Published by Richmond Grid
Transforming a tranquil spot on the banks of the James River into a tropical island getaway, Conch Republic Rocketts (11 Orleans Street) offers cuisine and ambience inspired by the Florida Keys.
Consistent with the restaurant’s theme, such ingredients as plantains, alligator, and (of course) conch play key roles in many of the restaurant’s abundant dinner offerings.
Appetizers include conch fritters, steamed blue crab claws, and deep fried, marinated nuggets of gator meat referred to as “Swamp Bites.” Among the numerous entree options are crab cakes topped with crawfish etouffe and a particularly impressive “Low Country Shrimp” dish, which consists of shrimp sauteed in a creamy sauce-rich, but somehow not so heavy as to overwhelm the feature component-and served over cheese grits.
Extensive selections of salads, soups (including a wonderfully flavorful gator chili), sandwiches, and nachos cater to a broad range of tastes and appetites; and each course includes options, from chicken wings to NY strip, to appeal to palates favoring turf over surf.
A draw equal to Conch Republic’s well-executed cuisine is its airy and relaxed ambience. Housed in a beautiful, open space in the heart of Rocketts Landing, the restaurant’s distressed walls are adorned with antiqued murals so authentic in appearance that one could almost envision Ernest Hemingway sipping a rum-based cocktail at the bar.
The tremendous space is packed on any given night with couples, large parties, and individuals. Crowds surround the main bar and the inside/outside tiki bar that sits in the back corner of the dining area and encroaches onto the large, wrap-around patio.
Looking west from the patio, where musicians imbue balmy evenings with melodic atmosphere, one is treated to a unique and stunning view of the downtown skyline. Looking south, one gazes upon the lovely James River and the crafts that travel lazily upon it. Looking directly down, one might be surprised to see railroad tracks, rather than gentle surf and sand.
In addition to dinner, Conch Republic Rocketts offers lunch, brunch, and a worry-free state of mind that promises to attract patrons throughout the year.