Welcome to the first "Faces Behind vaFoodie" post– a New series where you’ll get to know the People behind Virginia Foodie. Our first installment follows me, Julianne, a green-haired, 21 year old, vegan foodie living in the heart of Richmond, VA.
To keep it real, like any college student, I eat out way more often than I should. Richmond’s food scene is so enticing and exciting, it makes it hard not to. Like a lot of VCU students, I live and (mostly) eat in The Fan. If you’re not familiar with Richmond, The Fan is a neighborhood that is full of college students and is packed with stuff to do at pretty reasonable prices. I typically look for restaurants that are locally-owned, offer delivery, and are (surprise surprise) college budget friendly.
Finding a place with vegan and vegetarian options is not hard in Richmond, in fact it’s pretty much the exact opposite. Basically almost any place you go will have one or two veggie options, and they’re way better than the soup and salad combos us veggie lovers usually have to choose from. Most restaurants in the area utilize Twin Oaks Tofu. Made locally in Louisa, Twin Oaks is easily some of the best tofu I‘ve ever had. Chefs in Richmond are hip to the fact that more people are eating plant-based and supporting local, and you can tell their veggie dishes are thoughtfully planned and packed full of flavor.
My top spots in Richmond:
For breakfast and coffee, Lamplighter is my go-to. Not only is it five minutes walking distance from my house (they’re definitely fueling my caffeine addiction), it has hands down the best coffee, pastries, and breakfast bagels I’ve tried. They have three locations in Richmond, all with their unique charms. They use ethically sourced beans and feature local items on their menus.
Fave Menu Item: I recently hopped on the bandwagon and tried their Golden Milk Latte. If you haven’t seen a million Golden Milk Lattes on your Insta-feed already, they’re basically a warm milk latte of your choice (I prefer almond), with turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon. Add in a homemade jam tart and you’re set.
North End Juice Co. has two locations in Richmond. One sidewalk juice bar, convenient when you want something healthy and refreshing on the fly and one sit down location in Midlothian (that is adorbs). Their smoothie bowls are out of this world and will make anyone that follows you insta jealous. You can taste the freshness of the fruits and veggies, and their granola is unlike anything I have ever tasted.
Fave Menu Item: Incredi-bowl with avocado toast (because I’m a millennial, obviously)
This is the spot for sandwiches and subs. Harrison Street’s slogan is “Good Eats. No Meats. Since 2001” and while their menu doesn’t have any meat on it, their veggie options are marinated and smothered in house sauces, so even carnivores won’t miss a thing. It’s definitely a no-frills kind of place, but their food means business.
Fave Menu Item: Their tempeh reuben will make you rethink everything you’ve ever known.
Fresca is a quaint, family-owned vegetarian eatery that has some of the best vegan pizza Richmond has to offer. They go above and beyond with their vegan pizza options. Offering items like the Potato & Onion pizza with a garlic oil base and a Pesto Pizza topped with a red sauce and mozzarella swirl.
Fave Menu Item: Roasted Veggie Pizza with cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, & vegan mozzarella.
Ellwoods is a local foodie’s holy grail, no exaggeration. Their produce aisle is abundant with local greens and veggies, but it doesn’t stop there. They stock pretty much any local food product that I can think of which makes it that much easier to support local businesses! I can buy my local salsas, granola, kombucha and more without having to break the bank. On top of being A1 in the local game, their hot bar, bakery, and to-go items are the bomb.com. There have been plenty a times when I have stopped by and grabbed a tub of vegan chick’n salad for the week and a couple of side items when I’m too busy to cook.
Fave Menu Item: You have to try their whoopie-pies. It’s icing-filled creamy goodness between two fluffy cookies. A total sugar bomb but so worth it.
Union Market is the little corner-shop that everybody wishes they had in their neighborhood. It carries local snacks and beer all while making sandwiches fresh-to-order. I’ll make the drive over to Union Hill occasionally to check out their local items and chill on the patio with a sandwich and cider. They’re sandwiches are available to-go too, so you can forget about making dinner.
