Dining & Nightlife

Best sober happy hour

Laura Lee’s Happier Hour
3410 Semmes Ave.

What started as a one-off event, Happier Hour, is now taking place every third Thursday of the month. This sober happy hour runs from 5 to 7 p.m. and bursts with a bevy of NA spirits, including mouthwatering mocktails like Disco Lemonade and new cleverly crafted recipes each month to tickle your tastebuds. With fewer imbibers throwing back the hard stuff these days, sober and sober-curious drink menus and spaces are slowly taking off. Happier Hour is the brainchild of marketing and events lead Skyler Carpenter and bar manager Seonaigh Westhassel. “People who are sober or sober-curious like to go out and feel like they’re having a nice drink with the presentation, care, aromatics and infusions,” says Carpenter. And anyone who has ever changed their relationship with booze knows it can impact your social life. Difficult conversations about “the why” and the lack of beverage options is frustrating. This event changes all that, inspired by several sober staff members who were discussing Richmond’s lack of non-boozy options. “Sober people want a place to go and not feel alienated. Your social life takes a hit, and people tiptoe around you, sometimes just not inviting you out,” Carpenter says. “We wanted to create an environment where drinkers and non-drinkers feel comfortable and intermingle. It’s a wholesome environment.” Cheers to that. —H.L.

Best place to become a regular

2601 Park Ave.

From the wood-paneled walls to the carpeted floors, you’re instantly transported back in time. Belly up to the bar or cozy up in a booth and grab yourself a Philly cheesesteak (don’t worry, veggie friends, they have you covered with a delicious mushroom cheesesteak) and a citywide special before playing a game of pool. With the ambiance, delicious food and drinks and friendly staff, you’ll quickly realize why this spot in the Fan is on your mind every week. —M.H.

Best late-night menu that won’t leave you hanging

Patrick Henry’s Pub and Grille
2300 E. Broad St.

All too often late-night menus carry the unspoken caveat: unless business is slow and we decide to close the kitchen early. Never the case at this beloved Church Hill pub, where you can rely on a pared-down menu being served until 1:30 a.m. every night (technically, early morning) of the week, in their cozy and clandestine basement bar. If you find yourself hungry at this hour, their pizzas are glorious and served on those raised wire stands that leave plenty of room for your elbows and pint on hand. There’s none proven more reliable for late-night bites, and that goes for holidays too. —T.A.

The Smoked Salmon Bagel

Best undiscovered breakfast spot

Wishbone Food Shop
2 N. 6th St.

Earlier this spring, the owners of Wishbone Food Shop got a call from the National concert venue. The Scottish band Belle and Sebastian were in town for a big concert and wanted breakfast. Owners Ginny Sowers and Justin Cropper sprung into action and happily filled the order. Reps for the venue later called to say how much they enjoyed the breakfast sandwiches. Wishbone is quietly cultivating a small cult following for their breakfast service, but the word is getting out. Regulars love the house made Red Dawn hot sauce, homemade sausage, Afterglow coffee and Cupertino’s bagels. The chorizo hash, breakfast burrito, smoked salmon bagel and Virginny are the most ordered dishes, but the menu is eclectic and served up by two respected Richmond restaurants veterans. —S.E.

Best put that sh*t on everything condiment that isn’t Duke’s mayonnaise

Rana’s from Kuba Kuba
1601 Park Ave.

This tantalizing hot sauce, crafted from a blend of carrots, mangoes, habaneros, and garlic, is a tropical explosion of flavor. Inspired by the table hot sauces of his native Mexico, chef Rene Baez embarked on a mission to create a unique twist. What started as a culinary experiment at Kuba Kuba soon captured the attention of owner Manny Mendez, who enlisted Rana to produce the sauce for the restaurant. —M.H.

Best fried chicken sandwich that isn’t a fried chicken sandwich

Cobra Cabana’s Tofu Hen Shot First
901 W Marshall St

Sink your teeth into this
mouthwatering sandwich featuring deep-fried Twin Oaks tofu bathed in zesty buffalo sauce. It’s nestled between grilled challah, and each bite unveils a delightful crunch complemented by the cool, crisp freshness of iceberg lettuce and juicy tomato slices (optional, but highly recommended). What truly elevates this sandwich to legendary status is the house-made “Perfect Ranch” dressing. Perfect for those looking to explore plant-based options without compromising on taste, this sandwich is a savory symphony that promises to satisfy even the most discerning palates. —M.H.

Best club sandwich

Bamboo Café
1 S. Mulberry St.

