If the crowds keep coming once the doors have been open a few months, there's a reason. The mix works, the tone is real, the approach is well executed and it's probably affordable — and fun, not self-conscious. Some of the standouts you already know about. Others you need to try.
The Savory Grain: The rangy menu defies characterization, making for something for all. For foodies there's quail and venison with kale two ways. For the bar crowd, 24 tap beers and perogies, burgers and sandwiches — on rolls from Lucille's Bakery around the corner. For seafood lovers, there's shrimp and grits, oysters and mussels. 2043 W. Broad St. — D.B.
Postbellum: The recent comprehensive rehab has done the bar good. Where there was smoke, dirt and regret, now there are high-level bar snacks — the street corn is not to be missed — mixed with mindful entrees paired with adult beverage options. 1323 W. Main St. — R.M.
Saison: Constantly inventing and reinventing, Saison somehow manages to straddle trendy and neighborhood bar. Captivating cocktail choices such as negroni on draft along with Sunday night fried chicken are prime examples of how this dichotomy just works. 23 W. Marshall St. — R.M.
Estilo: Owners Jessica and Josh Bufford have their hands on the pulse of Richmond, with this West End resto-bar mixing playful Peruvian food and consistent service. Multiple wines on tap and shareable appetizers encourage effortless hangouts. 7021 Three Chopt Road. — R.M.
Magpie: It's rare to meet anyone who doesn't fall for chef Owen Lane's food once they venture to Carver's Magpie. The minuscule space with a red banquette befitting the best bordello has a consistently lively feel with '80s music, a small but convivial bar scene and a savvy staff that aims to please. Magpie is as diverting for sipping as for supping. 1301 W. Leigh St. — K.N.
Also worthy of the buzz they get: Rappahannock, Tazza Kitchen, Pasture, Heritage, Curry Craft, Belmont Food Shop, Max's on Broad, Pomegranate, the Rogue Gentlemen and Lucy's. The year ahead promises even more momentum with highly anticipated openings downtown and elsewhere.