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By Lina Romero
Whether you live in the River City or are a first-time visitor to Richmond, Virginia, there are many spots people tend to overlook. It would be a shame to miss out on lesser-known gems in RVA!
The following are a few of my favorite spots around Richmond, Virginia that I don't hear locals talking about as much as they deserve. Many are cheap, convenient and ethical options for everyone, so read on for some ideas of places to check out!
VOGUE FLOWER MARKET*
Don’t pay full price for floral arrangements- build them yourself! At Vogue Flower Market you can pick out individual bunches of flowers for a few dollars each and put together a beautiful bouquet for your boo or your room under $25! They also sell houseplants at reasonable prices and decorative fake-plants for people without good lighting in their rooms. The place is usually deserted and has a nice ambience, and the employees are always helpful and kind.
*Another alternative is the outdoor flower vendor who is usually set up in Carytown past the Byrd Theatre. He sells individual bunches as well, for affordable prices, and his spot is roughly a 20-minute walk from campus or an 8-10 minute drive. However, due to the temporary nature of his stand, he is a less reliable option.
GREENBRIAR CAFE AND COFFEEHOUSE
(On W. Main, past Harrison, in the row of colorful restaurants near Virginia Commonwealth University).
This place isn’t exactly hidden, since it’s conveniently located so close to campus, but that being said, I haven’t heard a lot of fellow students talk about it as much as Lamplighters, Harrison Street Cafe and other coffee-shops closer to Carytown.
Greenbriar is a cute, minority-owned and locally-owned place with fun themed drinks that rotate with the seasons. My personal favorite is their fall menu, which includes a tea latte with caramel butterscotch syrup called “The McGonagall” (which made my inner Harry Potter fan happy).
The inside of the café isn’t open right now because of COVID, but normally, it has a free printer students can use for up to 10 pages of assignments, shelves of books and games to browse through, and ever-changing, eclectic décor that makes it stand out to me above other more modern, minimalistic places in the area.
Besides drinks, they serve delicious breakfast sandwiches. It isn’t the cheapest place on this list, but it is supporting a local business, and it’s no more expensive than Starbucks. I’d highly recommend visiting and trying one of their flavored beverages, which they can make iced for the warm weather in the months ahead.
(On East Broad, in the Arts District)
You’ve heard of Fan Tastic, Rumors and Blue Bones -- the latter two being pricier options -- but there’s another thrift store within close walking distance of VCU that doesn’t get as much hype.
Circle Thrift, while small and kind of a hole-in-the-wall (and don’t be deterred by their door, or lack thereof), is a hidden gem because I’ve found some great bargains and old items that other stores label as “vintage” and slap a much higher price on. It can be a hit or miss, I’ve definitely gone in without finding anything spectacular, but even on those visits, I always see interesting items and have fun browsing- it’s bigger than it looks from the outside and it smells like a grandmother’s attic, which is always a good sign.
*For another thrift store that has a wide selection of clothes and other items, Love of Jesus is a 10-minute-drive from campus and dirt-cheap. (The store name is religious, but don’t worry, they won’t crucify you if you’re not Christian). I’d recommend checking it out, and it’s also right nearby Family Thrift, which is owned by the same people as Fan Tastic.
CAFÉ & SABOR
This place is not as close as the other locations mentioned, but I’m including it anyway. I feel I owe it to my Colombian forefathers and because it's tasty and so cheap.
The restaurant itself is pretty small, and with COVID, they have limited seating (almost always filled by regular clients), but their food is delicious and cheap, particularly the goodies from the bakery case. From buñuelos (round, fried dough balls with cheese) to chicharrón de guayaba (a sweet, guava-filled pastry) to meat empanadas, papa rellena (stuffed potato) and so much more; you can order a variety of snacks to try for under $10 a person, as well as washing it down with a refreshing, house-made juice including less common fruit flavors like blackberry.
BOTANICA: EL PODER DE LA MENTE
With tarot, crystals, smudging and other practices becoming mainstream, witchy stores are in high demand. However, many of us are concerned with the practices of these stores because they commit cultural appropriation and sell indigenous articles or white sage, which is endangered.
Aquarian, which is located conveniently on W. Main, has many of these products but it is, unfortunately, not the most ethical place to purchase them. So I'd recommend giving Botanica a try.
RIVER CITY TATTOO
There are a plethora of tattoo parlors around Richmond, from the well-known Lucky 13 right near campus to other, smaller ones in Carytown. River City stands out to me because they use safer practices than other tattoo and piercing places (for instance, they never use guns for piercings, only needles) and their prices are reasonable even though they're critically renowned. They have a rotation of artists who all have distinct styles and several locations. The staff there are also very helpful and welcoming, and it has an inviting and non-threatening atmosphere.
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