It turns out one of the city’s best food trucks isn’t in the city at all, but out Hull Street Road in Midlothian. Open since August, Cristina’s Cart is the custom commissary-on-wheels of Cristina Kaiser, a 27-year-old who’s rapidly growing a fan base for succulent and meaty parking-lot lunches.
She serves flat pressed sandwiches, carnitas tacos, chicken and ground beef empanadas, jibarito sliders, and the dish of pernil — roasted pork — and Spanish rice or plantains. Everything’s cooked to order in the red and stainless steel kitchen trailer, which was fabricated in Miami. With two fryers, a steam table, flat griddle, full range and oven, refrigerator, hood and four sinks, it’s a sparkling departure from some of the area’s less-equipped and often road-worn food conveyances.
“I knew what I wanted, and I cook what I want to cook,” Kaiser says. “And the thing I love about it is the people, seeing their expressions, seeing them come back.”
Her family recipes, tweaked from her father’s restaurant collection, “have a Caribbean flavor, very different from Mexican food,” Kaiser says. Using cilantro, peppers, onions, garlic, achiote oil, yucca and slow-roasted meats, she offers “flavorful, but not spicy” food and a signature hot sauce, yomemato, which she’s planning to bottle. Specials such as chicken fricassee and winter soups add variety, and she expects to remain open year-round.
Cristina’s Cart is parked in the Steel Horse Harley Davidson lot at 11501 Hull Street Road from Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. facebook.com/cristinascart.
Suds city: RVA Beer Week is Nov. 1-10, which is more than a week, but the calendar’s packed with ways to celebrate the rise of hops here. With 10 local breweries, a recent tripling of draft beer lines devoted to craft brews in local restaurants, and a steady increase in beer sales, knowledge and interest, Richmond is positioned as a beer capital of the region. Beeristoric, a tour led by historians, is Nov. 10, and makes seven stops at local breweries and watering holes. Tickets are $45 and sold at Center of the Universe and Strangeways breweries. A detailed schedule of events is online at tastethelocal.com.
Friends of food: A five-course tasting menu at Heritage celebrates the release of “Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook” from Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food. Talbot joins his longtime friend chef Joe Sparatta on Nov. 11 for the dinner, which also features chef Lee Gregory and bartender T. Leggett, both of the Roosevelt. Tickets are $75 and include a signed copy of the book. Reserve at 353-4060. 1627 W. Main St. heritagerva.com.
Toothy grin: The newest entry into Richmond’s street fair scene, the Boulevard Pumpkin Festival, was a smash hit Oct. 26. With bands, beer, and pumpkin-forward foodstuffs from 20 vendors, the crisp fall day drew thousands. Popkin Tavern’s pumpkin crème brûlée, Fat Dragon’s fried pumpkin dumplings, Savory Grain’s pork and pumpkin sliders and a pumpkin with chocolate dessert from Mosaic were standouts among dozens of creative concoctions from RVA chefs.
NOW CLOSED: Moshi Moshi closed over the weekend in Carytown. Chef Kevin LaCivita will open Pomegranate in the space at 3321 W. Cary St. this winter.
Beast Feast: Chefs, meat and fire — it doesn’t get more primal and enticing for a fall party and benefit. Belmont Butchery celebrates its seventh anniversary Oct. 27 with Beast Feast at Scotchtown in Hanover County. Seven teams of chefs will serve seven courses cooked on open fires. The Honky Tonk Experience will play, wine and beer will be served, and a lineup of prime growers from the region will be on hand to talk food, farming and history. Preservation Virginia is partnering in this event along with corporate sponsors.
Look for chefs Michael Sullivan of Blackberry Farm, Dave Quisenberry of the Federal Reserve dining room, Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery, Joe Sparatta of Heritage, Owen Lane of the Magpie, Jason Alley of Comfort and Pasture, Greg Haley of Amuse, Logan Okal and Dave Perry of Millie’s, and Derek Luhowiak of the Whole Ox tending meats on the flame.
