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Lately Spiders have been spotted crawling to the heart of VCU territory for a great little restaurant, The Black Sheep. The place is a hole-in-the-wall in the recently gentrified Carver neighborhood of downtown Richmond, but it is far from a dive. The restaurant is a revamped townhouse with exposed brick walls that are covered with a collection of paintings and art. It is a cozy, small space that is very popular, so prepare to wait outside as I did (I would not recommend a visit to The Black Sheep on a very cold day!).
Angela's is cute. No other word describes it better. I give it high marks for being close to campus (it's about 5 minutes away), but it is definitely a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The interior is cozy, and familiar, and is filled mostly by families and old friends catching up. From what I've heard, Angela's has a strong camp following of devoted customers that don't seem to mind the sometimes brusque wait staff.
For those of you who like a good dive restaurant every now and then, Mom's Siam might be your kind of place. The waiters have tattoos, and the interior is cluttered with curio that looks like it's been picked up on long steamer-bound trips to Thailand.
Carytown prides itself on offering off-beat shops and eateries to satisfy those of us who aren't content with Chipotle or Panera Bread, and who are looking for something closer to campus. You've got CanCan Brasserie for French, Nacho Mama's for Mexican, Amici for fine Italian and a handful of great seafood, diner, brunch and American options to boot. Secco Wine Bar fits right in with Carytown's European restaurent feel with its variety of small dish offerings. Secco Wine Bar is operated by River City Cellars, the internationally stocked wine shop right next door, which allows Secco the luxurious wine list that pairs so perfectly with its dishes.
It sometimes feels like once you've been to one Mexican restaurant, you've been to them all. But that's not how I feel about Plaza Azteca on Broad Street. With a fun atmosphere, good drinks and huge portions, Plaza Azteca falls just a notch above other Mexican restaurants, including everyone's freshman year favorite, Mexico's.
So you might be wondering at this point if I ever eat at restaurants that don't deserve 4 out of 5 stars, but I stuck in the Ethiopian restaurant a few weeks ago to mix things up. When coming up with my ratings I try to base them on restaurants I know of the same caliber. For example, Tarrant's Cafe from my column a few weeks ago cannot be compared to Acacia Mid-Town even though they both received four out of five stars. In my mind, Tarrant's serves a completely different, more casual dining purpose whereas Acacia Mid-Town is more upscale and refined. However, both places deserved four out of five stars for their genre of restaurant.
Gluten-free eaters now have a delicious spot on Broad Street to take their non-restricted eating friends.
The Grill at Patterson and Libbie will likely suffer the same fate as its predecessor, Freckles, if it keeps serving up below-average American food. The location is in the name and is what originally attracted me to The Grill as a prospect for reviewing. However, the only redeemable qualities of this third-rate grill are the outdoor seating area and fairly quick food service. I say food service because our meals were delivered quickly, but we had to hunt down our waitress for her to pick up the checks. These reasons, as well as The Grill's close proximity to campus are the only things that kept me from giving it one out of five stars.
Balliceaux is a spunky gem of a restaurant, with a menu that offers new American cuisine. Located in Richmond's Fan district, the restaurant is a unique departure from many of Richmond's more traditional Southern or European restaurants.