Foodies far and wide will agree that the next best thing (or maybe it’s the best, opinions will vary) to discovering new sights and cities is discovering new places to wine and dine the day away. Here are three of my favorite scenic spots where you may be inclined to turn your table to the city.
Down by the River
The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing is the only Richmond restaurant right on the James River. Industrial on the outside, it has a heart of pure contemporary. Floor-to-ceiling glass combines with steel and lime green to give a bit of “swank” to the fabulous view of the river and city skyline.
Like a lot of buildings and businesses in Shockoe Slip and the Bottom, the Boathouse resides in a converted factory. In 1888, the building served as a power plant for Richmond’s fleet of trolley cars, the first successful electrically powered trolley system in the U.S.
The menu features filet mignon, Maine lobster, and gourmet pizzas (crab, brie, and grilled asparagus to name just one). Traditional seafood dishes go unexpected in a seared scallop and mushroom asparagus risotto dish. Let me just say, the risotto alone made my visit worthwhile. The crab cakes are chock full of crab and mixed only with a little mayo. If you know crab cakes, you know that’s a good thing.
The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing
4708 E. Old Main Street
Richmond, VA 23231
(804) 622-BOAT (2628)
call-ahead waiting is available
Bottom’s Up Pizza in Shockoe Bottom is in the heart of train town. In fact, right underneath it. Sit out on the ground-level deck or balcony above and enjoy the barrage of freight and passenger train traffic high above the cobblestone streets. A little noisy, yes, but kids love it. And once your pizza arrives, you won’t even notice.
Brick walls and exposed duct-work bring warm and cozy to this former warehouse, while gigantic, thick and chewy pizza slices (yes, you only need one slice), topped with pretty much anything you can imagine (salsa, shrimp, spinach, pineapple, crab…..), bring warm and cozy to your stomach.
After dinner, walk off those pizza pounds on the canal walk across the street, which flows along the James River and features historic markers along the way. The river is not actually visible from even the top balcony at Bottom’s Up, due to a very high, very necessary, floodwall.
Check out the line drawn on the wall when you walk in the restaurant. Several feet off the floor, it marks the height of water from Tropical Storm Gaston in August of 2004. The floodwall, built in the ‘90s, was designed to hold back the James, not a massive amount of rain falling over a short amount of time. It took well over a year for Bottoms Up to re-open after all the flood damage, but it was well worth the wait.
Bottoms Up Pizza
1700 Dock Street
Richmond, VA 23223
Southern with a Twist
Julep’s New Southern Cuisine is one of those places that feels like it’s been there forever. And, in fact, the building has. Sitting quietly on a corner in Shockoe Bottom, it’s one of the oldest commercial buildings in Richmond (circa 1817). It’s just a quick walk down the street from the equally antique 17th Street Farmers’ Market.
This place has a way with tomatoes you can only imagine…..in the form of cold, a tomato soup that is literally the “juice” of a tomato, very light and slightly spicy (this is no Campbell’s condensed tomato soup, I’ll tell you that right now)…..or hot, in the form of fried green tomato beignets with a light drizzle of roasted jalapeno-lemon aioli. Now, I have never had a “real” beignet in New Orleans, or a fried green tomato, for that matter, but I’m not sure it can get much better than this.
Julep’s takes typically “southern”cuisine (think grits, beignets, and fresh local produce) and gives it a new twist…..mac and cheese mingled with roasted butternut squash and spinach, filet mignon blanketed with bacon, pan seared salmon and risotto, and shrimp and grits with grilled Andouille sausage and asparagus in a lobster stock emulsion. The menu may change with the seasons and availability of items, but you can be sure it will always be filled with creative, unexpected combinations.
The room is lit by candlelight and intimate tables, but perfectly suited for a small group. A winding wooden staircase leads to upstairs dining, where solid oak beam run across the ceiling (a reminder of its past as a lumber house). Secure a seat by the window and watch the pedestrian traffic pass by below.
Julep’s New Southern Cuisine
1719-21 E. Franklin Street
Richmond, VA 23223
Virginia Woolf wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Richmond surely has no problems in the thinking, loving, and sleeping departments.
To receive free e-mail notifications of new articles by the Richmond Sightseeing Examiner, kindly click Subscribe at the top of the page.
You can find the Richmond Sightseeing Examiner on Facebook.