It doesn’t matter if you’re doing the Whole 30, dry January, or your own health plan this month, the end is in sight! Whether you’re holding strong, or about ready to throw in the towel, great job! It’s time to plan your celebration. That’s the part I’m here for.
My birthday (and the birthdays of many of my friends) is in January, so the whole cleanse month thing doesn’t work for me. No bubbles on my birthday? I don’t think so! In addition, I’m a fan of practicing moderation all year long. That said, if you have followed a plan all month, congratulations! It’s time to decide how you’ll integrate some of your old habits back into your routine. Sure, that diet book you read in February says “start slowly, use moderation when you return to your old habits,” but where’s the fun in that? I’ve rounded up 30 epic, indulgent eating and drinking options for your off-the-bandwagon eating pleasure. Choose one now if you’ve spent enough time avoiding cheese and wine and want to throw in the towel early, in a couple of days to celebrate the official end to your 30 days of awesomeness, or in a week or two when your body has re-adjusted to a healthy mixture of foods.
1. Schlubby Fries from Perly’s
A giant bowl of French fries topped with havarti-dill cheese, pastrami, Russian dressing, chopped pickled peppers and onions, and pickled jalapenos, these are basically French fries topped with a Reuben sandwich only better. Add a beer and I think that’s almost everything you weren’t eating for a month combined into one amazing meal.
2. Battleships at The Black Sheep
Two feet of sandwich will satisfy every craving you ignored over the past month. The USS Congress features chipotle-roasted pork shoulder simmered in tomatillo barbecue sauce with grilled pineapple, Mexican-style pickled peppers and cabbage salad loaded into a big baguette. Feeling braver? Try the USS Virginia with fried chicken livers topped with shredded cabbage, green onions, Granny Smith apples and remoulade sauce. You also can’t go wrong with the CSS Manassas made with catfish fingers, chopped romaine, radish, green onions, tomatoes and Cajun tartar sauce.
3. Pastichio at Stella’s
Aromatic ground beef with hints of nutmeg and clove is layered with pasta noodles and topped with creamy bechamel sauce and grated cheese. This indulgently rich, homey dish is the perfect path back into the land of dairy. It’s also the best version of it I’ve ever tasted.
4. Cheese, Chocolate Fondue, and Wine at The Melting Pot
Gather all the friends who helped you stay on track and head to The Melting Pot. Skip the full dinner as the bar also has warmers for fondue and just go for cheese and chocolate. The bartender will help you choose wine to pair with each course.
5. Cheese, Meat and Wine at Secco
Or stay in the city and head to Secco Wine Bar for a selection of five cheeses and charcuterie along with wine, wine and more wine. Oh yes, Secco also now serves inventive craft cocktails if you’ve been yearning for something a littler harder. Learn more about the new location.
6. Authentic Italian Pizza and Pasta at Nota Bene
Pizza topped with fig preserves, gorgonzola and proscuitto; sausage, broccolini, creamy ricotta and red sauce on a hand-formed crust; mushroom pappardelle with cream, grana padano cheese and breadcrumbs: if you’re still on your cleanse, this all probably sounds dirty right now. Just hold on for a few more days and go eat all of this ASAP when you are done.
7. House-made Nachos at The Continental Westhampton
House-fried tortilla chips topped with black beans, jack and cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, jalapeno, and heck yes add the house-smoked beef brisket for $4. You deserve it. Take an antacid.
8. Dim Sum at Cheng Du
Go around mid-day on the weekend, watch the carts go by or order off the menu and go to town on your choice of dumplings, buns, rice noodles, stuffed eggplant, wontons, and more.
9. Gourmet Dogs at Stroops
It doesn’t matter if you go corndog, RVA Dog (frankfurter with pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and crab cake) or Country Pate Dog (seasonal jam, brie, whole grain mustard, pistachio), any of the sausages served here are a spectacular return to grains and dairy and all the things that make lunch time wonderful. Don’t forget a side of fries.
