Clubs still tend to self-segregate in Richmond, but a new downtown business hopes to break down some social barriers and draw a diverse and sophisticated crowd.
Vanquish, named for the quarter-million-dollar Aston Martin sports car, is set in a former bank, once the clubs Bank and Bliss, now filled with red leather couches for mingling near the bar, a plush mezzanine, a cigar and hookah room and private party space downstairs. A red metal dancer cage below deck was covered on a recent soft opening, said, perhaps in jest, to be in deference to a possible visit by the mayor.
As openings go, this one was different, with live music, introductions from a raised DJ platform, and a prayer for the club's staff. Owners James Washington, Edgar Rosales and Shiloh Jones welcomed a fashionable crowd, and chef Kyle Midgett served lamb chops, local oysters and pork belly crostini.
"When you see this menu, it is so different," Rosales says. Instead of a bar, "we want to call it a restaurant with ingredients that are indigenous to the state — clam chowder, meats and cheeses, city-hotel-style food," including a daily prime rib buffet with salads, sides and desserts.
Vanquish will cater to the college crowd once a week, Washington says, with a club level lounge. But it will hire no promoters and instead program acts itself for the 500-capacity club — "reaching out to everyone," Washington adds, with dressy attire requested and VIP service available. A dance floor, stage for comedy and music, and two DJ booths are part of the black, gray and red-hued renovation the owners began in October.
Vanquish Restaurant and Ultra Lounge opens Feb. 8 with dinner, adding daily lunch down the road. Valet parking. 1005 E. Main St. 317-0016. vanquishofrichmond.com.
After Amour Wine Bistro was hit with a small but destructive kitchen fire this month, the real pain set in. Owner Paul Heitz says dealing with insurance issues is worse than the fire itself, but he's directing positive energy to a series of events at neighboring Carytown establishments while reconstruction continues.
"After a disaster, what a positive way to look up and collaborate with other businesses," Heitz says. "The Carytown Merchants Association immediately responded and helped me, as well as many neighbors. What a great network in Richmond."
A Valentine's dinner is being planned, along with a midwinter wine dinner at Mezzanine with chefs Todd Johnson and Amour's Rob Hamlin, and a wine dinner at Curry Craft with chef Mel Oza and Hamlin. Also in February, a couples' wine and lingerie event takes place at Fiamour boutique in Carytown. See amourwinebistro.com for details on these and other events prior to a grand reopening when the building is ready at 3129 W. Cary St.
Sublime subterranean: Let's start at the end, with cinnamon rolls three ways, coming to a beer dinner Feb. 9 at Ipanema Cafe. Chef Will Wienckowski pairs his creative vegetarian dishes with five Virginia beers for the cafe's birthday event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $50, including tax and tip, and reservations are taken in-person or by phone at 213-0190. Besides dessert, the meal includes a roasted root vegetable salad, soup with saffron dumplings, cauliflower flan and shepherd's pie with mushrooms and colcannon. Breweries are Devils Backbone, Lickinghole Creek, Strangeways, Hardywood and Apocalypse Ale. 917 W. Grace St. ipanemaveg.com.
Winning: Church Hill restaurant the Roosevelt and its chef Lee Gregory took top honors at the third annual Elby awards Sunday at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Other winners in the Richmond magazine production included David Rohrer of WPA Bakery, Gary York of Enoteca Sogno for its wine program, Garnett's Café as a reader-chosen neighborhood favorite, Estilo Una Mesa Latina as best new restaurant, the spirits program at Dutch & Co. and its chef Philip Perrow a rising culinary star, the service team at Lemaire in the Jefferson Hotel, house manager Michele Jones at Pasture downtown, and Travis Croxton of Rappahannock as restaurateur of the year.
Ammo and camo: Chef Walter Bundy of Lemaire at the Jefferson Hotel is featured in an eight-page spread in the February and March issue of Garden & Gun magazine. Bundy's hunting and game-cooking prowess is depicted, and his recipes for duck, venison and oysters affirm the chef's belief that game, respectfully treated, is used to its fullest potential as "no better food in the world. It's unadulterated, untouched and as natural as it comes."
The Rogue Gentlemen Cocktail restaurant with specialty liquors, rustic foods, casual vintage décor. Chef-owned. Dinner and bar hours, closed Tuesdays, Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. 618 N. First St. 477-3456. theroguegentlemen.com.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story listed a different opening date for Vanquish. The club will open Saturday, Feb. 8.
