A Lot of Little 

Food gets an extra flourish at the Empress.


Let's talk details — those itty bitty minutiae that add up creating a whole, the teensy weensy pixels comprising a big picture. The addition of pillows to a refurbished church pew provides that bit of back relief much needed after a tough day. Bone china, dainty in decoration yet sturdy, adds class to a burgeoning area of Broad Street. Perhaps the difference is amenities provided in the restroom that aren't your usual rough paper towel and clinical-smelling soap. One of these details alone would be considered a bonus, but when each component is strung together, it's a ground score.

The Empress isn't a looker. White tile flooring curiously devoid of rugs, combined with brick walls and black tables, produces a clean environment. Cafe accoutrements grace the front entrance for those on the run, people who want to pick up a hot coffee and the epic sharable portions of a savory scone or sweet. But you aren't there to look at the walls or scrutinize floor coverings. Warmth and welcome emanate from the owners and translate directly into their food; simplicity in dAccor fades, well, into the background.

Dinner service is intricate yet inexpensive. Recent nighttime meals of succulent and sweet duck medallions ($12) and grilled lamb chops ($12) are served with fiery sesame Brussels sprouts and a pancakelike horseradish polenta. An exceptional beef carpaccio is eye-popping affordable ($10) and splendid in its cracked pepper, black sea-salt dusting and partner of fine baby greens. Dinner is finely tuned with an amuse bouche of hummus and arugula, a plate painted with house-made sriracha hot sauce, or perhaps a surprise small taste of dessert wine to pair with a miniature dessert.

You would be remiss not to stop in for lunch or brunch (served till an admirable 5 p.m.). For the hour you have to yourself weekly, try the occasionally served special grilled cheese. Settle in for a relaxing moment with a light, crunchy house-made sourdough and fontina cheese masterpiece. If your palate leans toward something meatier, order one of the chicken panini ($8). Delicately sliced white-meat chicken and mozzarella make a happy couple when served on the same addicting sourdough.

On Saturday or Sunday, take advantage of an entirely different side of the Empress, when an easy-like-Sunday-morning vibe takes over. A breakfast crepe ($7) filled with asparagus, bacon, eggs, cheese and roasted red pepper matches a little sweet with a smidge salty. Green eggs and lamb, a whimsical combination of derby sage scrambled eggs and gamey lamb, are an innovative take on your average steak and egg ($12). You may miss a side dish (potatoes, maybe?), but the longing subsides as you wash down these brunch options with freshly macerated blueberry lemonade.

Dessert is a must-have, so save room or locate an extra stomach. Technically dead-on, the crA"me brA¯lAce ($4) is a favorite, the flavor changing daily. Salted caramel apple and Mexican dark chocolate have been recent options, both inducing swoons.

Expect the royal treatment at a place aptly named on all occasions, small things considered. 

The Empress
2043 W. Broad St.
Monday-Wednesday: 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m.,
Thursday-Friday: 6:30 a.m.-1 a.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-1 a.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.-11 p.m.


Comments (33)

Showing 1-25 of 33

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-25 of 33

Add a comment

  • Re: Sugary Raisins and Tiny Hams: 12 Interesting Finds at Aldi and Lidl

    • I actually agree with "Disgusted" because I clicked on the article to learn about 12…

    • on September 25, 2017
  • Re: Cake Theater

    • Its Awesome!!! thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe Important tips are given in this recipe…

    • on September 25, 2017
  • Re: Sugary Raisins and Tiny Hams: 12 Interesting Finds at Aldi and Lidl

    • Seriously Disgusted, aren't you a little bit thin skinned? Everyone seems to be "offended" by…

    • on September 22, 2017
  • More »
  • More by Robey Martin

    • 2015 State of the Plate

      2015 State of the Plate

      Favorite dishes, unsung heroes and the rise of hospitality in Richmond. Plus, why our Restaurant of the Year is Metzger Bar & Butchery.
      • Mar 10, 2015
    • Single-Minded Focus

      Single-Minded Focus

      The old Phil's Continental Lounge will transform into Jack Brown's Beer & Burger Joint in March.
      • Feb 20, 2015
    • Noodles Galore

      Noodles Galore

      Spiral Noodle is slated for opening this spring in the old Yapple spot.
      • Feb 19, 2015
    • More »

    Copyright © 2017 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation