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Sunday, July 10, 2022

A Passion for Smashin'

Smashed RVA looks to make a juicy splash in the local burger scene.

Posted By on Sun, Jul 10, 2022 at 4:00 AM

Whether you’re an omnivore, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or flexitarian, chances are you love crushing a burger from time to time (sans beef for some). This sentiment is something Michael Marshall Jr., owner of Smashed RVA burger pop-up, thrives on.

Before Marshall became a burger-smashing fiend in the streets, he attended school to master the culinary eats. He went to a high school in Caroline County that was rebuilding its culinary arts program, so he decided to join. “That’s where I kinda started loving food,” he says.

After high school, Marshall continued his culinary pursuits at Reynolds Community College in Richmond.

“I didn’t want to go to school, but I wanted to try to go to school,” Marshall says. “Then I learned in the industry you can learn and make money, so I was like 'Oh, I’ll do that.'” With that thought, Marshall dropped out to pursue his career more directly.

After working in restaurants throughout high school and his brief stint in college, Marshall began his more serious pursuit as a kitchen manager at the Iron Horse in Ashland. His schedule proved stressful until moving over to the Caboose. Then Marshall left a brief time later, wanting something more high-pressure. That's when he worked at Lemaire, the acclaimed restaurant inside the Jefferson Hotel, which put him back into his high-stress comfort zone. Marshall thoroughly enjoys the chaos of a busy kitchen, specifically when “everything around me is on fire, but I’m just gonna keep moving. I love it.”

During his time at Lemaire, Marshall was furloughed for eight or nine months due to the pandemic. Amidst the uncertainty, Marshall started the Smashed pop-up, which began slowly, starting as a once-a-week gig. As time progressed, he gradually escalated pop-up appearances while cutting back hours spent at Lemaire. Marshall recently went all-in at Smashed, but notes his final day spent at Lemaire was “a bittersweet moment.”

As for the decision to specialize in the smash-burger style [which as it sounds, smashes the ground beef into a thin patty when it hits the grill for more flavor], Marshall notes: “Asking for a temperature for ground beef is just a weird thing to me… Smashed burgers will always be the superior burger in my opinion.” Don’t expect any pink burgers coming off these flat tops.

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The idea for the burger pop-up was somewhat inspired by a high school project Marshall had to complete where students planned a makeshift restaurant. He went with burgers and milkshakes, of course. “Probably because it was the easiest thing to do…but I always knew I wanted to do burgers,” he adds.

Marshall keeps four burgers on the menu year-round with a rotating special or two that varies week to week. Out of the four mainstay menu items, Marshall very much recommends first timers “go OG or Chopped Cheese. If you’re gonna go OG, you gotta go double OG.” The OG Smash features Seven Hills beef, American cheese, onions, Smash Sauce. As for doubling down on the patties, Marshall says, “when in Rome, right?”

Their signature Smash sauce is a play on a sauce by Sean Brock, founding chef of Husk restaurant. This version features more mustard and more relish. Marshall notes, “I kind of love mustard on beef” and he didn’t realize how much he loved mustard until they started making Smashed Sauce. Given the success of this pop-up, customers seem to agree.

Marshall’s long-term goal for Smashed is a brick and mortar, but not just your average burger joint. Due to the abundance of burger spots in Richmond, they want to set themselves apart. “We don’t want to do just a normal burger shop…we want to do something a little different. Almost like a bodega-style Five Guys.” A convenience store serving burgers and chopped cheese? I think we’ve transported to NYC in a hurry.

In the meantime, Marshall would like to work more weeknights, specifically Monday nights to feed his fellow industry workers. Given these sentiments and the multitude of collaborations Smashed RVA has participated in with other local business owners – most notably (in Marshall’s opinion) the McSmashed collab with 1115 Mobile Kitchen and Jiji Frozen Custard – Marshall is a huge advocate for the RVA food community.

Check out Smashed RVA on Instagram (@SmashedRVA) to find out where they will be smashing next.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

From Stockholm with Love

Axelsdotter is serving up Swedish treats at cafes around town.

Posted By on Tue, Jul 5, 2022 at 9:48 AM

Ingrid Schatz can’t pinpoint the moment in her childhood where she fell in love with baking, but summer strolls through the Swedish countryside picking blueberries for pies with her mother and grandmother proves a top contender. Since Schatz left her post as Ellwood Thompson’s head baker in 2020, she has been channeling her heritage and passion for posh pastries into her own small baking business: Axelsdotter.

