As a Richmond native, travel and food lover, I have experienced first-hand how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed both the travel and food scene. Travel was shut down for non-essential purposes, and many restaurants closed their doors for months at a time. The pandemic has also financially affected many people in the Richmond area and beyond, making it nearly impossible to travel and go to restaurants post shutdown. I have compiled a list of budget friendly places within the Richmond area for individuals and families to attend to experience the culture and food of traveling without having to spend the money it takes to travel.
Eat Your Way Around The World Right Here in Richmond
Level Restaurant and Bar – Japanese and Sushi: Asia – 2007 W Broad St Richmond, VA 23220
Level is a steal for the quality of the sushi. The prices were incredibly reasonable for everything, especially for sushi. Although the menu was not super dynamic and it was not really the best option for vegetarians, vegans, allergy conscious people or picky eaters. The menu includes items such as chicken and steak fried rice, sushi, and seafood. The sushi was some of the best I have ever had, however the other entrees were subpar. The setting made up where the entrees lacked. There was a beautiful brown theme in the restaurant and everything was clean. The waitstaff was incredibly kind, but the food took quite a while to come out. Overall I would give the restaurant a 4/5 for its delicious sushi and affordability.
Sal’s by Victor– Italian: Europe – 1242 Richmond Rd (Rt 60) Williamsburg, VA 23185
Sal’s is the best Italian restaurant I have ever been to. The restaurant is located in Williamsburg, which is about an hour drive from Richmond. The restaurant is clean and spacious. The menu is dynamic for picky eaters and allergy conscious people. They offer both wheat and gluten free pasta and pizzas for those who struggle with gluten intolerance. There are also a number of options for vegetarians and vegans including spaghetti, Penne with garlic and oil, and fried zucchini. All of which are delicious options. The waitstaff is incredibly kind and cheerful, which makes the drive totally worth it. There is typically no wait to be seated and the food comes out quickly, which is important when you’re hungry. The desserts put every other dessert to shame. All of their cakes and pastries are delicious and served in hefty portions. The prices are slightly higher than average, but the food and atmosphere completely makes up for it. I would give this restaurant a 5/5 for its delicious food and family friendly atmosphere.
Bellos Lounge– African and Jamaican: Africa and Caribbean – 1712 East Franklin Street Richmond, VA 23223
Located on East Franklin street in Shockoe Bottom this restaurant is in the very heart of Richmond. The food was on the more pricey side, however the food was worth the price. The menu is traditional and set. The menu is meat heavy, all but one item on the menu has meat. Meat lovers rejoice, vegetarians beware. There was also gluten in almost every meal, however there are options to remove the gluten items. The setting of the restaurant was upscale and classy, however it was not a really family friendly establishment. The restaurant opens at 5pm and at 10pm turns into an adult lounge. The food was delicious. The dishes are filled with delicious jerk spices and salt, peppers and onions. The food has a lot of zing. The appetizers were reasonably sized and allowed you to thoroughly enjoy your food after eating them. The portions of the entrees were large and did not leave you craving more food. The food came out quickly and the servers were all very nice. Overall I would give the establishment a 4/5 for its food and atmosphere.
El Caporal – Mexican: North America – 1417 Eastridge Rd, Henrico, VA
The food at El Caporal is delicious, and the best Mexican food in Richmond. The restaurant is cozy and family friendly. The food is savory and full of flavor. The prices are extremely reasonable for the large portions and delicious food. The food is filled with spices, beans and cheese. The menu is long and has variety. There are both vegetarian and vegan options that would satisfy even meat eaters. There are many Mexican staples and Mexican-American fusion dishes. The wait staff was kind and the food came quickly. The appetizers were large and shareable, and thoroughly loved by everyone at my table. Overall I would give this restaurant a 5/5 for its amazing food, affordability, and amazing waitstaff.
Canastas Chicken– Peruvian: South American – 5235 S Laburnum Avenue, Henrico, VA
Canastas chicken has large and delicious meals. The menu has plenty of traditional preuvian dishes including the national dish of Peru- ceviche. The food was extremely affordable for the large portions. The menu had a number of different South american favorites including empanadas, parrilla, and carne asada. The food was not extremely spicy, and tolerable for the spice hesitant. The menu was diverse in dishes, but was heavy on meat. The portions are huge and one dish could easily be two or more meals. Canastas has some of the best pinto beans that I have ever had. They were filled with flavor and they were cooked just right. They are known for their chicken, which did not disappoint. The chicken was flavorful and juicy, and was seasoned to perfection. Everything I tasted was delicious and the wait staff was quick and respectful. I would give this restaurant a 5/5 overall because the food was delicious and affordable.
The pandemic has made people forgo national and international travel, and opt for safe local travel. This was cause for a lot of disappointment, however, the restaurants listed above allow Richmond locals and travelers to experience the world without ever having to leave the Richmond Area. If you want to experience culture and food without spending more than 50 dollars and traveling an hour, I advise you try one or all of the restaurants above.
– By Lauryn Tolliver
Lauryn Tolliver is a 16-year-old author who enjoys creative writing and desires to expand her writing portfolio. As a Richmond native she prides herself as being an expert on Richmond history and culture. she hopes to continue to explore journalistic writing in the future. Lauryn produced this article as a part of the Richmond Young Writers Teen Summer Guide writing workshop.
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