The whole concept of our TasteBudz name is to highlight the fact that our restaurant/food/drink column is more about the people than anything else. Sure, I love to get a scoop about a new restaurant, especially if it’s about to open up and not planned for a year from now. But we want you to think of TasteBudz as good friends (we are good friends, aren’t we?) sitting around swapping favorite restaurant stories. I love to listen to others tell me about that fantastic new place they recently tried, or the fabulous old place that they recently discovered.
The truth is, we don’t do restaurant reviews. That may be largely due to the fact that I’m totally unqualified to tell you whether this restaurant is amazing or average. All I can say is that I like it or I love it. If i hate it, I just don’t say. Why waste your time while I ramble on about how much I hated the place. Besides, aren’t restaurant reviews somewhat subjective? I’ve been to restaurants and loved the place and then read the review, which panned the place. It got me to thinking that maybe I didn’t enjoy the meal as much as I thought I had. So, I’m not going to try my hand at being a critic. Personally, I find many restaurant critics to be a tad boring and pretentious. My apologies go out to those critics who aren’t. And if any want space to refute my uneducated opinions., just let me know.
I’m also not going to try to impress you with some fancy word for pasta. What we try to do as much as we can is let others share their discoveries. In that regard, I had quite a night the other night. I discovered a new (to me) local hangout and met a really cool bartender/server who is quite knowledgeable about local restaurants. So, with all that said, let’s get started.
BAR FOOD TO DIET FOR: I was out one night last week and hungry. Being on a low carb diet, it’s not easy to just drive into a fast food place and get something that works on my diet. Other than a usually tasteless salad, there ain’t much to choose from. But I got to thinking about an old hangout under new management on Lakeside Avenue and I figured I’d go in and check it out. I’m talking about what is now called Bryan Park Bar and Grill (5516 Lakeside Ave.). I figured i could find something that might come close to what I’m allowed to eat such as chicken wings – non battered, of course.
Well, not only did they have the naked wings, they also offered a Keto Burger on the menu. The delicious half-pound burger is topped with feta cheese and served with a fried egg, avocado slices and house made salsa. It was excellent. One way to tell if a restaurant is serving a decent burger is to take the bun out of the picture. You can hide a pretty scrawny burger in a big bun. My Keto Burger was big and juicy. My only complaint, if this really is a complaint, is that I wished i’d asked for it medium rare. I like some red in my meat.
I got to talking with the Jessie Kelley, the bartender/server about the menu, which is very dieter friendly. In addition to the Keto Burger and the naked wings, there are a variety of salads, crab cakes, a Veggie burger and steamed shrimp. Pretty ambitious menu for such a small place. Jessie says that they’ve recently changed the menu to accommodate their many female patrons who are diet conscious. In addition to the fare, they also offer a prettywallet-pleasing Happy Hour, too. It runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Rails drinks are just $3.50
Jessie knows the city’s restaurant scene well and had high praise for Perch, Mike Ledesma’s new place at 2918 W. Broad St. She says everything is delicious and the portions are plentiful. it’s also one of the most beautiful new places in town. I’ll be sharing more of her dining insights in the weeks to come.
Oh, there’s one more place she raved about. It’s a little taco/Mexican food stand at 6922 Staples Mill Road, just east of Hilliard Road – El Chido Taqueria Del Gran Tucanazo. Jessie says the tacos are amazing. I’ve passed the place a hundred times and noticed the flashing lights, but have never stopped in. I’m going to have to remedy that little problem.
SUPER BOWL OF SOUP: I stopped in at Temple this past week. Located at 2713 W. Broad St., Temple is not only a next door neighbor of Sabai, but is also operated by Sabai co-owner Brandon Pearson. With an emphasis on Laotian food, Temple offers a unique and eclectic menu that you’re not likely to find anywhere else in town. They’re also famous for their delicious soups. Even though the day was relatively warm, I was in a soup mood and my server recommended I try the Jab Chai. The steaming huge bowl of this vegetarian soup was filled with tofu (dried and fried), cabbage (white and Chinese), carrots, celery and chili peppers. It’s not too spicy, but spicy enough.
WEST END WATCH: One of my favorite chain restaurants, First Watch, is opening their second area location on Monday, February 18 at 11721 W. Broad in the former Bertucci Restaurant location across from the Short Pump Town Center. While the chain, which serves breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. daily, has over 200 locations nationwide, Jana Razlaff, GM at the West End eatery, tells me that this new First Watch is one of only about four or five to offer a full-service bar. Jana says that the bar will utilize some of the restaurant’s popular fresh and healthy juices, incorporating them into fresh and healthy cocktails. Personally, I’ve found a lot of love about their menu. Check it out here.
PUPPY LOVE: There’s plenty to love about the White Dog Bistro (n Mathews (68 Church St.), as we’ve told you in previous TasteBudz columns. And next weekend (February 14 – 16) , love will definitely be featured on the menu as the White Dog presents a “Virginia is for Lovers” inspired menu. Amanda Wilkes, who runs the place with her husband (and chef) Walter, says, the special menu features “traditional dishes and superb Ingredients [that come] from the Chesapeake Bay to the Allegheny Mountains for a true ‘Bay to Table’ and ‘Farm to Table’ experience. We will set that table…you just bring the romance.”
In all seriousness, as one of your personal Taste Buds, you will not regret a delicious evening spent at the White Dog.
And let me just reiterate as we wrap this up, i’d like more Taste Buds. If you want to share a recent pleasant dining experience or any restaurant news, send it to me at Steve@RiverCityMag.com. If you want to share a bad experience, go to Yelp.