2012 Critics' Hot Spot: Stella's 

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST

Stella's, in its third and best version on Lafayette Street, won over a neighborhood that didn't fully welcome it. But those complaints died down while the place took off. Our reviewers can't seem to get enough of the rustic and modern Greek cuisine, finding an authentic destination that strikes the right balance and delivers on what diners expect.

"The restaurant has branded itself and I think that speaks volumes," Robey Martin says. "Far too many restaurants don't put effort into their brand and come across sloppy. Stella's is sleek yet homey. Even better, it is hip and classy without being stuffy. The food is consistently excellent in taste and execution and embraces the concept they have created. Their wine list is well chosen, moderately priced, and again, within their comfort zone. There is sincerity. And really, where else in Richmond is there a two-month waiting list for brunch?"

It's "an ideal mix of hearty, cheesy comfort and light, fresh, veggie options, all of which are delicious, and all of which are part of a cohesive vision," Tess Bosher says. "Even the hearty lamb burger feels fresh and healthy whether or not it actually is. I love that they have vegan choices such as the lentil soup and the hummus-artichoke sandwich, and the Greek standards are phenomenal. The family pictures and nods to Greek culture dotted around are sweet reminders that you're in an authentic, family-run operation, and you can feel the love that went in to it. And the bread!"

Basch and Newton find the large portions off-putting, but appreciate the affordable wine list, meze hora specials and communal table. And Don Baker considers Stella's to be Richmond's best new restaurant. "I've favored Stella's from the first time I ate there," he says, "and after eight or nine visits, and despite the inevitable glitch or two, nothing has changed my mind."

Stella's
1012 Lafayette St., 358-2011
Stellasrichmond.com

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