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Central Virginia: Best Food & Drink Winners 2023

Jul 31, 2023Jul 31, 2023

1st: Mekong

6004 W. Broad St., Richmond, 804-288-8929

This Vietnamese eatery is also a beloved craft beer bar. Start off with spring rolls or dumplings, then indulge in traditional pho or broken rice. Chef specialties include hot and sour catfish, seasonal soft shell crab, clay pot-style chicken, and beef sautéed in spicy lemongrass sauce. Be sure to order one of the many IPAs or sour beers on tap.

2nd: Peter Chang, Multiple locations, 804-728-1820

3rd: Fat Dragon Kitchen & Bar, Richmond, 804-354-9888

1st: ZZQ Texas Craft Barbeque

3201 W. Moore St., Richmond, 804-528-5648

ZZQ began as a pop-up and catering operation helmed by Native Texan, and self-taught pitmaster, Chris Fultz. He later met pitmistress Alex Graf and as business grew, they opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant together in 2018. Boasting the only authentic Texas-style barbecue in the Commonwealth, ZZQ uses all-wood cooking methods to create its popular sliced brisket, specialty meat sandwiches, spicy sides, and more.

2nd: Buz & Ned’s Real BBQ, Richmond, 804-346-4227

3rd: County Smoak, Lynchburg, 434-215-3311

1st: Bodo’s Bagels

3 locations in Charlottesville, 434-293-5224

You don’t need to leave the state to get authentically crafted, freshly baked New York bagels. Locally owned and operated since 1988, Bodo’s Bagels serves traditional bagels and cream cheese, baked from scratch in-house, every day, along with affordable sandwiches and salads at three locations in Charlottesville, satisfying locals, visitors, and the college community alike.

2nd: Mason Dixon Cafe, Fredericksburg, 540-371-1950

3rd: Boychik’s Deli, Glen Allen, 804-747-1030

1st: Five Guys

Multiple locations, 866-345-4897

Five Guys’ famous patties were first flipped in Arlington, where the company began in the 1980s. Since then, the popular fast-casual burger and fries chain has expanded to more than 1,500 locations nationwide. Fan favorite menu items include the signature boardwalk-style fries cooked in pure peanut oil, and handspun milkshakes with a wide variety of mix-in options, from bacon to bananas.

2nd: Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint, Locations in Charlottesville, Richmond, 804-285-1758

3rd: Burger Bach, Multiple locations, 804-359-1305

1st: MOSAIC Catering + Events

3001 Cutshaw Ave., Richmond, 804-525-2190

From humble beginnings as a Carytown café, MOSAIC now runs catering operations out of both Richmond and Charleston, South Carolina. From corporate luncheons to weddings, bar service options, and a full-scale production catalog, including lighting, décor, audio + visual, and custom design services, the MOSAIC team are pros at transforming an ordinary space into a spectacular one for good eats and good times.

2nd: Homemades by Suzanne, Richmond, 804-798-8331

3rd: Cater 2 Events, Richmond, 804-269-0359

1st: Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co.

3 locations in Richmond, 804-687-9443

David Blanchard founded Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co. in January 2005, and it wasn’t long before grocery store chains started selling his beans locally, transforming the company into a favorite wholesale coffee brand. With three café locations in Richmond—on West Broad Street, Morris Street in the Fan, and on Forest Hill Avenue on the Southside, Blanchard’s mission continues: Good work in the service of great coffee.

2nd: Joe Bean's, Multiple locations, 434-237-0030

3rd: The Local Cup, Mechanicsville, 804-277-3689

1st: Stella’s

1012 Lafayette St., Richmond, 804-358-2011

A Richmond staple since 1983, with a second location in Charleston, South Carolina since 2017, Stella’s honors rustic and modern Greek cuisine. The charming and romantic space is a tribute to Stella herself, who, for many years, crafted her famed Greek recipes for all who walked through the doors. You’ll have a hard time choosing what to order from the authentic and thoughtfully crafted menu.

2nd: Old Original Bookbinder’s Seafood & Steakhouse, Richmond, 804-643-6900

3rd: L’Opossum, Richmond, 804-918-6028

1st: River City Wood Fire Pizza

3681 Speeks Dr., Midlothian, 804-339-2580

Started by Joe LaJoie, this food truck specializes in wood-fired, 10-inch, personal pizzas featuring from-scratch sourdough and red sauce recipes. Try the Sir Brussels white pizza with Brussels sprout leaves, minced garlic, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, parmesan, and mozzarella, or the Chicken Bacon Ranch with house marinara, garlic-pepper ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, smoked bacon, white cheddar, and house-made ranch.

