In a perfect world, the neighborhood bar would always be the answer to the query, "Where should we take Uncle Pete?" Unfortunately, circumstances often dictate that you go to a watering hole outside your typical portfolio. Blasphemy! Luckily, we're here to help.
The occasion: Your bar and cocktail snob of a cousin, who's seen it all, is visiting from New York. You need an urbane type of place that can stand up in the big city. A place that will provide superior cocktails. Where ordering a cheaply made domestic is frowned upon. A place where you must wear pants.
Good fits: Heritage, Roosevelt, Balliceaux, the Rogue Gentlemen.
The occasion: You've never met your girlfriends' parents — and they're flying in for a weekend visit. What's the dad like? Stern and serious? Funny and perverted like your crazy uncle? Angry at you for defiling his little princess? You have no idea! You need a bar that will impress but also one that's prepared to deal with anything.
Good fits: The Pig and Pearl, Social 52, Rappahannock, the Whiskey Grill, Saison, the Hill Café, Metro Grill.
The occasion: Your Virginia Commonwealth University-attending, cooler-than-thou little brother finally has turned 21. It's up to you to show him how hip Richmond is. Let's face it, you're closer to a hip replacement than you are to ever being called hip, but your little brother looks up to you. You actually saw Avail play live. You once lived in Oregon Hill. You were hanging out on Grace Street before the Chipotle and Panera — back when it was all stabby and run-down! But the years have taken their toll on you, so where should you take the guy to prove that the Hootie and the Blowfish CD he found in your car wasn't yours?
Good fits: Society American Grill & Social Club, Pie, Bandito's Burrito Lounge, Empire, Helen's, Don't Look Back, GwarBar (we believe it will happen), Off the Hookah, Portrait House, Tobacco Company Club.
The occasion: Your sister and her doctor husband are in town. They're notoriously highbrow, a glasses- and tasteful-sweater-wearing yuppie couple from NoVa — "which should totally be its own state." A cocktail and conversation about whose fault Bengazi was is what they crave, and now you, the untasteful schlub that you are, must deliver a classy bar where there are no ruffians about.
Good fits: Amuse at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Water Grill, Can Can Brasserie, Morton's the Steakhouse.
The occasion: Your Mom wants you to get your Dad, the home brewer, out of the house and with some like-minded people so he can annoy them instead of her. (Plus, all of the yeast is starting to make the house smell.) The old man is forever lecturing you about dobblebocks and stouts and Trappist monks, while all you really want to do is enjoy your cool 40 ounces of malt liquor in peace. But Mom insists and she's the boss. So where do you take him so he can geek out with beer peers while you sullenly eye the barkeep and drink "whatever's the highest alcohol by volume, champ"?
Good fits: Southern Railway Taphouse, Mekong, Brew American Gastropub, Capital Ale House, Rock Bottom Brewery.
The occasion: You want a shot and a beer and you don't give a flying crap about impressing anyone. Are there bar stools? Is there 3 to 4 feet of wood in front of me? Is the beer cold? Listen barkeep, I want a drink, I want it right and I don't want any lip.
Good fits: New York Deli, F.W. Sullivan's, Halligan (Short Pump or Shockoe Bottom), Star-Lite Dining and Lounge, Barrel House, Foo Dog, City Dogs.