The best spots near campus to curb freshman munchies

Harrison Street Cafe. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

This story ran as part of a VCU Student Media Center summer special publication, The Compass, which serves as a guidebook for new students.

Andrew Ringle, Managing Editor

If you find yourself hungry, poor and tired of the ramen and Pop-Tarts you stashed in your desk, it might be time to spread your wings and try a nearby restaurant. It can be expensive to eat in Richmond, and it’s hard to find a place where you can bring all your lacto-ovo-vegetarian friends. So here’s where to get a bite around campus, on and off the standard dining plan, with options for everyone.

Christian’s Pizza. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

Christian’s Pizza

404 N. Harrison St.

Every college campus needs a greasy, late-night spot with cheap food. Christian’s Pizza gracefully fills that role, inviting drunk and sober students alike to dine together at its long tables. Every night after 11 p.m., a slice of cheese or pepperoni is only $2.25, and it’ll be nice and hot in a matter of minutes. Try the signature ranch dressing — it’s a little extra, but it’ll bring your pie-eating experience to another level.

Meal plan: None

Price: $

Vegetarian options available

Au Bon Pain

944 W. Grace St.

This is a popular bakery chain that was recently added to the VCU dining plan. For one swipe, Au Bon Pain offers a few classic entrees like sandwiches, croissants and macaroni and cheese. If you’re going without swipes, a full meal costs around $10 — admittedly overpriced for an assortment of bakery items, but the food is always fresh and filling.

Meal plan: VCUDine

Price: $$

Vegetarian, vegan options available

Harrison Street Cafe. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

Harrison Street Cafe 

402 N. Harrison St.

It’s easy to adopt a meatless diet in Richmond, but this laid-back hipster cafe makes it cool. Both their breakfast and lunch menus are entirely vegetarian, with a handful of vegan options as well. The service is quick, the food has a homemade charm and prices stay around $10 or less.

Meal plan: None

Price: $$

Vegetarian, vegan options available

Market 810

810 Cathedral Place

This location, commonly known as Shafer, is hard to include in a list of good eateries. Its buffet-style equipment is often broken, the food is sometimes bland and the service — omitting Ms. Jackie, the angel who swipes your card at the entrance — is far from friendly. But for just one swipe, you can eat as much as you want. For that reason alone, Shafer is worth consideration. The menu rotates, sometimes including special entrees and guest restaurants, so be sure to check or @IsShaferCooking on Twitter before going.

Meal plan: VCUDine

Price: $$$ (Although you can pay around $11 to get in without swipes, it’s not worth it. Do not pay money to go to Shafer.)

Vegetarian, vegan options available

Asado. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez


727 W. Broad St.

Taco nights are fun, but if your dorm kitchen is limited to your roommate’s microwave, it might not be so easy to DIY. Instead, go to Asado — get two tacos for $10, or pair one with a side of wings for a dollar more. The atmosphere is energized in the small bar-and-restaurant combo, making it a great spot for small groups and dates. Try the homemade buffalo sauce, be prepared for a bit of a wait and make sure your friends tip the server. 

Meal plan: Elevate

Price: $$$

Vegetarian options available

Mama J’s. Photo by Gessler Santos-Lopez

Mama J’s

415 N. 1st St.

Homesickness is easily cured at this Jackson Ward restaurant, where the food is as good as your grandma’s. The menu offers classic soul food selections, like fried chicken, catfish and ribs. To convince your vegetarian friends, tell them Mama J’s has a veggie burger and a few different salads. It’s a 20-minute walk from Monroe Park, but you’ll need the exercise after eating there. Prices vary depending on size, but expect to spend around $12. 

Meal plan: None

Price: $$$

Vegetarian, vegan options available


Other suggestions from Rams on IG

@iliasanwar1: Cava (810 W. Grace St.)

@aayamb: Jamaica House (416 W. Broad St.)

@ernie.lee: Thai Top Ten (911 1/2 W. Grace St.)

@i_is_georgia: Mary’s Empanadas (907 Floyd Ave.)

@erineedgerton: City Dogs (1309 W. Main St.)

@gessler_lopez: The Eatery (3000 W. Cary St.)

@fadel_fitness: Out of the trash can

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