Friday, December 28, 2018

Down Home

Locker Room owners are slinging barbecue, biscuits and beer at the Pitts.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 28, 2018 at 2:10 PM

It seems everyone has a different take on it: the lowly, hallowed dive bar. The place where you can order a beer and a shot for just a few bucks and see at least one familiar face. Definitions and perceptions of these neighborhood joints are about as varied as the often perplexing string of tunes you might hear on the jukebox — there's gotta be a jukebox — but for one local restaurateur, the definition is simple.

"To me a dive bar is just kinda frozen in time," says Lisa Ann Peters, who co-owns the beloved Richmond institution the Locker Room and recently opened the Pitts with her husband. "Even the décor is from another time. There's nothing really modern in them, they're cheap, drinks are heavily poured, there's no pretension."

And that's exactly what Peters and her husband Michael are going for at the Pitts, the new sister dive to the Locker Room, in the old Boondocks building at 2220 Broad Rock Blvd. Officially up and running since Dec. 1 after a couple weeks of soft opening, the Pitts already feels like a go-to neighborhood joint, with regulars sidling up to the bar nearly every morning for their 7:30 a.m. cups of coffee and plates of biscuits and gravy. The interior is reminiscent of the Locker Room: old-timey framed photos, a mounted fish, donning a Santa hat this time of year, vintage beer signs, a pool table and video games. The crown jewel is its outdoor space in the back, complete with fire pits, warmers and charmingly, deliberately mismatched patio furniture.

Where the Pitts differs from the Locker Room, and perhaps from other dives, is the food. Peters hired Billy Lawson, who used to work at McCormack›s Big Whisky Grill, to run the kitchen. They're still tinkering with the menu, which Peters says they intend to keep small and straightforward. Classic eggs-your-way plates, country fried steak and biscuits are available all day, and barbecue is constantly coming out of the smoker. Sandwiches include two burgers, fried bologna, barbecue and spicy breaded chicken, with sides like collard greens, corn bread, coleslaw and fries. 

Like anyone else who's been in the River City longer than 10 years, Peters remembers what the food landscape looked like before Richmond was on the map.

"Back in my 20s when I was waitressing, the number of restaurants that were really nice to work in was pretty limited," Peters says. "It's kind of amazing now what we have."

Peters says she doesn't consider herself or her businesses to be "in the same league" as the trendy new restaurants popping up in every neighborhood, and she loves trying out new spots when she can get away. But even as $14 cocktails and gourmet grass-fed burgers become the norm, she's confident that establishments like the Locker Room and the Pitts will always have a place in the dining scene — partially because at the end of the night, folks working at those new restaurants need a place to eat and drink, too.

"You can see the value in being very professional, putting out this wonderful product, then letting your hair down, playing some pool," Peters says. "I think there's still a spot for a place to grab a burger or a quick breakfast without feeling like you have to get dressed up."

Friday, December 21, 2018

Fan restaurant and wine shop Branch and Vine gets a facelift

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2018 at 12:50 PM

Aaron Burnley had a vision when he walked into Branch and Vine months ago. Business was slow and selection was minimal when he first saw the place. But now that he's the new owner and the keys are in his hand, he wants to put it back on the map.

"It was just kind of empty, but I could see being able to do really well in this space and location," Burnley says. "I'm just trying to make it feel a little more like it's a place where you'd want to come in and sit down and eat, versus what it used to be, where you just kind of stand in line and order sandwiches and run out the door."

Changes include new lighting and little touches like flowers and decorative wine bottles on each table. It's modern and sleek while still cozy, with intimate two-top tables, bar-style seating at the window for people watching over lunch and a cluster of couches and armchairs. As of last week the bottle selection featured more than 153 wines from all over the world, plus several Virginia beers. Grab a bottle to take home, or pick anything up off the shelf and enjoy it on-site with an additional $6 corkage fee. House wines are available by the glass and the six-tap draft list is all Virginia beers.

On the food side, Burnley and his girlfriend Jessica Duarte have expanded the menu with items such as Duarte's Portuguese kale stew, a hearty recipe from her mother featuring spiced pork, potatoes, kidney beans, carrots and kale. Burnley, who's been working in the food industry for more than 20 years, has changed the tuna and chicken salads, revamped the roast beef and introduced his family's crabcakes. Deli meats and cheeses are now available by the pound, and you can expect to see more sides in the display case.