Schatz’s American father first met her Swedish mother while they both worked at the U.S. embassy in Stockholm. Although her mother served as a translator, her closely held hobby of baking was the gift she passed along to her daughter. The family’s prowess with dough and batter can be traced all the way back to Schatz’s great-grandfather who owned a Konditorei (sweets shop). To brand her own small business, Schatz hearkened back to the Scandinavian naming tradition of a surname plus a role; Axelsdotter means “the daughter of Axel,” her great-grandfather.

The idea of launching her own bakery was a fantasy Schatz had toyed with for the better part of a decade. Bored with the drudgery of a menial marketing job in her 20s, Schatz suddenly quit, left her life in London, and moved to Paris to begin classes at a culinary academy. An internship with the famed French bakery, La Duree, transitioned into two years of intense patisserie production. The long distances between Schatz and her parents and sister eventually persuaded her to return to the U.S. for a pastry chef postion with the W Hotel in Washington, D.C.

A job posting for a head baker at Ellwood Thompson’s provided the perfect opportunity for Schatz to make the move to Richmond, a city that seemed ideal for her and her kids to settle in. Although she loved her stint at Ellwood’s, the pandemic prodded her to take a leap of faith on an old dream she had been deferring.

“I wanted to finally break out on my own,” explains Schatz. “It was something that had been at the back of my mind for about ten years, but I always thought I needed more experience. Then finally I said, ‘Ingrid, if you don’t do this now, then you never will.”

All of Axelsdotter’s flavors feel taken straight out of a cookbook of Scandinavian classics. Cardamom and almonds form the contours of her flavor palette yearround while saffron takes center stage throughout the winter. Whether she’s baking vanilla buns or vegan chocoloate tarts, Schatz takes pride in preparing all her products just like she used to enjoy it in the motherland.

“Everything is inspired by my Swedish heritage,” she says. “One of the top comments that I get from my customers is that American desserts are too sweet. What I make is not quite so toothache-inducing.”

The result has been a booming business with more customers than Schatz can easily serve, including a surprisingly large contingent of authentic Europeans who consume her creations with the same fervor as a cult classic.

On Mondays, Axesldotter delivers cardamom buns, cookies, and cakes to Sefton Coffee Co. downtown. On Fridays and Saturdays it’s vanilla danishes and vegan tarts to Afterglow Coffee Cooperative in Scott’s Addition.

For folks looking to sample an assortment of Axelsdotter’s best-sellers all at once, Schatz suggests ordering a “fika box.” Every Tuesday she posts a menu with the list of baked goods awaiting eager customers on Saturday. Orders close promptly Thursday morning to allow her enough time to hand prepare each pastry and product.

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Fika box fan favorites include Schatz’ cinnamon buns topped with pearl sugar for an added crunch, Maseriner almond pastries with either a raspberry marmalade or glaze, and little green logs dipped in chocolate on either end whose name means “vacuum cleaner” in Swedish for the 1950s appliances they resemble. Perhaps Axelsdotter’s most famous creation is the Princess Cake, a sponge base layered with raspberry jam and vanilla pastry cream covered in whipped cream and a thin layer of marzipan to create the illusion of a perfectly formed semi-sphere sweet treat.

For a pastry chef of Schatz’s caliber, such complex creations are no longer a challenge. “Everything is hard before you try,” she says with the matter-of-fact tone only a true Northern European can muster.

With business booming, what’s next for Axelsdotter?

“I eventually would love to have an actual cafe and bakery here in town,” explains Schatz. “With a 3-year-old and two older sons, I don’t think I'm at that point yet. My medium-term goal is to move into a bigger space and bake more than two dozen buns at a time so that I can serve more customers and don’t have to cut off my orders anymore.”

Until she can find the perfect place to expand operations, Axelsdotter’s legions of loyal customers will have to settle for finding her cakes, cookies, and pastries at cafes around town. Whether you enjoy her creations at a local coffeehouse or in your own home, the flavors will always reflect Schatz’s childhood favorites.

“Every time I write a post about my products I say, ‘This is one of my favorite things,’ but it is all true!”

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

From Waffles to Wings

Brunch and bar food blend seamlessly at The Riviere.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2022 at 1:49 PM

Time knows no bounds at one of Broad Street’s newest establishments. All-day brunch and bar food beckon customers to The Riviere whether they’re in the mood for French toast bites or lollipop lamb chops. The strength of this new Black-owned restaurant is in its ability to mix Richmond’s communal food culture with the vibrancy of the city’s nightlife.

In less than a year, The Riviere has become a top spot to dine in the arts district by offering rich breakfast fare as well as luxurious late-night favorites. The hustle and bustle of Broad Street increasingly chows down here, especially on Taco Tuesdays where dinner is served until 1 a.m.

