Travel

The Many (Fried & Friendly) Charms of Richmond, Virginia

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April 18, 2018

We've partnered with Silvercar, the app-based car rental service featuring premium Audis, to highlight awesome, food-centric weekend and week-long road trips from New York.

The joke among Richmond, Virginia residents is that once you’ve spent enough time here, you can never truly leave—no matter how long you live somewhere else, you’ll always feel called back to Richmond. In my case, that proved true. When I moved to New York City I swore I’d live there forever...but just as NYC was starting to lose its sheen for me, Richmond was really starting to really sparkle: new, exciting restaurants and breweries; community art projects; riverfront improvements.

And then the clincher: I fell in love with someone who lived there. I moved back in 2016, but not before spending more than a year regularly making the six-hour trip from NYC to Richmond for long distance dates. I got very, very good at that drive. And in the process I discovered that heading south down I-95 (which has an undeserved bad rap) can be a great trip—if you do it right.

Getting out of the city is easy with Silvercar's pickup locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Photo by Matthew Borowick

For New Yorkers especially, Richmond is an ideal destination: six hours from NYC but a world away in vibe; small enough to be approachable but large enough to have exciting food, music, and art. There’s a mind-boggling expanse of Southern history to explore, and for outdoorsy types, great hiking and bike trails nearby and a river where you can kayak and raft class III and IV rapids.

Shop the Story

It’s also friendly as all hell—you won’t find a group of people more excited to show off what their city has to offer. Just post up at a bar, mention you’re visiting, and folks will be clamoring to tell you about their favorite spot. If you never end up leaving—well, I warned you.


The Drive Down

You can fly, of course, but I’d vote for a road trip any day: it’s cheaper, you can leave on your own schedule, and there are better snacks. The six-ish hours it takes in the car can feel too long for a weekend trip, and there’s more than a weekend’s worth of stuff to explore, anyway. Give yourself a week.

On the way down, make a pit stop in Baltimore for the local delicacy: crabs. Farideh Sadeghin, culinary director of Vice Munchies and Maryland native, turned me on to LP Steamers: “It's super laid-back, as it should be if you're eating crabs, and nothing says Maryland like crabs and beer—along with the little cuts all over your fingers from prying those babies open,” she says. They’re open 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. most days. 1100 E Fort Ave., Baltimore, MD; 410-576-9294.

On the way back, plan to leave in time to make it to Fredericksburg’s Foode for chicken & waffles at brunch (served 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the weekends) or a fried chicken sandwich at lunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday). It’s some of the best fried chicken in the state—crisp, juicy, simple and perfectly seasoned. 900 Princess Anne St, Fredericksburg, VA; 540-479-1370.


WHERE TO STAY

The lobby at the Quirk Hotel. Photo by Courtesy Quirk Hotel

The Quirk Hotel

Richmond has a number of cute and well-appointed hotels downtown—The Jefferson for old Southern opulence, The Graduate for a younger, design-y vibe—but The Quirk really has the whole package. Housed in a renovated early-1900s department store, it’s got simple, well-designed rooms, an excellent in-house restaurant, a rooftop bar, an irresistible new-old vibe, local art throughout—and it’s in close proximity to just about everything. 201 W Broad St, Richmond; 804-340-6040.


Where to Eat & drink

The Jasper

This sleek bar in Carytown (a stretch of Cary Street filled with boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and a movie theater that dates back to 1928) is named after Jasper Crouch, a black freedman famous for his punch and one of Richmond’s most well-known bartenders. A bottle of Chartreuse is buried below the floor, which gives you an idea of how much they love cocktails. But there's an excellent wine list and a number of great beers on offer, in addition to snacks like pretzel bread, hen liver mousse, and a riff on banh mi. 3113 W Cary St, Richmond.

The Jasper is a great spot for cocktails. Photo by The Jasper

Saison

Another spot that takes its cocktails seriously, this neighborhood restaurant also serves a full menu of dishes that combine elements of Southern cooking with influences from all over the globe, like oxtail sopes, vegetable rundown, rockfish with oyster and celeriac purée, and a truly magnificent burger. 23 W Marshall St, Richmond; 804-269-3689.