Every Friday evening since buying Branch and Vine, Burnley and Duarte have collaborated with wine reps to hold complimentary wine tastings. And on the occasion when reps haven't been available to get behind the bar, Burnley, ever the hands-on owner, has been happy to hop back there and do it himself.

There's more on the horizon for the revamped Branch and Vine, but Burnley is cautious to not throw too many noodles at the wall at once. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for future updates.

Branch and Vine
2001½ W. Main St.
Every day 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Hello, Goodbye …

A rhyming rundown of this year’s openings and closings.

Posted By on Mon, Dec 10, 2018 at 1:27 PM

The food scene is forever changing in this town,
With delightful new spots and farewells that make us frown.
A list can't do it justice, so at this time,
Why not finish the year with a little rhyme?

Graffiato and Stuzzi no longer serve pies,
And to both of the Luncheonettes we said our goodbyes.
Kitchen on Cary closed its doors in the Slip,
And Boka Tako Bar served its final queso dip.

Continental Divide has left the Fan,
And Flora and Starlite packed up their pots and pans.
Adios, Best Friends Forever and Pelon's Baja Grill,
We remember you fondly, Lower 48 and Seven Hills.

The closing of Strange Matter broke a lot of hearts,
And the Pot and Bertucci's also had to depart.
The good news is we had a lot more hellos,
And surely have welcomed some nice new fellows.

Pop-ups gave us previews of ZZQ and Nate's,
And Tiny Victory and Longoven now offer their tastes.
NuVegan is every dairy-free person's wish,
And we're hearing good things about Alewife's fish.

After River City Roll opened with bowling lanes,
Tang and Biscuit and Bingo joined the club with their games.
Perch and Aloi quickly became hot spots,
So now there's more to eat in the Addition of Scott's.

Cocktails at the Jasper are shaken and stirred,
The debut of Taste drew a crowd, you may have heard.
Luther Burger will replace a bun with a doughnut,
And to calories at Kilwins, we say "So what?"

Pies and Pints and Billy Pie joined the pizza gang,
Plus the Hop and PBR, which opened with a bang.
Carytown is now home to Hai Y'all and the Melt,
And Kreggers at Hand may loosen your belt.

Latitude Seafood is up to two places,
At West Coast Provisions you'll see familiar faces.
Bar Solita and Temple came to Broad Street,
Hot Diggity Donuts serves cocktails with sweets.

At Ironclad it's about pastries and lattes,
What's better than ice cream at the Scoop on hot days?
Virago and Trial and Error are both making booze,
And Canon and Draw opened up with new brews.

Don't Look Back had two openings this year,
And Little Nickel is more than welcome here.
521 Biscuits and Waffles is free of gluten,
Swan Dive can make a sandwich, there's no refutin'.

Hardywood expanded out to West Creek,
And Salt and Forge serves lunch six days a week.
Root Stock Provisions will cater your next party,
And the soup at Saigon Pho is nice and hearty.

Pizzas and subs are at Peddler on Pine,
And Roots Natural Kitchen always has a line.
Soul n Vinegar made its home in Church Hill,
And at Courthouse Creek, have a cider and chill.

Eat 66 opened south of the James,
And the second 8 ½ is exactly the same.
Autentico's Kitchen offers steakhouse faves,
While the new Stella's Grocery has all that we crave.

Cobra Cabana is all about quirk and humor,
And Soul Taco is sure to be a real boomer.
Saltbox Oyster just opened at Willow Lawn,
And Poke Sushi Bowl won't make you yawn.

We certainly didn't mean to leave anybody out,
So if your spot isn't on here, try not to pout.
We're lucky to be here, that much is clear,
And we're already getting hungry for next year.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Snack Time

Classic bar food with a twist is now available at Longoven, and other dining news.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 12:17 PM

It’s been several months since acclaimed chefs Patrick Phelan, Megan Fitzroy and Andrew Manning opened Longoven, the widely anticipated upscale Scott’s Addition restaurant following years of sporadic pop-ups. The restaurant has been praised for its bold, experimental menu, and now diners on a stricter budget are able to enjoy the innovation.

