If You Want to Find the Most Delicious Local Dishes, Ask the Experts
We asked three of Midlothian’s most experienced chefs where they find their favorite meals. From family-owned Ethiopian cafés and Indian-inspired cuisine to the best brewery-style burgers, their answers revealed some of the best-kept secrets of Richmond food culture.
Here’s where some of the biggest names in local cuisine find their food fix and what they love about creating their own.
Chef Craig Perkinson of Southbound
How long have you been with Southbound, and how did you first come to join the restaurant?
[I’ve been with Southbound] since the beginning, and we’re going on our fourth year now. I was working at Heritage restaurant, and we had an opportunity to open another restaurant… on the south side to bring some good food to that side of town. They gave me the opportunity to take it and run with it.
What’s your favorite dish at Southbound?
The things that I haven’t been able to take off the menu—fried catfish, which is something I never thought I’d be saying, but people seem to like it. That’s one of our customers’ favorite dishes.
We do a lot of Autumn Olive pork. They have some of the best pork I’ve ever eaten. There’s pork-laden all through the menu, but we always have pork chops, and then I pretty much get half a pig a week, so we break it down and do hams and pork chops or tenderloins.
What’s your favorite local restaurant, and what makes it such a great pick?
My go-to is Citizen. Greg Johnson is the chef there. It’s on 12th Street and Main… He’s been around the Richmond area for a while and knows good food. They do a lot of vegetarian and vegan options too.
The Nile is an Ethiopian restaurant. I don’t even look at the menu. I just go in and say, ‘I want some lamb today, and then just give me whatever you want.’ I like places where I know they do good stuff, and I just let them do what they want to do… I like places where people like to experiment, and if I’m the guinea pig, I don’t mind being that.
Chef Ken Liew of Wild Ginger, Foo Dog and Wong Gonzalez
How long have you been working with Wild Ginger, Foo Dog and Wong Gonzalez?
I was born in Malaysia and raised in the Malaysian kitchens in the town of Ipoh, a culinary epicenter of Malaysia. I came to the states in 1999 and opened a Malay-Chinese fusion restaurant in North Carolina before relocating to Richmond in 2008. EAT Restaurant Partners President Chris Tsui and I opened up Sushi O in 2008 and Wild Ginger shortly after in 2009. On April 1, 2014, I opened up Foo Dog and then Wong Gonzalez in 2016. I am now head chef of all three concepts.
What’s your favorite dish at Wild Ginger?
It’s hard to peg down one dish because I love all the dishes, but my favorite appetizer is the lobster wontons, and my favorite entree is the lamb lollipops. The lobster wontons are a perfect balance of sweet, spicy, crispy and creamy. As for the lamb, I love how the famous Malay curry sauce combines with the flavors of dry rub on perfectly seared lamb lollipop. It’s an unforgettable, mouth-watering combination.
What’s your favorite local restaurant, and what makes it such a great place?
I absolutely love Boulevard Burger and Brew, an EAT sister restaurant in the heart of Scott’s Addition. I love the classic burger joint atmosphere, as it’s so different from other Asian-influenced EAT concepts.
My favorite burger at Boulevard is the Chuck Norris Black and Blue paired with the hot and crispy tater tots. The freshness of the hamburger really complements the flavors of the spice rub and the creamy blue cheese.
Culinary Director Michael Yates of Burger Bach Partners
How long have you been the culinary director at Burger Bach, and how did you first come to join the restaurant?
I’ve been the culinary director for a year and a half. I joined Burger Bach five years ago as a line cook at the Carytown location. I went from there to help open the second location in Short Pump, then in Durham, where I ran their kitchen for a little over a year before I was asked to move to Charlottesville. About that time is when I helped facilitate the opening of Midlothian.
What’s your favorite dish at Burger Bach, and why?
[My] favorite dish is a tough question to answer. If we are talking about burgers, I would say the South Lamb. I love the way goat cheese pairs with lamb, and the subtle sweetness in the Manuka honey vinaigrette complements the spinach very well.
Outside of burgers, our seafood is often overlooked, but our French shrimp is a must when I bring new people in for dinner. The Dijon cream sauce garnished with fresh tarragon is out of this world.
What’s your favorite local restaurant, and what makes it great?
My current favorite would be Lehja. The owner, Sunny Baweja, does a phenomenal job showcasing dishes from all of India. My absolute favorite dish at Lehja is the chai roasted chicken… The chicken is fork-tender, just melting in your mouth. The flavor profile of the chai paired with the vegetable sauce will keep me a repeat customer for a very long time.