Charm School Social Club

In nice weather, a walk down the block from Quirk to Charm School for ice cream is essential. Flavors like cherry crisp, cereal milk, and Thai iced tea are made in-house from grass-fed milk. The shop offers a modest selection of vegan flavors, too, made from a combination of cashew and coconut milks. 311 W Broad St., Richmond.

An agnoletti dish at Brenner Pass. Photo by Mel Calabro

Brenner Pass

Chef Brittany Anderson, a Richmond native who spent time in New York at Blue Hill Stone Barns and Northern Spy Food Co., has been one of the leading forces pushing creativity in the Richmond restaurant scene since 2014. Her newest, Alpine-influenced restaurant Brenner Pass is turning out some of the best food in the city right now. 3200 Rockbridge St. Suite 100, Richmond; 804-658-9868.

Mama J’s

Perhaps you’re thinking, “I didn’t come to the South to eat Alpine food.” Well, then get yourself to Mama J’s in Jackson Ward—a historic neighborhood that was central to African-American economic and cultural growth after the Civil War. Here you’ll find crisp fried chicken, supple, vinegar-soaked collard greens, and perfectly fried catfish. 415 N. 1st Street, Richmond; 804-225-7449

Perly's

The city’s favorite spot for breakfast and lunch is this charming modern Jewish deli and diner. Come here for latkes, smoked fish, matzo ball soup, and—the sleeper hit of the menu—all-beef hot dogs with an outrageous variety of toppings. It’s walkable from Quirk, a plus if you’re staying there. Go early to avoid the crowds. 111 E. Grace St., Richmond; 804-912-1560.

Poğaça pastries being prepared at Sub Rosa. Photo by Kate Thompson

Sub Rosa

Owners Evin and Evrim Dogu create baked goods inspired by their family’s Turkish heritage at this bakery in Church Hill, working with heirloom grains (some of which they mill themselves) and baking everything in the shop’s wood-fired oven. The result is some of the best pastry and bread in the country. Go early so you can choose from the fullest selection of pastries, like croissants, sour cherry and pistachio swirls, and poğaça, a delicate, crumbly pastry filled with cheese and herbs. 620 N 25th St, Richmond, VA 23223; 804-788-7672.

Mrs. Yoder’s Doughnuts

Richmond has its share of doughnut shops sporting Instagrammable creations in unusual flavors, but the best in town are also the plainest. Sold from a truck that sets up at the Saturday farmer’s market on the city’s south side, Mrs. Yoder’s doughnuts is run by a Mennonite family who treks from a neighboring county to sell their homemade sourdough doughnuts every week. Simple, glazed, and light as air, they’re worth the short drive over the river. (The market is worth exploring, too.) South of the James Farmers Market; New Kent Rd and West 42nd St., Richmond.


Where to Shop

The soda bar at Roaring Pines. Photo by Laura Sant

Roaring Pines

This upgraded general store in Church Hill sells a host of upscale American made home goods in a clean, modern space that also houses a soda and coffee bar. The Kyoto drip, Nitro cold brew, and homemade sodas are as much of a draw as the cheerfully displayed bags, tool boxes, luxe cleaning supplies, and other sundries. 2025 Venable St, Richmond; 804-269-5395.

Rosewood

Just down the street from Steady Sounds, this sunny, plant-bedecked store sells a carefully chosen selection of women’s vintage clothing with a few new items thrown in, mostly made by small independent designers. There’s also a small selection of jewelry, bags, shoes, and home goods. 16 W Broad St, Richmond; 434-806-3523.

Find everything from vintage to apothecary goods at Rosewood. Photo by Rosewood Clothing Co/Facebook

Need Supply Co.

An institution in Richmond, this Carytown boutique that started out selling vintage jeans has grown into a global e-commerce powerhouse men's and women's clothing as well as home goods. Expect big-name brands along smaller independent labels, including many local ones. 3100 West Cary Street, Richmond; 804-355-4383.

Steady Sounds

For music lovers, this record shop in the downtown arts district is the place to score new and used vinyl in just about every category, from gospel to punk to techno to soul. There’s also a small vintage clothing boutique, Blue Bones, set up inside—a great place to hunt for vintage band t-shirts. 322 W Broad St, Richmond; 804-308-2692.