Tasting tents from local food artisans, bourbon cocktails and other amusements are planned. Tickets are $50 or $80 for VIP admission. The event is 1-5 p.m. Reserve at belmontbutcherybeastfeast.eventbrite.com.
Seafood in the bag: Now open in the West End is Crustacean Boil N’ Grill, serving an Asian-meets-Louisiana seafood menu of crab, clams, oysters, catfish and other specialties, including a classic crawfish boil served in a bag. The paper-topped tables and Mardi Gras theme are casual and no-frills. 8906 W. Broad St. 404-2412.
New Zealand in Short Pump: Burger Bach opened its second location this month in West Broad Village. The larger space includes the same menu as its Carytown forerunner — raw bar, burgers and fries, craft beer and wines, and sports on screens. 2225 Old Brick Road. burgerbach.com.
Fusion for lunch: Wild Ginger unveils a new lunch menu, says its general manager, Brian Munford. Look for fish tacos, new salads and ramen on a list that merges Latin and Asian flavors. 3734 Winterfield Road. 378-4988. wildgingerrva.com.
Shockoe pop-up: Cooking school Mise En Place announces Supper in the Slip, a quarterly pop-up-style restaurant coming Nov. 2. One communal-table seating for 28 guests is $69 for wines, cider and multiple courses. Seasonal ingredients from local purveyors will be featured. Reserve at 249-1332. miseenplaceshockoe.com.
Prime rib weekends at the Berkeley: Except during Richmond Restaurant Week, which we’re in the midst of, a three-course menu for $35 per person offers beef lovers a weekend feast. See details about this Friday, Saturday and Sunday promotion, and Thanksgiving reservations, at 1200 E. Cary St. 225-5105. berkeleyhotel.com.
Seasonal dining downtown: New for fall on the Rappahannock menu are Black Creek Farm garlic soup, baked Rappahannock River oysters with house bacon and creamy leeks, and Olde Salt clams with fresh squid stuffed with merguez sausage, among other local items from chef Dylan Fultineer and crew. 320 E. Grace St. 545-0565.
Autumn at the Viceroy: A new menu includes rabbit with butternut squash ravioli, grilled hen over autumn root vegetables, pan-fried veal sweetbreads with pumpkin porter-smashed apples, and beet risotto arancini and truffled borscht with warm rapini. 600 N. Sheppard St. viceroyrichmond.com.
Now Closed: Osaka Sushi & Steak recently closed its Short Pump location at 11674 W. Broad St. after 10 years in business. Its River Road restaurant remains open.
Postbellum is open in the former Mulligan’s space with a rarity in the Fan — a rooftop deck that’s more captivating than before.
Chef Jen Mindell and team offer a menu that takes the familiar into new territory: duck or tofu banh mi ($9), burgers ($8-12) including a green tomato vegetarian version, small plates ($7-11) such as fried Brussels sprouts, duck and turnip green nachos, peppered cashew cheese and potted meat on sourdough. Frites with sauces, fish, fowl, tofu and meat entrees ($15-24) and salmon belly and watercress clam chowder, five salads and savory side dishes show a range of flavors and ideas well beyond the usual pub menu.
Open for snacks, dinner and bar daily from 3:30 p.m.-2 a.m. 1323 W. Main St. 353-7678. postbellumrichmond.com.
World Food Day: If you’ve been on the fence about how much it matters to support your local farmer, get a copy of Forrest Pritchard’s new book, “Gaining Ground: a Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm” (Lyons Press, $17.95). It’s a treatise wrapped in lively prose that Pritchard hopes will strengthen relationships between consumers and growers.
“If we’re going to celebrate our local heritage,” he tells Style Weekly, “we have to support that with our dollars as well, and there’s no better way than to get to know your local farmers” at the many local markets around town, through subscription to a cooperative or a visit to a farm. “Positive peer pressure is contagious,” he says. “We can talk about values and ethics, but let’s take it to the table. When you put it on your plate, it tastes amazing.”
Pritchard operates Spring Meadows Farm in Berryville and speaks on World Food Day, Oct. 16, at an event in Waterford. His book has gotten acclaim from National Public Radio, Publishers Weekly and leaders in the local-foods movement.
