We may tell ourselves Richmond's easy to love, but the city still needs to shore up its self-esteem on the hip index. These VIP spots provide the perfect pick-me-up when New York envy's got you down.
Spot: Paradise at Manhattan's on 5th Street downtown.
Signature furniture: Rows of double-wide deep leather armchairs.
Dress code: Dress to impress, but jeans and heels work if you can pull it off.
Added bonus: An elevator to the second floor accommodates those hurt-so-good heels.
Music: Hip-hop, R&B, soul.
Accessibility: Downstairs shouldn't be a problem, but to get to the VIP-area upstairs, which offers a view of the floor and access to private rooms tucked in back, you'll probably need to know somebody.
Flavor of VIP: The sophisticated tone and mellow lighting make it a good place to impress a date, but laid-back enough that you could talk, too.
Manhattans, 112 N. Fifth St., 644-5777
Spot: Pearl, formerly Reflections, in Shockoe Bottom.
Signature furniture: White leather semicircular couch.
Dress code: No sneakers or baseball hats.
Added bonus: Video games in the sunken lounge up front and a huge dance floor in the back.
Music: Hit parade hip-hop and R&B courtesy of a live DJ.
Accessibility: We got turned away on the first attempt, so show up early Friday nights. Getting in shouldn't be a problem during the week, and who knows what has to happen to land in the Space-Age VIP pod attached to the bar.
Flavor of VIP: The purple walls, white furniture, metallic bar and illuminated light panels make the place feel like Austin Powers on hip-hop night.
Pearl Restaurant Lounge & Martini Bar, 1713 E. Main St., 225-8199
Spot: The Bull & Bear sits on the 21st floor of One James Center office building downtown.
Signature furniture: It's a tie between the red felt pool table and the floral Queen Anne couches.
Dress code: Button-up, but you could get away with undoing the top button.
Added bonus: Free snacks! Mini crab cakes and meatballs the night we were there, and killer views of the river and the South Side.
Music: Live jazz combo playing sing-along standards.
Accessibility: Members only, but open to the public Wednesday nights if you promise not to stare and keep your fingers out of the maraschino cherries.
Flavor of VIP: Good spot to make the country-club in-laws feel at home, or take your boyfriend after a job interview and smirk.
The Bull & Bear, 901 E. Cary St., 649-8431 S