Richmond, Virginia (or RVA) is probably the only city in the country with its very own open source logo and branding. Since Richmond’s revival around 2011 in light of the new brand, the logo has been tattooed all over town and RVA has rebounded, garnering the city a new reputation as a culinary darling, outdoor paradise, beer-brewing haven and entrepreneurial playground. It is also home to writer, Greg Houser, the author of today’s 24 city guide.
With the number one sculpture program in the country at Virginia Commonwealth University, a world-class museum that’s free and open every day of the year — the VMFA — and the home of Need Supply (which hosts an annual mural program bringing in artists from all over the world), Richmond is a city saturated in arts and culture. Peppered with start-ups, vintage shops, makers, entrepreneurs and chefs, RVA also offers 20 miles of urban trails for hiking, running and mountain biking — and the only class IV rapids that take you right by the city skyline! It’s no wonder Greg is proud to call this great city home, and today, he’s sharing with us his ideal 24 hours in Richmond, VA. –Sabrina
Photography by Betsy Seymour
Start your morning at 9 am in Church Hill. One of the city’s oldest — and first fashionable — neighborhoods, Church Hill is where Patrick Henry gave his “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death” speech. These days it’s home to bakeries, pie makers from New Zealand, and some of the best restaurants in the city.
Grab a coffee and a pastry and sit at the airy windows that front Jefferson Ave. at Sub Rosa Bakery. Brother-and-sister team Evrim and Evin Dogu are the heart and soul of the wood-fired bakery and milling operation, and you can taste their dedication in everything they make. It’s no wonder the New York Times, Alton Brown and a growing list of food press fumble over themselves to heap praise on the bakers for their dedication to old-world process and quality.
Once you’re done with your pastry, take a walk to St. John’s Church and check out where Patrick Henry gave his famous speech. Take note of the old “Uneeda Biscuit” advertisement mural on the corner of 25th and Broad. You’re going to see a lot of great ghost murals and new murals all over walls in the RVA.
From the church, take a leisurely stroll over to Libby Hill Park and see the vista that gave Richmond its name for a striking resemblance to Richmond Upon Thames in England. You’ll want to join the many, many folks who Instagram this view (hashtags #RVA and #VisitRichmond will get you lots of likes).
By now it’s 11 am and Era Vintage should be open. Owner Diana Mathews stocks her shop with a sharply curated collection of vintage furniture, art, bric-a-brac and stuff you didn’t know you wanted until you see it on the shelf; all of it priced fairly (this is something of a trend with the many excellent shops that dot the city’s streets).
Brace yourself, because it’s lunch time and you’re going to have to make a hard decision in Church Hill. If it’s a Saturday, and you eat meat, your only choice is Backdoor Dogs at Dutch and Company. This weekly tradition where Dutch and Company grills out behind their kitchen is a favorite with Church Hill residents and features a rotating cast of gourmet hot dogs, sausages and sides. A recent menu included: a black pepper ginger hot dog with melon, shrimp dressing, peanuts, shiso and a side of a stroopwafel for $6.
If it’s not a Saturday, head to the cutest takeaway place in the entire neighborhood, The Dog and Pig Show. Husband-and-wife team Josh and Isabel Ekcrosh blend southern comfort and Asian flavors with dishes like shrimp and grits, a pulled pork po’ boy that’s more like a pork banh mi cheesesteak hybrid and Laotian-style hot salad.
If that’s not to your liking, Proper Pie Co. is only a few blocks away. Get yourself a New Zealand-style, personal savory pie for lunch, and dessert should be what Alton Brown called the best pumpkin pie he’s ever tasted, if it’s on the menu.
Your next stop is a trio of shops and an old gas station converted into a coffee shop. You’re heading to Addison and Cary Streets. Grab a coffee at Lamplighter and hang out on the picnic tables if you have time and the weather is warm.
Na Nin stocks carefully selected women’s apparel from local and national makers, apothecary products, home goods and accessories. Addison is a well-stocked vintage shop with excellent owners who know how to pick and price their goods. Yesterday’s Heroes is a favorite for vintage menswear, shirts and pants from Taylor Stitch and Left Field denim.
Make Need Supply in Carytown your next stop. This leader in women’s and men’s apparel is a gem in the heart of a vibrant shopping district.
Studio Two Three is part shared studio space, education center and community hub. It’s also the next stop on your tour in what is quickly becoming the center of brewing, arts and loft living: Scott’s Addition. Interns are on hand until 5 pm to show you around the space and sell you prints. Check their calendar as events and one-off classes happen all the time.
Once you’re done at Studio Two Three, head to one of the nearby breweries for a drink. Ardent Craft Ales has a patio and would make an excellent first stop. Make the most of your RVA sunset, though, and head to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and grab a six pack of cans (this is really important) and take an Uber to Brown’s Island. Walk across the pedestrian bridge to Belle Isle and watch the sun set over the rapids — which you can tackle in a kayak or raft during your next visit — and enjoy a local beer (in a can).
Now that you’ve taken in the river like a local, it’s time to get fancy. If it’s a Friday night, head to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for $4 wine and beer and a scene that’s full of mid-twenties wine- and art- (mostly wine) lovers. If it’s not a Friday, The Jefferson Hotel, a Spanish baroque stunner built in 1895, should be your next stop. Have a drink at the bar at Lemaire restaurant in the hotel, or outside if the weather’s nice.
Choosing where to eat dinner in Richmond can be a bit dizzying. You can eat anything from ramen, Italian from celebrity chefs, Korean or Chinese and you can have Dinner in the Field on special occasions. You should probably go full-on southern since you’re only here for 24 hours, though. Three of your best bets are Rappahannock for oysters, and the best-smelling restaurant in Richmond, Pasture, for chic interpretations of southern comfort dishes (get the pimento cheese), or Heritage for classed-up comfort food done right.
After dinner, shoot some pool at Greenleaf’s Pool Room, a pool hall that looks like an Edward Hopper painting, or embrace Richmond’s long love affair with bad taste and gross-out humor at the GwarBar, named for legendary art metal band Gwar. If you’re really lucky, the most fun band in the RVA, No BS Brass Band, will be playing a venue on Broad Street and you can spend your last few hours dancing to their song “RVA All Day.”