2nd: Boka Tako, Richmond, 804-928-2652

3rd: Christopher’s Runaway Gourmay, Richmond, 804-399-7197

1st: Gelati Celesti

7 locations in the Richmond area, 804-346-0038

Gelati Celesti has been producing its trademark “heavenly handmade ice cream” for nearly 40 years, with flavors churned in small batches using special Italian equipment. Boasting 24 house flavors, and a slew of others that rotate throughout the year, these ice cream experts also offer made-to-order ice cream pies, cakes, and cookies for any occasion.

2nd: Carl’s Frozen Custard, Fredericksburg

3rd: Scoop, Richmond, 804-918-4455

1st: Lehja

11800 W. Broad St., Suite 910, Richmond, 804-364-1111

With a menu offering a modern approach to the classics, Lehja has developed a solid following. Washingtonian magazine claimed it to be the “best Indian restaurant outside of Washington D.C.’s Rasika in the region.” Popular dishes include a deconstructed butter chicken and duck Salli Boti. An extensive wine list won praise from Wine Spectator.

2nd: Lemon Cuisine of India, Richmond, 804-204-1800

3rd: Anokha Restaurant, Richmond, 804-360-8686

1st: Edo’s Squid

411 N. Harrison St., Richmond, 804-864-5488

Edo’s Squid’s authentic, homemade Italian dishes have developed legions of foodie fans. A less-than-grand entrance—up a creaky, old staircase—belies the profound culinary experience waiting inside. Food is consistently delicious, with squid served every which way, and delectable pasta dishes (like broccoli rabe and puttanesca) and flavorful mains like hanger steak and rockfish are among customer favorites. But order anything—you can rarely go wrong.

2nd: Mama Cucina, Glen Allen, 804-346-3350

3rd: Orofino, Fredericksburg, 540-373-1352

1st: Mexico Restaurant

6 locations in the Richmond area, 804-559-8126

Mexico Restaurant opened in 1990 and has since expanded to six locations throughout the Richmond area. Serving fresh Mexican food of the highest quality in a casual atmosphere, Mexico is perfect for a family dinner, birthday party, or casual night out. The chain prides itself not only on food and service, but also its involvement with the community.

2nd: En Su Boca, Richmond, 804-359-0768

3rd: Mi Jalisco Family Mexican Restaurant, Multiple locations, 804-716-7414

1st: Portico Restaurant & Bar

12506 River Rd., Richmond, 804-784-4800

This Portofino-inspired restaurant features a cozy stone terrace nestled among gardens of fresh herbs and flowers. On colder evenings, outdoor diners can stay warm by the stacked stone fireplace. In addition to a casual Italian menu for lunch and dinner seven days per week, Portico also offers Sunday morning brunch with cocktails, pizza, and sweet and savory breakfast options.

2nd: The Boathouse, 4 locations in the Richmond area, 804-404-9194

3rd: Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, 540-456-8020

1st: Bottoms Up Pizza

1700 Dock St., Richmond, 804-644-4400

A staple of Richmond’s historic Shockoe Bottom district since 1990, Bottoms Up has specialized in gourmet sourdough crust pizzas for nearly 35 years. Surviving floods, hurricanes, and a pandemic, this family-owned business is here to stay, maintaining its status as Richmond’s go-to for quality, delicious pizzas, savory sauces, generous pasta portions, and even a selection of juicy burgers.

2nd: Mary Angela’s Pizzeria, Richmond, 804-353-2333

3rd: Waterstone Pizza, Lynchburg, 434-455-1515

1st: TASTE

5706 Grove Ave., Suite 100, Richmond, 804-362-0504

Whether you’re looking for catering service or a quick lunch, TASTE Westhampton has the perfect fresh sandwich menu. Favorites from the shop, which originated in Virginia Beach, include the Tidewater with classic chicken salad, Virginia country ham, Swiss cheese, and house dressing on French bread, and the Virginian with prosciutto, turkey, baked ham, provolone, romaine, tomato, banana peppers, and balsamic vinaigrette on ciabatta.