10. Chicken Tikka Masala with Naan at Lehja
Lehja is one restaurant where you probably could find Whole 30-friendly options as long as you skipped the alcohol and the rice. But, once you’re through, it’s time to indulge in one of the best versions of classic Chicken Tikka Masala, which does include a bit of cream in the sauce, making it taste utterly rich and addicting. Add in a few slices of warm naan and… happy sigh… you’ll be glad you decided to add a little of everything in moderation back into your routine.
11. What Lurks Beneath at Sabai
After a month of no drinks you should certainly celebrate with a big old frilly boat drink. But if you go somewhere that’s using a mix full of all the syrups and chemicals you’ve just spent a month avoiding you’re doing yourself a disservice both in terms of ingredients and flavors, so head to Sabai for the real deal. Try the What Lurks Beneath, which is made with Haitian rum, coconut cream, blue curacao, orange bitters, and pineapple foam. It’s all served in an oversized glass with an umbrella and slice of pineapple so it’s not only delicious but perfect for that “I survived the Whole 30 and now I’m doing this!” selfie you’ve been planning all month long.
Why celebrate the end of a month of no drinking with one beer when you could spend several hours tasting many, many beers with a designated driver? This decision is practically made for you. Just book your tour and Uber to the starting location. Pick up some Gatorade in advance for the next day.
13. Giant Donut from Sugar Shack
Did you know that with a mere 24 hours notice Sugar Shack can create a giant donut for you? Just call, tell them the flavor you want, and pick it up the next day. Whether you share or eat the entire thing yourself and tell no one is entirely up to you.
14. Tres Leches Cake from Kuba Kuba
Ah, one of the Richmond classics. Kuba Kuba’s homemade tres leches cake is known far and wide for its sweet flavor and special texture from that infusion of sweetened condensed milk. For the complete sinful sweet package, pair it with the restaurant’s signature cafe con leche. Why does being bad taste so good?
15. Toasted Marshmallow Fluff at Charm School
Richmond’s newest ice cream parlor offers seasonal ice cream flavors and piled-high gourmet sundaes and waffle cones with all sorts of toppings. But the one that calls out to me every time is toasted marshmallow fluff. Talk about adding a new layer of texture to your dessert.
16. Chicken Biscuit at Helen’s
A large light, fluffy, biscuit topped with a slightly spicy, crispy-fried piece of chicken, white cheddar cheese, bacon, and black pepper honey. Each bite includes a little spice from the chicken batter, sharp bite from the cheddar, smoke from the bacon and a sweet-sharp zip from the honey, all wrapped up in that dreamy biscuit. Read more.
17. Sweets Smorgasbord at Shyndigz
Grab a few friends, head to this dessert cafe, and order several of the towering desserts to share. Every creation is carefully crafted, huge, and loaded with fresh flavor, making it a perfect place to splurge. This is another spot where I’ve never not liked anything, but favorites include fresh fruit cake, salted chocolate caramel cake, peanut butter pie, and… I must go… mouth is watering uncontrollably. You get the picture.
18. Pizookie at The Boathouse
Chocolate chip cookie dough is cooked just til warm and gooey then topped with vanilla ice cream for a dessert that tastes like home only waaaay better.
19. Jenatha’s Lobster Grilled Cheese + Grande Finale at Latitudes Seafood Co.
I don’t know who Jenatha is, but I think she deserves a kiss on the cheek for creating this delicious sandwich combining lobster, extra sharp cheddar and tomato on sourdough bread for cheesy seafood perfection. After a round of that if you have room for more indulgence try the Grande Finale made with a gooey Ghirardelli brownie topped with vanilla ice cream rolled in toasted coconut topped with Hershey’s syrup and whipped cream. The whole meal provides a fresh, satisfying take on traditional Americana dishes.
