Sharing is a must at Nile Ethiopian Restaurant. Orders arrive served atop communal platters, from which diners pluck bites stewed meats and vegetables using of injera, a sourdough flatbread made from the gluten-free grain teff. The batter ferments for three to four days, producing its signature tang and a spongy texture that's ideal for soaking up richly seasoned sauces and wine spills.
Staff are happy to explain the menu and the staples of Ethiopian cooking found on a menu that, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch, "offers enough diversity for the most seasoned diners but also provides novices an excellent introduction to Ethiopian food." Along with injera, the most iconic component of Ethiopian cooking is the powdered blend of chilies, basil, ginger, garlic, shallots, fenugreek, and cardamom known as berbere. This spice blend, prevalent throughout the menu, lends a pleasant kick to everything from sautéed beef and stewed lentils to slow-cooked potatoes and a blend of cabbage and whatever vegetables happen to be in season. Those entrees that don't star meat are vegan, as the cooks make them without butter or dairy.
A review in Style Weekly lauded recent renovations at Nile, along with service that "couldn't be better." The sensory experience starts even before you enter: the little brick building in the Fan bears a huge mural of a black-and-white crowd scene on one side and a brighter, more traditionally Ethiopian array of colors and shapes on the facade.
Inside the 19th-century River District building that now contains Julep's, industry seems to have progressed backward. The structure, which once housed a lumber house, a candle factory, a cyborg-assembly plant, and a locksmith, has transformed into a farmer's haven, where locally grown and organic products construct modernized Southern fare. It?s a place where executive chef Randall Doetzer looks to several pinpoints on the map?namely Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans?to inspire his menu. Duck confit and Cajun beer-barbecued mussels herald helpings of seafood gumbo, and the wine selection ranges from domestic Virginian bottles to Old-World European imports.
Randall's creations have helped Julep's secure awards in Richmond magazine for the Best Southern-Inspired Restaurant Dish of 2012, with shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes taking first and second place, respectively. Julep's was also awarded a spot on the magazine's 2010 list of Richmond's 25 Best Restaurants for its "house-made stocks, baked-daily breads and farm-to-table ingredients" that "represent a true philosophy, not a nod to trends."
The magazine also lauded its ?sexy environs??lampshades stand on each white-clothed tabletop, illuminating a backdrop of exposed brick and polished wood. A winding staircase leads to an upper dining room flanked by artwork and a fireplace. Here, private parties order from prix fixe menus that rotate seasonally.
When The Melting Pot originally opened in 1975 just outside Orlando, the location was cozy and quaint, but diners had only three options: swiss-cheese fondue, beef fondue, or chocolate fondue. However, as the restaurant grew in popularity, so did its menu selection and atmosphere. The restaurant first expanded four years later under the leadership of a Melting Pot waiter and enterprising college student named Mark Johnston, who teamed up with his brothers Mike and Bob to open a new outpost in Tallahassee. This location grew in reputation to pave the way for future franchise expansion. Today, the company—now owned by the trio of siblings—reigns as the premier fondue, wine, and drink restaurant, stretching across North America with more than 140 restaurants linked by underground tunnels. The restaurant's menu has also ballooned, and patrons can now expect six varieties of hot dipping cheese paired with salads, meats, and molten chocolate.
On a given night, groups of foodies gather around tables to nosh on signature four-course meals, from cheese-fondue appetizers and various salads to steaks and seafood cooked in a choice of healthy broth or oil. Birthday revelers and couples can share decadent evenings at private tables, capping off meals with chocolate desserts that have defined The Melting Pot for decades.
Mezzanine's Chef Todd Johnson loves creating fine cuisine from local, sustainable food sources. His restaurant has garnered numerous accolades, including 2009 Restaurant of the Year from Style Weekly magazine and a nod from the New York Times.
Johnson's work as a master chef has led him all over the world, but he celebrates his deep Virginia roots by sourcing from farms and fisheries throughout the state, resulting in an eclectic menu full of diverse flavors and fresh ingredients. Daily-printed menus feature creations whipped up from whatever produce, meat, and seafood is readily available. The chorizo, mushrooms, and Polyface Farm chicken come from Virginia, as do oysters served on the half-shell with drizzles of spicy sriracha aioli. You might also find Aspen Ridge rib-eye steaks and Sunday brunches of lobster omelets, fried-green-tomato BLTs, and Carolina shrimp and grits.
Mezzanine's intimate, two-tiered dining room fosters a relaxed and jovial atmosphere, and a covered patio accommodates outdoor diners during warmer months. Small tables, ideal for conversation and morsel stealing, lean their weight into hardwood floors as ambrosial aromas delicately waft by, unable to contain themselves within the kitchen.
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.
When Carena Ives moved to the States at age 16, she slowly eased into New York City’s concrete-and-steel embrace, its fast-paced and oft-gray surroundings a world away from the crystal blue waters and balmy breezes of home. A native of Ocho Rios, Jamaica, she had followed her culinary passion north to the restaurants and vibrant food scene of NYC, leaving her family behind to chase the dream. Years later, and wiser in the ways of the restaurant business, Carena opened her own eponymous restaurant in Richmond as a celebration of the home she left behind but never forgot. Carena’s Jamaican Grille brings stateside diners an authentic taste of Carena’s home cuisine thanks to its laid-back atmosphere and lineup of noshes prepared using traditional methods and piquant spices. All day, chefs bustle about the kitchen chopping and grilling up fresh ingredients that fuse into homemade soups, jerk meat dishes, and savory oxtail. Several of Carena's dishes have become favorites among the locals who line up for the grub as well as among other local chefs.