Courtney Mailey and Tom Sullivan, co-conveners, Scott's Addition Beverage District
According to online booze magazine VinePair, Richmond is the No. 1 beer destination in the world. We won't disagree, but thanks to a diversity of hooch purveyors in Scott's Addition, Richmond's sippin' scene is about much more than just award-winning beer. Within one neighborhood are 10 small businesses — soon to be 11, when Virago Spirits opens — making their own beer, cider, mead and liquor, which has helped make Scott's Addition arguably the hottest destination in Richmond.
The Scott's Addition Beverage District group started out as a casual get-together for these businesses in the district. They drank each other's products and chatted casually about how the neighborhood was quickly evolving. But as the scene continued to expand, it became clear that, as business owners, they could harness their collective power and grow the club into something more structured.
Now co-convened by Courtney Mailey of Blue Bee Cider and Tom Sullivan of Ardent Craft Ales, the group meets about once every other month. Members have helped drum up support to place trash cans around the neighborhood, a measure spearheaded by the Scott's Addition Boulevard Association. And they've helped create neighborhood-wide events like the Scott's Addition Halloween Booz Crawl in October and the Scott's Addition Pride Crawl, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 16.
"In general, we prefer to keep our influence positive," Mailey says. "If a circumstance arises that would negatively impact all of us in one way or another, it is good to be able to stand united and negotiate for a better outcome behind the scenes."
The group doesn't have great aspirations to be power brokers, she says.
"We just want to support our neighborhood and make it a great place to visit."
Jason Alley and Michele Jones, owners, Comfort and Pasture
Comfort has been a popular staple in the food scene for more than 16 years, even before it started appearing on national "best _ in the _" lists.
As longtime members of the community, Alley and Jones saw a persistent, ongoing problem that they decided to help combat by doing their part: hunger in and around Richmond.
In March, Alley and Jones announced their decision to shift the restaurant's business model to "fight food insecurity in and around Richmond" by donating 100 percent of its net profits to the hunger-relief organization FeedMore. Guests can also opt to donate extra money on top of their meal check.
Alley says he doesn't have specific figures yet, but he and Jones plan to compile a cumulative annual report, which will reveal how much the restaurant has given to FeedMore both on its own and through facilitated donations.
Not only are they setting a good example as a community-minded organization, but they're using their power in the food scene to address a moral issue.
"My general impression is that restaurant industry folks care a lot about doing good in the world, whether they volunteer to help cook for people experiencing homelessness, hire employees seeking to re-enter society or just do a good deed," says Style food writer Paul Brockwell. "It's hard to forget the moments they also showed up for themselves, like when Sub Rosa caught fire and the service community organized an overwhelming number of fundraisers."
Brittanny Anderson, chef and owner, Brenner Pass and Metzger Bar & Butchery
Anderson is doing her part to build up Richmond's growing reputation in the national food and drink world, and as restaurant critic Nathalie Oates says, she's "the chef to watch in Richmond right now." She continues to rake in major accolades, both locally and nationally. Earlier this year, Style's food writers named her Scott's Addition, Alpine-inspired restaurant Brenner Pass restaurant of the year, and around the same time she was named a semifinalist for the 2018 James Beard Foundation awards.
She and two of her sous chefs trained for about three weeks before traveling to Los Angeles in January to compete on "Iron Chef America," which aired on the Food Network in May. More recently, Bon Appetit named Brenner Pass as one of the top 50 nominees for America's best new restaurants.
For Anderson, it's about a lot more than the food, the wine list, the cocktail program or even the restaurant as a whole — it's about community. Brenner Pass often plays host to events, like a cocktail competition sponsored by Woodford Reserve, and last week's ChefsFeed Indie Week dinners, which brought chefs from all over the country to Richmond to cook and eat together.
Alex Graf and Chris Fultz, owners, ZZQ
They've been slinging Texas-style barbecue together since 2013, bringing smoked meats and to-die-for sides (that jalapeño mac and cheese, y'all) to pop-ups and events all over town. There's a reason ZZQ's loyal patrons call it meat church.