It turns out the winners were up there onstage the whole time, their names already etched into loaves of bread on a table, prizes guarded by the teenage daughters of co-host Brandon Fox. But the Elby awards, run by Richmond magazine, still packed a surprise or two in a third annual celebration of Richmond dining Sunday at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Before a crowd of about 500 guests, Fox -- the magazine's food editor -- and contributor Jason Tesauro cracked clever and wise, winners teared up, and kitchen staffs whooped for their favorites. Sexy dresses and up-dos, dark suits and pocket flasks, Tweeters, preeners, the humbled and the less so -- all had their moments. The winners are:
Pastry chef: David Rohrer of WPA Bakery in Church Hill.
Wine program: Gary York of Enoteca Sogno. “I’m kinda shocked,” he said. The scene here is good, but “there’s still another level we can get to. We’ll never be a great food town until we’re a great wine town.”
Neighborhood restaurant: Garnett’s Café in the Fan, chosen by public voting.
Best new restaurant: Estilo Una Mesa Latina. “I waited my first table nine years ago at Stella’s,” said an emotional Jess Bufford. To get the job, “I lied to Katrina Giavos,” she told a laughing audience, claiming she had some waitress experience. Now Bufford and her husband own two restaurants – Toast gastropub and Estilo, the South American bistro with the Scottish chef, both in the Village shopping center in Henrico.
Spirits program and rising culinary star: Dutch & Co. in Church Hill. Co-owner Phillip Perrow accepted his rising star award from business partner Caleb Shriver, a previous winner.
Best service: Lemaire at the Jefferson Hotel.
Front of house manager: Michele Jones of Pasture, encouraging every waitress who wants her own place that it’s possible and “it feels good!”
Restaurateur of the year: Travis Croxton of Rappahannock, who promises more projects from the oyster and dining operation that’s quickly become a regional favorite.
In that category, nominee Ed Vasaio didn't attend, perhaps just as well, as his name was misspelled in all of the materials. The audience did hear how to pronounce a few names -- Estilo is es-TEE-yo, Philip Perrow sounds like Perot, Dinamo is DEE-na-mo, Garnett’s is pronounced garnet.
No phonics guides were needed for restaurant and chef of the year: The Roosevelt in Church Hill and its chef, Lee Gregory, by now are household names with accolades mounting. (We named the Roosevelt our 2012 Restaurant of the Year in our annual State of the Plate.)
The night had textural contrast, from editor Susan Winiecki’s tender tribute to writer Hollister Lindley at mid-point, and a finale of butt-shaking, phallus-waving Oderus Urungus of Gwar steering the party to the Marble Hall for cocktails and nibbles from local culinary students.
Chef Paul Elbling, for whom the awards are named, appeared dazed by the denouement. Thirstier guests wished the 90-minute ceremony took the form of Hollywood’s Golden Globes with table seating, free flowing refreshments and more mingling -- this is, after all, a crowd that isn't used to sitting still. But no one’s complaining about a city where the food scene is bona fide and its practitioners more collaborative and ambitious, and award-worthy, than ever. This was their evening to be served, and it was humorous and elegant with a touch of crass.
Here it is, the first bacon-stuffed cheeseburger photo of 2014, from the Brook Road business Pop's Dogs & Ma's Burgers. The tiny, six-seat dog house (formerly Sam's Burger Shack) is taking down any chance of a new year's resolution with "more than you can eat" triple burgers, jumbo hot dogs, steak and cheese subs, chili cheese fries and milkshakes.
Richard and Melody Walden repainted and reinvented the business as a breakfast-to-dinner spot with picnic tables out front and a doggie area in back. Six months in, they're going gangbusters, mostly for takeout, Monday through Saturday, 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Closed Sunday. 7301 Brook Road, 266-5781.
Zeus change: Angie and Randy Dudley met while working as managers at Buddy's in the Fan. This month the couple bought Zeus Gallery Café in the Museum District, and plan to add their own touches over time to the popular, 23-year-old business. The blackboard menu and staff, including chef Matthew Ondishko, remain in place. Lunch hours and more affordable wines are coming when the new owners mark a grand reopening this spring. 201 N. Belmont Ave., 359-3219.
Come hither: A new menu at Citizen, the breakfast and lunch spot downtown, promises hearty and healthy options for winter dining. Pupusas, smoked sausage on focaccia, pressed brisket sandwiches, salt cod on potato cakes, braised chicken thighs on grits and herbed quinoa salad with Brussels sprouts, along with daily soups and sides, make this a subterranean gem worth finding for chef Greg Johnson's creative cooking. Weekdays 7 a.m.-3 p.m. 909 E. Main St., 780-9038. citizenrva.com.
Burning love: Chester resident Carie Keller is a contestant on the reality cooking show "Worst Cooks in America." Season five debuts Feb. 17 at 9 p.m. on the Food Network. The show aims to help the kitchen-impaired pick up skills from celebrity chef mentors Bobby Flay and Anne Burrell. Top prize is $25,000. Keller is a promotional model who says she wants to be able to prepare decent meals for her family instead of ordering takeout.
