- Scott Elmquist
Richmond may fancy itself as a terrific restaurant town, but is it?
Consider it one of the more perplexing conundrums in the annals of Richmond rankings: In 2011, the Daily Beast ranked the venerable Capital of the Confederacy third in the country for the number of fast food restaurants per capita.
Richmond may be a foodie's dream, but it's also a great place to scarf down nuggets and fries. With 274 fast food outlets, according to the 2011 rankings, that gives Richmond 134 per 100,000 residents. The first- and second-ranked fast food towns are understandable. Orlando, Fla., is chockablock with tourists and theme parks. Louisville, Ky., is the corporate home of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
Admittedly, rankings can be a slippery proposition. Sperling's Best Places ranks Richmond No. 22 out of 100 in "manliness"; the 69th "least stressful" and No. 10 among middle-sized cities for working from home via Internet.
Richmonders are really getting into railroading, too, albeit from a small base. Amtrak's Staples Mill Station showed the highest percentage increase in passengers — a 7.9 percent spike — in the country last year. That's better than such high-volume centers as New York's Penn Station, Washington's Union Station and Chicago. It could be that Richmonders like Amtrak's new early-morning trains to Washington. The addition of daily service to Norfolk through Richmond helps.
As for the fast-food conundrum: Why would Richmond have roughly double the fast-food saturation rate than somewhat similar Upper South cities as Greensboro, N.C. (No. 14), Chesapeake (No. 19) or Raleigh (No. 23)?
If there's any consolation, all of these places rate Subway as the most common fast-foodery. If it has to be fast, at least they're eating fresh.