A club is a thing of beauty. The sandwich originally hails from the exclusive clubhouses of 19th century New York. Its triple-decker architecture isn’t just for show; the extra layer helps stabilize the sandwich, helping keep the ham, turkey, mayo, lettuce, tomato and cheese in one place. The bread is lightly toasted, giving you a mix of textures for an ideal mouthfeel. Already a large sandwich, the club looks gigantic when it’s cut into triangles and placed on a plate with fries or chips in between the segments. Having tried many of this city’s offerings, we have concluded that the club sandwich at Bamboo Café is Richmond’s finest.  Now in its 50th year of operation, Bamboo is one of the city’s greatest treasures. This reliable watering hole has drinks strong enough to stun a yak and food that’s better than it should be for a neighborhood bar. Their club is perfectly proportioned (large, but still manageable to bite into) and has those toothpicks with the frilly cellophane. The secret ingredient? They include a little bit of raw onion in their club, adding dimension and crunch. Bamboo, never change. —R.G.

Best downstairs Thai travel

My Noodle & Bar
1600 Monument Ave.

My Noodle & Bar is a restaurant that I’ve tried to gatekeep, but I can’t keep it to myself any longer. Descending the stairs into the eatery feels like you’re entering another world. Behind the double doors lies a dark, cozy restaurant that feels like you’re on another continent, which is appropriate since this is a Thai restaurant, and one of the best in the city. But don’t be fooled, My Noodle & Bar is more than vibes: The food is worth a visit as well. Pro tip: get the shrimp and vegetable tempura, pad see ew, or galangal soup. —D.F.

Best place to knock ‘em back straight up

McCormack’s Whisky Grill
204 N. Robinson St.

McCormack’s Whisky Grill is a bar where you’re not going to find loud music and obnoxious frat boys pounding down shots. Instead, it’s for someone with a more serious palate, who appreciates a good alcoholic beverage. Don’t expect any mixed drinks here, and that’s why for my money, it’s the best place to go when you need to have a whisky or scotch poured neat, have a good cry, and ponder life. Pro tip: Get the steak. —D.F.

Best place to blow your diet

Southern Kitchen Restaurant
541 N. 2nd St.

If you have a cheat day and are in the mood for comfort food, this the place to go. Serving traditional Southern dishes like shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, fried catfish, and of course, macaroni and cheese, the best thing to do if you’re planning a visit is to wear stretch pants, come hungry, and not think about how much butter you’re about to consume. —D.F.

Most likely venue to host a different kind of show every week

Révéler Experiences
3108 W. Cary St.

Part-cabaret, part-cabinet of curiosities, Carytown’s Révéler Experiences is charmingly idiosyncratic. Once you go past the gilded skeletons at the entrance and the bathtub mermaid in the front window, there is a colorful front room bar and an intimate performance area with only 72 seats. The deeper you go into this art space, the weirder it gets, with side rooms for sand painting, mannequin tattooing, and tables and couches under a menagerie of colored lights. The wildly eclectic lineup of events veers across genres: singer-songwriters, jazz, blues, funk, karaoke, dancers, immersive events, themed open-mic  nights. The only rules: Be cool, be kind, and keep the conversation during sets to an appreciative whisper. —P.M

Best Richmond dive bar preservation

The Locker Room Bar
3108 W. Cary St.
Dugout Bar and Grille
1510 Mountain Rd. Glen Allen

Every corner of the city should have a local watering hole. As Richmond’s food and beverage scene rapidly grew, the proliferation of cocktail programs and local craft-beer options has all but eliminated our unprotected bars affectionately championed as dives. Throw in the sticker shock everyone is experiencing from both sides of the counter, and even former dives seem to be dabbling in signature cocktails and charcuterie in place of light domestics and fried-to-order apps. We searched for the best (last) dive bar around and found two, holding it down on their respective sides of the river. Just north of city limits in Glen Allen, the Dugout has several years ‘under new management’ under their belt, and their culinary bases covered (read: burgers, wings and steamed shrimp). Expect a great value whether you’re ordering from their daily food and drink specials or not. The Locker Room is as seasoned as you’d expect after more than 40 years in Forest Hill. No frills, or food that I recall. But a big YES to pool, shuffleboard, karaoke and cold ones on the cheap. —T.A.

Best place to get your honky tonk on

The Get Tight Lounge
1104 W. Main St.

What to say about this funky little Main Street bar near VCU? They book some cool smaller shows for their  patio stage area out back and have  become known for bringing sweet honky tonk to town lately, everything from Wayne “The Train” Hancock and Merle Haggard’s former guitarist Red Volkaert (who now lives in Virginia) to a two-night stand from Dale Watson in June. They also showcase local musicians, such as veteran crooner Ward Harrison, who has been one of several artists who has played a regular happy hour gig there. According to co-owner and booker, Drew Schlegel, he plans to continue booking all kinds of different music, “but due to the venue being outside and in a neighborhood, we try to be respectful of our volume at night, which does limit us.” They’re proud of the restaurant and bar program and are hoping to be known “as a comfortable, friendly hangout space for food, drink, DJs or live music …  [and] if people find comfort in our space from our staff and patrons being kind, respectful and welcoming that would be pretty cool.” —B.B.

