From a Basque-inspired escape in Jackson Ward to comfort food that feels like a warm embrace, the UMovers team proudly presents our collection of the 10 best restaurants in Richmond, Virginia for 2021!
We ate our way through the region, hand-picking new gems that have become a part of our regular dining rotation and revisiting timeless institutions that have remained favorites. Our list represents restaurants that are doing it right — from service and consistency to memorable meals that conjure memorable moments.
With a burgeoning class size, choosing just 10 was a feat. For the sake of narrowing the field, we did not consider counter-service restaurants, or spots that don’t offer dinner. Sit back and relish these standouts from a crowded, ever-growing and talented field. Come hungry.
101 W. Franklin St., 804-649-4629
THE CUISINE: Chef Patrick Willis’ upscale nod to Southern-inspired dining and Virginia ingredients is delivered inside the nearly 125-year-old Jefferson Hotel.
BEST FOR: An evening to remember — the grand dining room and white tablecloths scream elegance. The elevated yet approachable menu is topped only by the attentive service.
INSIDER TIP: Happy hour diners can indulge in three appetizers for $25 (except in December) such as oysters paired with champagne mignonette, fried deviled eggs and a cheese plate. Start the weekend with $5 Old Fashioned Fridays, and don’t be surprised to spot VCU students and local pols rubbing elbows.
KEY FACE: General Manager Chauncey Jenkins sets the bar for RVA hospitality.
2. Restaurant Adarra
618 N. First St., 804-477-3456
THE CUISINE: Loosely Spanish-inspired small plates. Think pintxos, stuffed squid, roasted olives and jamon Ibérico.
KEY FACE: Lyne Doetzer, sommelier and one-half of Adarra’s restaurant power couple along with chef Randall Doetzer, is usually working the floor. Ask her about her favorite bottles.
THE MOOD: Intimate and sophisticated, but convivial.
BEST FOR: A double date or a night out with a small group of friends so you can order plenty of dishes and split a bottle or two of wine.
IDEAL MEAL: Tuna conserva and roasted olives to start, followed by the seasonal fish stew. Pair it with one of the fun, low-intervention Old World or natural wines from Adarra’s frequently changing list.
2939 W. Clay St., 804-308-3497
BEST FOR: An evening when you can dedicate a few hours to a thoughtful adventure through the multi course tasting menu.
THE CUISINE: Strikingly beautiful dishes ebb and flow with the seasons, and everything is executed with flawless attention to detail. Expect to find mushrooms and tinges of Japanese influence.
KEY FACES: The gastronomic threesome of culinary prowess — owners Patrick Phelan, the tweezer tycoon; his wife and pastry empress Megan Fitzroy Phelan; and fermentation mastermind Andrew Manning
INSIDER TIP: Flock to the patio during warmer months — the bar bites remind you that Longoven can also be cool and casual.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE: How there’s nothing else like it in Richmond.
4. Acacia Mid-town
2601 W. Cary St., 804-562-0138
THE CUISINE: Serving dishes focused on the freshest ingredients for over 20 years, Acacia is an “eat local” pioneer.
KEY FACES: Dale and Aline Reitzer run the back and front of the house, respectively. Dale has nurtured and mentored some of Richmond’s finest culinary talent while continuing to turn out innovative dishes. Aline, founder of Richmond Restaurant Week, consistently delivers top-notch service.
BEST FOR: Seafood — soft-shell crabs, crab cakes, ceviche, rockfish and white anchovies with radicchio are favorites.
INSIDER TIP: Take advantage of the three-course prix fixe menu ($27 Monday to Thursday all night and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday), as well as half-price wine by the bottle on Tuesdays.
3103 W. Leigh St., 804-355-5555
THE CUISINE: An alloy of umami and the harvest, showcasing an alchemist’s dexterity with fish. Anchovy puree underscores miso-marinated halibut with crisp cucumber, and sweet onion consommé warms steelhead trout over roasted corn — but don’t expect these specific spellbinders. The kitchen conjures seasonality.