Dear Neighbor

A loosely Danish modern vibe—muted colors, clean lines, blond wood—saturates this stylish shop in Church Hill, which offers a well-curated array of home goods, jewelry (including items by Drift Riot, the owner’s own line), bags hats, stationery, and apothecary items. 2415 Jefferson Ave, Richmond, VA 23223; 804-819-1729.

Gather Home & Garden

This tiny little jewel of a plant shop tucked in Church Hill features gardening supplies, a jungle of potted plants, and other gardening-related gifts. Owner Melissa Roberts is adept at choosing the perfect plant to match your personality—or, if you’re looking for something more transportable, suggesting one of their locally made containers, baskets, workwear or apothecary items to take home. 2704 E Marshall St, Richmond.


Things to do

The VMFA. Photo by VMFA

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts + Institute for Contemporary Art

Richmond has an active community of art supporters, and the museums here reflect that. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has an always-free collection that spans millennia, including one of the country’s most comprehensive collections of African art, plus special exhibitions like retrospectives of Yves St. Laurent and Kehinde Wiley. And in mid-April, the city will get a museum dedicated entirely to contemporary art with VCU’s Institute of Contemporary Art, set to open on the 20th. Its inaugural exhibition is titled “Declaration,” and will feature pieces by both new and established artists from Richmond and beyond that examine the power art and artists have to influence social attitudes. VMFA: 200 N Boulevard, Richmond; 804-340-1400. ICA: 601 West Broad Street, Richmond; 804-828-2823.

Maggie Walker House + Jackson Ward

Maggie Walker was a force within the African-American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, advocating for the financial advancement and civil rights of African Americans, cofounding the Richmond Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and becoming the first female bank president in the U.S. Her former home in Jackson Ward, a neighborhood known as both the “Harlem of the South” and “Black Wall Street” during its height, is now a United States National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Site. Stop in for a tour to learn more about her and the historic importance of the neighborhood. 110 1/2 E. Leigh Street; 804-771-2017.

Richmond's Brewery Scene

The city has had an explosion of breweries and cideries in the past six years, many of them concentrated in the industrial Scott’s Addition district, meaning it’s easy to spend an afternoon wandering from tasting room to tasting room. If you like hazy New England IPAs, you’ll be in heaven here, but rest assured there are plenty of options for other tastes, too. Best bets: Ardent; Blue Bee Cider; Triple Crossing; and The Veil, whose brewmaster worked at both Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist and interned at Belgium’s Cantillon Brewery. Fans of their beer queue up for can releases in lines that stretch around the block.


Must-See Outside of Town

Photo by Merroir

Merroir

Make use of that Silvercar while you’re in town and indulge in some oysters: Virginia is often called the Oyster Capital of the East Coast, and has eight officially recognized oyster regions. Taste a few from the Middle Bay Western Shore region at Merroir, an oyster “tasting room” set on the water about an hour east of Richmond, where the Rappahannock River empties into the Chesapeake Bay. Everything on the menu here is either served raw or cooked on an outdoor grill, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating to watch the sun set, beer in hand. 784 Locklies Creek Rd, Topping, VA 23169; 804-204-1709.


Do you have any favorite road trips from New York? Let us know about them in the comments!

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5 Comments

Sipa July 19, 2018
I live in metro DC and go down to Richmond frequently. The art museum is lovely and Brenner Pass wonderful. On the other hand 95 South deserves it terrible reputation.
 
Rob S. April 19, 2018
As a native Virginian, Richmonder and history buff, I have always enjoyed showing of Richmond to outsiders. Richmond has more interesting history in its little finger than most cities have in their whole bodies. It is a great place.
 
Rob S. April 19, 2018
off not of
 
DanaERT April 18, 2018
This is a completely hilarious typo re: 95-South: "underserved bad rap" HA. :)<br />RVA is a great city! I'm a Connecticut native but have now lived here since coming down for college (Go Spiders!) in the mid/late 90s. Very cool to see it getting the attention it deserves.
 
Tyler April 18, 2018
This article brings me so much joy! I'm a Richmonder, born and bred, and my love for it is deep and abiding. I'm currently away at school, and I miss Richmond every single day. There is nothing better than seeing it get the attention it deserves. Thank you!