Last week, Longoven launched a snack bar menu, featuring six items: five savory and one sweet, all in the $6-8 price range. Dishes include classic bar food kicked up a notch, chicken wings with buttermilk miso and herbs, fried pork rinds with kimchi, salt and vinegar. Every night, a “snack companion,” curated by beverage director Danny McDermott, will be available to complement the snack offerings.

Learn from Ledesma

So you want to host a holiday party? Learn from the best this weekend. On Saturday, Dec. 8, chef Mike Ledesma of Perch will host a two-hour cooking demo featuring techniques for at-home holiday entertaining. You’ll get to sample along the way while sipping cocktails and wine, and at the end of the demo a recipe booklet will go home with you so you can recreate the whole experience yourself.

The event begins at 2 p.m. at Perch, and tickets are available here.

Best Brewery

Last week, the online magazine Thrillist released an article listing the best craft brewery in every state. And in a surprise to approximately no one, Richmond’s own hallowed brewery the Veil Brewing Co. made the cut for Virginia. The write-up lauds the Veil for not “pouring haze bomb after haze bomb,” but coming up with creative beers like its gose series, stouts and barrel-aged saisons.

The national attention is great news for the Veil, of course, but perhaps we should prepare for even longer lines on the weekends, if that’s possible.

Read the full write-up here.

What a Drag

Reservations are already booked for this weekend’s holiday drag brunch at Laura Lee’s, but if you get there early enough you might just be able to snag a seat at the bar. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. and the show runs until 2:30 p.m. For $25 per person you get holiday punch with Belle Isle Moonshine and a three-course brunch featuring sweet biscuits, one of 10 entrees and some Christmas cookies for dessert, all while enjoying a holiday-themed drag show.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit CARITAS Works, a nonprofit that provides career preparation and job placement services to people facing employment barriers.

Learn more about this weekend’s drag brunch here.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Don’t Look Back is slinging tacos at its newest location in Forest Hill

Posted By on Mon, Dec 3, 2018 at 3:05 PM

Nate Gutierrez has lived south of the James River for more than 10 years, so it was only a matter of time before he brought one of his taco joints to his neck of the woods. The third iteration of Don't Look Back, which Gutierrez co-owns with business partner Hamooda Shami, began serving tacos and margaritas on Monday.

The original location in Carytown developed a dedicated following, and swaths of taco lovers were devastated when Don't Look Back closed its doors following a fire last summer. Much to everyone's delight, the team relocated the concept to a larger space in Scott's Addition, which opened in May, with the promise of another one south of the river.

"My family and friends always eat around here, so why not have a taco place here as well?" Gutierrez says. As a father of two children who tend to pick Chik-Fil-A over anything else, he says he doesn't get out as often as he might like. But he notes that the area has seen more locally owned restaurants in recent years, and he loves supporting independent spots in the neighborhood like Galley.

His space is smaller than the flagship on Broad, cozy and comfortable.

"I imagine it as a place where you can bring your kids after a T-ball tame, hang out with your family at night," he says. "The one in Scott's Addition is definitely a lot more hustling and bustling."

As for the menu, specials will vary from one location to the other, but guests can expect consistency between the two. First-week specials on the South Side have included a chicken skin taco and a pork pibil taco, featuring crispy marinated pork shoulder served traditional-style with cilantro, red onion and lime, plus crumbly queso fresco. All tacos are available with traditional toppings or gringo-style, with cheese, lettuce, sour cream and salsa, and diners can choose between doubled-up corn tortillas or those of the flour variety.

Also on the menu are the old standbys like nachos, burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas, plus a salad and the beloved Frito pie, featuring beans and gringo taco fixings served in a Fritos bag.

Are these dishes reminiscent of the tacos you'd find at a road stand in Guadalajara? Probably not. But Gutierrez says that's not the point. He just wants to make and serve food that tastes good.

"I grew up in Santa Fe, and I make food that tastes like what I grew up with," Gutierrez says. "I'm not trying to be the most authentic taco in Richmond. I'm just trying to make food that I love making and eating."

Don't Look Back South
7542 Forest Hill Ave.

Every day 11 a.m. - 1 a.m.

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