2nd: Boychik’s Deli, Glen Allen, 804-747-1030

3rd: Secret Sandwich Society, Richmond, 804-644-4777

1st: The Boathouse

4 locations in the Richmond area, 804-404-9194

This longtime Richmond favorite for special events sports waterfront views (the James River at Rocketts Landing and Smith Creek Reservoir at Sunday Park in Brandermill) combined with an extensive seafood menu. Start with raw oysters on the half shell or gooey crab and artichoke dip, and then dig into pan-seared rockfish, classic shrimp and grits, or whole Maine lobster with drawn butter.

2nd: Rappahannock, Richmond, 804-545-0565

3rd: The Hard Shell, Midlothian, 804-643-2333

1st: Buckhead’s Chop House

8510 Patterson Ave., Richmond, 804-750-2000

Held to the highest standard of excellence, Buckhead’s Chop House has been a Richmond tradition since 1994, serving succulent Braveheart Beef and fresh seafood. A passion for culinary perfection is evident in every bite. As an added bonus, the Buckhead’s bar proudly highlights one of the largest selections of single malt Scotches and bourbons in the area.

2nd: Old Original Bookbinder's Seafood & Steakhouse, Richmond, 804-643-6900

3rd: Hondos Steak House, Glen Allen, 804-968-4323

1st: Goatocado

1823 W. Main St., Richmond, 804-464-8226

Once a single food truck, Goatocado now has a brick-and-mortar restaurant and a busy food cart available for large events and private parties. A “conscious kitchen,” Goatocado is dedicated to sustainability and sourcing the freshest ingredients possible. The menu includes wraps, bowls, and ramen, with choices of bases and add-ons—like quinoa or mac ‘n’ cheese, and organic tofu or garlic ginger mushrooms.

2nd: Sammy T’s, Fredericksburg, 540-371-2008

3rd: Ipanema Cafe, Richmond, 804-213-0190

1st: Shyndigz

1903 W. Cary St., Richmond, 804-938-3449

Famous for its substantial slices of cake, Shyndigz has a deliciously sweet selection of goodies. Cobblers, oatmeal cream pies, and crème brûlée are also on the menu, along with vegan desserts like banana brûlée. A savory selection of small plates and charcuterie are recent menu additions. Follow along on their social media channels for updates on daily specials.

2nd: Baked on the James, Scottsville, 434-286-4683

3rd: Pearl’s Bake Shoppe, Richmond, 804-285-2253

1st: For the Love of Chocolate

3136 W. Cary St., Richmond, 804-278-8950

After seeing fine chocolatiers on a trip to Europe, For the Love of Chocolate’s original owner wanted to bring that same luxurious experience to Richmond. Long-time customers Ron and Elizabeth Vranas took over in 2020, and this year the shop is celebrating 30 years as a haven for chocolate lovers, with gourmet and international items, Virginia-made options, rare retro candies, and much more.

2nd: Gearharts Fine Chocolates, Charlottesville, 434-972-9100

3rd: The Frenchman’s Corner, Culpeper, 540-825-8025

1st: South of the James Market

Forest Hill Park, Richmond, 804-814-2373

This open-air, producer-only market is the ideal spot for farmers and artisans to sell locally grown and handmade items. Open year-round, rain or shine, South of the James has an impressively extensive vendor list—from soaps to sausage, donuts to dog treats, and fruits to flowers. Find it in Forest Hill Park on Richmond’s Southside, every Sunday from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

2nd: Lynchburg Community Market, Lynchburg, 434-455-4485

3rd: Charlottesville City Market, Charlottesville, 434-970-3371

1st: Stella’s Grocery

6 locations in the Richmond area, 804-358-2011

This market offshoot of renowned Greek eatery Stella’s has locations all over the city, including Scott’s Addition, Westhampton, and across the street from the restaurant itself. You can pick up basics, such as olive oil or coffee, as well as prepared dishes, fresh sandwiches, gelato, beer and wine, in addition to candles and other lifestyle and décor items.

2nd: Yellow Umbrella Provisions, Richmond, 804-282-9591

3rd: Ellwood Thompson’s, Richmond, 804-359-7525

1st: Once Upon a Vine

4009 MacArthur Ave., Richmond, 804-726-9463

In addition to an extensive selection of Virginia wines, Once Upon a Vine offers bottles from all over the world, as well as beers from six continents. The shop is organized by price range rather than by region. The shop also carries cheese, chocolates, and other Virginia-made food goods. Stop by for a Friday-night tasting to learn more.

