Henrico County’s neighborhoods, shopping and attractions make it a great place to live and work. In addition to top schools and an affordable cost of living, it also offers a diverse culture and an emerging restaurant scene.
In fact, the entire Richmond area was recently named in an article titled “8 Under-The-Radar Foodie Cities” by U.S. News & World Report Travel. Grouped with such cities as Lima, Peru, Hong Kong, and Bologna, Italy, Richmond was cited as a place for “fresh takes on Southern staples.”
For your dining pleasure, we unveil four Henrico County spots where culture and cuisine collide — much to the delight of restaurant-goers.
1. PETER CHANG CHINA CAFÉ — “...an experience you won’t forget.”
Chef Peter Chang's popularity reached new heights in early 2010 after food critics Todd Kliman (Oxford American) and Calvin Trillin (The New Yorker) both wrote glowing reviews of his fiery, unique dishes. His career has included stints as the chef for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., and restaurants in Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. He’s known for his sudden moves from city to city, leaving followers of his work scrambling to keep up.
In spring 2012, the elusive Chef Chang opened a new location within a small shopping mall in Henrico County. His restaurant promptly made Bon Appétit’s “50 Best New Restaurants” list. And it seems Henrico loves Chang, too.
If you plan to visit, arrive early, as there is often a wait for lunch and dinner. The menu always includes several unique items, so you’re sure to find something new and different. Bon Appétit suggests the bamboo fish, the mapo tofu and the Shan City chicken.
“With all the hype surrounding this happily humble man, it's easy to think, ‘How can Peter Chang's food really be that good?’ The only way to know is to try it yourself. But one thing's for sure — it will be an experience you won't forget.” —Dana Craig, Richmond Times Dispatch
“Best Chinese food I've ever had. Whenever I travel to the Richmond area, I make a point of eating here. I recently took a co-worker who lived in China for three years, and he said this is the best and most authentic Chinese food he has had outside of China.” —Yelp Reviewer James S. (Pittsburgh, PA)
Peter Chang China Café, 11424 West Broad Street, Glen Allen, VA 23060, 804-364-1688
2. LEHJA — “...one of the best Indian restaurants in the region.”
Lehja’s kitchen creates traditional and popular Indian dishes with a contemporary flair. Our sources say this is the best Indian restaurant in Richmond, with consistently good food and excellent service and decor. But don’t take our word for it. Famed food critic Todd Kliman of The Washingtonian also expressed high praise: “Outside of D.C.’s Rasika, this might be the best Indian restaurant in the region.”
Local critics agree. When Lehja first opened, it was named to Richmond Magazine’s 2011 “Best New Restaurants” list. Today the reviews are still strong — Open Table reviewers put the spot on the site’s 2014 “Best Overall Restaurants in Richmond” list, and Richmond Magazine readers named it Best Indian Restaurant.
The acclaim doesn’t stop at cuisine, however. Lehja consistently makes Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence list.
“I've had Indian food at other places in RVA, and this one is absolutely, hands down the best.” —Yelp Reviewer Erika M. (Richmond, VA)
“It was really good. Almost licked the bowl.” —Yelp Reviewer Chris B. (Mattapoisett, MA)
Lehja, Short Pump Town Center, 11800 West Broad Street, Suite 910, Richmond, VA 23233, 804-364-1111
3. ESTILO — “...this little gem exceeded all of my expectations.”
Estilo’s cuisine is influenced by Central and South America with an emphasis on the flavors of Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, the Caribbean and Mexico. And, it’s 100 percent gluten-free. We highly recommend the chifrijo, sopes, mofongo and pozole.
Nestled in a discreet space in the Village Shopping Center, Estilo has a warm, contemporary dining space as well as a pleasant outdoor patio. Proprietors Josh and Jessica Bufford also own Toast, located in the same shopping center.
When you visit, introduce yourself to Phil, who’ll most likely be behind the bar experimenting with cocktails and introducing different piscos and mezcals.
"This place is amazing! I've enjoyed a lot of other Latin restaurants in Richmond, but this little gem exceeded all of my expectations. The food took me back to the years when I lived in Miami and good Latin food was always around the corner." —Yelp Reviewer Mike M. (Wilmington, NC).
"Oh, I love this place … I'm gluten-free, and for a whole restaurant to be gluten-free is awesome. For a restaurant to be GF and have the high caliber of food that Estilo does is a rarity.” —Yelp Reviewer Heather L. (Richmond, VA).
Estilo, 7021 Three Chopt Road, Richmond, VA 23226, 804-484-6046
4. BALKAN RESTAURANT — “Absolutely delicious.”
If you love meat, you’re going to enjoy the food here. But don’t expect large portions: Balkan cuisine is about enjoying a variety of unique spices and flavors through smaller quantities.
Balkan’s food is closely related to Turkish, Greek, Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines. However, you’ll also find influences from Central Europe. Typical ingredients include tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, cucumbers, spinach, fresh beans, ajvar (roasted red pepper and eggplant spread) and cream cheese called kajmak.
When you go, be sure to order the Lepinja bread!
"Absolutely delicious and homemade!" —Trip Advisor Reviewer VA_Traveler_67 (Richmond, VA)
"Authentic food, great taste" —Trip Advisor Reviewer TeliaRei (Tokyo, Japan)
Balkan Restaurant, 8905 Patterson Avenue, Richmond, VA 23229, 804-754-2255
[Ed.] Thanks to Sanjay Hinduja for his restaurant recommendations and insider information. Named by Style Weekly as the “Man Most Likely to be Dining Out” in 2011, today he tallies visits to over 625 Richmond restaurants and nearly 1,500 international dining destinations.