Nothing is better than a little celebration after a hard week of work. But where do you go when you’ve come to an age where loud clubs and drunken nights no longer appeal to you?
As it turns out, you don’t have to go very far. Stretching between West Broad Street and Interstate 95, North Boulevard is lined with bars, lounges, restaurants and galleries perfectly tailored to the 30-and-over scene.
“I moved to Richmond because of this area,” says Travis Ely, a local resident. “I was about 30 minutes away and I didn’t like driving in. I started working here and meeting new friends and people and had conversations that I couldn’t have out in the county. So, I had to move.”
Aside from being a local resident, Ely is also the head bartender at The Hof Garden, one of the area’s most popular gathering spots. Located on the rooftop of the historic Hofheimer Building, The Hof Garden is a Biergarten and pizza kitchen that serves some of the best craft beers from Virginia and Europe.
“We have 26 taps on the rooftop and 18 more down in the tap room,” Ely shares. “And besides pizza, we also serve sausage and cheese platters to touch back to our German roots.”
Such fare differs greatly from the chicken wings, sliced pizza and French fries that are often served in neighboring communities. Guests of The Hof Garden want more than sustenance. They want an experience. And they come in droves to get it.
The Hof Garden is open every day from 3 p.m. to midnight. But according to Ely, by dinnertime, the place gets pretty packed.
“From 9 o’clock on, we have wall-to-wall people,’’ he says. “Sometimes, we have to stop folks at the door.”
But no need to worry. When The Hof Garden is filled to capacity, the overflow has more than enough alternative options to choose from. On the first floor of the same building, award-winning chef, Peter Chang, has opened his namesake restaurant, offering “real” Szechuan-style cuisine. Just around the corner, Fat Dragon Chinese Kitchen & Bar offers “traditional Chinese with a modern twist,” including classic Cantonese and multi-regional Chinese cuisine with lush drinks and a dose of schmoozing, reminiscent of a scene often found in places like New York and Miami. And if beer, burgers and fries are all you want on the menu, Boulevard Burger & Brew is only steps away. Known for their beer, burgers and boozy shakes, the stand-alone restaurant brings you back to a time before fast-food chains and assembly-line kitchens sprinkled every city block — something that the 30-and-over crowd can appreciate.
But it’s not just restaurants and bars that open their doors to the mature clientele. Movieland at Boulevard Square is still one of the city’s most popular theaters. And the area’s newest attraction, River City Roll, offers carefully curated American cuisine, delicious cocktails and 20 lanes of bowling, exclusively for the 21-and-over crowd. Flower shops, antique furniture stores, gyms and galleries are alive during the day. There’s even a thriving hair salon right on North Boulevard that bustles with energy and happy clients.
“When we opened in December of 2014, all of these businesses weren’t here. Not even Starbucks,” explains Shaketa Tyler, co-owner of Strands, Inspired by K & Co.
Strands, Inspired by K & Co. is a full-service hair salon situated on the southbound side of the corridor, between several other privately owned specialty shops. The salon has been in the area for just under four years and has seen the neighborhood through its recent changes.
And according to owners Shaketa Tyler and Sakia Jones, their salon is in the absolute perfect location.
“This is a good area to be in because it’s like a central up-and-coming area,” says Tyler. “It’s always busy. This area is great for growing businesses. There’s always someone walking by or driving past.”
Jones agrees. “With the Redskins training camp nearby, there are people from all over the world that come here to cheer on the Redskins and support our businesses,’’ she says. “A lot of the business owners look out for each other, so you can always mingle with other business owners. We go out and eat here often. It’s just a great place to work and play.”
Jones also thinks that the new PULSE bus line will help her area and the city of Richmond overall.
“The PULSE gives the city a different vibe, a vibe of a city that’s growing and flourishing. For a while, the city was very stagnant. But it’s not like that anymore. It’s growing,’’ Jones explains. “I’m seeing how Richmond is kind of catching up with what’s going on up north in D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia. Richmond is now coming into that.”
One thing that Richmond is not catching up on is the development of the new baseball field.
Back in 2016, an agreement was made between the City of Richmond, the Richmond Flying Squirrels and VCU that would keep the Flying Squirrels in Richmond for at least 30 years, as long as a new ballpark was constructed. The cost of the project was estimated to be between $50 and $60 million and would help generate revenue for the school and city services. However, since that agreement, not much has been done.
Jim Nolan, press secretary for Richmond’s mayor, Levar Stoney, says the two are still working together.
“VCU and the Richmond Flying Squirrels have a memorandum of understanding to work together toward a new home for baseball for the Rams and the Squirrels,’’ Nolan explains. “The mayor supports the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and will work toward finding a long-term solution that keeps baseball in Richmond.”
Todd “Parney” Parcell, vice-president and COO of the Flying Squirrels, agrees.
“We continue to diligently work with VCU and our other community partners, but have no further updates at this time,” he adds.
And while the community still waits for the ballpark to be finished, everyone continues on with business as usual. Both Tyler and Jones mention that when they aren’t busy servicing clients or searching for new stylists for their busy salon (which is currently hiring), they both take advantage of the local businesses like The Hof Garden and Fat Dragon. And at The Hof, Ely continues to pour some of the best drinks in town.
Ballpark or not, when it comes to business and fun for the 30-and-over crowd, the North Boulevard continues to hit it out of the park.