Merci Mozart: Celebrate Mozart's birthday at Can Can Brasserie on Jan. 26. Members of Classical Revolution RVA will play French-inspired Mozart pieces during brunch from noon-2 p.m. and at dinner from 6-7 p.m. Reservations are being taken at 358-7274. 3120 W. Cary St. cancanbrasserie.com.
Tap it: Cask Café & Market will tap a selection of Devils Backbone beers Jan. 29 to mark the release of the new IPA Sixteen Point. A dry-hopped Eight Point cask will be pinned, Pizza Tonight will make pies onsite, and the Cask's local foods will be served starting at 5 p.m. The unique storefront pumps up drinking and dining options in the neighborhood at 206 S. Robinson St. Parking is alongside the building. Open daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. 355-2402.
Billy in Williamsburg: Baker Billy Fallen has opened a bakery at 1433 Richmond Road in Williamsburg, making his eponymous bread, pastries and other confections. Billy Bread of Williamsburg is a wholesale business now with deliveries extending into Hampton Roads. Later this year, a retail bakery will be added, along with an Italian market and Neopolitan pizzeria in a 6,000-square-foot space designed by Helen Reed.
Alcove Indian Cuisine Fast casual lunch with wraps, bowls, poultry, lamb, soups and samosas. Happy hour, dinner entrees, catering and delivery. Lunch and dinner Monday – Saturday. 1112 E. Main St., 644-0767 or 501-8185. alcoveva.com.
Lucy's Chef Jason Lucy presents Angus beef, all cuts, in sandwiches, stew, steaks. Salads, fish, pasta and specials, urban rustic interior with full bar, casual and friendly new neighborhood spot in Jackson Ward. Lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday. 404 N. Second St., 562-1444.
Maher’s beloved Fernet Branca, a bitter, aromatic Italian liqueur, is on tap for $5, and a high-end spirits list shows “we’re definitely not skimping on quality,” Maher says. “This bar is our focus. We wanted to have everything framed by the bar,” crafted of antique wood by Steve McKenna, with foods from chef Aaron Hoskins to complement the booze-forward flavors. They’re billing the cuisine modern American, based in French technique, “super simple and approachable farm to table,” Maher says. Items include duck, Spanish mackerel, risotto, short ribs, foie gras torchon and charcuterie, with 5- and 7-course tasting menus and other specialties in large and small-plate formats.
At the concrete bar, with seats for 14, guests will interact with bar manager Eric Fortin, lead bartender Ari Suroosh and Maher as they mix classic and barrel-aged cocktails and variations ($10-13), pour punches on draft, such as the orange royal Zaya rum punch ($8), and a ten-item list of wines ($11-12) and Andre Jacquart barrel-aged brut Champagne by the glass ($13).
Barrels from local Reservoir Distillery are used to age spirits for the premium cocktails, imparting complexity and a mellow finish, Maher says, to drinks such as the Widow’s Kiss, with calvados, yellow Chartreuse and Benedictine. Beverages are served in vintage glassware collected from estate sales and markets over the past several months.
The restaurant’s theme is pre-Prohibition craft libations with house-made bitters, sugars and oils, curated with a chef’s passion for the era and its service standards. The space mixes gilt and brick with tin and concrete, straddling classic and contemporary in a casual room that holds about 32 guests. Maher’s parents are co-owners of the business, which builds upon his career stints at the French Laundry, Aqua and other West Coast culinary hot spots. “I’m incredibly happy,” Maher says, with his team’s efforts to move the city’s food and drink scene into new territory.
The neighborhood is becoming a destination with the openings of Saison, Lucy’s, Max’s on Broad and other businesses and residences in the past couple of years.
The Rogue Gentlemen unveils to the public Friday, Jan. 24 with bar hours from 4 p.m. and dinner beginning at 5:30 p.m. The business is closed Tuesdays, and after its Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Dinner and bar hours Monday, and Wednesday through Saturday. 618 N. 1st St. 477-3456. theroguegentlemen.com
To show vegetarians that intentionality can come from unexpected places, Bigs BBQ on West Grace Street sets a new standard. Meat dominates, but the vegetarian choices aren't an afterthought. Owner Rob Weaver has fine-tuned a recipe for house-made seitan, or wheat gluten. He got advice from the folks at neighboring Ipanema Cafe and elsewhere to create the faux pulled pork sandwich for $6.
"If we're going to do a vegetarian barbecue it has to be as good as it can be," Weaver says, and not a token bean patty. The Bigs version comes with slaw and sweet Memphis-style sauce, also made in-house.
Weaver says carnivorous men feel compelled to order the pub's big boy burger, a beef patty with barbecue on top. Briskets, ribs, sausages, chicken and pork are smoked daily and served with sauce on the side. Starters, sides and platters are priced for student budgets and a kids' menu is available.
