Owen Lane and Tiffany Gellner have experienced nearly every side of the Richmond restaurant scene. Both began in entry-level positions—Owen as a dishwasher, Tiffany as a hostess—and worked their way up from there. After years of experience, this husband-and-wife team has joined forces to helm The Magpie RVA, an American gastropub nestled in the historic Carver neighborhood. Like its food, the space is a hodgepodge of eclectic elements: a sign affixed to an antique typewriter welcomes guests, and lighting fixtures made from salvaged machinery hang above dark wood tables and a plush crimson-cushioned bench.
As The Magpie's chef, Owen is never content to sit still. He changes the menu frequently, gracing white plates and wood trays with unique combinations of local and exotic ingredients. He has crafted shareable plates such as smoked rabbit croquettes, housemade sausage, and charred Japanese eggplant. As for main dishes, he might prepare grilled quail, roasted duck, or oyster-mushroom risotto. Chef Owen also showcases his passion for beer and bourbon at an L-shaped, polished-wood bar supported with elegant metal braces. Here, bartenders pour sudsy brews into goblets and garnish cocktails with fruit. Owen occasionally leaves the comfort of his kitchen to perform private chef services at customers' homes.
Housed in a 95-year-old furniture showroom renovated in 2004, Popkin Tavern furnishes patrons with a menu of inventive pub fare in a vintage backdrop. Red lampshades shed light on rows of barstools and cozy seats, illuminating Bowman burgers where thick beef patties hide from the forks under their bed by blanketing themselves in cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, bacon, and caramelized onions ($9.95). Tear open chipotle chicken sandwiches' bready abodes to extract the fresh avocado, zesty pepper jack cheese, and smoky bacon within ($8.85), or watch baja fish tacos swim through sweet mango chipotle sauce, dreaming of roaming the ocean floor protected by their soft taco shells ($2.50 each).
Most Americans won’t get the chance to see Cuba, but they can experience the culture and flavor with Kenn-Tico Cuban Bar & Grill’s cuisine. In a dining room decorated with panoramic shots of Havana Harbor or out on the new patio with skylights, a fountain, and 8-foot windows, plates are filled with traditional grub such as a sandwich of sliced pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on grilled cuban bread. Other classics include salmon topped with mango sauce, ropa vieja—shredded beef served up with onions, garlic, and peppers—and yucca sliced and fried until it looks like french fries back from a Caribbean vacation. Accompanying these dishes are homemade fruit milk shakes, freshly squeezed lemonade and limeade, and soft drinks such as Ironbeer and Materva. Knowing that their clients don’t always have time to stop in for their favorite dish, Kenn-Tico's chefs load up a cart with wraps and beverages to offer quick lunches downtown during the workweek.
In 2009, The New York Times named The Camel Richmond's "premier venue" for "up-and-coming Southern rock and bluegrass bands, acoustic singer-songwriters, and jazz and funk musicians." So far, nothing's changed: The Camel still hosts local and nationally touring acts such as Ben Kweller and James McCartney, who, unlike his father, has never toured with a band named after icky bugs. But even though it's lauded for providing live music seven nights a week, The Camel makes a space for all art, including occasional film screenings.
Like its entertainment lineup, The Camel's cuisine is an eclectic mix of American flavors. The culinary team, lead by executive chef Xavier Beverly, whips up gourmet vegan risottos, grills fresh seafood, and tops flatbreads with spinach, mushrooms, and hummus. But they also keep things casual with finger foods such as the popular sausage stars and housemade beef burgers crowned with horseradish mayo. Served until 2 a.m. nightly, each dish can be paired with local or craft beers, which fill the 28 taps lining The Camel's exposed brick wall.
The Camel is open for lunch Monday through Saturday, and brunch on Sunday.
Located in the historic Shockoe Bottom district, longtime venue Hat Factory plays host to an extensive variety of live entertainment. For 13 days in October, the club morphs into Fear Factory, a ghoulishly gleeful haunted house spotlighting themed events every night. Scare-seekers may glimpse the spirit of clown Thurman "Laughing Man" Ray, whose undeadness adds a chilling layer to a seemingly innocent profession. The eerie extravaganza commences on Tuesday, October 19 with a special Halloween edition of the club's popular RVAlution with Dave Nada, a study in social interaction co-chaired by live performers and professional DJs. The Massacre-ade Ball on Saturday, October 30 provides the perfect excuse to wear that plainclothes police officer costume you've been storing all these years. The visually inclined can experience the spine-tingling Fear Factory teaser video here.