Eating Through Carytown: A River City Food Tour

A few weeks ago, my friend Brian asked if I’d like to check out his food tour of Carytown. A food tour? In one of my favorite parts of the city? Um, yes. Brian started River City Food Tours in January, but he hadn’t had a vegetarian try out the tour yet. That actually didn’t surprise me because as much as I love food, I don’t really do a lot of foodie “events” since most of them revolve around meat. When Brian told me the food tour had vegetarian options at each stop, I started getting pretty excited. (Full disclosure: Brian let Alex and I try the tour out free of charge, but he didn’t ask me to blog about it, I just loved it so much I had to share!)

My old apartment was one block away from Carytown, so I’d been to all of the restaurants we stopped at, but I had a new-to-me dish at almost every stop! I also learned bits and pieces of Carytown’s history along the way, which was pretty cool. We started out at Carytown Cupcakes where I had a taste of a Chocolate Potato cupcake and an Irish Car Bomb cupcake. The potato one was a bit strange (although it was good… sort of like a chocolatey potato bread) but the Irish Car Bomb was definitely my favorite.

carytown cupcakes food tour

I didn’t realize that Carytown Cupcakes does a different flavor theme each week! We caught them on their St. Patrick’s Day flavors but this week I think they did different ones for the French Film Festival. It’s a cool idea and it’s nice to know that they’ll always have new flavors to try!

We headed further down Carytown and Brian stopped along the way to tell us about how Carytown got it’s name. It was nice to have a little history in there! (I mean, it’s not just about the food… right?) We stopped into Water Coastal Kitchen where the meat eaters had fried oysters and Alex and I had a roasted red pepper stuffed with quinoa.

water grille food tour

It was served with pickled celery and honestly that was my favorite part. I need to try pickling some soon.

Brian, our tour guide for the day!

Brian, our tour guide for the day!

Our next stop was my favorite. We went into Xtra’s, where I’ve been lots of times before, but they made us all taquitos and they were amazing.

Xtras Food Tour

The meat eaters had something with beef but ours was potato, goat cheese, and jalapeno. Yessss. It was so good and it was a huge portion size for a tasting! We stayed long enough for me to sip on a glass of red wine which was perfect. This was definitely my favorite stop of the tour!

We made a few more stops at the Virginia Diner Shoppe (the Old Bay peanuts were my favorite) and at Don’t Look Back for tacos.

Virginia Diner food Tour

At Don’t Look Back, they served us vegetarians the potato taco and the TVP (textured vegetable protein) taco. That’s exactly what I would have ordered had I been there on my own so it was perfect.

Our very last stop was the most unique. The Nile, a local Ethiopian restaurant recently partnered with Portrait House, a bar in Carytown (that previously served pizza and burgers) so now they have an Ethiopian menu and a great list of beers on tap. Interesting, right?

The Nile Food Tour

I don’t know what either of these things are called (much less, how to spell them) but the dish on the left was Injera bread rolled with a spicy, creamy cheese. It was super spicy, but I liked it. The pastry on the right was savory and filled with lentils. I loved this dish. I’ll have to figure out what it’s called so I can order it again. Does anyone know?

The tour lasted about 2 1/2 hours and we were stuffed by the end. It was a fun way to experience Carytown a little differently. If you’re from Richmond or just visiting for the day, I’d highly recommend this! It’s best if you’re a somewhat adventurous eater, although it’s nothing too crazy. I absolutely loved knowing there was a vegetarian option waiting for me at each stop rather than wondering if I’d be able to eat something. It’s also a fun way to explore Carytown and learn a little bit more about the history. If you’re interested in checking it out, visit Brian’s site, River City Food Tours.

Have you ever done a food tour?


  1. This pretty much represents my perfect day – food, food, and more food!

    That last Ethiopian dish looks like an Indian samosa (I’m sure that’s not what it’s called though!).

  2. That sounds awesome! I’ve never done a food tour before, even though I think they have some in Williamsburg.

  3. I haven’t done a food tour but that sounds like fun! I have to have some Virginia peanuts with Old Bay!

  4. I’ve never done a food tour because my allergies make it impossible (unless someone starts a gluten-free, tree-nut-free tour somewhere…)

    BUT, I would like to offer such tours of NYC someday!

  5. Those items from Nile are called Ayib Tikel and Sambusa, respectively 🙂

  6. So great meeting you on the tour! Next time I do a tour, I think I’ll pick vegetarian options. Everything you had sounds just as good as what we had!

  7. I think I would love doing a food tour. It looks absolutely fabulous and everything looks amazing.

  8. I’ve never done a food tour, but I’ve been to Carytown and love it. I went for the Watermelon Festival in August 2013 (and later blogged about it for the Nat’l Watermelon Promotion Board) and I’d love to go back. I’m a meat eater, but I love that your friend Brian could so easily accommodate your food choices and come up with a customized tour. I’ll have to try some of the places you’ve mentioned next time I’m in Richmond.

  9. Liz,
    As I was reading I was wondering which Carytown you were touring–glad to know that it was the one I know! I lived in Richmond a long time ago. I have fond memories of spaghetti at Texas Wisconsin, brunch at Strawberry Street, and something involving a giant potato pancake wrapped around a bunch of stuff to include sauerkraut from who knows where (why yes, I was in my 20s when I lived there!)

  10. I love food tours and this one sounds exceptional! (I just read not too long ago that Richmond is becoming the “new Charleston” in terms of food experiences and history.) I love that you had some vegetarian options and they looked like great ones, too!

  11. I have witnessed other people in the middle of food tours in the city and always said I would do one (especially downtown near all the dessert shops) but I have yet to do so! Looks like fun though

  12. How fun! I did a tour once in Chicago and it was a blast! Now I want to go on one we’re actually traveling.

  13. OH my gosh, that sounds amazing! I did a chocolate tour in Georgetown once. It was decadent!

  14. Sounds like a lot of fun and looks delicious! 🙂 I really wanted to do a food tour when I was in Seattle, but just like you said, it’s hard to find food-related things that don’t revolve around meat (or in this case, seafood). I’m glad I managed to find some great vegetarian restaurants (and veg options at other places), though!

  15. Pickled CELERY! OMG, really….. must try!

  16. I know they do a chocolate tour in Boston (or maybe it’s sweets?!) and I would love to do it one day! I think it would be pretty neat. Maybe that will be my goal for this summer 🙂 Looks like you had a nice time!

  17. Michelle@healthiersteps says:

    A food tour sounds like lots of fun, the foods look delicious. I can’t wait to go on one!

  18. Ooh, I’ve never done a food tour, but this looks amazing! I’ve never been to Carytown but have always wanted to visit.

  19. This would be so fun 🙂 Everything you tried looked delicious. I hope to do this at some point!

  20. Wow a food tour is such a great idea! I love injera bread, soo yummy 🙂

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