Best & Worst 2011: Food & Drink
Katie Brown photo

Best Place to Get Your Candy Fix:

For the Love of Chocolate
3136 W. Cary St., 359-5645
Sweet-tooth cravings and months to go before you start your next diet? We have just the place for you. For the Love of Chocolate carries more than 25,000 different varieties of sweets throughout the year that can satisfy even your biggest cravings. From Belgian chocolates to your favorite mixtures from the store’s more than 500 different bulk bins, there’s something for everyone. In the words of Mr. Willy Wonka, “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.”
2. Sweet Spot
3. The Fresh Market

Restaurant That’s So Loud No One Will Notice Your Screaming Child:

Edo’s Squid
411 N. Harrison St., 864-5488
Restaurant reviewer Piet E. Jones says Edo’s is “great for parents who would otherwise have to flee a restaurant due to a fussy child and great for other diners who won’t notice the meltdown.” Food writer Matt Sadler says when he visited with his baby, “he was screaming the whole time, and nobody noticed except us.”
2. Red Robin
3. T.G.I. Friday’s

Best Indian Restaurant:

Short Pump Town Center, 364-1111
Lehja’s goal, says executive chef Mel Oza, is to be one of the region’s best restaurants. Period. In the next few months, he and managing partner Sandeep “Sunny” Baweja plan to offer multicourse prix-fixe menus, enhanced by Lehja’s impressive wine list. “There’s so much diversity with Indian food that has not been tapped,” Oza says.
2. India K’Raja
3. Anokha

Best Greek Restaurant:

The Crazy Greek
1903 Staples Mill Road, 355-3786; 11500 Busy St., 379-8941; (opening this fall) Hancock Village Shopping Center
The Crazy Greek’s expansion after 36 years in business coincides with the growth of the owners’ families, as well as a climate of lowered rent and construction costs, says manager Peter Athanasiou. A longstanding customer favorite is the Greek salad. “Everybody loves it,” he says, noting that the dressing recipe came from the restaurant’s original owner, Greg Panos.
2. Zorba’s
3. Basilis

Best Dining Destination for Carnivores:

Texas de Brazil
1420 N. Parham Road, 750-2003
It’s a meat lover’s dream: Carvers approach your table with swords bearing juicy cuts of beef, chicken, lamb, pork and sausage — the meat is coated with rock salt, then roasted over an open fire — and they keep coming until you say stop. “We typically grill our meats to medium-rare, but we can grill any way the customers like,” says Caroline Oliveira, general manager of the Henrico location.
2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House
3. Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue

Best Dining Destination for Seafood Lovers:

The Hard Shell
1411 E. Cary St., 643-2333
A go-to spot for seafood for 16 years, The Hard Shell is branching out with a South Side location, set to open in September in the Shoppes at Bellgrade. Richmond Restaurant Group partner Jared Golden says the new place will resemble the original, down to the artwork by Richard Patterson, who painted the old-fashioned ads on the brick walls downtown.
2. Pescados
3. The Boathouse

Best Before-Theater Dinner:

Kitchen 64
3336 N. Boulevard, 358-0064
So you’d rather eat before the show or game? Kitchen 64’s menu is available all day, and it offers something for everyone. “You can have a nice fish dinner, and your kid can have a hot dog,” says partner Ernest von Ofenheim. On baseball days, employees wear Squirrels T-shirts (the team’s owners, staff and players are regulars).
2. CinéBistro
3. (Tie) Acacia Mid-town; Can Can Brasserie; Stronghill Dining Co.; Tarrant’s Café

Best Bar With a View:

The Boathouse
Rocketts Landing: 4708 E. Old Main St., 622-2628; Sunday Park: 4602 Millridge Parkway, 744-2545
These two locations are so scenic that they often host weddings and private parties, so why not enjoy the beautiful view while out for a drink? The Sunday Park location overlooks the Swift Creek Reservoir’s 1,700 acres and boasts one of the best sunset views in Richmond at its outdoor cabana-style bar, the Shrimp Shack. The Rocketts Landing location also offers a full-service outdoor bar overlooking the city skyline and the James River.
2. Legend Brewing Co.
3. Conch Republic

Best Menu for Dining on a Diet:

