Think elegant and refined. Think old Charleston, antebellum Savannah, and a jazzy touch of New Orleans. Think elevated but approachable food, friendly and knowledgeable staff, and no shortage of historic charm. Mix it all together, and you have the heart of Julep’s New Southern Cuisine (420 E. Grace Street, Richmond).
The upscale spot is the creation of Northern transplant Amy Cabaniss, who was fascinated by the fresh, unique cuisine offered in Charleston and Savannah – areas she enjoyed visiting. Although she already owned a restaurant at the time (Cabo’s Corner Bistro, opened in 1998), the Southern food inspired her in May of 2003 to open the doors of Julep’s on the corner of 18th and Franklin Street. Since then, the restaurant has received continuous nods and recognition from an array of Richmond-area publications, citing its modernized classic food, fresh local produce, and unique cocktails. Menu items include dishes such as Southern-staple appetizer Fried Green Tomatoes served with Julep’s Pimento cheese and a peppadew aioli, or signature entrée Shrimp and Grits, along with a mouth-watering array of desserts and an impressive drink menu.
The place conveys all the Southern charm that its name implies, with exciting food that – like a Mint Julep – is fresh, exciting, and classic. Over the years, some things have changed – such as the spot’s former Franklin Street location in Shockoe Bottom to its current location on Grace Street in 2014. But consistency has been a factor that Amy credits for the longevity of her restaurant. “I have stayed true to the concept and the brand,” she tells me. “I also have a dedicated staff – in fact, three of my employees have been with me since the beginning. Staff is truly imperative for keeping a restaurant going.” And that is quite the accomplishment, since Julep’s has been in business for sixteen years.
In addition to an impeccably-trained staff and a trendy location, the restaurant boasts a talented chef and sous chef team. The duo consists of Executive Chef Cory Chaney, who is known for his incredible food, beautiful plating, and love for baking, along with Sous Chef Daegan Schneider, whom Chaney describes as the “best sous chef find of his career”. Julep’s owner Amy had admired the work of Chaney at his previous restaurant, Kinsfolk, and was thrilled when the stars fortuitously aligned after Kinsfolk’s closing, leading Chaney to Julep’s in 2017. “They are a great team,” Amy tells me of the pair. “They are very similar – their work ethic, personality, attention to detail, consistency – they just make a good fit.” Cabaniss and Chaney also are in the developing stages of a new European-styled restaurant called “Revel”, slated to open at latest by January 2020.
If you haven’t yet had the good fortune to eat at Julep’s, the perfect opportunity may be the restaurants’ 16th anniversary, which they will commemorate with a special four-course tasting menu on Thursday, May 30 (reservations required). “I want it to be lively, celebratory”, Amy tells me. The first course will be served reception-style (standing), the two main courses will be seated, and the last course will be accompanied by live music, followed by a dessert course with fruit and cheese.” Julep’s is also the perfect date-night destination, or an excellent presentation of Richmond’s restaurant scene for out-of-town guests.
Julep’s is opened for bar service at 4:30pm, Monday through Saturday, with dinner service beginning at 5:00pm. They also cater, and specialize in private luncheons and parties. Visit juleps.net for more information or to make a reservation.