The most common way to experience the Deep South is to find a street magician and hope he pulls a shiny Louisiana state quarter from your ear. Stray southerly when there are no illusionists handy with today's Groupon to Julep's. Choose between the following options:
• For $17, you get $35 worth of southern fare on Friday or Saturday.
• For $17, you get $40 worth of southern fare Monday–Thursday.
Executive Chef Branden Levine accents his menu with locally sourced ingredients, house-made soup stocks, fresh-baked breads, and seasonal entrees ($18–$32). Cooks surround servings of ancho-chili-blackened grouper with grilled Vidalia onions and sautéed pea sprouts, gathered sustainably from beneath a princess's mattress. Garlic butter poaches Julep's shrimp and grits, which includes a posse of andouille sausage, white cheddar, lobster stock emulsion, and grilled asparagus; mixed greens from Manakintowne Specialty Growers embrace drops of lemon-balsamic vinaigrette, Clemson blue cheese, cucumber, and applewood-smoked bacon in the Manakin salad. Post-meal pleasures sprout from the handful of house-made desserts, including a generous portion of bananas foster that servers must whisk tableside and set on fire before earning their last Boy Scout badge.
Located in historic Shockoe Bottom, Julep's cloaks its tables in white tablecloths and surrounds them with wooden floors. The spacious dining room showcases dark wood accents, exposed brickwork, and miniature lamps roosting on each table. Adventurous guests can climb a spiral staircase that, depending on the night, leads to the second floor or to an alternate dimension ruled by sentient tape measures.
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.
1719-21 E Franklin St.
Richmond, Virginia 23223