March 05, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story

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Restaurant of the Year 

What Longoven, our Restaurant of the Year, means for Richmond’s thriving dining scene.

click to enlarge The cured rockfish at Longoven features shiitake mushrooms and mushroom-scallop dashi.

Scott Elmquist

The cured rockfish at Longoven features shiitake mushrooms and mushroom-scallop dashi. 

Last year, I was tasked with assigning and compiling the State of the Plate issue after only a month at the helm of Style's food and drink section. Historically, the issue has prominently featured the much-anticipated Restaurant of the Year, a critics' choice of sorts, along with a collection of stories from other corners of Richmond's dining scene.

I was lucky to have a writing team of talented voices and diverse palates with the institutional knowledge that I lacked at the time, which made last year's selection pretty straightforward: I emailed the writers asking for each of their top three restaurants that had opened within the previous year, every person had one in common, and boom. Easy enough.

This time around, we invited some more nuance into the process and also broadened the scope of the conversation beyond focusing on a single restaurant. One Thursday evening in late January, my food writers and I gathered at Style's conference table, equipped with snacks, cans of LaCroix, lists of contenders and a whole lot of opinions.

As commenters so generously remind us on the internet, food criticism is entirely subjective. Even considering the varied experience and expertise of this group of writers, a reviewer's opinion is still exactly that: an opinion. And much like sending four writers to the same restaurant would almost certainly result in four completely distinct reviews, asking a group to contemplate the most notable establishment of an entire year resulted in a host of different priorities and qualifiers.

Before even discussing the restaurants themselves, we had to address the central question: What does it mean to be Style's restaurant of the year? Is it as simple as a consensus on everyone's favorite? What role do public opinion and popularity play? What about prices and accessibility? We really took the name of this issue, State of the Plate, to heart. We asked ourselves and each other, what is the state of Richmond's dining scene, and which new restaurant encompasses that?

Here's where we landed: As food writers, we have the luxury of viewing dining as not just utilitarian and very much as an experience. Chefs and their teams do more than simply serve meals, and we concluded that the restaurant of the year is all about impact. Who's doing something different? Who's challenging the status quo and giving us more to talk about? Who's making moves that Richmond has never seen before? By those parameters, the answer was clear.

But the current state of our ever-changing, ever-beloved dining scene is a reflection of more than one new restaurant. We're proud of the reputation Richmond has built for itself, held up by the tireless, passionate labor that goes into filling our plates, our bellies and our souls. And while it's by no means an exhaustive list, this package is an homage to the complex, diverse, delicious web of food that we're so fortunate to call our own, and the people making it happen. — Laura Ingles

Restaurant of the Year: Longoven
It's edgy, unexpected and risky, and it's making a statement in our dining scene.

Favorite Dishes of 2019

Unsung Heroes
Parts and labor make up critical components of a restaurant's identity, and too often the eater has no idea who's making it happen.

On the Map
Richmond's dining scene made national headlines before last year, but the opening of Nate's Bagels made it a true foodie town.

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