Fave Menu Item: TLT. Tempeh, roasted tomato, mixed greens & aioli on billy bread.
Sen Organic is the perfect date-night spot in Carytown. It has cozy, romantic lighting and the interior decor is beautiful. The Vietnamese and French Fusion menu features items like Buddha Bowls, Crispy Golden Rolls, and Pho Bowls. Most of their items are organic and locally sourced. Meals are served on dinnerware made right here in Richmond - and on top of that, they’re insanely eco-friendly (their to-go containers are made from plants and are biodegradable!)
Fave Menu Item: The Vegan Pho Bowl is served with fresh herbs from their garden and is my kind of comfort food. Try the Rossie Apple Pie for dessert, it’s a flaky apple pie made with local apples and topped with coconut ice cream.
Boka does tacos well - like, really well. What started as a food truck in 2010 has now expanded into a storefront and food truck that slings tacos all day long. Their chips & guacamole are delicious, and almost all of their tacos can be made vegetarian by substituting tofu. The real key to Boka is that they deliver and are open until 3 a.m. on the weekends. So after your night out, you can have tacos (yes, multiple, they’re only $4 and you’re going to want many) delivered right to your front door so you can grub out in your PJs.
Fave Menu Item: Braised Beef Brisket taco with subbed tofu.
It isn’t a vegan-foodie list without Charm School, let’s be real. Most ice cream shops don’t have any options for vegans, but the struggle of getting good vegan ice-cream with non-vegan friends is a thing of the past thanks to Charm School. They have a huge selection of dairy flavors along with rotating non-dairy flavors. Their toppings are EVERYTHING. Toasted fluff, peanuts, chocolate shell, and even whipped cream. Seriously, what more could you ask for?
Fave Menu Item: Classic vegan chocolate sundae with toasted fluff is an absolute-must, even if it’s just for the Insta.
Proper Pie is doing something very very right. Every time I’ve made my way there, they’re absolutely packed, but you will always get your pie in under five minutes and can be on your way with the tastiest slice in Richmond. Their savory hand pies are in a league of their own, but their sweet slices taste better than my mom’s home cooking (sorry mom!).
Fave Menu Item: The vegan chocolate chess pie is rich, chocolatey and perfect if you have a sweet tooth like me.
Vasen has my name written all over it. Their concept and style is firmly rooted in the outdoors (something I love!) and they do not make a single IPA. Yep, you read that right - a brewery in Richmond that doesn’t make their own IPAs. They focus instead on Belgian-style farmhouse ales, smoked beers, and my personal favorite, sours.
Fave Menu Item: I’m a sour gal so I go with the Guava Gose. Tropical, salty, sour deliciousness.
Ardent’s beer garden is such a laid-back environment and a great change of pace from any spot you will find in The Fan. It’s worth it to uber over to Scott’s Addition and walk around the neighborhood to find cool new spots. Come here to hang with friends, have a beer or two, and pet all the adorable doggos you’ll see!
Fave Menu Item: Their flight with any IPAs
This one is for the gluten-free foodies! Blue Bee is the first urban cidery to open in Virginia, and it was about time. Utilizing the delicious apples Virginia has to offer, Blue Bee offers up some tasty ciders that range from the bitter side to pretty sweet. Sometimes gluten-free options can be tough to find at breweries, so having a cidery readily available for my GF friends is always handy.
Fave Menu Item: Harvest Ration, a dessert cider seasonally made from bittersweet apples.
It seems like there’s something great popping up or a new place to discover in Richmond every day. It’s a bustling foodie scene and I love being right in the middle of it, especially when the city is on the wave of plant-based, locally sourced foods. Keeping up with the scene on social media (always peeping that #vafoodie hashtag) helps me find more favorite spots all the time. This is my own little piece of Richmond that I love, it’s a huge diverse city every foodie should visit at least once!