The Bigs bar will be operational later this month with a craft beer focus and extended hours. A pool table and darts are free for customers. Murals and hand-painted filigree are in progress in the 80-seat storefront, which is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Delivery comes via Quickness RVA bicycle food runners, with a service area from Thompson Street to downtown offices. 931 W. Grace St., 257-5460. bigsbbqva.com.
People who cook: Chef Carly Herring has left the Berkeley Hotel to pursue private gigs. Chocolatier Tim Gearhart of the self-named fine candy firm got recognition from Dessert Professional magazine, which calls him one of the nation's top 10 chocolatiers. Chef Todd Manley, owner of Pescados and Ironfish, made headlines in St. Croix recently for a callalloo and gumbo cook-off. Manley says he's bringing back recipes and ideas for his local establishments and notes that many Richmonders live on the island.
Sub Rosa returns: Siblings Evin and Evrim Dogu announce the reopening of Sub Rosa Bakery on Jan. 18. Their Church Hill building was damaged in a fire last year after just four months in business — during which they got mentions in Martha Stewart Living and Saveur magazines. For a break from the nine-month reconstruction, the Dogus toured bakeries in California to glean information and to network with fellow wood-fired oven bakers. They also ran a Sunday-only backdoor bakery take-out at neighboring restaurant Dutch & Co.
Sub Rosa will serve pressed sandwiches, soups and a signature blend coffee from Lamplighter, in addition to rustic breads and pastries. Ales and wines will be added later as this earnest young business regains its footing. Open Tuesday-Friday 7 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed Monday. 620 N. 25th St., 788-7672. subrosabakery.com.
Digging in: A fast sale of the former Bogart's at 1901 W. Cary St. means a big change of face. Bryon and Nicole Jessee of dessert business Shyndigz — their salted caramel chocolate cake is a prizewinner — are expanding their concept. They'll move out of their shop at 5716 Patterson Ave. and into Bogart's in April.
In addition to the towering cakes, cookies and pastries that have earned them an ardent following, Shyndigz will add savories and small plates and extended days and hours. Shyndigz has gotten good response to weekend brunch in Westhampton and has been looking for the right location to grow the business. A side parking lot and patio are plusses. shyndigz.com.
Indian Overture: Just in time for those resolutions to shake up the downtown dining routine, Alcove Indian Cuisine has opened at 1112 E. Main St. Lunch and dinner are served at the mod, intimate café Monday through Saturday, with wraps, bowls, vegetarian entrees, poultry, lamb, lassies, soups and samosas. Dinner entrees are $9-16, luncheon deals about half that. The concept is healthy, mildly spiced food served quickly with exotic presentations. Happy hour beverages, catering and delivery are available. 644-0767 or 501-8185. alcoveva.com.
Primo plates: Leading Richmond chefs collaborate for "A Taste of Richmond," a benefit dinner for the Friends of James Beard at Lemaire in the Jefferson Hotel on Jan. 18. Walter Bundy, executive chef of Lemaire, serves as host to Dale Reitzer of Acacia, Joe Sparatta of Heritage, Lee Gregory of the Roosevelt, Jason Alley of Comfort and Pasture, and the Jefferson's executive pastry chef Sara Ayyash, who will present a six-course meal featuring their signature dishes. With sophisticated takes on sweet potatoes, collards and moon pies, along with quail, venison, sustainable sturgeon and other local ingredients, this event is destined to kick off the culinary new year with aplomb.
Dinner with wine pairings is $165 per person for James Beard Foundation members and $175 for others, plus tax and tip. A cocktail reception begins at 6:30 p.m., and a silent auction will take place. To reserve a space, call the hotel at 649-4618.
Powhatan tastes: Chef Tim Jones now leads the kitchen team at the County Seat Food and Gathering Place. His background at the Jefferson Hotel and Shula's Steakhouse, as well as hotels in New York and St. Louis, gives "a big boost to the culinary scene of Powhatan County," restaurant owner Janie Dean says. The County Seat is celebrating its 20th year in business with a new menu and nightly specials. Occasional live music includes jazz favorite Bop Nation playing Jan. 31. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, with dinner hours Tuesday through Saturday. 3883 Old Buckingham Road. 598-5000. thecountyseat.com.
Lucy's Chef Jason Lucy presents Angus beef, all cuts, in sandwiches, stew, steaks. Salads and specials, urban rustic interior with full bar, casual and friendly new neighborhood spot in Jackson Ward. Tuesday-Saturday. 404 N. Second St. 562-1444.
My Noodle & Bar Liquor is in at this cellar-level cafe for Asian fusion dishes. Some proceeds benefit refugee resettlement programs. 1600 Monument Ave. 308-1613.