Now serving in Chester: Divine, a creperie and wine bar, is bringing European flair to the River’s Bend Shopping Center. Owners Karin and Willy Rau offer organic foods, seasonal small plates and entrees with fine wines for weekday lunch and dinner nightly except Sunday. 13127 River’s Bend Blvd., Chester. 571-6383. divine-rb.com.
Eat for good: It’s bigger and more necessary than ever. Richmond Restaurant Week returns Oct. 21-27. Meals come in three courses for $25.13. Of that, $2.13 goes to FeedMore, the umbrella organization of the Central Virginia Food Bank and Meals on Wheels. In the 11 years since its inception, with Acacia Mid-Town owner Aline Reitzer at the helm, restaurant weeks have raised $130,000. Reservations are advised. The list of participants and details are online at richmondrestaurantweek.com.
Roll in the mall: Kobe Sushi at Stony Point is now open at the mall. It’s a sibling to the Shockoe business, serving sushi boxes and specialty rolls. Express lunch service is available, along with lunch and dinner specials daily. 9200 Stony Point Parkway. 323-3333. kobesteakandsushi.com.
Meat after class: Students have discovered barbecue on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus now that Big’s BBQ is open at 931 W. Grace St. from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Formerly a Chinese restaurant, the place is about to get larger, with a bar and full-service set up under construction. For now, the 30-seat cafe with counter service is selling six meats and 10 sides. “We smoke meat every day, with dry rub but no sauces,” co-owner Rob Weaver says. “It’s a rustic style of cooking and at the same price point but bigger portions” than nearby chains. The original Big’s location is in Chesterfield County. bigsbbqva.com.
Plant-based dining: At Ipanema Cafe, chef Will Wienckowki’s new fall menu offers homage to the harvest, with buckwheat blini appetizers with pickled beets, cashew cream and smoked peas. Also on the list are millet croquets with peas, vegan ham and artichoke aioli; entrees of pumpkin dumplings with broccoli rabe and white bean stew; chicken-fried tofu with hoppin’ john, greens and smoky tomato gravy; and mushroom bourguignon with vegetables over pasta. Special prices on wines and a solid reputation since 1998 make this little subterranean spot a local favorite for lunch, dinner, bar and some live music. 917 W. Grace St. 213-0190. ipanemaveg.com.
Wine with dinner: Society announces a four-course wine dinner featuring Glenn Workman, general manager of Mondavi Winery, Oct. 21. The $65 fee includes wine pairings for a seafood, steak and chocolate menu with special touches. Reserve at 648-5100. societyrva.com.
Drink to this: The second annual Virginia Wine Summit comes to the Jefferson Hotel on Oct. 28 with discussions, tastings and enthusiasm for the state’s viniculture. Find details about this event, geared toward wine and food professionals, and to register, visit virginiawinesummit.com.
Church Hill gets another cafe this quarter, with Kathleen Richardson opening her third Urban Farmhouse in the Lava Lofts building at 310 N. 33rd St.
That's the former Chimborazo School, a circa-1902 building converted into 50 apartments. The ground floor cafe and coffeehouse will have 60 seats, a patio and an expanded market section for local foods and natural products.
The business began in Shockoe Slip and expanded to Midlothian last December. The Church Hill location is expected to open in December with a series of eco-conscious events. theurbanfarmhouse.net.
Reason to eat: Guest chef night at Positive Vibe Café is always a draw because many of the city's most accomplished chefs give time and energy to the cause, training those with disabilities to work in the food service industry. The list of volunteer chefs includes Frits Huntjens, Rob Hamlin, Paul Elbling, Dale Reitzer, Walter Bundy, Q Derks, Ed Vasaio, J Frank, Todd Manley, Jannequin Bennett, Greg Haley and many others. October, which is disabilities awareness month, spotlights an up-and-comer to those ranks: Chef Jenson Larrimore, who's worked at Buckhead's and was kitchen manager at Mamma 'Zu for two years, will be in the lead role Oct. 27. The cafe also caters buffets, banquets and receptions, offers boxed lunches, and celebrates its ninth anniversary in January, with more than 400 graduates of the program. 2825 Hathaway Road. positiveviberva.com.
