Things to Love in Richmond, Virginia: Historic Inns, Soul Food

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If we added it up, we spent about two days in Richmond this weekend, on either side of a reunion trip to Charlottesville, Virginia. And it didn’t cost a thing. Well, sort of.

Linden Row Inn, Richmond
The Linden Row Inn in downtown Richmond, built in 1817 and operated as an inn since the 1980s.

Flights from Atlanta to Charlottesville can be hundreds of dollars more than flying to Richmond, where we rent a car and make the easy 70-mile drive over. So we decided to spend the night there Thursday, then most of the day Sunday before our late evening flight. And what we spent probably equaled the amount we saved on airfare. Or at least, that’s the story I’m sticking to. No need to get out those calculators, right?

With no agenda and no goals, (a life philosophy I hope to adapt one day) we were free to wander the cobblestoned streets of this almost 400-year-old city, down by the James River and across a pedestrian bridge to the 540-acre wood-covered Belle Isle. Now a popular city park, it formerly housed a fishery, a village and a prison camp for Union soldiers during the war.

Maymont Gardens, Richmond
The tulips were in full bloom at Maymont Gardens, a popular park in Richmond.

Another top-rated attraction is Maymont Gardens, where we spent a few hours Sunday strolling through the gardens and viewing the wildlife. With free admission, these gardens were filled with picnickers, children tumbling down grassy hills and couples lounging on blankets on a gorgeous, sunny day.

Here are few more suggestions if you visit the historic town of Richmond.

We chose the historic 70-room Linden Row Inn downtown, housed in a row of Greek revival buildings. The location was convenient for walking to the river, the canal and several restaurants. This 1817 property could probably use a little updating but we loved our spacious room and the charming courtyard.

The rates are reasonable and the staff friendly. Word of warning: the wifi was abysmal during our stay and we had to go to the lobby to get email.

Jefferson Hotel, Richmond
The gorgeous lobby of the Jefferson Hotel.

If you don’t stay in the magnificent Jefferson Hotel, at least go take a look. This property just underwent an extensive renovation, turning the 262 rooms into 181, with an entry foyer, dressing area and marble bath. The two-level marble-and-stained-glass lobby is breathtaking. Be sure to check out the exhibit on the lower level with the history of the hotel.

Where to Dine in Richmond

The fried catfish plate at Mama J's Kitchen, served with a side of greens and the best corn muffin that I regret sharing with my husband.
The fried catfish plate at Mama J’s Kitchen, served with a side of greens and the best corn muffin that I regret sharing with my husband.

Just a short stroll from our hotel took us to Mama J’s Kitchen, one of the top-rated restaurants in Richmond, where we dined on the best fried catfish we’d ever had. It’s lightly breaded and perfectly fried.

The prices were so cheap, we thought some digits were left out. One piece of catfish served with a moist and yummy cornbread muffin and two sides is $7. Add a piece for the mega serving, and it’s a whopping $9.

That night we decided to hit the fun and trendy Carytown, a walkable neighborhood full of former homes now operating as boutiques, restaurants and other retail establishment like consignment stores and even a spice shop.

The promise of top-rated Greek food drew us into Greek on Cary with a diner-type atmosphere that offers table-side service at dinner and order-at-the-counter for lunch. We know because we ate lunch there the next day as well. That’s all my husband’s Chris’s fault.

For dinner we started with the creamy and flavorful Greek lemon soup. We had

to try the Greek Pikilia II, which came with hummus, melitzanosalata, tzatziki, dolmades, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, feta cheese and Kalamata olives. It was so filling, we could barely make a dent in our huge gyro, packed with moist meat and delicious tzatziki.

Feeling a cold coming on, Chris prescribed himself another bowl of the Greek lemon soup the next day, so back he went to Greek on Cary while I hit up another consignment shop. Hearing a beep signaling a text, I glanced at my phone to see, “Lamb burger and soup special!”

So that’s how we ended up eating at the same restaurant twice. The lamb burger was delicious, and the soup still good, the second time around. And well, he never did get that cold so maybe his prescription worked.

On Sunday, it was back to the uber popular Carytown, where we had to park on a side street for a short walk to the main drag. On the suggestion of a sales clerk, we dined on fried oysters, hamburger and salad at East Coast Provisions, which specializes in fresh seafood and steaks. The patio is delightful, although we hustled inside when the rain began.

If You Go

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