Over the Independence Day long weekend, we journeyed down to Richmond, Virginia. I am embarrassed to say that I have been a Virginian for over six years & yet this is the first time I have been to the state’s capital. But I have a good excuse! The drive that is supposed to take two hours south on I-95 is notorious for horrible traffic jams & multiple hour long delays. This has been enough to keep me away. However, come the first weekend in July, with an alternate driving route in our back pocket (which worked like a charm), we found ourselves in the southern capital.One of the joys of visiting a new city is finding local places to dine. You’ll remember from previous posts my strict no-chain-restaurants-while-traveling rule, so I was excited to discover Richmond’s eclectic dining scene. We weren’t disappointed – one place even earned its very own blog post coming up next week. So today I present to you Strawberry Street Cafe, Havana 59, & Bacchus.
A strawberry red awning greets visitors to this cafe, located on a quiet side street (that would be Strawberry Street) in the Fan neighborhood of Richmond. We were there right when they opened their doors at 10am on Saturday morning to fuel up for our day of tourist-ing with their famous bathtub brunch bar. Energized by frequently topped off hot coffee, we made multiple trips up to the breakfast buffet, part of which is indeed served in a bathtub, noshing on everything from fresh fruit & yogurt, to bacon & turkey sausage, to perfectly roasted rosemary potatoes, to a full salad bar. A relative bargain at $10.95 a person, this brunch was really two meals in one & we ended up skipping lunch later in the day. As we walked away, tummies full, wallet happy, I commented to my husband that, if we ever lived in Richmond, my waistline would be in trouble because it seemed like the kind of place I would frequent every weekend.
Strawberry Street Cafe
421 North Strawberry Street
When we asked the bellman at our hotel, a 20-something VCU student who we had struck up a conversation with when we first arrived, where he thought we should go for dinner, he suggested Buffalo Wild Wings. While I love BW3 for a football game & Miller Lite, I wasn’t too keen on it being my first dinner experience in Richmond. Luckily, a wise local directed us to Havana 59. Tucked away on a side street, across from the farmer’s market in the Shockoe neighborhood, Havana 59 has the look & feel of what an American would imagine Cuba looks like (you know, since we can’t go there). We noshed on sweet plantains, enough seafood paella to serve Castro’s army & red beans & rice that belonged in Miami’s Little Havana. Reservations are a must, although if you walk up like we did, you might be lucky enough to get a table in the open air bar upstairs. Also, if you’re a cigar smoker, their selection of cigars is quite extensive.
16 North 17th Street
We ended up at this funky neighborhood spot, again in the Fan neighborhood, on the recommendation of someone who had eaten there about five years ago. Our table was the only one situated with a view out the large window located by the bar, so I would guess that our experience was very different than that of those sitting in a dark back corner. We enjoyed the calamari, which is sauteed, not fried – practically impossible to find on restaurant menus. Our salad course was filled with crisp spinach & endives, with apples, gorgonzola & pine nuts – a meal in themselves. Entrees are served a la carte, with sides on the side, but by the time I finished my eight (!) scallops, I wasn’t too interested in any sides. Make sure you leave room for the chocolate peanut butter pie – it’s excellent. Also make sure you make reservations if you’re headed there on a Friday or Saturday night, the place was definitely packed when we sat down at 7:30pm.
Bacchus on Main
2 N. Meadow Street
*I know what you’re thinking: ‘what happened to lunch?’ While, in typical traveling fashion, stuffed from brunch, we muscled our way right through lunch!
PS I’m not perk’d or paid to write any of this – I can assure you that these places have no idea that I exist.