Best DIY venue

The Warehouse

Richmond still hasn’t quite filled the void left by the rotating-door of punk venues at 929 W Grace St. Numerous restaurants and houses host shows with varying frequency and success, but these productions often feel like an afterthought. Meanwhile, the Warehouse continues to be the most consistent and best suited destination for underground events, owed most to competent live sound and the room itself: four walls and a stage — the perfect show space — not competing with an industrial kitchen or dining room (in the case of restaurants moonlighting as venues) or that decomposing sofa (in the case of house shows hosted in somebody’s living room). —T.A.

Best place to lick your fingers after a buffet

Africanne on Main
(Chef Mamusu)
1102 W. Main St.

Speaking of the Get Tight Lounge, right next door is one of our favorite buffet spots for West African, Southern and Caribbean food by the pound. As they say, “it’s OK to lick your fingers here!” and you’re likely to find yourself doing just that after you taste their flavorful, soulful offerings from mixed greens and jerk chicken to Liberian jollof rice, awesome mac and cheese, red beans and rice or chicken meatballs; plus some strong vegetarian options.  Since 1995, Chef Ida Mamusa has been well known and beloved to Richmonders for her delicious and savory food which you can also stumble across at big festivals from the Vegetarian Festival to the Folk Fest. The restaurant also offers catering, so if you really want to change it up with some mouth-watering flavor for that office lunch party, give ‘em a call. —B.B.

Best place to take your dog that doesn’t allow dogs

Blue Atlas Restaurant & Market
1000 Carlisle Ave. #2000

This Fulton Hill favorite holds numerous distinctions: best tapas bar-slash-market housed in a former elementary school and best view of downtown. But most perplexing among their notable pedigree, dogs are barred from the fenced-in outdoor-area summit, which would otherwise be the envy of neighboring pet-friendly establishments. No doubt, they have their reasons (#1s and #2s, if I had to guess) but this would-be prized jewel holds unlocked promise for our canine comrades who appreciate Richmond’s winding skyline as much as the next drooly stargazer. —T.A.

Readers’ Choice

Best bagel

Nate’s Bagels
21 S. Allen Ave.

Best brunch

The Jefferson
101 W. Franklin St.

Best bakery

Sub Rosa Bakery
620 N. 25th St.

Best coffee roaster

Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Company
(multiple locations)

Best coffee shop
Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Company

Best brewery

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
(two locations)

Best distillery

Reservoir Distillery
1800A Summit Ave.

Best wine shop

Once Upon a Vine
2817 Hathaway Rd.

Best zero proof menu

Blue Atlas Restaurant and Market
1000 Carlisle Ave. #200

Best deli

Coppolas Deli
2900 W Cary St.

Best seafood

Hard Shell
(multiple locations)

Best African

The Nile Kitchen (Ethiopian)
2601 Maury St. building 2

Best Indian

Lemon Cuisine of India
3215 W. Broad St.

Best Italian

Edo’s Squid
411 N. Harrison St.

Best Jamaican

Jamaica House
416 W. Broad St.

Best Mexican

Mexico Restaurant
(multiple locations)

Best Chinese

Peter Chang
(two locations)

Best Japanese

Kabuto Japanese House of Steak & Sushi
(two locations)

Best American

Lillie Pearl
416 E. Grace St.

Best Greek

1012 Lafayette St.

Best Vietnamese

MeKong Restaurant
6004 W. Broad St.

Best diner

Dot’s Back Inn
4030 MacArthur Ave.

Best new restaurant

Farm & Oak
3601 Cox Rd. A

Best vegan

Philly Vegan
1126 Hull St.

Best vegetarian

Ipanema Café
917 E. Grace St.

Best pizza

Mary Angela’s Pizzeria
3345 W. Cary St.

Best barbecue

ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue
3201 W. Moore St.

Best burger

Burger Bach
(multiple locations)

Best fried chicken

Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken
2200 W. Broad St.

Best sandwiches

Coppolas Deli
2900 W. Cary St.

Best Southern food

Mama J’s
415 N. 1st St.

Best steakhouse

Buckhead’s Chop House
8510 Patterson Ave.

Best tacos

En Su Boca
1001 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.

Best wings

Wood & Iron
(multiple locations)

Best food cart/truck

River City Wood Fire
2300 Genito Rd. (Powhatan)

Best doughnuts

Country Style Donuts
(two locations)

Best ice cream/frozen treat

Gelati Celesti
(multiple locations)

Best LGBTQIA + bar/club

Babe’s of Carytown
3166 W. Cary St.

Best place to dance

Babe’s of Carytown

Best bar

Bryan Park Bar & Grill
5516 Lakeside Ave.

Best dive bar

Bamboo Cafe
1 S. Mulberry St.

Best happy hour

The Jasper
3113 W. Cary St.

Best margarita

En Su Boca
1001 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.

Best martini

Lillie Pearl
416 E. Grace St.

Best Bloody Mary

111 E. Grace St.

Best patio

The Boathouse
(multiple locations)

Best rooftop bar

Quirk’s Q Rooftop bar
201 W. Broad St.

Best pop-up

Quarter Horse

View the winners in each of the following categories:

Arts & Culture

Goods & Services

People & Places


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