I have been eating for two people this week, not because I’m in a family way, either. I’m just hungry. Plus so much good stuff to eat around town.
KARI ON: Let’s start this week’s TasteBudz with some exciting in-house Tbudz news. You all know
that Kari Smith is one of my favorite local performers. In fact, I’m heading out to the Wine Loft tonight (Thursday, 9/27) to enjoy her music. But Kari’s talents go beyond singing, playing and song writing. And now she’s going to put some of that writing talent to work in as well as right here in our TasteBudz column. She was telling me recently about a cool little culinary discovery up in Montpelier. I asked her to share the info. Here goes:
Whether you are headed to the lake for the weekend, enjoying a sunny day out on the Harley, or a resident of Montpelier, chances are that you will fly past Mountain Road Market at 45 miles per hour. But trust me – it is worth your while to turn around and go back. Opened in late June of 2018, the market boasts a variety of food options the town of Montpelier has been desperately needing – a fixed farmers’ market, an ice cream shop and bakery, and a spot for a quick sandwich, or a full take-out dinner with varying weekly specials, such as ribs, chicken, and wings – all smoked on site.
In the market for local meats, poultry, and produce? Mountain Road Market brings in pasture-raised beef and pork, free-range poultry and eggs, as well as fresh vegetables from local farms. In fact, nothing is sourced from over 100 miles away.
If you’re headed home on Route 33, and need a quick dinner to go, my personal favorite is the barbecue, which is charcoal-smoked on site, and made with a gluten-free sauce. And speaking of gluten-free options – they also offer other gluten-free sides, like their coleslaw, as well as gluten-free cookies and brownies.
On a nice day, you’ll see folks gathered around their outdoor seating space with a popular favorite – ice cream from Bev’s in Carytown. Rumor has it that Bev uses more cream in her small-batch homemade ice cream than any ice cream parlor in the state of Virginia – that’s what makes it so good! Their desserts are also homemade – cookies, brownies, pies, and cobbler – if you can get it! Announcements on their Facebook page ensure that the cobblers (and other weekly specials) fly off the shelf quickly.
So the next time you roll down Route 33, keep your eyes open for the red tractor, which serves as the market’s signpost, Mountain Road Market is opened Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 to. They’re located at 16284 Mountain Road, between Precision Plumbing and the Montpelier FasMart. Hurry in before the cobbler is all sold out!
Look for more from Kari here in TasteBudz Plus as well as in Hanover Lifestyle Magazine.
THE GREAT PUMPKIN HAS BEEN FOUND: I’ve found a few cool places, myself, this week. Our
assistant editor Ashley Jefferson told me about a new discovery of hers, which I just had to check out. Ashley says that Pumpkin Kitchen Café (219 E. Clay St.) offers some of the best soul food in town. Ashley speaks truth. I stopped by and visisted with owner, Aretha Lewis. Aretha says that while she’s been catering for about 13 years, this is her first foray into the restaurant world. She opened this cozy, little spot in February. You know that few words in the English language thrill me as much as “buffet.” And the Pumpkin Kitchen Café offers one of the best in home-cooked soul and Southern comfort dishes. On the day of my visit, Aretha was serving fish, chicken, pork chops, string beans, candid yams, rolls and the house favorite – macaroni and cheese. It’s all you can eat for 10 bucks. The buffet lunch is served from 11:30 to 3 Tuesday and Thursday. The restaurant is open for breakfast (from 9 a.m.), lunch and dinner every day except Monday. If you go for breakfast, be sure to try the salmon cakes.
QUENCH YOUR THIRST FOR DELICIOUS CAJUN FARE: I stopped in at what I thought was merely another bar and grill this week. My goal was to get the Happy Hour information for our Richmond Navigator Happy Hour Guide. I got the info I sought, but I got a whole lot more. I discovered an excellent new restaurant. The place of which I speak is Thirsty’s Bar & Grill, located at 3516 Forest Hill Avenue. Owner Ryan Bulkley acknowledges that perhaps the name is a little misleading. Now, don’t’ get me wrong. It is a great bar, with exceptional Happy Hour and other daily specials. But Thirsty’s is also an excellent New Orleans Cajun-style restaurant. I’ve driven by the place on several occasions and kept promising myself that one day I’d check it out. But had I known the taste treats that await, inside, I’d have stopped in long ago. Unlike some Forest Hill-area dining spots, Thirsty’s has plenty of free, off-street parking.