The restaurant’s rhythm is founded on the kitchen and bar’s close relationship.

“Richmond doesn’t really have a place that brings together nightlife and good food,” says owner Javontae Jones. His many years spent working in late-night entertainment endowed him with a special appreciation of a good meal at the end of a long day. Jones returned to Richmond with the goal of satisfying such late-night desires in a more elevated, yet approachable way.

“What gets people out? If it’s not music, it’s food,” he says. With his vision for a new hot spot in downtown Richmond fast forming, Jones began to seek out a chef in the fall of 2020 to help bring his dream to life, regardless of the uncertainty that was unfolding thanks to the pandemic.

Through friends, Jones came across Pacq’s Kitchen. This pop-up operation was started by three brothers whose home cooked food drew crowds and kept the neighborhood connected, despite the social isolation triggered by the pandemic. Nurdeen Nasir, also known as “Chef Mar Mar,” and his two brothers quickly began serving up warm meals to a growing number of neighbors, friends, and soon Jones too.

Exterior of The Riviere, located in the heart of the arts district. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Exterior of The Riviere, located in the heart of the arts district.

The Riviere’s owner witnessed firsthand the impressive popularity of Pacq’s Kitchen and took note of their sublime, yet subtle, menu offerings. What was the missing ingredient? A business plan to move operations out of the house and into a professional restaurant. Jones pitched the collaboration to Chef Mar Mar, who describes the unexpected partnership as “an exciting collision of talent."

Today, Chef Mar Mar is proud of their new elevated menu where soul rolls, a Southern twist on a classic Asian egg roll, sit comfortably next to pan-seared salmon. “We offer combinations people don’t know that they like yet,” he says.

Although much of the menu makes meat the main star of the dish, Chef Mar Mar also serves up vegetarian items made with just as much love (of butter and seasoning) as any fried chicken or shrimp dish. Even those who need more than plant-based protein will gladly veg out on classics like the crispy hand-breaded cauliflower bites while maybe attempting to finish off an oversized veggie Philly sandwich!

Whether you’re looking for a new spot for Sunday brunch or a place to order tacos after 12am on a Tuesday, The Riviere has got you covered. It's located at 506 W. Broad St. For online reservations, visit the website.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Rhythm and Booze

Northside’s beloved Boogaloo’s Bar & Grill gets a rebranding as Harlym Blue’Z.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2022 at 10:28 AM

ShaMecca (“Mecca”) and LaTeshia (“Teshia”) LeSane knew they wanted to open a music venue in Richmond, but finding the right spot proved more complicated than they could’ve imagined, especially during COVID.

Teshia, a mental health counselor by day and musician by night, and Mecca, a full-time teacher, sought to combine their respective passions within whatever storefront they could secure. The pair, who met playing basketball, dreamt of making the space a center for youth enrichment during the day and a venue for aspiring musicians, like Teshia herself, during the evening.

Their search for a location gained momentum after they told Nerisa Ford, owner of Boogaloo’s in Northside, about their fruitless efforts. Teshia was a regular weekly performer at Boogaloo’s. The pair’s story struck a chord with Ford and she agreed to allow them to slowly take over her space. First, the pair continued to operate under the Boogaloo’s name when they started in January, until they were ready to fully rebrand as Harlym Blue’Z.

The restaurant’s fare, “cultured bar food with a southern twist,” according to Teshia, offers an effortless blend of both women’s roots; Mecca is originally from the Bronx, and Teshia was born and raised in Richmond. Mama Lo’s seafood salad is a recipe handed down directly from Teshia’s mother while Mecca’s mac and cheese, and Teshia’s shrimp and salmon soul rolls sit comfortably on the menu alongside options like empanadas.

The drink menu is an ode to the music they love with signature drinks named after songs like Liqueur Purple Rain and the WAP (Weak A$$ punch). One of their most popular drinks is the Karaoke Kool-Aid, beloved not only for its refreshing, fruity flavor but also its affordable $6 price. Ongoing happy hour is proof of the pair’s belief that you shouldn’t need a ton of money to have a good time. Signature drinks are $2 off on Wednesdays from 5-9 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays from 5-7 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 4-6 p.m. Other happy hour specials include $10 off hookah, $6 house sangria, $2 hot dogs, and several other discounted food options. The ladies also offer daily specials such as Taco Tunesday, when tacos and jello shots are just $2, and W.A.P.’N. Wingzday when W.A.P. drinks are buy one, get one.

