5 Questions with Brian Beard of River City Food Tours in Richmond, Virginia
Brian Beard is the owner and primary tour guide of River City Food Tours in Richmond, Virginia. He loves Richmond, and finds that providing food tours is a great way to get more people to love Richmond just as much as he does!
1. What foods is your city known for?
Richmond has become a mecca for modern southern food. Nationally- and locally-recognized chefs are cooking up southern-inspired dishes in restaurants such as The Roosevelt, Pasture, Comfort, Saison, Heritage, & Southbound. To name a few :)
Richmond is also perfectly located to capitalize on the farm-to-table movement. The city is within a short drive of the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia's river system, and the state's 46,000 farms. Chefs here can truly get their hands on just about any locally-sourced ingredient they could want.
2. What neighborhoods should people visit when they come to your city?
If you come to Richmond, there are two very different neighborhoods you should visit: Carytown and Jackson Ward.
Carytown is new - development didn't really begin until 1920 (unlike much of Richmond, which was founded in 1737, making it one of the US's oldest cities). It's a mile-long stretch of Cary Street - colorful, walkable, and jam-packed with over 200 unique local restaurants, boutiques, and small businesses. In fact, The Huffington Post named it the one place in Virginia you must visit! Also unlike much of Richmond, Carytown is NOT on the National Register of Historic Places, so it is always changing to keep up with the times.
Jackson Ward is completely the opposite. This mostly residential neighborhood is one of Richmond's oldest. Recently, the city has been working with local businesses (especially restaurants) to revitalize Jackson Ward. Alongside amazing southern food, you'll find a great amount of respect for prominent African-American Richmonders - a statue to commemorate Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and the home of the late Maggie Walker, the first woman to charter a bank in the United States.
3. What is the best time of year to visit your city?
Any time of year! Richmond is always open.
If I had to choose, I'd pick the late Spring/early Summer. There is something special about the energy here when porches open up after the winter, and al fresco dining returns. And if the weather is warm enough, you can take advantage of all of Richmond's non-culinary offerings, including our underrated but world-class downtown waterfront. Did you know Richmond is the only place in the US where you can find Class IV rapids within city limits?
4. Are there any events foodies should plan their trip to your city around?
Broad Appetit! For one weekend each June, Broad Street is closed to vehicle traffic, and many of Richmond's local restaurants go mobile! Stroll along, and visit as many restaurants' booths as you like. For just $3 per plate, you get to sample some of each restaurant's best food, and the event benefits FeedMore, one of Virginia's largest food banks.
5. What can people expect on your food tours?
When you tour with River City Food Tours, you'll find a perfect mix of food, history, and fun. Obviously, food is #1 - there will be lots of it, and it'll all be delicious! But I also like to ensure that in addition to learning about each establishment we visit, my guests also learn something about their place within the context of the neighborhood. We'll discuss it's origins, growth, and notable characters, as well as point out any interesting landmarks and/or buildings. Mostly, I just want to tell interesting stories in between bites!
Finally, a food tour is supposed to be fun! So I try to ensure a lot of positive energy exists between myself and my guests. One of my goals is for people to leave thinking, "Even if that was simply a regular tour without any food at all, I still would have loved the experience!"