Dining out

The longer I go without meat, the more I recognize the difficulty of finding vegetarian- and sustainability-friendly menus. I’ve looked for guides, but always find very generic restaurant lists that don’t tell me much. Luckily, Richmond is a pretty veggie-friendly city. It can be a little hard if you’re new here though.

So I’ve compiled a list of my favorite places to eat along with a description. I never like lists of restaurants that are just links  =)

Please note that there are many, many, MANY more restaurants here – many of which are, I’m sure, great for vegetarians. If I’ve left any off this list that you’d like to add, please let me know! Also, this is currently under construction and well include descriptions and links to each restaurant.

821 Cafe
This is probably my favorite restaurant in the city. They have endless vegetarian and vegan options, and not just “oh, we’ll just leave off the cheese or chicken” type of fare. Specials include nutella stuffed french toast and black bean and sweet potato burgers. The food. Is. Amazing. They have a terrific brunch (I always get the portobello, brie and spinach omelet), AND this is where I get  my Richmond-style mimosas …

Pizza pizza pizza! There are so many pizza options, with tons of great toppings. They also have amazing subs, including grilled veggie sub, portobello (my favorite) and a wonderful caprese (get it without the lettuce though). They deliver, and the owners of Ariana’s also own Maldini’s, further down this list.

The Bellytimber Tavern
Plenty of veggie AND vegan options here, including the Messy Jane and a great tempeh sandwich. I love this restaurant’s interior, with an amazing solid wood bar and a great warm tavern feel. Plus, they serve mimosas the right way (Richmond-style) and you’ll find a wide array of food, including a great brunch.

Have you ever had tapas? This is one of Matt’s favorite restaurants, and it’s growing on me too. We go out with his family a lot, and there we can order a ton of little plates and share everything. It’s like appetizers for dinner. The food is very simple, but well done AND very seasonal. In the fall, we love the roasted brussel sprouts. I’m not talking a pumpkin pie dessert in October either – seasons affect much of what they offer.

Cafe Gutenberg
I lied a little bit above. I haven’t been to ALL of these restaurants. Most, but not all. I’ve heard of Cafe Gutenberg though, and I even lived about 2 blocks away for a year. This neat restaurant, originally modeled after German and Parisian bistros, emphasizes cooking with the seasons, using local produce and supporting local business. Also, extremely vegan friendly!

Cary St. Cafe
Ok y’all. This is one of my favorite bars. It’s a wonderful, dirty, hippi-focused dive bar. It even has a big VW bus with band stickers all over it and The Grateful Dead skull painted everywhere.  I wouldn’t call myself a hippie … but I love this place. They have tons of vegetarian options, including an amazing cheese “steak” made with portobello mushrooms. OH and they totally serve poptarts. Yea. I know!

Carytown Burgers and Fries
This is the epitome of the little hole in the wall sammich shop. They serve an amazing boca burger that somehow doesn’t end up a dry, shriveled TVP slab. It actually has the texture of a nice, meaty burger. They also serve garden burgers, and you can dress them any way that you see their normal burgers listed. My favorite by far? The portabella (sic) brie sandwhich. Yum!

Chiocca’s Downstairs Deli and Bar
This restaurant reminds me of my grandfather’s den. It’s dark in there, in a good (actually great) way, and the front door opens from the sidewalk into the basement of one of Richmond’s old historic homes. The sandwiches are …. well …. HUGE. Double portions of everything and they’re slapped together and grilled right there. It’s the epitome of “Richmond.”

City Dogs
Not even kidding. That’s right, there’s a hot dog joint here. But only because they have amazing drink specials and homemade soy dogs and soy nuggets that are delicious (I actually didn’t believe they were soy at first)! The one I frequent most is an old sushi place, so it has a neat hot dog bar near the back with games and plenty of TVs. Plus … free live music almost every night.

Ellwood Thompson’s
This is a grocery store, true. But – like all grocery stores I love – they have an amazing prepared and hot food selection. Tons of wraps with an amazing vegan and vegetarian selection, and it’s all sustainable. OH and remember my awful stuffed bread experience? Guess where I get mozzarella, spinach and mushroom stuffed bread now? Yup.

Emilio’s Tapas
Remember when I said Cary St. Cafe was one of my favorite bars? This is the one of the others. Many of our friends work here and there’s tons of live music. Plus, this is where we get our Paella. Ever had it? So good! Plus, there are tons of vegetarian-friendly tapas and pastas. And as a pseudotarian, I definitely enjoy the seafood recipes too.

I couldn’t mention vegetarian-friendly restaurants without mentioning this awesome little basement cafe. Owner Kendra Feather states on the homepage, “I’m not anti-meat, I’m pro-vegetable.” Ingredients like gouda, tempeh and swiss chard spotlight the incredible quality of the food here and the atmosphere is pure Richmond. For the record, the smoked Gouda sandwich is one of the best sandwiches in the city. Matt and I always find ourselves here on Tuesday nights for our weekly “date night” when they serve $2 mimosas  =)

I love my Italian food, and this is one of my favorite places to find it. The menu is incredibly extensive and the food is amazing. Matt and I go out with the family there all the time and we love it. It’s an old standby  =)  Though Matt’s kind of boring and always gets the Napolitano. My recent favorite is Farfalle al Salmon – smoked salmon in a rich pink cream sauce.

Vietnamese food is slowly growing on me, and here’s where I get my fix. No vegetarian soups, but a whole page dedicated to vegetable dishes. My favorite is Dau hu kho to (Clay pot style tofu). Caramelized tofu (yum!) with velvety, succulent shiitake mushrooms. They also boast Richmond best collection of Belgian beers, and have a terrific selection of world beers too.

Morton’s Steak House
Just kidding.

Mosaic Cafe & Catering
Matt and I went here with our realtor, and fell in love! Not only did we find tons of vegetarian and vegan options, Mosaic sources their food locally – something we can always support! It has a great cafe vibe and good service. Any place that offers a smoked-gouda cream sauce immediately makes my “favorites” list, too, but my favorite so far was definitely the Hot Portobello Club Pita. Plus, they make an effort to serve low-fat, high protein options, including an entire menu dedicated to offerings that meet that criteria.

Positive Vibe Cafe
This restaurant has a really neat story behind it. Like, really neat. It’s a nonprofit organization that trains and employs people with disabilities for food service. Not to mention the amazing vegetarian menu options. Spinach, pepper and feta lasagna and fire roasted tomato bisque. Um, delicious.

This neat little restaurant right near Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus is a seasonally-minded, locavore’s heaven! The menu changes frequently to suit the supply of local farmers. The vegetarians and vegan options are plenty, from breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sprout focuses mainly on lighter fare, while also offering small entrees. Each dish is designed with care and thought, so the veggie-friendly dishes never feel like the chef just left off the chicken or cheese of another dish. Yum!

Sticky Rice

Sushi! Sushi! Sushi! This is such a fun restaurant and so very … Richmond. Karaoke and trivia nights. PBRs are only a dollar when it rains and their most popular appetizer is a bucket of tater tots. Plus, they have tons of vegetarian and vegan options ranging from rolls to noodles to daily specials. I love the “Sticky Balls” (very psuedotarian of me, since they have tuna) and very unqieu specialty options and sushi rolls. Definitely not your normal sushi!

Richmond’s very own DOC pizza restaurant! The pizza here is so authentic that it’s actually certified by the Italian government. The central feature of it is definitely the giant venetian glass-decorated wood-burning oven. Amazingly simple and refreshing salads and small plates (“Stuzzi chini” means “delicious little things), and a wide array of pizzas and pastas, some meat free, and others easily made so!


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