And what would a music-inspired bar be without the music? On Tuesdays, Harlym Blue’z hosts a Name That Tune contest with prizes. On Wednesdays and Fridays, they have open mic sessions and karaoke; on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, they have live music by up-and-coming local artists.

With well thought-out food and beverage service and events nearly every night of the week, the LeSanes hope to attract a steady stream of patrons. Teisha says that the pandemic has been the biggest struggle they’ve faced while getting up and running, noting that constantly changing restrictions and the public’s decreased appetite for dining out have made things more difficult.

Their goal for the space is “to nurture the community.” They hope Harlym Blue’z will grow to become more than just a restaurant or bar, but a neighborhood spot where the community can come together and thrive. Building on Teshia’s background in mental health and Mecca’s teaching experience, the pair ultimately wants to start a nonprofit that would provide enrichment to local kids in the afternoons and summer. With the restaurant as its hub, kids could learn the fundamentals of a music club and running their own business. In the meantime, they’re hosting events to help uplift the community, like the upcoming Making A.M.E.N.’s Night on July 16th, where men come together to acknowledge and discuss common issues in manhood.

As a Black lesbian couple, the LeSanes understand the power of creating community and caring for each other through tough times. They hope their presence [and community involvement] on increasingly thriving Brookland Park Boulevard will highlight the impact of acceptance and local engagement. Quality service and memorable experiences may expand perspectives and bring patrons together, and if people can enjoy live music, home-cooked food, and creative libations while making connections, that’s even better.

Harlym Blue’Z is located at 210 W Brookland Park Blvd and is open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-10 p.m., Friday from 5 p.m.-1 a.m. and Saturday, 4 p.m.-1 a.m.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Taking it to the Streets

The husband-and-wife duo behind the ValerEats food truck looks to improve breakfast options.

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2022 at 4:00 AM

Like many others, March 2020 was a defining time for Monica and Jayson Fuentes. Current owners of ValerEats food truck, the two sought more out of life than their previous jobs in insurance. While simultaneously working and caring for their four children from home during the pandemic, the Fuentes’ decided they needed a change.

Besides Monica’s past waitressing job and Jayson’s brief stint at a Jersey Mike’s during his college years, the pair had no background in the food industry. However, a fascination with food was always there. “Food is a passion we both have and love,” says Jayson.

Launching their very own food truck seemed like a good way to indulge that passion.

The truck’s namesake comes from Monica’s late Aunt Val who passed in September 2020. The memory of her aunt provided the initial inspiration for pursuing a food truck life. “She loved to eat but didn’t cook,” says Monica. “She was basically like a second mom to me growing up.”

When it came to deciding what type of food to provide, they took a strategic approach. Observing the lackluster number of breakfast trucks in the area was plenty enough motivation to fill “the niche Richmond needed based on the recipes and ideas we had,” notes Jayson.

Having frequent pop-ups at local hospitals, they took great pride in serving frontline workers during the pandemic on a regular basis. “If we can go to hospitals and serve nurses, EMS workers, and doctors – people who save lives – that’s more inspiration for us,” says Jayson.

While a truck’s first pop-up almost never goes as planned, the Fuentes’ truck has become a well-oiled machine since their debut in August 2021. “[We] can do it with our eyes closed now,” says Jayson. “We work efficiently and really well together.” Couple goals.

When you scope out the menu, you might notice that several items are named after the couple’s children. Their signature sauce, “Val’s Sauce,” also bears the truck’s namesake. This operation is truly a family affair. And when it comes to ordering, the couple insists you check out their three hottest items (figuratively): Claire’s Texas Burrito, Kai Philly Burrito, and Poffertjes (Dutch mini pancakes).

The Poffertjes come in varying sizes – 5, 10, or 15 – with several toppings to pick from. These sweet treats are quite popular amongst the kids. As for the burritos, they come in one size – large and in charge. With so many drool-worthy options, decision-making can become a challenge.

When asked what’s next for the pair’s new full-time gig, they have a couple thoughts, but one goal stands out: A small diner-style brick-and-mortar location is their ideal next step. There are unforeseen challenges that come with a kitchen on wheels, so a standalone would aid consistency. But while that remains in the works, their current rotation of local pop-ups remains gratifying for the duo.

Find ValerEats’s next pop-up location by following them on Instagram (@valereats_rva) or finding them on Street Food Finder (https://streetfoodfinder.com/ValerEats).

