5716 Patterson Ave., 938-3449
The title of baker or cake maker doesn’t adequately describe Nicole Elswick Jessee of Shyndigz, who prefers the job description of “sugar artist.” Her fantastic trompe l’oeil creations aim to elevate the confections to the status of short-lived edible art. The bakery’s café is open in the evenings, Thursday through Saturday.
2. (Tie) Can Can Brasserie; Sweet Frog
3. Kuba Kuba’s tres leches cake
Lamplighter Roasting Company
116 S. Addison St., 728-2292
Lamplighter roaster Jen Rawlings is intimately attuned to her craft. She’s met the people who harvest the coffee, and because even one bad little bean can ruin a batch, she and her helpers pick through 400 pounds a week. It’s a commitment to her customers and those who precede her in the process: “The least we can do is to honor that through to the very end,” Rawlings says.
3. (Tie) Can Can Brasserie; Crossroads Coffee & Ice Cream; Globehopper
Once Upon a Vine/Once Upon a Vine South
4009 MacArthur Ave., 726-9463; 2817 Hathaway Road, 864-9463
This store carries 500 varieties of Virginia wine — the most in the state, says owner Robert Kocher, also a partner in the Stratford Hills shop. You’ll find wine arranged by price for easier shopping, plus regional beers and hard-to-find microbrews and imports. Friday-night tastings, free movies in the parking lot (at the North Side location) and other events make this a true neighborhood gathering place.
2. River City Cellars
3. Barrel Thief
1012 Lafayette St., 358-2011
Stella Dikos has already had one 25-year run as a restaurateur, turning out authentic Greek dishes in her Fan eatery. Last year, with her daughter and son-in-law, Katrina and Johnny Giavos, Dikos, 70, reopened a new Stella’s. Katrina laughs at her mother’s self-consciousness over her lack of formal training, despite being well-versed in traditional Greek cooking: “Whatever she’s learned, she’s learned from her neighbors growing up in Greece.”
2. The Crazy Greek
Shrimp and grits at Julep’s New Southern Cuisine
1719 E. Franklin St., 377-3968
Amy Cabaniss says it’s about time her Shockoe Bottom restaurant received this designation. “I’ve been wanting to be known for our shrimp and grits, and fried green tomatoes since 2003,” when the restaurant opened, she says. After growing to love those dishes during visits to Charleston, S.C., and New Orleans, Cabaniss made them staples on the menu at Julep’s.
2. Julep’s fried green tomatoes
3. (Tie) Comfort’s banana pudding crème brûlée; Lady N’awlins’ shrimp and grits
Visit cafecaturra.com for locations.
While the website boasts “wine is our passion,” there’s no lack of good eats at Café Caturra. “Our most popular sandwich has to be our Tuscan Panini,” says Directing Partner Chris Easton. The grilled sandwich pairs roasted chicken with roasted tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, bacon and balsamic vinaigrette. Their cream-based tomato basil soup, made with fresh basil, is also a customer favorite.
2. Baker’s Crust
3. Garnett’s Café
Beet and goat cheese salad at Can Can Brasserie
3120 W. Cary St., 358-7274
On Can Can’s menu, classic French bistro fare rubs shoulders with more adventurous seasonal plates. Versions of Richmonders’ favorite salad are served in other places, but the restaurant’s marketing coordinator, Meg Lawler, says, “Although our salad is basic — not fancy— we do a really good job melding those flavors … . I think it’s that simplicity that makes it so popular.”
2. Joe’s Inn’s Greek salad
3. (Tie) Brio’s chopped salad; Baker’s Crust’s Wine Country salad
411 N. Harrison St., 864-5488
Quick-fried with a minimum of breading, the calamari rings and tentacle pieces at Edo’s Squid are beautifully tender, served with a sprinkle of flat parsley and a couple of lemon wedges, says Richmond magazine restaurant reviewer Piet E. Jones. “It’s nice because you don’t need to douse it with marinara — just a squeeze of lemon. It’s that fresh.”
2232 W. Main St., 358-7870
If you’re a regular, you know that the Bucket of Tots — served with a tangy, spicy “secret” sauce — goes exceptionally well with beer, and you’ve probably ordered the tuna-and-crab Sticky Balls. But have you tried the new braised pork belly steam buns? “We’re always trying to reinvent ourselves,” says partner John Yamashita, noting a push to highlight more seasonal and sustainable options.
2. Secco Wine Bar’s fried chickpeas
3. Siné Irish Pub and Restaurant’s Irish nachos