click to enlarge Ale Wife's soft shell with ramp aioli potatoes. garnish  is ramp oil, ramp leaves, and ramp powder.

Courtesy of Chef Matt Brusca

Ale Wife's soft shell with ramp aioli potatoes. garnish is ramp oil, ramp leaves, and ramp powder.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Seasonal Snacks: Part Deux

From soft shell crabs at Alewife to RVA's obsession with hot pots.

Posted By on Wed, May 3, 2023 at 1:12 PM

We meet again on the food waves for yet another bite into Richmond’s incredible dining scene. More taste and more filling -- is that joke played?

Give me every softie ...

For some reason, soft-shell crabs are like CrossFit. If you love them, you can’t shut up about them. And Richmond loves them, WOD, snatch … you know the rest.

Sugar’s Crab Shack

There are no words. You just have to go. There's concrete outdoor seating, loud, catchy tunes, and walk up ordering. Also, Sugar’s never doesn’t have a line. There are few other places in Richmond where you can get several types of skillfully fried seafood for such a thrifty price tag. Their soft-shell crab platter comes, so they say, with two crabs, but the last time I ordered it, I ended up with four. Bring a friend. 2224 Chamberlain Ave.


Can you handle ramps and soft shells together? Or will your heart stop beating like mine? Chef Matthew Brusca is giving his softies the ramp treatment. If expertly fried soft crabs and ramp potato salad dance together in your dreams, you can find them on the Alewife menu starting tonight – it’s a seasonal one-two punch.

Longoven/Lost Letter

This hasn’t happened since 2020, but this is manifesting (and no one is manifesting much about 2020). Once upon a time, Chef Andrew Manning had Brasa where he made amazing things over an open flame. Manning grilled the most epic soft shells and simply placed them on a beautiful roll. That food memory is seared into my brain. Let’s cross our collective fingers and hope that something similar hits the Longoven, Lost Letter or Nokoribi menu, shall we?

That said, you can do some derby-ing before the actual derby (fastest two minutes begin at 6:57) over at Lost Letter this weekend. It all takes place on Saturday, May 6th from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Your $65 per person includes fried chicken, waffles and caviar.

I’m on a boat, m’fer

Not one, but three new companies feel pretty certain that Richmond likes to drink while mobile.

Tiki Club RVA, by DC outfit Sea Suite Cruises, is providing the boat and you provide the beverages. Owners Jack Maher and Jack Walton have a custom party pontoon with room for 30 of your besties to cruise up and down the James. All you need is a cooler with beer, or wine — no liquor please.

Back on land, PlayRVa, a company known for train rides at the mall (anyone else hear Nelly’s Air Force One right now?) is betting you’ll want to imbibe near or on a fire truck. It has huge TVs, a massive cooler for bevies and multiple taps. Adult bevies not included.

Finally, The Sugar Cube Mobile Bar is a 1974 horse trailer with a new painted pink life. You can rent the whole caboodle for any event (a random Tuesday is my suggestion) and they bring everything except the liquor. Anyone have a large parking lot?

Something old, something new ... Something borrowed, something Cheng Du

Blue Bee Cidery is headed out of Scott’s Addition to 4811 Bethlehem Rd. The new site and new owners will be close to the bustling Libbie Mill development where the third iteration of Acacia and craft beer bar Brass Tap opened mid-February. The old stables, which were used by the Department of Parks and Recreation until 2016, are slated for development — anyone else heard there will be a well-known natural grocery store and a distillery?

Chum Chum Onigiri has opened a new location on Staples Mill. This makes the fourth location for the group behind Sen Organic Small Plate, Perception Organic Spa and the Carytown farmer’s market. The shop is one a handful of Richmond spots to offer Onigiri, a Japanese rice ball with fillings like garlic butter salmon and steamed purple sweet potato. If you haven’t had their flaming hot musubi (spam and rice covered in flaming hot Cheetos) consider this your sign.

Hueya is borrowing Sprezza Cucina’s Kitchen on Friday, May 5th for a whopper of a Cinco de Mayo celebration. Think every taco you’ve ever craved along with some of the best churros in Richmond. If you’re unfamiliar with Hueya, it’s the Mexican-American brainchild of Eduardo Silver-Martinez. Martinez, the son of Mexican farmers, has worked at Grisette, Roosevelt, Lolita’s and The Lobby Bar at Quirk.

Eat Boi will be popping up over at Black Heath Meadery on May 27th with their Thai Street food based on Chef Shane Murphy’s grandmother's family recipes. Murphy’s grandmother lived in rural Thailand where the flavors are fresh and very spicy.

Last but not least: Richmond has lost its mind over some new hot pot spots. Both Hot Pot 757 and Chao Tian Fu Spicy Hot Pot opened earlier this year and offer hot pot, a cook-it-yourself experience in simmering broth at your table. But Cheng Du in the West End should be lauded as Richmond’s original all-you-can-eat, hot pot spot for $29.95, no time limit. Bam. Get the half-and-half spicy, the sliced ribeye and all the lotus root.


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