At long last, in March, Graf and Fultz opened a brick and mortar restaurant in Scott's Addition, and after only a few months it's difficult to imagine the neighborhood without it. The line is constantly out the door, and the casual 'cue spot has become a go-to destination between brewery and cidery stops. And we're not the only ones who think so.
This summer, Food and Wine Magazine made stops at barbecue joints all over the state, and named ZZQ the best in Virginia. That's right — in the land where barbecue loyalists swear by sweet, tangy pulled pork, ZZQ's Texas-style beef brisket, spare ribs and sausage links reign supreme.
While Graf says she and Fultz are honored and grateful for the recognition, they humbly believe that it has "come a bit premature.
"We are only six months into operations, and maintaining quality control at a one-day-a-week pop-up is one thing," she says. "Expanding those expectations across five days with a staff of 40 is quite another. Our philosophy is to earn the accolades every single day."
Graf says that she and Fultz take ZZQ's contributions to Richmond›s thriving food scene seriously.
"We have many close friends in the industry," she says. "We want to see Richmond taken seriously on the national stage and are immensely proud of our accolades that are drawing attention to Richmond."
Helen Reed, owner, Helen Reed Design
The restaurant scene wouldn't be what it is today without its tastemakers, but what about the creative minds that make those dining spaces so inviting?
Someone has to find that perfect balance of classic, modern, sleek and cozy, that ambiance that makes guests want to stay awhile and come back often.
Reed, an interior designer, has been beautifying Richmond-area restaurants since 1998, and you'll find her work all over town. She says she loves these projects because she's "pleasing the whole public," and she gets to bring the creative visions of chefs and owners to life.
"I supported myself through college being in the hospitality industry," Reed says. "I feel like once you get food service in your blood it's really hard to get rid of it, just that love of restaurants and the food scene."
Reed's résumé includes local favorites Bottoms Up Pizza, Shagbark, Casa del Barco and the Boathouse at Rocketts Landing, and she's working with owners to design the soon-to-open Perch and the tasting room at Virago Spirits.
The dining industry has evolved over the decades that Reed's been designing restaurant interiors, and so has her thoughtful approach. The right ambiance can make or break a customer's experience, she says, especially now.
"Our food scene has come so alive, and everyone wants that for their restaurant. They want the experience, they want it to be memorable, and that's not how it used to be 10 years ago," Reed says. "You would just literally put paint and some art on the walls and serve some food. I think the restaurants now have more soul, more groundedness, a true identity."
Thomas Lisk, lobbyist, lawyer
Lisk is a lobbyist before the General Assembly on behalf of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association, and also has a legal practice that represents food and beverage businesses such as small microbreweries and national restaurant chains. Much of his work deals with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
As a lawyer, he helps businesses large and small navigate the complicated process of receiving and maintaining a license to serve alcohol. As a lobbyist he pushes for changes to ABC laws that he describes simply as antiquated.
For example, recently Lisk met with a legislative committee to discuss the much-despised ratio rules that require restaurants and bars to serve a requisite amount of food based on liquor sales. These rules haven't kept up with what consumers expect, he says, and for a high-end whiskey bar that offers rare scotch for $300 a pour, "they'd have to sell a lot of hamburgers or steak to make up for that one very expensive shot."
Last year, Lisk was behind legislation around licensing for what are known as commercial lifestyle centers. The measure allows patrons to buy a drink at one location and carry it to another restaurant, bar or shop within a designated area, preventing the temptation to pound a remaining drink. No Richmond-area center has applied for such a license so far, but ones in Fairfax and Charlottesville hold them, and Lisk says two applications are pending in Loudoun County. He's also pushing legislation to allow restaurants to deliver alcohol, which could help recapture sales lost in to-go food orders, he says, while potentially lowering rates of driving under the influence.
It sounds a little counterintuitive, but Lisk is thinking outside of the box.
"Sometimes [loosening] alcohol laws helps promote more moderate, responsible consumption," he says.Back to The Power Issue