Southern Comfort: Richmond's Hip Revival

by  Emily Saladino | May 8, 2013
Richmond, VA
Richmond, VA / Sean Pavone / iStock

With its cobblestone streets, elegant riverside parks and Thomas Jefferson-approved architecture, Virginia's storied capital can seem beautiful but stuffy, like a Dixieland Degas.

But a new generation of Richmond residents is giving their historic city new life. From a pristine performing arts center in an emerging downtown district, to an incredibly exciting restaurant scene, and a recent $100 million investment in capital architecture, the energy is palpable. Here's where to get a piece of the action.

Nashville and Charleston might get all the ink, but Richmond is quickly becoming one of the South's best cities for foodie travelers. Think modern takes on southern classics at native Virginian Jason Alley's unstoppable Comfort and Pasture restaurants, Mediterranean small plates made with local produce at Secco wine bar, and inventive veggie fare at The Roosevelt. Explore a little and journey to Richmond's Glen Allen suburb to try steamy Szechuan cuisine by Peter Chang, the Chinese chef with a national following.


Take in a show at the newly renovated Richmond Centerstage, a performing arts center on the city's budding Grace Street. The complex hosts local acts like the Virginia Opera, as well as touring performers like Lyle Lovett and Bill Maher.

Or go back in time at the Byrd Theatre, a landmark theatre in trendy Carytown. The opulent, 1,300-seat cinema dates back to 1928, and screens both new releases and local independent films for a mere $1.99 per person!

Few people know more about historic and modern-day Richmond than Maureen Egan of Real Richmond Food Tours, who takes small groups of the hungry and the curious throughout her adopted city. From roadside barbecue in Church Hill, to eating along Abraham Lincoln's route up the James River, Egan has the skinny on the city.

Sample the city's burgeoning craft brewers Legend and Hardywood at Mekong, an unassuming Vietnamese restaurant and unexpected beer mecca. Founded by chef and Belgian beer enthusiast An Bui, Mekong has an award-winning beer bar that is frequented by a passionate community of local drinkers.

Heritage, a buzzy new restaurant in the Fan District, serves new American fare like hanger steak with tomato molasses and house-made charcuterie, plus an inventive seasonal cocktail list favored by culinary insiders. Sip an Angostura Sour, made with heaping spoonfuls of namesake bitters, or raise a glass of the Lion's Tail, which features a mix of lime, Fighting Cock bourbon, and allspice. Here's to the South!

What are your favorite spots in Richmond? Tell us below!

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