Outdoor barbecue at the ZZQ. Photograph by Kate Thompson Photography.
When I moved to Richmond in the fall of 2009, after a year as an overworked line cook in Frederick, life there seemed easy, like kicking off your clogs after a long day. The city rewards residents and visitors with access to the mighty James River and a vibrant music and arts scene, as well as all the living history the area embodies. After a social toll following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, Richmond has dismantled its Civil War memorials, reshaping the face of Virginia’s capital and pledging to move forward. Although that has changed significantly over the past decade, a weekend in town on the James still promises the lazy river vibe that once appealed to me, but now with even better food and drink.
The once-industrial neighborhood of Scott’s Addition is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. It is now home to nearly a dozen breweries, cider houses and distilleries within walking distance. Carefully brewed stouts and saisons at Fiery craft beers (3200 W. Leigh St.) are best enjoyed at its beer garden, which overlooks the Texas-inspired barbecue oasis ZZQ (3201 W. Moore Street). Try Ardent’s IPA X before heading next door for a platter of juicy brisket, buttermilk potato salad and collard greens.
Later, you can sip Virginia whiskeys at a tasting at Reservoir Distillery (1800-A Summit Ave)then have a caffeinated pick-me-up at Afterglow Coffee Cooperative (1719 Summit Ave). For dinner, save room for the elegant eight-course tasting menu that is both creative and daring. Long oven (2939 W. Clay Street).
In Richmond’s downtown arts district, Urban suspension suite (304 E. Broad St.) offers one of the best spots for coffee and people-watching, while lox bagels from Perly delicatessen (111 E. Grace St.) are a great way to start a day. For lunch, try a smash burger or broccoli-rabe hero de Seasonal market (323 N. Adams Street). If you’re in the arts district at dinnertime, you’ll find Adarra Restaurant (618 N. First St.) in the Jackson Ward neighborhood. Run by husband-and-wife sommeliers, it’s perfect for sharing a bottle while enjoying Iberian jamón and unpretentious small plates. Then head to Broad Street for something sweet and innovative charming school (311 W. Broad Street)with Instagram-ready ice cream cones topped with flaming marshmallow fluff.
As night falls, discover the hideout of rock and roll blur cactus (221 W. Brookland Park Blvd.), where you’d be crazy to miss “the Bud,” a fried chicken cookie sandwich with snappy pickles and hot sauce. If you have steam left, go where the locals end up at night: bamboo coffee (1 S. Mulberry Street)the coolest and most authentic old-school bar.
Where to stay
Spend the night in a real tree: Westover Hill’s Treehouse by the trail (5005 Riverside Drive), a $260 to $285 a night stay ten minutes from downtown, combines the adventure you dreamed of as a kid with the amenities you need as an adult. For a more traditional option, try the charming and historic Linden Row Hostel (100 E. Franklin Street) in the heart of downtown. Rooms cost between $150 and $300 a night.
Icons by Connie Zheng.
This article appears in the May 2022 question from the Washingtonian.