Twelve Unforgettable Richmond Dishes

From breakfast to dessert, the year’s most alluring food.

Pork Belly at Laura Lee’s

With bread crumbs subbing for bread, it’s essentially a banh mi without the baguette — pork belly, cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrot, radishes, and jalapeños. The combination delivers a fiery yet fresh-tasting new take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich. — Karen Newton

Sausage, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Bagel at Pop’s Market on Grace

It’s all about the ingredients: flavorful, house-made sage sausage and perfect scrambled eggs with melted cheddar on a bagel reminiscent of a soft pretzel. This is a sandwich that sets you up for the day. — Nathalie Oates

House-Smoked Fish on a Bagel at Perly’s Restaurant & Delicatessen

With choices of six kinds of smoked fish, a variety of bagels and cream cheeses, plus capers, red onion and radish sprouts along for the ride, an almost endless variety of combinations yields a satisfying breakfast. Facebook — Matthew Freeman

Spaghetti Squash Pancakes at Secco Wine Bar

This is the most creative comfort food that I’ve come across in a while. The dense pancake is sprinkled with peanuts to give the dish a little crunch, and a smear of yogurt, cilantro and harissa sauce provides a kick in the end. — Nathalie Oates

Shish Taouk at Mesopotamia Delicatessen

A char-grilled chicken kebab, incredibly juicy and tender served between onions and peppers. Load up on sides of hummus, eggplant and beet tahini. Facebook — Matthew Freeman

Beef Brisket Pho at Sen Organic Small Plate

Forgive me for going bonkers over something as basic as a soup base, but the broth in Sen Organics’s brisket pho is like the elixir of unicorns. I’m pretty sure I could feel at least 17 new brain synapses forming. The whole dish is beautiful — dense noodles, crisp bean sprouts, fresh greens and brisk, spicy heat. — Rachel Machacek


Roasted Chicken with Polenta and Maitake at Dinamo

It astonishes me that this most prosaic of weeknight meals can be so enticing — and memorable. It’s a chicken that glories in its tender chicken-ness, with a deep, savory richness amplified by the umami of the maitake mushroom. And if you want to get closer to John Waters, this pick was his dinner last time the moviemaker visited Richmond.. — Brandon Fox


Foie Gras Over Spoon Bread at Spoonbread Bistro

When nothing but the most obscene item on the menu will do, it’s tough to beat Spoonbread Bistro’s foie gras over spoon bread with Smithfield Ham and wild berry coulis. Look up “eating with abandon” in the dictionary, and you’ll find a picture of this over-the-top dish that only your arteries will wish you shared. — Karen Newton


Shaved Octopus with ​Olive Oil, Garlic, Crushed Pepper, Maldon Salt, Lemon and Parsley at East Coast Provisions

Octopus is my favorite thing to eat in Richmond at the moment. At East Coast Provisions, such simple flavors and preparation make this version absurdly satisfying for both novices and experts alike. — Nathalie Oates


Sautéed Artichokes and Peas at Demi’s Mediterranean Kitchen

Can a mere side dish become a favorite? Absolutely. I’m seldom surprised by vegetables, but this bewitching marriage of artichokes and peas found me attempting to duplicate it at home — with no success. (I forgot the butter.) — Brandon Fox


Chocolate Milkshake at Roaring Pines

My dad taught me long ago that a proper chocolate milkshake is made with an exact ratio of milk to vanilla ice cream to chocolate syrup. No exceptions. This is exceedingly hard to find, but Roaring Pines nails it. Its creamy version is almost velvety and boasts exactly the right amount of chocolate. — Rachel Machacek


Butterscotch Custard at Belmont Food Shop

My dessert go-to has long been chocolate, yet I continue to be seduced by this butterscotch custard, as much for the nostalgia and homey comfort of digging into a childhood classic with a spoon as for the depth of flavor that comes with such basic ingredients as brown sugar, butter and cream. Facebook — Karen Newton


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