Visit for locations.
Ordering from Applebee’s five-item Under 550 Calories menu doesn’t mean you’ll be hungry afterward. “It’s a lot of food,” says area director Bill Rodgers. “It will fill you up.” His favorite? The Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Shrimp. The restaurant chain also offers three “SkinnyBee” cocktails and five Weight Watchers-endorsed dishes.
2. (Tie) Panera Bread; Sprout
3. Mosaic Café & Catering

Best After-Theater Dinner:

Kitchen 64
3336 N. Boulevard, 358-0064
With Movieland and The Diamond close by, Kitchen 64 makes a convenient post-show or -game stop. Restaurant partner Ernest von Ofenheim says the full menu is available until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and its large tables mean “you can go with a group of people and not worry about whether you can be seated.”
2. Can Can Brasserie
3. New York Deli

Best Grocery-Store Wine Selection:

Visit for locations.
The wine consultants on hand at nine of Kroger’s 16 local stores can help customers select from 1,200 or more bottles in stock. And at the new Short Pump store, shoppers can taste (or order a glass of) one of 24 wines dispensed from coolers. Kroger spokeswoman Anne Jenkins says the remodeled Carytown store also will have a temperature-controlled wall for fine wines and highly rated varieties that sell for $20 or less.
2. Whole Foods Market
3. Trader Joe’s

Best Bar for Grown-Ups:

Can Can Brasserie
3120 W. Cary St., 358-7274
At Can Can, mixologist Ashleigh Hobson creates cocktails and syrups from scratch behind the striking 50-foot-long zinc bar, using seasonal ingredients. The drink menu is updated at least monthly; a recent sample is the Amarante (with Hangar 1 mandarin-blossom vodka, strawberry-infused Dubonnet Blanc, Aperol, Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters and a splash of lemon juice).
2. Lemaire
3. Balliceaux

Best Cups of Coffee:

Lamplighter Roasting Co.
116 S. Addison St., 728-2292
When Zach Archibald and his wife, Noel, moved to Richmond several years ago, they couldn’t find that cup of coffee they’d rate a “10.” By chance, they met Jennifer Rawlings at their children’s school, and soon the trio created Lamplighter Roasting Co. to show Richmond what it had been missing. Though they claim choosing a favorite coffee bean is like picking a favorite child, Rawlings says the most popular is probably their Organic Bali Blue Moon.  
2. Crossroads Coffee & Ice Cream
3. Ellwood’s Café

Best Cooking Classes:

Sur la Table
Stony Point Fashion Park, 272-7094
Sur la Table Culinary Manager Tammy Brawley, aided by staff and guest instructors, offers classes just about every day. Grilling, preserves and Moroccan fare are on the schedule for August. In September, look for classes planned around fresh produce. “I’ll talk about the local farmers markets and what I picked up that morning when I shopped for the class,” Brawley says.
2. Mise en Place
3. University of Richmond Center for Culinary Arts

Best Fancy Lunch Spot:

Can Can Brasserie
3120 W. Cary St., 358-7274
At Can Can, the elements of a fancy lunch include house-made bread, live orchids, specially designed cloth napkins, stemware, an all-French wine list, relaxing music, a menu that changes weekly (with a few constants such as the signature moules frites — mussels served with a side of fries), and knowledgeable, black-and-white-clad servers who adapt to the needs of the varied clientele.
2. Chez Foushee
3. Amuse

Best Casual Lunch Spot:

Café Caturra
Visit for locations.
Customers at Café Caturra have come to expect upscale food served quickly (within eight minutes of ordering is the goal). That won’t change, says marketing director Melissa Kirkpatrick, but the expanding local company has brought in a new culinary director, John Csukor, to rework the menu. Two new dishes have already debuted: a fattoush salad and an apple-and-almond salad.
2. Panera Bread
3. Mosaic Café

Best New Chef in Richmond:

(Tie) Tim Bereika of Secco Wine Bar; Neil Smith of LuLu’s
Secco: 2933 W. Cary St., 353-0670; LuLu’s: 21 N. 17th St., 343-9771
Aside from fondue, Tim Bereika’s favorite food is squash blossoms. Through at least mid-August, you can order them stuffed with house-made ricotta, fried in tempura batter and served with basil sauce. The dish exemplifies Bereika’s keep-it-simple, keep-it-creative approach. Neil Smith, born in England and raised in New Zealand, focuses on what he calls global comfort food at LuLu’s. “One of my favorite things at the moment is grilled lamb chops with new potatoes and peas,” Smith says.

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