They also have plenty of choices on the menu including a variety of appetizers from alligator bites to nachos or wings. You seek Jambalaya? They got it. How about burgers? Got them, too, including the genuine, authentic alligator burger. Ryan cooked one up for me. It was delicious, and with a lot less fat than one of those cow burgers. You’ll also find po’boys, pasta dishes and, for dessert, beignets.
Their very wallet-friendly happy hour runs from 3 to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
THE KUDZU’S TAKING OVER: I stopped in at one of my favorite Happy Hour spots recently for their fantastic Happy Hour mussels special. The mussels are one of several appetizers offered during their HH Two for $10 appetizers promotion. I bet they give you 18 to 20 mussels in a bowl. You can choose the marinara or curry sauce. Delicious. But, I digress. While there, I was speaking with GM Shelby Willmon who tells me that something exciting is brewing at Pik Nik. Starting this Monday, October 1, Will Richardson, formerly of Shoryuken Ramen, will be bringing his Kudzu pop-up kitchen to Pik Nik every Monday, with the doors opening at about 3:30 p.m. Now, we all know how fast Kudzu grows, so chances are that come November, Kudzu may have taken over the entire restaurant. We’ll discuss that at a later date. Shelby sent me the menu for the popup and it looks fantastic, with several ramen noodle dishes plus some tasty appetizers including curry tots. Shelby says the current lineup of Happy Hour appetizers will remain. She’s just put together a fall cocktail menu, too and it looks quite inviting.
FRUGAL FOODIE: I have a couple of hot tips on places where you can eat lots of food for little cash. First, I wanted to check out the barbecue ribs at Poe’s Pub (2706 E. Main St.). These good-looking ribs are featured on the cover of this month’s River City Magazine, which you can read in its digital format right here on our website. We feature Poe’s (Almost) Famous Babybacks. Here’s the big deal: On Thursdays, the a half rack, with fries and slaw is just $10. That’s a lot of eating. In fact, unless you’re famished, the plate will probably serve two diners.
Here’s another deal – this one on Wednesday. While I don’t play the “Best of….” Game, I will say that one of the best burgers that I’ve EVER had is being served down at The Franklin Inn (corner of Franklin and Cleveland Avenues). Wednesday night is $5 burger night at the Inn. This is not some dried up little charcoal-like lump of ground beef. It’s a juicy half-pound of delicious burger on a bun that’s so good, I’d order the burger if I were a vegetarian. I spoke with Peyton Martin, a regular diner at The Franklin Inn, who raves about the food in general at The Franklin Inn. He says that
their sandwiches are excellent.
Peyton also took time to tell me about another little hidden gem of a restaurant in the Metro area. He says that stepping into Cull’s Courthouse Grille at 10801 Courthouse Road in Charles City is like stepping back in time. He adds that the food there is also quite good. I’m going to have to check that out very soon.
GREAT GATSBY PICNIC: The 4th Annual Gatsby Afternoon Picnic will take place on the lush lawns of the Wilton House Museum on October 6. This was rescheduled from a couple of weeks ago when Hurricane Florence was threatening the area. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon dining with friends, both new and old, while overlooking the beautiful James River. The event is sponsored by the Art Deco Society of Virginia
TIDBITS: Just a few other culinary notes: Mike Ledesma’s Perch has opened at 2918 W. Broad St. According to GM Krystel Poole, the restaurant will be a place where Hawaiian and Phillipino cuisines meet Virginia. She says that the open kitchen area features a specially made wood-burning oven as well as a chef’s counter, which can be reserved for custom designed eight- or nine-course dinners, with pairings.
Melt RVA has opened at 3027 W. Cary St. It seems rather pointless to say that it’s the first bar/restaurant/glass-blowing venue in the city. I’m thinking there might not be another anywhere around. But, who knows? Maybe it’s all the rage and I’m just out of the loop. The glass blowing is not a gimmick. The restaurant is promoting its “fresh, never frozen” concept. The menu features a variety of tacos and gourmet sandwiches. They do Brunch Saturday and Sunday.
RICHMOND NAVIGATOR CORRECTIONAL FACILITY: We’ve had to start the facility to cover all my errors. I goofed again – with the wrong address for one of my favorite barbecue places on earth. I’m talking Smohk at 3112 West Leigh Street in Scott’s Addition. If you haven’t tried their fantastic BBQ, why not?
CLOSING NOTES: Here are our live music picks for the weekend
Thursday, September 27
Friday, September 28
Saturday, September 29
Sunday, September 30
Thanks for joining us for this week’s edition of TasteBudz. Now, I’m heading back out. So much to eat. So little time to digest. Share your restaurant news or a great restaurant experience. Email us at TasteBudz@RichmondNavigator.com