I’ve done some good eating around town in the past couple of weeks and discovered some really cool old and new spots. I’ve also visited a restaurant that was somewhat underwhelming. In keeping with our policy not to write negatively about a restaurant, I won’t name names, but I will begin today’s TasteBudz with a little something I call
A STEVITORIAL: I will be the first to admit that I am not a foodie. I simply love to eat. I don’t really know gourmet, although I may fit the description for gourmand. However, I do think there are some who are quick to tell you how beautiful the emperor’s new clothes are when it comes to some of the newer restaurants in town. Just because a restaurant puts a $30 item on the menu and then serves a handful of nuts, doesn’t mean that it’s an epicurean’s dream come true. It doesn’t even mean that the food is good.
Admittedly, I am a burger and fries sort of guy. But I can also appreciate the efforts of a truly talented chef. Just don’t throw me a bowl of weeds and nuts and tell me it’s New American Modern or whatever you want to call it.
Okay, I’ve had my say. Let’s move along to the good stuff. First, let me tell you about a few old-time favorites that just keep plugging along.
HIGH ON THE HILL: My publishers, Billy and Cheryl Davis (who are also two of my favorite taste
budz), have been raving about one of the oldest restaurants on Church Hill…the Hill Café. They enjoyed a recent meal there so much that they went back two days later. Cheryl says, “I really liked the Shrimp & Grits and the Buffalo Fried Oysters appetizer. Both were very good. The oysters were lightly breaded and golden brown and yummy.” Cheryl did have one small complaint. There was not enough to share. She mentioned that her daughter’s favorite dish is the Crispy Eggplant., and added, “I also liked the the Maple Manhatten. It’s a cozy little atmosphere and we had good service both nights we were there.”
GIVE ME LIBERTY OR AT LEAST A GOOD CRAB CAKE: Speaking of Church Hill, I personally enjoyed my recent visit to Patrick Henry’s Pub & Grille, at 23rd and Broad. I went there with about 15 friends and everyone seemed impressed with both the friendliness of the staff as well as the quality and portions of the food. I tasted one of the crab cakes that my cousin had ordered and was quite impressed. It was moist and flavorful. I ordered the grilled salmon. At first, I thought I wouldn’t like it as it seemed a bit overcooked on the outside, but inside it was tender, moist and very tasty. I scraped my plate so clean that the staff could probably have just put it back on the shelf. If you’re a fan of the onion ring, you will be very happy with their version. Their rings were perfectly battered with juicy whole slices of onion inside. The more I think about them, the more I want to go back. I also took a bite of their hamburger. It’s definitely one of the best in town.
CHARMING, SIMPLY CHARMING: After our meal at Patrick Henry’s most in the group headed down to the Arts District and Charm School Social Club at 311 W. Broad. I’d heard good things about the place, but had never been. The place was packed and for good reason. The ice cream is amazing. I tried a flavor I’d never seen on any ice cream shop menu – the Cereal Milk . It tastes just like the delectable bowl of left over milk tastes after you finish your bowl of Cap’n Crunch. I added to the merriment by topping it with the Vegan Fluff, which is their toasted (with a hand torch) marshmallow creation. A little bit of that goes a long way.
A HIDDEN GEM IN THE FAN: Perhaps, I shouldn’t call this place a hidden gem. It sits right in the heart of the Fan. It’s been around for a couple of decades and its fans are many. But Bacchus at 2 N. Meadow St. (Main and Meadow), tends to keep a low profile. The restaurant is housed in a rather non-descript building. I’ve passed it many times but just never felt motivated to visit. However, I got tired of passing it and went in last week. It may be the best Italian fare that I’ve enjoyed in Richmond in quite some time. Our server, Hannah, was knowledgeable, helpful and pleasant. Although I try to avoid bread, only a man of great courage and stamina could have avoided their homemade rolls. I am not such a man. You have to visit if only to try the rolls. But the menu has lots of great options. We had the chicken picata. It was excellent. However, after finishing off the steamed clams and mussels, I had to take most of the entrée home.
NEW AND VEGAN: Nu Vegan seems like the perfect name for a new vegan restaurant that just opened at 417 W. Grace St. Ashley Jefferson, our new assistant editor, is very familiar with the place. She used to live right next to their Washington D.C. restaurant and she tells me the food is quite delicious. I’m going to have to check this place out.
KEY TO HAPPINESS: People just keep tempting me to go off my diet. Take Roby Williams, for example. Roby, who owns Smohk, the delicious bbq place in Scott’s Addition, along with Elizabeth Sexton, offered me a slice of his homemade key lime pie the other day. It’s a relatively new item on their menu. Well, what could I say. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. The fact that key lime pie is my favorite dessert didn’t hurt, either. Anyway, this has to be the most delicious slice of key lime that I’ve ever put in my mouth. It’s smooth like silk and tart and sweet and wow. The graham cracker crust makes the perfect complement for the key lime. This is a don’t miss sort of experience, especially if you go ga ga over key lime, like I do.
A LITTLE HUSH HUSH: I have some news, but I can’t share it just yet. But one has to do with the closing of Stuzzi Pizza at 1 N. Belmont. Word is that one local restaurateur is looking at reopening the place. If this comes to pass, based on this guy’s reputation, we can expect something pretty special to be opening there. I’ll tell you more when I’m allowed.
Another bit of news, which is really not a secret, but I’ll sit on it for a few more days, has to do with a really beautiful new restaurant opening soon on Leigh Street in Scott’s Addition. The focus on this new place will be on healthful (but still delicious) fare. Perhaps by next week, I can say more.
TASTEBUDZ PLUS: Now, here’s our music rundown for the weekend
John Fetherston – Rare Olde Times 8 p.m.
The Motorvators – JJ’s Grille 8 p.m. Described as a “Kick Butt Classic Rock Band committed to keeping the crowd singing .”
Cyrus McCormack & the Reapers – JJ’s Grille 8 p.m. “Virginia’s Premier 50’s and 60’s Band.”
Paulo Franco and the Freightliners– Tin Pan 8 p.m. Also scheduled: Tin Can Fish Band