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Pupusa Pilots

The Cocina Calle food truck is out here perfecting the yucca tot, y'all.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2022 at 12:29 PM

When Zack Phifer returned to Richmond from a two-week excursion in El Salvador, a pupusa-sized hole was left in him. According to Phifer, he “ate pupusas for every meal two to three times a day” for the entire trip.

With 17-plus years’ experience cooking for various musical artists and organizations and few local options to fill this void in his heart, he did what he does best when he got back to Richmond: He crafted the foods himself.

Alex Britland – a good friend of Phifer’s and fellow lover of the culinary arts – always had a dream of owning and running a food truck. Pair these aspirations with Phifer’s pupusa fixation and dream of being his own boss and bam – Cocina Calle was born.

From a young age, Phifer and Britland always just clicked. Both very motivated individuals, they made for good business partners. “Let’s do this together,” was the resounding answer for both as they decided to follow their dreams with a new food truck venture.

But when the pair took to the kitchen to perfect the recipes prior to launch, there was always some level of anxiety. “Yeah, these pupusas are good, but are they that good?” was a common sentiment according to Britland.

After bringing their food to the masses, it became apparent that their pupusas were popular. One of Britland’s neighbors who once lived on the edge of Guatemala that borders El Salvador will frequently call up them up to cater any small, backyard gathering. That good.

The food truck is also a family affair. Monica Britland, Alex’s wife, is another co-owner. She is mostly in charge of logistical work -- social media, scheduling, masterminding -- you name it, she’s on it.

If you’re wondering what to order, consider these options: the bean and cheese pupusa, vegan tot-co (they sling tacos too), yucca tots, and everything else in between. These were the team’s selections when asked by Style Weekly what was most popular among their regular customers.

The aforementioned bean and cheese pupusa did not always top this list, though. In the beginning, their pork pupusa would have come out on top. They use their own house-smoked pork in it, cooked low and slow. Over time, vegetarian options like the bean and cheese and newly released spinach and cheese pupusas have gained momentum, overtaking the carnivore options in popularity.

Highlighting Cocina Calle’s laborious yucca tots is a must. Along with being the perfect accompaniment for your pupusa(s) and/or taco(s), they are a true labor of love. From start to finish, it takes about two hours to transform raw yucca into its fryer-ready mash. The process is clearly worth it, as patrons are currently consuming about 70 pounds of the fried root vegetable goodness every week. Among the fried yucca options on the menu: yucca tots with house-made aioli ($6) and loaded yucca tots with choice of protein, topped with slaw (curtido) and cheese and served with choice of salsa. The truck also offers a sweet version of tots for those craving something more dessert-y.

Going forward, this street kitchen is hoping to maintain the momentum they’ve gained and expand their offerings. Brunch service is on the horizon, where their two-hour yucca mash will be prominently featured. Expanding their catering business is another aspiration.

Besides broadening business, the Cocina Calle team has major goals for the future. Ideally, they would love to have their own commissary kitchen to host other food trucks. Their vision comes with endless possibilities: a food truck court, an in-house brewery that also pours local brews, featured food and beer pairings, etc.

But for now, the team is cultivating motivation through seeing repeat customers come back time and time again. As put by Alex, “Seeing people truly enjoy our food and show up at different places, it’s [those] regulars that keep us going.”

Find Cocina Calle’s next pop-up location by following them on Instagram (@cocinacalle) or finding them on Street Food Finder (https://streetfoodfinder.com/cocinacalle).

Thursday, June 2, 2022

All Wood-Fired Up

Timber Pizza Co. is slinging award-winning gourmet pizzas around RVA.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 2, 2022 at 12:28 PM

Timber Pizza Company from Washington, D.C. has landed in Richmond.

Why should you care? Because its wood-fired pizzas recently got the attention of the Michelin guide, which named the business a 2022 Bib Gourmand. The Bib is similar to the esteemed Michelin Star in that it is awarded for high quality food but differs by focusing on moderate prices and good value.

The Timber mobile pizza truck can be found slinging pizzas and good vibes at your local brewery, farmers market, or right in your neighborhood (see schedule below). The truck offers a paired down version of its restaurant menu. Pies are 10-inch so they make “a meal for one, or a snack for two,” says Kevin Church, Timber’s Richmond area director. The staples like cheese and pepperoni will always be on the menu, including vegan and gluten free options, while other pies change seasonally.

SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Be on the lookout for the Julia, one of the pizzas that got them on the Bib Gourmand list, CEO Luke Watson advises: “[The Julia] is really good and very beautiful, got both things that hit. It is seasonal and we will rotate it in.” It has their special provolone mozzarella blend – used on most of their pizzas – pea shoot pesto drizzle, sugar snap peas, pea shoot salad with honey lemon dressing, sesame seed, and topped with edible flowers.