20. Dessert and Dessert Wine Pairings at Amour Wine Bistro
Selections like Valrohna chocolate and caramel fleur de sel creme brulee, profiteroles, and cocoa sorbet are all made in house and available with carefully selected dessert wines, ports and sherrys. Talk with the knowledgeable staff, tell them your preferences, and they’ll lead you to the perfect combination of sweets and sips that will show you something fresh, new and exciting. Read about my experience pairing dessert wines and sorbets.
21. Crunchy Chicken Wings at Bon Chon
Why are Bon Chon’s wings so crunchy and delicious? They’re double fried. So this is the time to dig in. The breaded, saucy, crispy texture is totally worth it. Bone-in and spicy is my personal pick but all varieties are delicious. Add a side of fried rice.
22. Eggplant Parmesan Pizza at Arianna’s
Take a traditional pizza, top it with thin slices of breaded eggplant and fresh basil, and you’ve got one hearty pie. Trust me, it’s oh so delicious, even if you normally insist on meat-topped pizzas.
23. Dinner at Comfort
Let’s be honest, almost any Southern classic is Whole-30 banned, so head to one of Richmond’s most famous meat-and-threes for your re-release into carb and dairy land. My picks here include the house-made pimento cheese with Ritz crackers and house-made pickles, surry sausage, fried green tomatoes, heavenly scalloped potatoes, fried okra, squash cassserole (veggie plate, anyone?) and the banana pudding that’s basically a mystical cross between pudding and creme brulee.
24. Maria’s Margarita + Queso Fundido at Maya Mexican Grill
At a recent happy hour I sampled most of the drinks on Maya’s list just for the benefit of you Whole 30ers. If tequila is your poison of choice, Maria’s Margarita is a simple combination of Tres Generaciones Anejo Tequila, Grand Marnier and fresh lime juice that’s perfectly balanced and satisfying. Pair it with queso fundido, a melty combination of chorizo, Chihuahua Cheese (yes that’s the name), goat cheese, black beans, and pico de gallo that’s served with corn chips and corn tortillas for your dipping and scooping pleasure.
25. Fries, Sauces (and a side of Burger) at Burger Bach
Yes, the burgers at Burger Bach are inventive and premium quality, but if you’re anything like me, when you’re trying to eat healthy it’s that big bowl of hot, crispy, crunchy, just the right amount of salty French fries that makes your knees weak. Add in the menu of dipping sauces and my willpower just packed up and left. Go to town with a large order plus the sauce sampler. And, if you do want to add some protein to your meal, go for the Wellington burger topped with creamy triple creme blue cheese that was also forbidden fruit until recently.
26. Steak Frites from Max’s on Broad
Start with a 12-ounce New York Strip Steak (ask for medium-rare, obviously) cooked with garlic-herb butter, then spend the extra $10 to add the foie gras and make it extra rich. On the side, Max’s fries are extra thin and crunchy—ask your server to bring ketchup and all of the flavored mayos.
27. She Crab Soup at Tarrant’s
Creamy, thick, and luxurious with the requisite hint of sherry, Tarrant’s take on this favorite recipe is spot on and worth every velvety calorie.
28. The Train Wreck at Lunch
Two buttermilk biscuits topped with house-made sausage, scrambled eggs, American cheese, and all of that is smothered in sausage gravy. Need I say more?
29. Texas Train Wreck at Alamo BBQ
Pick your barbecue (I always go brisket) and enjoy it served over creamy mac and cheese, smoky cowboy beans and savory cornbread topped with chopped onions and jalapenos all for $6.95. With the way your stomach has shrunk over the past month you’ll be stuffed for a week!
30. Two Cheese Fish Boat at Croaker’s Spot
Get ready for this one. The famous crispy fried fish that Croaker’s Spot is known for is topped with a blend of melted mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, the restaurant’s signature secret sauce, onions, and peppers. It’s then served with the restaurant’s signature mashed redskin potatoes and a giant wedge of sweet, fluffy cornbread. Talk about treating yourself.