2nd: Barrel Thief Wine Shop & Provisions, Richmond, 804-612-9232

3rd: J. Emerson, Inc., Richmond, 804-285-8011

1st: Hardywood

2 locations in Richmond, 804-420-2420

Founded in 2011, Hardywood’s mission includes a sharp focus on brewing quality, sourcing locally, environmental stewardship, and community engagement. With 12 total variants, Hardywood is well known for its Gingerbread Stout. Its Ownby Lane location in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition includes a pizza kitchen and an outdoor patio with fire pits and a performance stage.

2nd: Blue Mountain Brewery, Afton, 540-456-8020

3rd: Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows, Roseland, 434-361-1001

1st: Bold Rock Hard Cider

Locations in Charlottesville, Nellysford, 434-361-1030

After opening its Nellysford Cider Barn a decade ago, Bold Rock has become a regional favorite as the nation’s largest independently-owned cider company, racking up more than 100 awards. Enjoy sweet ciders in-person at the tranquil Nellysford or Carter Mountain locations, or purchase hard seltzers and canned cocktails to take home from regional grocery stores across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

2nd: Blue Bee Cider, Richmond, 804-231-0280

3rd: Buskey Cider, Richmond, 804-355-0100

1st: The Jasper

3113 W. Cary St., Richmond, 23221

The Jasper offers “full pours and honest prices,” as their slogan goes. Craft cocktails change seasonally but include libations such as Man After Midnight with Brazilian sugarcane rum, amari, blanco tequila, bay leaf, and bubbly; nitro bourbon and gingers; and Penicillin shots featuring Islay Scotch, lemon, honey, and ginger. During the holiday season, the bar turns into the Christmas-themed Miracle on Cary Street pop-up.

2nd: The Lobby Bar at Quirk Hotel, Richmond, 804-340-6050

3rd: Tazza Kitchen, Multiple locations, 804-415-6224

1st: Belle Isle Craft Spirits

615 Maury St., Richmond, 804-723-1030

Not just for bootleggers anymore: Belle Isle’s moonshine has gone mainstream, with flavors ranging from Yuzu Ginger to Cold Brew Coffee, and holiday specialties like Peppermint Patty. Ready-to-drink canned cocktails are also available, like Cherry Lime Drive, a bubbly tart cherry and limeade concoction produced in collaboration with the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Check out Belle Isle’s website for a slew of creative cocktail recipes.

2nd: A. Smith Bowman Distillery, Fredericksburg, 540-373-4555

3rd: Silverback Distillery, Afton, 540-456-7070

1st: Trump Winery

100 Grand Cru Dr., Charlottesville, 434-266-9909

Nestled among the rolling, verdant hills outside of Charlottesville, Trump Winery offers guests gorgeous views alongside award-winning wine. Enjoy a flight in the tasting room, a seated meal with seasonal fare, or a picnic on the lawn with a glass or bottle of your choosing. If you can’t make it in person, purchase a wine club membership for quarterly deliveries.

2nd: Barboursville Vineyards, Barboursville, 540-832-3824

3rd: King Family Vineyards, Crozet, 434-823-7800

Asian Restaurant1st: MekongBarbecue Restaurant1st: ZZQ Texas Craft BarbequeBreakfast/Brunch Restaurant1st: Bodo’s BagelsBurger Joint1st: Five GuysCaterer1st: MOSAIC Catering + EventsCoffee Shop or Roaster1st: Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co.Fine Dining1st: Stella’sFood Truck1st: River City Wood Fire PizzaIce Cream Shop1st: Gelati CelestiIndian Restaurant1st: LehjaItalian Restaurant1st: Edo’s SquidMexican Restaurant1st: Mexico RestaurantOutdoor Dining1st: Portico Restaurant & BarPizzeria1st: Bottoms Up PizzaSandwich ShopSeafood Restaurant1st: The BoathouseSteakhouse1st: Buckhead’s Chop HouseVegan, Vegetarian, or Gluten-Free Fare1st: GoatocadoBakery1st: ShyndigzChocolatier1st: For the Love of ChocolateFarmers Market1st: South of the James MarketSpecialty/Gourmet Food Shop1st: Stella’s GroceryWine Shop1st: Once Upon a VineBrewery1st: HardywoodCidery1st: Bold Rock Hard CiderCocktails1st: The JasperDistillery1st: Belle Isle Craft SpiritsWinery1st: Trump Winery