On June 20, Timber will be teaming up with Garden Grove Brewery (3445 W Cary St.) to offer a five-course, beer-paired, taproom dinner ($55). “It will be a wood-fired driven and seasonal vegetable menu,” Church says. In addition to one or two pizza courses, expect a seasonal salad, perhaps some empanadas or kebabs, items commonly featured on their catering menu.

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Co-founders Andrew Dana and Chris Brady started Timber Pizza Co. in 2014 with a blue ‘67 Chevy pickup truck and a wood-fired pizza oven in tow. In 2016, the pair opened a brick and mortar in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington D.C. and brought on Chef Dani Moreira as co-owner and executive chef. Moreira has worked at Eleven Madison Park, once named the world’s best restaurant, so her culinary expertise includes more than just pizza. The owners “had the dream and goal of spreading the Timber community,” says Watson, who adds that the company is “excited to be a part of the [Richmond] community and very excited to grow with it.”

Timber Pizza Co. truck’s exact location in Richmond is somewhat of a mystery since the owners are in the process of updating their website. The best way to stay in the know is to check out their Instagram stories (@timberpizzaco) or if you’re like me and want to plan, message them!

Here is the current brewery schedule:

Sunday, June 5 at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery - West Creek from noon to 7 p.m.

Saturday, June 11 at Starr Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop from 2 to 8 p.m.

Monday, June 20 at Garden Grove Brewing Company and Urban Winery taproom dinner – reservations required

Tuesday, June 21 at Star Hill Beer Hall and Rooftop from 5 to 8 p.m.

Here is the current neighborhood schedule:

Saturday, June 4 at Fox Creek from noon to 6 p.m.

Sunday, June 12 at Hallsley from noon to 6 p.m.

Thursday, June 16 at Cambria Cove from 4:30-7:30 p.m.

Friday, June 17 at Salisbury from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Thursday, June 30 at Fox Hall

SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Let It Grow

Pop-up Hueya brings fresh tacos and tequila-infused salsa to Q Rooftop Bar.

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2022 at 4:00 AM

Chef Eduardo Silva’s pop-up, Hueya, is taking over the Q Rooftop Bar for the summer.

Silva started Hueya –which means “to grow” in Nahuatl, an indigenous Mexican language—in the fall of 2021 to share the memorable flavors of his childhood. He says the name is an ode to “always growing your concept and always growing your food,” which is exactly what Silva is doing.

Previously, you could find Hueya sporadically popping up at The Jasper, The Coop, and Grisette. Now you can stop by the Q Rooftop Bar, Tuesdays through Saturdays after 5 p.m., to enjoy fresh tacos, cold beer, and those great city views.

A first generation Mexican American whose parents were farmers, Silva discovered his love for cooking and an appreciation for local, fresh food at a young age. Today he doesn’t claim that his food is 100% Mexican, but rather a reflection of what he learned growing up.

He’s also learned plenty from Richmond’s restaurants. Silva has spent the last decade cooking at various establishments including The Roosevelt and Grisette. Currently, he is the sous chef at the Quirk Hotel Lobby Bar, in addition to creating the new Q Rooftop Bar food menu.

Let’s talk food: Menu highlights include rock shrimp ceviche and barbacoa de Cordero (both $14) – adobo lamb, gingerly wrapped in plantain leaves slowly braised until tender, served atop a handmade tortilla with shaved onions and salsa borracha (drunk salsa). Tequila doesn’t just have to come in your margarita. Yes, that’s right: He throws a splash of tequila in the salsa for some extra flavor.

The ceviche verde from Hueya. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • The ceviche verde from Hueya.

Of course, the tortillas are pressed fresh every day: “I use my mom’s tortilla press that she gave me, which is almost as old as me,” he says. “You can never duplicate the texture and flavor of a fresh tortilla.”

For vegetarians, the small menu offers a few options: mollete de birote (think a Mexican crostini) or esparragos a la parilla (grilled asparagus), a simple summer favorite. The mollete de birote is served on house-made Mexican sourdough, “made by adding beer and lime juice to the starter. This takes some of the funk away and makes it sweeter,” explains Silva. The sourdough is grilled and topped with a miso pinto bean spread, compressed tomatoes, and queso fresco. Like most of the dishes, the inspiration came from Silva’s childhood, a take on a common breakfast in his home.

Silva is a strong believer in using the freshest local ingredients, so Hueya’s menu will constantly be changing during the summer to highlight what is in season. He recommends to always bring a friend and always eat socially: “I wanted to replicate growing up, having friends and family over and cooking all the time and hanging out.”

