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Cajun on the Corner 

Poor Boys of Richmond gradually rolls out New Orleans-inspired menu items and events in the old Balliceaux and Flora space.

click to enlarge Chef Robert Holmes leads the kitchen at Poor Boys of Richmond, a Cajun-Creole restaurant in the Fan.

Scott Elmquist

Chef Robert Holmes leads the kitchen at Poor Boys of Richmond, a Cajun-Creole restaurant in the Fan. 

It's been a few weeks since Poor Boys of Richmond made its debut in the Fan, and as front-of-the-house manager Mike Truxton says, the training wheels are coming off.

At 203 N. Lombardy St., Poor Boys has been operating with limited hours and a partial menu, slowly introducing new items and only serving dinner. But starting on Tuesday, July 16, lunch will be available six days a week, with live music a few nights a week and a daily closing at midnight. The gradual rollout has been intentional, says Truxton, whose Richmond dining résumé includes Kabana, Belle and James, Aloi, Little Saint and Acacia.

"We made this conscious decision to do this kind of long, elongated soft launch. This way we can get the kitchen working on getting their pars, and we're still figuring out a lot of storage," Truxton says. "We wanted to focus on the restaurant aspect first and foremost before we got the ball rolling on events, nightlife and all of that."

Leading the kitchen is Robert Holmes, a longtime chef and family friend of co-owner Clayton Navarre. His first restaurant gig, at age 15, was washing dishes at Camellia Grill, a New Orleans staple that's been open since the 1940s. Like many chefs he worked his way through the ranks, and in 2003 he found himself cooking alongside celebrity chef and TV personality Emeril Lagasse at NOLA Restaurant.

"He was really, really cool. It's just like you see him on television," Holmes says. "That same attitude, the same love for the food, the 'bam,' all of that is there. That's for real. He's a really good teacher."

Holmes says he misses New Orleans but he's happy to be here, filling what he and the team consider a void in Richmond's dining scene.

"There's no shortage of Southern restaurants in Richmond," Truxton says, noting the abundance of things like pimento cheese and cornbread. "They wanted to bring a taste of authentic Cajun-Creole cuisine to Richmond and that's what we're trying to do here."

The seafood-heavy menu features classic po'boy sandwiches with fried options like catfish, oysters, shrimp and crawfish tails, plus grilled smoked sausage and spicy Italian sausage. Catering to Richmond's meat-free crowd, the po'boy selection also includes a vegan version with marinated fried cauliflower. Other menu items include barbecue shrimp, beans and rice, a fried seafood platter, a grilled marinated chicken breast, gumbo and jambalaya. Sides include garlic mashed potatoes, mac and cheese (with or without shrimp or lobster) and fries, of both the regular and sweet-potato variety. The notable lack of vegetables will be rectified as the kitchen continues to create more options — Truxton says to expect additional sides like collard greens, and more vegetarian and vegan options.

For Navarre and fellow co-owner Dillon Altizer, honoring the space and its history is nearly as important as the food itself. The beloved restaurant and music venue Balliceaux closed its doors in early 2016, and its successor Flora closed last year after at two-year run. A shortage of free parking nearby makes it a challenging spot for non-Fan dwellers, and Altizer recommends the parking garage near Lombardy and Franklin streets.

For those who live nearby, they want Poor Boys to be a true neighborhood watering hole, a regular destination for folks in the area. TVs in the main dining area will be tuned to ESPN during football season, weekend brunch is on the horizon and kids can keep themselves occupied with coloring and activity pages.

"I think us opening during the time when college kids aren't here allows us to establish a loyal customer base in the neighborhood, which is something really important to us," Altizer says. "And then that can be what sustains us. When the college kids are here, that's just a plus, and that can help us out with our night-life events."

The space in the back, affectionately called the Voodoo Room, will host live music like regular jazz nights, large groups and private parties. You can't order from the full menu back there, but appetizers, small plates and cocktails will be available. Keep an eye on facebook.com/poorboysrva for event announcements.

Poor Boys of Richmond
203 N. Lombardy St.
658-1085
Tuesdays - Sundays 11 a.m. - midnight
Mondays 4 p.m. - midnight
facebook.com/poorboysrva

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