When I moved to Richmond in the fall of 2009, following a year as an overworked line cook in Frederick, life there felt 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-art scene, plus all the living history the area embodies. After a social reckoning following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Richmond took down its Civil War monuments, reshaping the face of the Virginia capital and committing to progress. Though it has changed considerably in the past decade, a weekend trip to the city on the James still promises the lazy-river vibes that wooed me—but now with even better food and drink.
The once-industrial Scott’s Addition neighborhood is the place to spend an afternoon—it’s now home to nearly a dozen breweries, cideries, and distilleries within strolling distance. The thoughtfully brewed stouts and saisons at Ardent Craft Ales (3200 W. Leigh St.) are best enjoyed in its beer garden, which overlooks the Texas-inspired barbecue oasis ZZQ (3201 W. Moore St.). Try Ardent’s IPA X before heading next door for a platter of juicy brisket, buttermilk potato salad, and blackstrap collards.
Later, you might sip Virginia whiskies on a tasting at Reservoir Distillery (1800-A Summit Ave.), then grab a caffeinated pick-me-up at Afterglow Coffee Cooperative (1719 Summit Ave.). For dinner, save room for the elegant, boldly creative eight-course tasting menu at Longoven (2939 W. Clay St.).
In Richmond’s downtown arts district, Urban Hang Suite (304 E. Broad St.) offers one of the best spots for coffee and people-watching, while bagels with lox from Perly’s Delicatessen (111 E. Grace St.) are a great way to start a day. For lunch, try a smash burger or broccoli-rabe hero from Saison Market (323 N. Adams St.). If you’re in the arts district around dinnertime, you’ll find Restaurant Adarra (618 N. First St.) in the Jackson Ward neighborhood. Helmed by husband-and-wife sommeliers, it’s just right for sharing a bottle while sampling jamón Ibérico and unfussy small plates. Then head down Broad Street for something sweet at the innovative Charm School (311 W. Broad St.), with Instagram-ready ice-cream cones topped with flaming marshmallow fluff.
When night falls, check out the rock-and-roll hideout Fuzzy Cactus (221 W. Brookland Park Blvd.), where you’d be a fool to miss “the Bud,” a fried-chicken biscuit sandwich with zippy pickles and hot sauce. If you’ve got any steam left, go where the locals end the night: Bamboo Cafe (1 S. Mulberry St.), the chillest and the realest of the old-school bars.
Where to Stay
Spend the night in an actual tree: Westover Hill’s Trailside Treehouse (5005 Riverside Dr.), a $260-to-$285-a-night stay ten minutes from downtown, combines the adventure you craved as a kid with the amenities you need as an adult. For a more traditional option, try the charming, historic Linden Row Inn (100 E. Franklin St.) in the heart of downtown. Rooms are $150 to $300 a night.
Icons by Connie Zheng.
This article appears in the May 2022 issue of Washingtonian.