A charcuterie board at Shagbark. Photograph by Kate Thompson.
Richmond, Virginia, has drawn the attention of epicures across the country as of late. While its Southern roots are strong—and reflected in the cuisine—the options on the menus across the area push the envelope way beyond old-school comfort food. Recently, we asked three notable Richmond chefs to share the local dishes they wouldn’t pass up during a trip to their hometown, plus a recommendation for their personal favorite at their own establishment. Here are their go-to meals in the River City.
Walter Bundy, Chef and Owner, Shagbark
Can’t-miss local pick: “The veal sweetbreads from Ed Vasaio at Mamma Zu are sublime. I go into the Zu planning not to order them, and every time those damn things end up in front of me. They are such a comfort food, so warm and inviting, and along with ham and mushrooms, they fill a void in my heart.”
A menu favorite at Shagbark: “Our charcuterie boards are unique because we had the boards custom made with antler sheds and we focus on locally-sourced elements. Typically we serve a multitude of items on the board, but some of my favorites are house-made pork rinds, country pork pãté, local jams and jellies, fruits, bread and butter pickles, and of course, Virginia country hams and sausage.”
Patrick Phelan, Chef and co-Owner, Longoven
Can’t-miss local pick: “I love Chef David Shannon’s L’Opossum. David does things on his terms. Both the restaurant’s aesthetic and cuisine are pulled off with such confidence and sincerity that diners from all walks surrender themselves to it. The Swank Bank or Swanky Mac has had some different iterations over the years, but the creamy pasta with lobster and thinly sliced asparagus is hard to beat. If this dish shows up in the fall you may be lucky enough to add a mountain of freshly shaved white truffles.”
A menu favorite at Longoven: “Seeds Risotto is a dish that evolves with the seasons here at Longoven, but its foundation remains the same. We stew quinoa, sunflower, pepitos, millet, and chia seeds to a consistency of risotto. You may find this dish with a sauce of nettles in the spring, fontina fondue in the fall, soft egg and herbs in the summer, or buckwheat and braised oxtail in the winter. Its texture and flavor is always a welcome surprise that makes for a humble and comforting dish.”
Patrick Willis, Executive Chef, Lemaire
Can’t-miss local pick: “I wouldn’t pass up the hot new restaurant in Richmond, Alewife. It’s my “don’t-miss” eatery when dining in the capital city. Chef Lee Gregory has put together a hip spot with some of the best food around. I would recommend anything fish. Lee designed the menu to focus on sustainably harvested fish from our region. It’s a highlight but it’s not the only thing they do well. The crispy pig head with assorted bon chon has that ‘wow’ factor.” (Note: Bon chon is an assortment of side dishes that’s served alongside the main course. For example: pickles, bok choy, Bibb lettuce, toasted bread, condiments., etc.)
A menu favorite at Lemaire: “I would recommend the locally-sourced crab cakes. Packed full of Chesapeake Bay blue crab meat, these beauties are seasoned with herbs and a hint of Old Bay. It’s a great dish to enjoy in one of our grand dining rooms, at the bar, or even outside in our open air lounge.”