If you’ve never been, Q Rooftop Bar offers sweeping city views, modern minimalist décor, a refined drink menu and this inspired food, making it an ideal spot to hang with your crew on a summer evening.

Hueya is located at Q Rooftop Bar of the Quirk Hotel (201 W. Broad St). Hueya will be there Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. until close. Reservations available on Quirk Hotel’s website or @hueya_rva Instagram.

The Q Rooftop offers sweet views of the city. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • The Q Rooftop offers sweet views of the city.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Late Night Stop

Black Lodge in Scott’s Addition offers the perfect late-night spot where hot dogs live with caviar.

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2022 at 12:00 PM

Chef Brittanny Anderson’s Black Lodge is aiming to be the most upscale dive bar in Scott’s Addition. Few places in Richmond offer customers such a wide range of flavor combinations, from the finesse of caviar with a well-crafted cocktail to a roller hot dog paired with a Bud Heavy. Since re-opening in 2021, Black Lodge has been functioning as the friendly neighborhood bar that Scott’s Addition sorely needed against a backdrop of seemingly endless breweries and [arcades].

Anderson, co-owner and head chef, describes it as a chill spot that sits in the middle between high-end and a dive. Her third business in town, Black Lodge was rebirthed from a coffee shop/cafe to a bar after the owners realized that a cafe was not going to cut it. James Kohler, co-owner and beverage director, wanted to shift to a late-night bar where you could always get a hot meal, hence the $5 roller hot dogs prominently placed at the front of the bar, available long after the main kitchen closes.

“I developed the beverage menu with an emphasis on drinks that I wanted to have after I get off work,” explains Kohler. “This includes the price and content. I focused on retooling some classics. We prepare the drinks in a way that we get them out as quickly as possible with less of a focus on the bartending aspect. We wanted time to get to know the name and face of the person at the bar.”

A Dressed Up Pony. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • A Dressed Up Pony.

Their take on a classic Boilermaker, dubbed the Dressed Up Pony, is a perfect example. The concoction is composed of a Miller High Life pony beer with bourbon and ginger added to the bottle. The excess beer comes in a shot glass with your cocktail for $8. All Black Lodge’s food comes out of the same kitchen as Brenner Pass next door, which has been featured in Bon Appetit as a must visit restaurant in Richmond, so you know it’s good.

How did Anderson settle on this aspiring dive bar’s menu? “I chose food I wanted to eat at the bar,” she says. “I wanted to connect bar food with ingredients we use at Brenner Pass.”

This is why you will find some atypical bar foods on the menu such as your pick of three different types of caviar: paddlefish, smoked trout, or sturgeon. You can get two shots and caviar all for $30 bucks. This has been a more popular menu item than expected, according to Anderson.

If you are a first timer, try one of their hot dogs. These sausages are served with delicious toppings that you may never have considered putting on a bun. For example, the Alpine Dog comes topped with fondue and fried onions. The Russian Dog is topped with pickled beets, hardboiled eggs, and trout roe. If you’re hungry and can’t decide what to order, go for the Tower of Power; imagine a seafood tower but instead of shrimp and fish, it features multiple tiers of hot dogs, wings, patty melts, and fries.

[Editor's note: Click on images for a larger, crisper image]

An Alpine Dog from Black Lodge. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • An Alpine Dog from Black Lodge.

The Fancy Dog. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • The Fancy Dog.

The Chicago Dog. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • The Chicago Dog.

Not a meat lover? There is always an off-menu vegan sandwich and the ability to switch to a vegan hot dog. For folks looking for more simple fare, both owners also called out their love of the patty melt and the newly added fish and chips.

Recently Black Lodge has been supplementing their typical offerings by playing host to some local pop-ups and chefs. In March, Royal Pig took over the kitchen serving up Cambodian food. The dive bar also hosted Manny Eats for a four course, wine-paired West African dinner. “Any chance we get to let others shine in the space and show people what they do is good for us,” says Anderson.

Fans should be on the lookout for more special events in the near future. Despite the popularity of the pop-ups, the charm of the place remains its unpretentious, late night comfort mixed with a seasoned chef’s knowledge of the good stuff. So if you’re jonesing for a late night hot dog or a coterie of caviars, stop by Black Lodge and get to know your local bartender. Folks in the industry are already there. ..

Black Lodge is located at 3200 Rockbridge St. #101 Check the website here for more information. They are open Tuesday to Thursday 5 p.m to midnight. On Friday and Saturday they stay open till 2 a.m.

