The Al Navarro Show – Episode 2: Al Navarro and the Curious Case of the Capital of the Confederacy

Just in time for your trip to the October NAC, welcome to the next installment in the Fencingtown, USA series on TFC, covering some of the stops on the USA Fencing circuit.

In my first Fencingtown USA write-up back in May, I remarked that if I were to judge NAC host cities based on how well my daughter fenced there, Milwaukee would be close to the bottom of the list.

Richmond however, would be somewhere near the top, as it’s the site of her very first NAC medal. Her first two, actually…because as Y12s, she and two other girls managed to take bronze in the Y14 WE team event that year (speaking of Y14 team events, I highly recommend them).

We’ve been to Richmond for fencing twice now, first for the youth NAC in 2013, then again for JOs in 2015. For some reason, possibly in part due to combination of homework load/the scheduling of my daughter’s events at the Richmond tournaments/the fact that we drive to Richmond and so don’t bake a “travel recovery day” into our weekend plans, we never seem to have as much free time in the city as we have in other USA Fencing host cities.

That said, a fencer’s gotta eat. And so do her parents. So let’s start with a list of our “go to” places in Richmond. Maybe we’ll see you at one of them in October! Remember, if you try any of the places below, please be sure to mention fencing and TFC.

Addis Restaurant 

Yes, another Ethiopian restaurant. Addis is in the “Shockoe Bottom” district of Richmond. We love Ethiopian food in general, and as advocates of kids eating more than just chicken fingers, highly recommend it for families. Unless you’ve eaten Ethiopian food before you probably won’t understand what the preparations listed on the menu mean — I suggest just looking for dishes that contain ingredients you like and asking your server for guidance. Ethiopian food is also a great choice for people who like spicy food as well as vegetarians.

PHOTO CAPTION: Photo from by user marcella l.
Can Can

Located in the hip “Carytown” area (see below), this is a French brasserie (I can never keep brasseries and bistros straight) with very solid food. Think moules, steak frites, etc. A very nice atmosphere. I would advise NOT going in club track suits/athletic shorts, but good jeans and a collared shirt (or the equivalent) would be right at home. Great Sunday brunch if that works with your event schedule. As with Addis, we’ve been here twice.

Can Can
Photo from by user Mark P.

On the last day of the 2015 JOs, Richmond got hit with a freak snowstorm. I’m assuming the city doesn’t get much snow, because the roads were a mess, remaining mostly unplowed until the snow stopped. The JWE event was that day and we decided to stay an extra night and joined some friends whose flights had been cancelled at this fun, causal, modern country-style restaurant. What’s “modern country-style” you ask? Well, lets just say you can get a pimento cheese sandwich here…but also a glass of Pappy Van Winkle’s 20-year whiskey to go with it. I remember their mac and cheese being exceptional.

PHOTO CAPTION: Photo from by user Becki P.
PHOTO CAPTION: Photo from by user Becki P.
Edo’s Squid

Look past the sketchy staircase and nondescript door of this second-floor VCU-area Italian. Because what lies beyond them is some of the best Italian food you’ve ever eaten. Seriously. Packed and loud and EXTREMELY difficult to get through to on the phone to make a reservation (but highly recommended). But 1000% [not a typo] worth the trip, search for parking, and possible wait. Would NOT try to get a big group in here. The braised fennel appetizer is a must and all the pasta dishes we had were amazing.

PHOTO CAPTION: Photo from by user Jim B.
PHOTO CAPTION: Photo from by user Jim B.

Other stuff to do and see in Richmond that does not involve eating:

Virginia State Capitol 

Nothing against USA Fencing and their efforts to procure rooms close to the venue at affordable rates, but I don’t like staying at designated hotels if I can help it. It’s less about saving money and more about sometimes wanting to get the heck away from fencing/fencers/fencing parents. (I can’t be the only person who feels this way, right?) The first time we stayed in Richmond, we were at the Omni (where there were still lots of fencers).

I share all of this as a long way of saying that we were close to the Virginia State Capitol. So on our off day at the 2013 NAC, we walked to the venue to support friends (and vendors!) by way of Capitol Square. It’s a lovely little urban park with various monuments, memorials, and statues. There are also guided tours available of the Capitol building itself.


Edgar Allen Poe Museum 

I haven’t been here before, but the Poe Museum looks interesting; one of those “you won’t find this in every town” attractions. Claiming to have “the world’s finest collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia and personal belongings”, the museum is located close to where Poe lived and worked while he was in Richmond.


Wikipedia calls Carytown “an urban retail district lining Cary Street at the southern end of the Museum District”. I didn’t even know it had a name, but definitely enjoyed exploring this strip of funky shops located near Can Can (see above). Definitely worth a visit, especially if you have a car. Lots of restaurants and shops to explore. Visit the merchants association site linked above for a complete listing.


Shockoe Bottom & Slip 

At the other end of Cary Street, Shockoe Bottom was once the hub of commerce in Richmond, including the slave trade up until the end of the Civil War. Now it mixes commerce and culture with history though a similarly interesting mix of shops and restaurants as Carytown. Less dense and developed, Shockoe Bottom feels like more of a “find” to me. The nearby Shockoe Slip  area is a bit more gentrified/organized and its cobblestone streets are very busy on weekend nights.


Guest contributor Al Navarro is the father of a 15-year old Women’s Epee fencer. When not standing around convention centers waiting for DEs to start, he lives and works in New Jersey. He is STILL working on a blog for the parents of current and aspiring youth fencers. 

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