I get why people are excited about fair food. Where else can you find the kitchen sink fried and served with powdered sugar? Serious food-interested people eat here. And by serious, I mean, those people who like fun, deep-fried Kool-Aid (ugh) and fun. If you can't beat 'em, here are five ways to join them.
1. Sirloin Tips: Big, chopped pieces of self-marinating sirloin ($5 for the kids' meal) roasted then sautéed in 10-year-old cast iron with butter and "secret seasonings" -- this doesn't sound like fair food. Get involved. Get the mushrooms.
Where: Pickle Barrel Sirloin Tips. Across from the Farm Bureau building.
2. Pumpkin Funnel Cake: Why go basic when you can go pumpkin? Why limit yourself to just to cinnamon when you can have nutmeg as well? A flat, crispy and greasy pumpkin muffin. No really, why?
Where: Wilson Enterprises. By the King BMX stunt show.
3. Hot Fried Frog Legs: That burger patty slapped between two donut halves is so last year, and that pork parfait is uh, parfait-ed pork. So how about some spicy fat frog legs ($5)? Don't worry. They don't taste like chicken.
Where: Porky's. By the Thrill Pit.
4. Fried chicken on a stick: Everything is better on a stick, especially if it's a large piece (dark meat, please) of chicken ($7) soaked in Big Drew's Cajun seasoning, floured and deep-fried. No need for the roll.
Where: Cajun' Cookin'. Outside the Farm Bureau building.
5. Chimney Cakes: A Transylvanian street snack? Yes. Rolled around a wooden spoke and then baked, this pastry ($5) tastes like something your mom would make if she were Romanian, a little tangy and a little sweet. Flavors include chocolate walnut and cinnamon.
Where: Chimney Cakes. Next to the Thrill Pit.
John Van Peppen hopes to start a renewal at the 17th Street Farmers’ Market as he brings an upscale dining presence to a prominent corner in Shockoe Bottom. He’s in the midst of what he hopes is a six-week redo of the former Café Gutenberg at 1700 E. Main St., turning the two-level historic building and former peanut factory into a 135-seat space serving “a contemporary interpretation of Continental cuisine.”
Van Peppen, whose restaurant credits include Fleming’s, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and DeFazio’s, is redecorating the space using furnishings from the recently-closed Copper Grill franchise restaurant at Short Pump. A chef with longtime Richmond roots is about to sign on to prepare Braveheart steaks, fresh seafood and sides such as extra-smoked Gouda mac and cheese. Wines and craft cocktails will be served at a large new bar; outdoor dining and an upstairs private party space are also getting facelifts as construction moves forward on Van Peppen’s tight timeline.
“My vision is to try to grow this farmers’ market,” Van Peppen says, “and to buy ingredients from farmers who in turn will get exposure for their businesses.” To work at Arcadia, whose name is drawn from Roman mythology, the owner says “people have to have the hospitality gene, and be prepared to take care of guests’ every need – because hospitality is the cornerstone of this business.” Michelle Graziano, formerly of Fleming’s, will handle special events. Follow the restaurant’s progress at arcadiarichmond.com