Back before Richmond was known as a foodie town for all our great restaurants, we had a bunch of great food festivals. Festivals that live on to this day. Festivals like the Richmond Greek Festival, which is arguably the most popular (and inarguably the most delicious, in my opinion).
The Greek Festival, which kicks off at lunchtime today at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral, is celebrating its 42nd anniversary this year. That’s right–members of the congregation have been dishing out moussaka, pastichio, and other Greek favorites since 1975.
In recent years, the church has also added the convenient option of a drive-thru, serving a select menu of festival food (PDF).
If it’s your first time descending upon this acropolis of delicious Greek cuisine, here are some tips to make the most of your experience.
If you’re in the general vicinity of the event (intersection of Malvern & Grove), walk or bike, as parking is very limited in the church lot, and sparse in the surrounding neighborhood. If you do drive, be prepared to hunt for a spot and walk at least a few blocks at peak times. You can also make a drive-through swing-by using this process.
Speaking of peak times, avoid them if you can! Swing in for a late lunch, early dinner, etc. if possible to avoid long lines and hordes of hungry people. If you can’t avoid the lines, your best bet is to grab a wristband and snag a bottle of Greek wine to enjoy while you queue into the tents.
The festival’s main food tent is buffet style, where you can select what you want to eat and pay as you exit. Cash and cards are accepted. If you plan on eating a big meal, this is the way to go, but be prepared to wait at least 20-30 minutes to get through the line at mealtimes. If you just want a few things to snack on, there are separate tents for things like calamari, lamb gyros, and beer and wine.
As Greek physician Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” If that’s true, you’re in for an overdose this weekend. You can view the full menu on the festival website. A few of the festival’s most popular items you should try include:
- Calamari – Individual pieces of lightly fried squid with lemon
- Dolmades – Tender grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice
- Souvlaki – A sizzling skewer of tender chicken breast or pork marinated with herbs of Mediterranean origin and cooked over an open flame
- Pastichio – Layers of imported Greek Pasta, grated cheese, and sautéed ground beef topped with a cream sauce (Béchamel) and baked
- Moussaka – Layers of eggplant and sautéed ground beef topped with a rich cream sauce (Béchamel) and baked
If you’ve saved enough room for dessert, try:
- Baklava – Chopped walnuts and cinnamon-sugar between layers of fillo pastry dough, baked to a golden brown and drenched with a honey syrup
- Loukoumades – Fluffy and light puffs, served warm with a honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon
The festival is more than just food! You can take in the culture and spirit of Greece with live music and traditional dancing on the outdoor stage, as well as browse and buy works by local artisans and craftspeople at the church’s indoor market. It’s worth a visit, trust me.
- Thursday, June 1st, 11:00 AM – 9:30 PM; Friday, June 2nd, 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM; Saturday, June 3rd, 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM; Sunday, June 4th, noon – 7:00 PM
- Sts. Helen and Constantine Orthodox Cathedral, 30 Malvern Avenue in the Near West End
- For more information call 804.355.3687
- Drive-thru open from each day’s respective start time until dusk
- Cash and cards accepted at all booths and drive-thru
- Rain or shine event