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Dining Out: Restaurants for a visiting movie star or Uncle Joe from Des Moines

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Twitter is exploding with rumored sightings. Coverage of their every move has hit almost every local media outlet. Rumors of their whereabouts are the new "talking about the weather."

That's right, the cast and crew of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln biopic are in town shooting, and Richmond can't get enough of this major brush with fame. Spielberg and company (Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader, to name a few) are the biggest thing to shake up this town since, um, that earthquake a few months back.

I was perusing Twitter recently when I learned Day-Lewis had been seen dining at The Hill Cafe in Church Hill, his temporary home while he's here to play Abe. According to the buzz, Spielberg has visited Siné in Shockoe Slip more than once, a hot spot mere steps from Vistas on the James, where a majority of the production is supposedly staying.

Not that dining close to one's digs is boring, but I happen to think that Richmond has quite a thriving little dining scene, one definitely worth getting in a car to explore. So I've compiled a list of spots I think the cast and crew should check out before they pack up their period costumes and head out of town.


Whether you're a celebrity or simply famous for your happy hour skills (me), the staff at Lemaire will treat you right. The large, stately bar is great for cocktails and apps, such as a sushi-grade ahi tuna "martini" with cucumber and seaweed salad ($12). Yet to miss the full breadth of chef Walter Bundy's wares, such as grilled beef tenderloin with bourbon-mustard demi-glace ($30), in the main dining room would be downright criminal.

101 W. Franklin St., inside The Jefferson Hotel, (804) 649-4644,

Cous Cous

This Mediterranean-Moroccan hideaway uses ebony wood and intricate draperies to create a dark and moody backdrop for sharing small plates without a lot of fanfare. Savor everything from lamb, beef and pork meatballs topped with Moroccan tomato sauce ($9.95) to pan-seared scallops with sweet corn sauce and wilted leeks ($10.95). If you want after-dinner entertainment, stick around for DJs, dance parties and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

900 W. Franklin St., (804) 358-0868,

Edo's Squid

Along with its sibling Mamma 'Zu, Edo's serves the best Italian (I think) Richmond has to offer. Rockfish doused in lemon and simply seasoned with salt and pepper; white beans, arugula and red onions kissed with top-notch olive oil; heart-stoppingly rich Gorgonzola pasta and broccoletti so garlicky it hurts — I dream about this place. Sure, the wine is served in juice glasses, the decibel levels outdo a show at The National and tables are practically stacked on top of one another, but that's all part of the charm.

411 N. Harrison St., (804) 864-5488

Millie's Diner

Sweaty grill cooks are stationed right next to the front door and the limited reservation policy makes waiting mandatory, but Millie's is a Richmond landmark for eclectically upscale cuisine and deservedly so. With coolly mellow servers delivering skillfully crafted entrees, such as pan-seared bone-in pork loin ($26) with black-eyed pea cassoulet, ham hock and fried tobacco onions, on diner-style tables, it's as far from pretentious as you can get.

2603 E. Main St., (804) 643-5512,

Secco Wine Bar

Secco may be a bone fide wine bar, but with chef Tim Bereika at the helm, it doesn't overlook the food. Housemade seafood sausage with roasted maitake mushrooms and green charmoula sauce ($12) and duck confit with creamed leeks and turnips ($10) are current small-plate hits. Owner Julia Battaglini and staff can get you hooked on some excellent, lesser-known varietals that pair perfectly with one of the best cheese plate selections in town.

2933 W. Cary St., (804) 353-0670,


Acacia's sleek, minimalist décor, complete with window at the back that frames the restaurant's gleaming kitchen, is a subdued backdrop for artfully presented, regionally inspired fare. Chef Dale Reitzer has received nods from the James Beard Foundation and Food & Wine Magazine for his creative takes on simple, seasonal dishes, such as cider-braised lamb shanks with butternut squash, roasted gala apples, cippolini onions and spiced date lamb jus ($23).

2601 W. Cary St., (804) 562-0138,

The Black Sheep

If I tell you The Black Sheep serves monumental portions of Southern- and New Orleans-inspired fare that sings of freshness and homemade love, how could you not go? Chef Kevin Roberts whips up incredible breakfast dishes, such as green eggs and ham with artichoke pesto and sliced coppa (served until 2 p.m.), but you (and three friends) will have to try one of the behemoth battleship subs.

901 W. Marshall St., (804) 648-1300,

Pescados China Street

Located a block away from the aforementioned Mamma 'Zu, this island-themed Mecca of seafood takes wild-caught ocean treasures and turns them into exciting culinary adventures. Owner/chef Todd Manly makes the most of Caribbean and Latin flavors and the freshest ingredients to create signature dishes such as Enchilada Acapulco ($23) stuffed with a crab cake, shrimp and saffron potato cake.

626 China St., (804) 644-3474,

New on the scene

If you're up for giving the newest hotspots a try, check out The Roosevelt (located in the heart of Church Hill, Mr. Day-Lewis), The Blue Goat and Stella's.

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