Black Lodge counter. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Black Lodge counter.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Marshmallow Maven

Karmalita’s confections make marshmallows the star of the show.

Posted By on Mon, May 2, 2022 at 4:00 AM

Two months ago, Andrea Johnson gave up her gig as a medical professional to dedicate herself full-time to creating an oft overlooked confectionery creation: marshmallows. As an avid baker since middle school, whipping up sweet treats was always something she loved but never believed could become a true career.

“Baking was just always a hobby I pushed far into the background,” says Johnson. “It wasn’t until my daughter started asking me when I would have my own bakery that I had that a-ha moment and wanted to show her that anything is possible.”

Growing up surrounded by Hispanic friends, Johnson learned the language and began incorporating it into her English, especially when referring to little things that she loves, by adding the diminutive suffix '-ita.' To honor her daughter for inspiring her to pursue her dessert dreams, Johnson named her business after her and chose her nickname, Karmalita, as the brand.

When she began baking on the side in 2015, Johnson started with cupcakes, cakes, and any timely trends that could teach her a new technique or skill. Quickly, she realized she hated cakes. As a Black woman baker, potential clients would often pigeonhole her into doing just those desserts most likely to be spotted at a church potluck or family cookout.

One day, after Johnson made marshmallows from scratch with her daughter as a preschool project, she was instantly hooked. “It was expected of me to continue making cakes, but it wasn’t what I wanted to pursue,” she recalls. “Marshmallows are what speak to me, and since a lot of making them is science, it wasn’t too big of a shift for me coming from the medical field.”

Monetizing marshmallows only became a reality in Johnson’s mind after she made her now signature s’mores bars and brought them into work. After witnessing her colleagues practically throwing cash at her for more s’mores, her confidence began to beat out the doubts.

Today Karmalita’s sells marshmallows by the bag in a wide variety of flavors. Vanilla is a constant staple, but every month new flavors rotate into the roster. Blueberry lavender lemonade, pinot noir, carrot cake, churros, whisky, salted caramel, and rosé are just a sampling of the assortments Johnson has sold. With Mother’s Day on the horizon, Karmalita’s is preparing two tea time-themed marshmallows: Earl Grey and chocolate vanilla swirl.

Her signature s’mores bar which got Johnson into the business has been recently dethroned as top seller by the adorably dubbed floof cups. A parfait-like dessert, floof cups are composed of a baked good base such as pound cake, a brownie, or a blondie, which is then topped with layers of marshmallow fluff, toppings, and a sauce like chocolate fudge or a lemon curd.

Karmalita's offers s’mores at all of their pop-ups. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Karmalita's offers s’mores at all of their pop-ups.

If you’d rather build your own bliss, Karmalita’s offers s’mores at all of their pop-ups. Begin with one of multiple base options ranging from house-made graham crackers to stroopwafels and oversized oreos. Each s’more includes two marshmallows, so decide if you’d rather double up on one flavor or mix and match. After that comes up to three toppings from a list that includes caramel sauce, melted chocolate, sea salt, oreo crumbs, pretzel dust, and Johnson’s favorite: AR's Hot Southern Honey.

Karmalita’s pop-up plans always appear on their Instagram, but you’re likely to come across Johnson at one of the city’s smaller farmers’ markets such as RVA Makers Market or the Safe Space Market. Always out to show that “s’mores and marshmallows go with everything,” Karmalita’s also often frequents breweries, wineries, and cideries around town including Starr Hill, the Jolene Family Winery, or Blue Bee. You can also find Karmalita’s fluff served up on cones at Ruby Scoops.

"Karmalita’s pop-up plans always appear on their Instagram, but you’re likely to come across Johnson at one of the city’s smaller farmers’ markets." - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • "Karmalita’s pop-up plans always appear on their Instagram, but you’re likely to come across Johnson at one of the city’s smaller farmers’ markets."

One day Johnson hopes to open a storefront that would be family-friendly during the day and offer a more intimate feel for a post-dinner date dessert. “I’ve always been aware of the lack of dessert options late at night,” she says. “I want my future store to be able to serve all those demographics because my marshmallows serve all those demographics.”

Whether Karmalita’s finds its perfect brick-and-mortar or goes back to packaging their products for supermarkets around town, Johnson is overjoyed she has been able to turn her hobby into a career.

“Marshmallows are something I've loved since I was a kid because there’s a certain joy and lightness to them,” adds Johnson. “Making marshmallows is a nod to the nostalgia of my own childhood and also a way to bring my daughter into the fold --- as she’s always loved them too.”

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