Shells and skins: Come as you are to an informal social at Manchester emporium Camden's Dogtown Market on Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m. The night features Anderson Neck oysters with Michael Hild at the shucking station. Chef Andy Howell says he'll have at least five sauces to pair with the bivalves along with sparkling and still wines. And "for those of you that have an involuntary gag reflex toward raw oysters," he says, "I will offer to put some in the oven or fryer to order" with an RSVP request. They'll screen the Redskins game later, with chicken wings and incentives to those who wear Redskins jerseys. Reserve a spot by email at email@example.com.
Downtown destination: Live music, appetizers and drinks are new reasons to check out the renovated ballroom at the John Marshall Hotel. An early evenings series started last month and runs from 5-8 on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It starts with an hour of complimentary appetizers and prices for additional tastings. Homemades by Suzanne also offers weekday lunch at the hotel, 101 N. Fifth St. thejohnmarshallballrooms.com.
New at the Well: Autumn menu changes at the Well include a corned beef hash sandwich on rye, miso cod taco on naan, artichoke tart, cider-poached salmon and bread pudding cupcakes with Nutella icing. Weekday lunch, dinner and bar nightly except Sunday. 900 W. Franklin St. 358-9355.
Shockoe schooling: Kitchen on Cary is now open at 1329 E. Cary St., serving dinner Monday through Saturday. It's an offshoot of Culinard, the culinary institute of Virginia College, with a menu of contemporary American small plates and entrees, beer and wines. Blackened tuna, shrimp and grits, risotto, steaks and salads are among the offerings. Lunch hours will be added later. 643-1315. kitchenoncary.com.
Absinthe revival: The nuances of absinthe will be explored Oct. 11 at Heritage, 1627 W. Main St., when Joe Pawelski of Overland Distillery joins the bar staff to pour Trinity absinthe. In addition to the traditional French service, the "green fairy" liquor will be featured in specialty cocktails, $8-$12, from 11 p.m.-2 a.m. Trinity absinthe is made with grande wormwood, anise and fennel and is only recently available in Virginia. heritagerva.com.
Here's what to expect when the former Republic opens this month with a new name, chef and concept. On one side of the space at 2053 W. Broad St. is the Pig & Pearl, a raw bar with a fine-tuned food focus, but also a sports bar, building owner Mathew Appelget says. Next door, Burn @ the Pig and Pearl is a whiskey lounge where customers can get a Pappy Van Winkle and a quality cigar, or smoke a Pall Mall with a Pabst.
Gone are some of the space's negatives, Appelget says. "We're really upgrading the fit and finish of the building … and restroom facilities will be completely different than what they were before" when frequent breakdowns were a hassle for customers, he says. "We're going to deliver a higher quality food to table and a better caliber service than I think Richmond has experienced."
Chef Rich Gunter got his first taste of Richmond last month during the Shockoe on the Half Shell festival, and praises his new customer base for being food savvy but friendlier than where he's from, Washington. "People in Richmond are smart, they know what good food is and I've got a lot of respect for that," Gunter says.
As for his approach to food, he says: "I like working with a lot of small, family-operated farms, fishermen, because that way I can go to my guests and say I know who pulled this rockfish out of the water. I like being honest with people and I like making good, honest food that's approachable to everyone. If I can't tell you where something comes from, I'm doing everybody a disservice."
The Pig won't compete with local barbecue places, Gunter adds, but the dominant theme will be pork and oysters in different presentations. Bourbon-mustard-glazed pork tails, pig ear tacos, oyster stew, fried and smoked oyster dishes and other hearty entrees will join an extensive beverage list. Watch for an opening later this month.
Skipping breakfast: Dinamo, at 821 W. Cary St., no longer serves breakfast. Its hours now are weekday lunch and dinner from 11 a.m., and dinner Saturday. See more about this independent cafe at dinamorichmond.com.