Ever since Sam Wolfinbarger opened up his downstairs bar in the early 40s, Sam's cellar has been a favorite watering hole among happy hour crowds, strangers passing through, and neighborhood regulars alike. Guests sip frosty draft glasses and bottles of beer as they dine on wood-fired pizzas, oven-baked penne pastas, and light chicken wraps.
Village Pottery Café invites would-be Chagalls of ceramics to lavish paint upon the stoneware of their choice while noshing upon a variety of homemade snacks. With no studio fees, Village Pottery Café allows painters to bask in artistic freedom as they customize mugs ($7.50+), plates ($10–$15), platters ($22+), the Statue of Liberty's understudy, and more objets d'art. After staff members slather them with a protective glaze, pottery luxuriates in the extreme warmth of the kiln, and emerges lacquered and ready to be taken home. Village Pottery Café also provides special crockery options for children ($2–$10). Café refreshments include locally roasted coffee; soups such as chicken enchilada, loaded baked potato, and pasta e fagioli ($4.99); quiches ($5.49); and other savory and sweet morsels.
Three crusts are the foundation of the experience at Mr. Bigg’s Pizza. St. Louis–style thin crust can support pies such as the mexican with its seasoned beef, diced green pepper, and a specially blended sauce. Thick crust can burden the load of the Bigg’s meat pizza and all its sausage, hamburger, pepperoni, and bacon toppings. And the kicker, hand-tossed New York–style pizza, might sport the toppings of the veggie pizza—mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, and tomatoes.
Though the pizza roster forms the central pillar of the menu, it’s not alone. Pasta dishes, such as baked mostaccioli and lasagna, complement non-Italian food, including a chicken bacon ranch sandwich. And drinks contrast the pizza selection, too. From draft and bottled beer to wine and specialty cocktails, the libation list has thirsty throats covered.
If guests would rather not stare at one of the big-screen TVs that adorn a wall in each dining room, they can eat their pasta and sip their wine on the patio where picnic tables and a fish-populated fountain surround cobblestone walkways.
The scent of freshly baked biscuits, peppery gravy, and fried potatoes waft out of Republic Cafe’s kitchen 24 hours a day. Like the red, white, and blue of the French flag, the diner's housemade breakfasts pay homage to Americana, especially the country-fried skillet—a mound of hashbrowns topped with sautéed peppers and onions, cubes of country-fried steak, two eggs, and country gravy. Comfort-food classics populate the lunch menu as well, which stars BLTs, chicken-fried chicken, and open-faced beef sandwiches floating in a pool of savory, brown gravy.
Situated on the edge of the James River, River Smokin lets guests take a break from canoeing and stop by its dining room, patio, or deck. Plates of smoked spare ribs or deep-fried shrimp emerge from the kitchen, making their way to tables crowded with appetizers such as chicken quesadillas and fried dill pickles.
When you order guacamole at Las Margaritas, you aren’t just asking for the avocado-based chip dip; you’re asking for a spectacle. That’s because the staff brings the entire guacamole-making production to your table, mashing together the ingredients in front of you and delivering the tasty concoction as freshly as if the kitchen had an avocado tree growing in the sink. This dedication to fresh, authentic Mexican cuisine sums up Las Margaritas, where chefs make salsas by hand daily and churn out favorites such as chimichangas, tacos, enchiladas, and burritos.
The menu also includes more innovative dishes, such as pork-and-pineapple-filled tacos and the camarones tocineta—cheese-stuffed shrimp that are wrapped in bacon and topped with a pork rind whittled into a bow. A chilly margarita quells any spicy main course and incorporates only natural ingredients to flavor its pomegranate, peach, mango, and pineapple varieties.