Want to go all-out without actually going out? Give Café Lafayette a call. Chef/owner Michael Macknight and chef de cuisine Brian Koziol offer takeout service on all menu items, which means you can turn any evening into a special occasion. Prime rib of veal ($29), bistro steak ($22) and bacon-wrapped meatloaf ($14) are menu standards, along with the restaurant's signature "hooch" cake ($6 a slice), a liqueur-infused Bundt whose flavors change with the seasons. I'll admit, the prices of the food at first gave me pause, but when I saw the generous portions and tasted the subtle flavors of a duck special ($27) that came with chestnut sauce, spiced sweet potatoes and a seasonal vegetable medley, my dinnertime bliss felt like a bargain.
When I asked for a single meatball ($2.50) because I needed something to nibble on before dinner, European Market owner Michael Kitami instantly won me over by heating it up with a spoonful of house marinara sauce. This attentiveness is what keeps Kitami's customers coming back night after night, along with the meat-and-potato dinners ($12 and under) and rotisserie chickens ($5.99). Soups ($3.25) are Kitami's forte: He prepares six to eight daily. Any one of them, plus a loaf of Billy Bread ($3) and a couple of freshly made cannoli, make a great light winter supper.
European Market 2001 1/2 W. Main St. 355-5182 Dinner takeout: 5-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Get a Deal
Simply put, the takeout offerings in Je Depew's Church Hill café are the best deal in town. The prime rib I ordered at Jumpin' J's Java one evening (just $8.95) was so tender I could cut it with a fork, and came with a side of creamy scalloped potatoes. A shrimp and sausage gumbo ($7.25), on another occasion, had a nice spicy bite, and there was so much meat and seafood that the rice the stew was laced with almost seemed an afterthought. The monster slices of layer cake from Bob's Cheesecake ($3.75) are plenty for two and round out a meal for under $25.
Jumpin' J's Java 2306 Jefferson Ave. 344-3500 Dinner takeout: 12-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 12-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
The Parfitt family has made takeout food a family affair: While Tom Parfitt mans the burners in the back of Seven Hills Market, the rest of the clan pitches in at different times even Grandma Peg, who bakes the addictively buttery thumbprint cookies ($6.49 a pound). Generous portions are served with panache. The herb-crusted rockfish ($15.95) featured a beautiful piece of fish over a bed of spaghetti, and a spiced chicken entrée ($11.95) was as presentable in its plastic container as it would be on a restaurant plate. Sadly, the lemon cheesecake didn't make it home intact: It was so tangy and delicious, I started eating it with my fingers and had finished the slice by the time I pulled up to the house.
Seven Hills Market 3516 Forest Hill Ave. 233-7445 Hours: 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 4-8 p.m. Sunday and Monday
If You Dare
To put it in Seinfeldian terms, 8 1/2 is Richmond's equivalent of the Soup Nazi, complete with long waits, surly service and a this-is-what-you-get attitude should you venture a request or complaint. And yet, like Seinfeld's New Yorkers, Richmonders throng to this Strawberry Street extension of the Mama Zu's/Edo's Squid empire for the white pizza ($7) and whopping portions of spaghetti alla carbonara ($7) and eggplant parmigiana ($10) that are Italian comfort food at its best and ideal for sharing.
8 1/2 401 Strawberry St. 358-8505 9 a.m.-11 p.m. daily
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