Richmond has a diverse population, and the choice of food is just as varied. Of course, there’s the southern influence, but the city isn’t far from a major east coast destination like D.C. Regional favorites range from briny, buttery seafood you can only get in the VA waters to the state-grown wines. In particular, the city of Richmond has become the destination to sample stand out craft beers. The food scene has attracted James Beard-nominated and winning chefs, but the atmosphere remains relaxed and inviting, so you’ll have no problem finding these must-try foods and at a reasonable price.
Richmonders love their pimento cheese, and you’ll likely find it on quite a few menus around town. The cheese, mayonnaise, and of course, pimento, spread may not look the most appetizing, but it’s quite tasty and really pairs well with bread or buttery Ritz crackers. Grab a container to go from Soul N’ Vinegar so you can enjoy this treat at home or try the cheesy, melty goodness over salty fries at the Secret Sandwich Society.
Virginians take their oysters pretty seriously. The state has even been called the oyster capital of the East Coast. The flavors range from salty to mild to buttery, and they’re served up raw, fried, grilled, and in pretty much any other preparation style. It’s estimated more than 40 million oysters have been sold each year since 2016. Bookbinder’s is in an absolutely stunning location near the James River, and the raw bar, especially the oysters on the half shell, is a must-try—or opt for the decadent oysters Rockefeller. And for those staying in an Airbnb that has a kitchen or wanting to take a bit of Virginia home, ordering fresh oysters straight from Amory’s Seafood dock, which offers deliveries to Richmond, is a tasty treat you can slurp down.
Richmond is known for its craft beer scene that has absolutely expanded over the decade and puts smaller cities to shame. The city’s Virginia Commonwealth University even offers a craft beer certificate program. There are literally dozens of breweries, and many are concentrated in the formerly industrial Scott’s Addition neighborhood. Vasen and Veil are the most popular, and Isley Brewing’s peanut butter porter was voted the best beer in Richmond. Even if you can’t make it to a brewery, many restaurants have local faves on tap.
Continuing with the seafood theme, you’ve gotta try the crabs, especially the blue crabs. The fresh Chesapeake blue crab has a mild but slightly sweet taste that makes it a standout crustacean. The season typically runs from spring to late fall, so there’s a chance you can get your hands on them while visiting Richmond. These are best served up steamed so that you can enjoy the true flavor. You’ll also find many other RVA restaurants offering the crab incorporated into soup, boil bags, or fried like the Conch Republic on the waterfront, popular takeout spot Sugar’s Crab Shack, or Tipsy Crab, for their crab topped fries or the boil bags.
No, this isn’t your New York or Chicago deep-dish, but Richmond’s dining scene continues to explode and sees recent crops of pizza joints slinging pies and slices with your usual but also some pretty interesting toppings. In the heart of Scott’s Addition, People's Pie offers round and rectangular Detroit-style pizzas with toppings that focus on seasonal ingredients, like braised fennel and roasted pumpkin. And even though Zorch Pizza doesn’t have a physical location yet, this food truck's slices or pre-ordered pies can be ordered with a side or even an entire bottle of Richmond fave, AR’s Hot Southern Honey. It’s not mouth-burning spicy but adds a nice kick to the cheesy goodness.
Though the brewery scene is specific to Richmond, it’s impossible to overlook the role Virginia wine plays. The state is home to more than 300 wineries, and Richmond is even host to the Virginia Wine Expo, which takes place over six days in March. Sipping a great glass of vino is easy to do in this city. C’Est le Vin is the perfect chic but intimidation-free setting to sample wines by the glass or purchase a full bottle while people-watching at the 17th Street Market. And the extensive wine list a Buckhead’s, which has more than 700 labels, will light up any wine lover’s eyes.
Northern Neck Ginger Ale
This is one item that might be tough to find, but when you do, grab it. Immediately. Northern Neck Ginger Ale has been produced in Virginia since 1926 and Coca-Cola announced they’d be discontinuing production at the end of 2020 due to an aluminum shortage. But this hasn’t stopped petitions from popping up online and the Governor of Virginia even reaching out to the company to reverse their decision. While there are other ginger ale brands to choose from, Northern Neck is known for its distinctive, strong ginger flavor. If you spot this at a local store in Richmond, grab one or a few cases.
Yes, apples. Virginia has quite a variety of apples, including red and golden delicious, Fuji, gala, and Granny Smith. It’s actually the sixth-largest apple producing state. And since 2012, Virginia Cider Week has been celebrated annually. The delicious apples make their way to local RVA restaurants and into amazing ingredients. 8 1/2 Church Hill’s fried green tomato hero incorporates sweet, tart Granny Smith apples into its slaw. And there’s Blue Bee Cider, the state’s first urban cidery, that produces beverages from Virginia apples. For warm days, the apple cider bourbon slushie at Note Bene can’t be beaten.