages (like smoothies and frap-type-things). What I love most are their sandwiches and hot chocolate, and perhaps how good their deals are. Wawa is one of the places I miss most living abroad.
Perhaps not the most exciting photos of the environment, but it was my first time at the bar and I wanted to document it.
The Tobacco Company Restaurant – A restaurant that feels both classy and casual, very—I dunno how to put it—“class friendly”? It’s also somewhat family friendly depending on the time of day, where you sit, and how old your family is, but in the evenings, it is very adult-oriented. It’s a teeny bit pricey, but not outrageous and it really depends on what you order. I had some very memorable crab cakes there one evening and last year sat at the bar for the first time. I ordered the one alcoholic beverage I can actually finish a bottle of: Bold Rock Hard Cider. Tobacco Company really feels like a Richmond classic. I remember hearing about it growing up, my grandmother mentioning it whenever she had some nice event to go to, like a jazz band or a birthday party for one of her grown friends. That’s why when it caught fire a few summers ago—a summer that had an odd amount of fires, as I recall—it really felt like a part of the city had been bruised because, well, I guess it was. It’s been repaired now for at least a year and I was very happy to have taken my partner there.
King of Pops' menu during the Carytown Watermelon Festival
King of Pops – A brand that sells ice pops! They have a brick & mortar store—called the King of Pops Patio—but you can also find their little carts scattered around the city. Their pops are really out of this world with some unique flavors and high quality ingredients, many of them locally sourced and seasonal.
Buz and Ned’s – This is a barbeque place where, if I ever decided to eat meat again, their food would probably be the first thing I’d crave. I distinctly remember how good their pulled chicken sandwich was years ago, but more recently I can attest to their catfish nuggets being pretty good too.
A sign for food at the Carytown Watermelon Festival
Fresh American junk food!
Southern fried stuff – Instead of a restaurant, I present you more with a category, a place to list the things that give people abroad puzzled looks when I explain, “I have eaten this many times, yes it’s a real food.” I am referring to delicacies such as funnel cake, loaded butterfly chips, deep fried candy bars, deep fried butter (sounds gross, really isn’t), and my all-time favorite, deep fried Oreos. These things are undeniably unhealthy, and I only partake in them once or twice a year, but boy is it always worth it.
Conclusion (Part I)
Richmond Black Restaurant Experience mini pamphlet. It’s a bit old, but it’s a start if you’re looking to support black owned businesses.
And so concludes Part I of this collection! Twenty restaurants and one category of all the places I like to visit and things I like to eat in Richmond. I also want you to know that I’ve got a list of places to not visit in Richmond, like that place with the bubblegum-textured lentil burger, or that vegetarian restaurant with overpriced tea that tasted like hot water, or that place that kicked out me and my friend mid-meal because of her service dog. However, I chose not to write about that because we are here to celebrate: Good vibes only! However, I also don’t want anyone walking into an avoidable meal mishap, so if you really want to know what’s on my no-eat list, just send me a DM.
The next post in this mini collection will be about activities to do in Richmond, either indoor or outdoor. ‘Til then, I’d say this post wrapped up quite nicely.