THE MOOD: Music flows from above Aloi’s entrance, ushering you inside the exotic bunker where undulating wood ripples through the ceiling and art hangs on dimly lit walls.
WHAT YOU'LL LIKE: Eating with your eyes — the plating is gorgeous.
INSIDER TIP: Cocktail hour on the secluded rear patio offers discounted tipples, fragrant bowls of mussels, a clutch of airy bone-marrow beignets.
6. Brenner Pass
3200 Rockbridge St. Suite 100, 804-658-9868
THE CUISINE: Alpine-inspired dishes, including rustic cheese fondue and house-made charcuterie, served in a space that feels more like a trendy big-city restaurant than little old RVA. James Beard Award-nominated chef/co-owner Brittanny Anderson has appeared on “Iron Chef America” and often hosts visiting chefs for special dinners at Brenner.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE: The elegant simplicity. Take the oeufs mayonnaise, literally a hard-boiled egg with house-made mayo — only two ingredients, yet it’s stunningly memorable.
INSIDER TIP: Order a glass (or a bottle) of the Le Morget. Blended exclusively for Brenner Pass, this Swiss white is one of a few wines exported from Switzerland.
23 W. Marshall St., 804-269-3689
THE CUISINE: Hearty, seasonal new American fare that pays homage to both Latin American and Southern foodways.
KEY FACES: Justin Ayotte, the restaurant’s beverage director and co-owner, and Sophia Kim, Richmond’s hometown hero who graced the national stage by winning the Woodford Reserve Manhattan Experience cocktail competition, are both often found behind the bar.
THE MOOD: Cozy and hip. You’ll find friends meeting for a happy hour drink, couples on dates and regulars chatting at the bar.
INSIDER TIP: Don't miss their Sunday fried chicken night, with some of the best fried chicken in the city at just $8.
8. Belmont Food Shop
27 N. Belmont Ave., 804-358-7467
THE AMBIANCE: A snug dining room with worn wood tables and a prominent eight-seater bar makes dining here an intimate, cozy experience.
IDEAL FOR: A date or a solo night at the bar, where you’ll be greeted warmly and tended to unobtrusively, however long you choose to linger.
INSIDER TIP: In an effort to be open on Monday so hospitality pros can have a nice repast on their day off, BFS is closed on Tuesday. We always forget, but you don’t have to.
BEST FOR: The classics. Tuck into a green salad, simple and right, or the roast chicken, a litmus test for chefs and one that owner Mike Yavorsky nails every time. Served with creamy spoonbread, it’s a menu staple that’s always there when you need it.
3120 E. Marshall St., 804-325-3426
THE CUISINE: Chef-owner Lee Gregory’s solo venture yields unexpected fruits from Mid-Atlantic seas: smelts, skate and the “trash fish” alewife, a Chesapeake Bay throwback.
THE MOOD: A busy port o’ call, minimally outfitted with a token tiki and a bulbous, nautical mirror. Most of the atmosphere comes from the historic building’s bones, which seem to emit the kitchen’s energy as if a secret portal to seafaring delicacies.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE: Brunch sails around the world. Try skate chops with red-eye gravy or a rolled omelet with rock shrimp and tobiko herb salad.
DRINK PICK: Pair oysters or ceviche with a stellar Rangpur G&T scented with orange blossoms, or steer toward one of the many low-tannin red wines.
821 W. Cary St., 804-678-9706
THE CUISINE: A beautiful mashup of Jewish and Italian food, from Reubens to broccoletti and provolone sausage with polenta and beans. Dishes tend to be simple, rustic and slightly more veg-forward than sister restaurants Edo’s Squid and Mamma ’Zu.
THE MOOD: Lively, casual and intimate, with futuristic decor.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE: Everything is made with such fresh ingredients that the restaurant doesn’t even have a walk-in refrigerator.
BEST FOR: When you’re craving something homey.
IDEAL MEAL: It’s hard to go wrong, but you can’t beat mussels marinara and a glass of wine at the bar. And when it’s on the menu, don’t sleep on a big plate of their impossibly creamy, tender cabbage (just trust us).