Collard Greens at Jacqueomo's
For three decades, Mrs. Johnson operated a soul-food restaurant around the corner in Shockoe Bottom, and her soul lives on at this New Orleans-style restaurant, which serves this Southern favorite as best as white folks can cook it.
Dover Sole at 1 North Belmont
It's not as good as a trip to Normandy, but if you dig out your fancy duds, chef-owner Fritz Huntjens will make you feel special when he shows up in starched apron and toque at your table with a lightly dusted whole fish, imported from across the pond, which he expertly filets before your eyes and then drizzles with a sauce of capers, lemon and butter.
Frog Legs at La Grotta
Descend into the windowless dining room, then settle into the wrought-iron-encased wine cellar and order an appetizer of these tiny delicacies. They're sautéed in a Chardonnay-based white sauce that makes them so tender the meat is falling off the tiny bones into a mound of polenta garnished with chunks of tomatoes, peppers and spring onions.
Spicy Lobster Roll at Ichiban
Owner Sue Wang imports her chefs from Manhattan and her fish from D.C., but her infectious enthusiasm and visually outstanding sushi can be had right here in Richmond. And nothing tenderly crunches with a spectacular seafood explosion better than the spicy lobster roll, shown here with sushi chef Alex Wu. So pony up the $15.95 and brace yourself: Everyone at your table will try to finish it off before you do.
Empanadillas with Picadillo at Kuba Kuba
Revive your senses on a Sunday morning with this: flaky pastry dressed with sour cream drizzle and sweet pepper confetti enclosing a sweet and spicy picadillo. The salsa (both edible and audible) will get your blood pumping. Throw in a café con leche and the Sunday Times, and only the crush of hungry patrons clamoring for your seat will break the spell.
Mushroom in Pastry at Michelle's
Reward yourself for the drive to Hanover Tavern by skipping an entrée in favor of this savory, flaky pastry, stuffed with wild mushrooms and smoked Gouda accompanied by pesto and Vidalia onion marmalade, plus a plate of warm brie with toasted pecans, raspberry maple syrup and a crusty baguette.
BBQ Cuban Sandwich and She-Crab Soup at Zuppa
Golden toasted homemade bread + sweet and tangy slow-roasted pork + Serrano ham + sliced dill pickles + brown mustard = palatial overload. But never has oblivion tasted this good. The silky smooth she-crab soup, shown by server Ashlea Moseley, is a perfect foil. Who thought a soup kitchen could pack such punch?
Roast Duck at Six Burner
No frills here. Just the best, time-honored preparation of one of those dishes you can't (don't) do at home. Slow-roasted and perfectly paired with jus natural, this straightforward fowl demonstrates that clean flavors are the key to the sublime.
Tamales Mexicanos at La Palmera
After a few bites the palm tree mural may begin to waver, thus erasing the notion that you're sitting in a converted Dunkin' Donuts on Midlothian turnpike. The corn masa, shredded pork and roja sauce, artfully hand-rolled in a cornhusk pocket, take your senses on a trip to a world where food rules and Texas is "way up North."
Mofongo at Papa Ningo
The goat's tender and the pork chops sweet and smoky, but the real reason to try the Dominican Papa Ningo is the mofongo. Garlic-laced mashed plantains are piled high in a funky earthenware goblet and create with island-inflected genius a whole new taste for Richmond diners.
Noodle Bowl at Patina Grill
With a constantly changing variety of ingredients melded with a rich Asian brown sauce and cellophane rice noodles, Brian Mumford's would-be "throwaway" entrée may just be the best value in Richmond's fusion scene.
Peanut Butter Pie at Grandpa Eddie's
If you can forget about the ribs for a minute, drive straight to Goochland County and find dessert nirvana with Grandpa Eddie's memorable, mousselike peanut butter pie. You won't stop thinking about its nutty richness for days, until you give into temptation and drive back for another piece.
Short Ribs at Carlton's
Go fancy with the pig-pickin' and order up some of the chili-glazed pork shanks at Carlton's. These sweet and smoky morsels fall right off the bone and sneak up on your tongue with a surprising spiciness that makes you wonder if you've somehow stumbled into a backyard barbecue in Beijing. SBack to: State of the Plate 2006