As you might expect, we both enjoy a good meal and look forward to visiting new places. We returned to Gayton Crossing to visit Eurasia Café & Wine Bar. As always, this was a working day visit, so we can’t speak to the “wine bar” part, but we found excellent food in relaxing space. I have been here one time for dinner with my bride while this was Adam’s first visit.
After reviewing the menu and hearing the specials, I was pretty excited to try one of them, a Mediterranean Lamb Wrap. Sounded great. But then I looked at Adam’s face. I enjoy lamb dishes, but he loves them. So I let him take it and I ordered the burger he was planning to get (more on that decision below). Thankfully for everyone, Adam loved it. The lamb was juicy and tender and shredded, which is not something he comes across often. It paired well with the greens, tomato puree, and goat cheese inside. The only disappointment was the fries. He often jumps at the opportunity for sweet potato fries but balked at the $2 upcharge and settled for the default shoestring fries, which were not great.
As for me, I’m going to make a vow right now to stop ordering burgers at restaurants 52L visits, unless it is specifically billed as a burger place. Let me cut to the chase and eliminate any doubt: the House Ground Burger was excellent. You can tell when a burger is hand-made. The texture of the meat and the feel of the burger’s build, it’s a dead giveaway if you know what you’re looking for. And Eurasia makes a great burger. Hand crafted chuck & tenderloin on a fresh Kaiser with garlic and cheese. It was great, no complaints about the sandwich (I was underwhelmed by the fries as well). But as I look at their menu, and as I remember Adam’s meal, I know I missed an opportunity to order something that I can’t get elsewhere. Luckily it was a great burger.
As we have experienced in the past, we felt a little out of place as two lunch hour professionals. The rest of the clientele seemed like friendly shoppers taking a break from their errands. The mood was languid and the food felt like a luxury. Definitely a good feeling.
Tucked into the same shopping center as two of our recent favorites, Mai Sushi and Toast, is Bocca Toscana. A little Italian restaurant in an often busy shopping center. Pro tip if you go at noon, park in the back lot and cut through the tunnel. The day we went the parking lot was a swarm with shoppers and dinners, but Bocca was surprisingly empty.
Set back from the parking lot a bit, every tenant in The Village shopping center forgoes a bit of natural light. Bocca is no different, offering high backed booths and a bit of ambiance without even trying. There weren’t many patrons, but all the same our waitress and host was pleasant and prompt.
The food was much of the same (pleasant and prompt). Ethan had the Calzone, a pillow of baked dough filled a wonderful gooey mess of ricotta and mozzarella. Especially the mozzarella, which was buttery and elastic, without feeling stringy. Top notch stuff. I had their Grilled Chicken Salad. A dish that is pretty hard to screw up, but even harder to do really well. They nailed it. Tender marinated chicken that was not so hot as to wilt the entire bed of fresh greens it rested on. The balsamic vinaigrette that dressed it was subtle, delicious and distributed with a deft hand.
Overall we liked Bocca Toscana, the food and service were great. It is not a destination lunch spot. Don’t carve out two hours to go there, but it was certainly worth your time if you’re in the area. It’s downfall might be that it is an old player in a shopping center with young quality upstarts. Hopefully it can weather the youthful storm.
Sometimes we have to display some adaptability. Our destination this day was a Puerto Rican place, which we found to be aggressively closed. Newspapered windows and ominous notes from the landlord. Deftly pivoting, Adam drove us to the nearby Balkan Restaurant , which we had had our eye on for a while.
Balkan is a small place with a cozy menu, located off Patterson near Parham. the server was friendly and directed us to their lunch specials. I was tempted by several items before ordering the Bosnian Beef Sausage. Adam ordered the Hungarian Goulash which was specifically mentioned by our server.
My sausage sandwich was a mixed bag. The sausage was savory, but not exceptional. It tasted great but nothing about it screamed “Bosnian”. It tasted like good breakfast sausage. The bread (Lepinja) felt unique and was delicious on its own, baked and fried with herbs and spices. But as a sandwich overall it failed because it was nearly impossible to eat as a sandwich. Imagine five link sausages between two large pancakes, eaten sandwich-style. Difficult.
Adam’s Goulash was also underwhelming for a signature dish. The beef was good, a little tastier than you might find at a Mediterranean buffet, but not strong enough to be a headliner by itself. The mashed potatoes however were a disappointment, too whipped and too consistent, without the variance in texture or flavor that would make it an appetizing side.
All in all, we didn’t love Balkan. Perhaps we could have ordered differently or better, but there wasn’t enough going for it to recommend returning to it on our own time.
Lunch topics: work, Hawken, the “need” for a larger TV, PC gaming with multiple monitors, Hardywood Twilight 4-Milerlearning to ride a bike on a Skuut, getting babies to sleep through the night, Tested, Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project
Wherever you are reading this right now, find a good sized rock and heave it in a direction of your choosing. Now apologize, there is a 26.7% chance you just hit a family style Mexican restaurant. The West End is thick with them. We’ve been to eleven in the past two years and there are still a handful outstanding. So what kind of place would get my co-blogger, co-worker and co-friend so excited?
Chuy’s, a franchise that’s shadow recently fell over our river city. A place Ethan and his wife had fond memories of from their time in Austin. Richmond’s Chuy’s just opened up in Short Pump near Whole Foods. It is new construction, but you can’t tell from the interior. The decor plays on the edge of overly eclectic, but it balances its velvet Elvis paintings and aged wood pastel walls masterfully. It’s strong, but creates a fun atmosphere that we really enjoyed. There was a bit of a wait the day we went (15 minutes), but Chuy’s offers self serve salsa and chips in their bar. When we were seated, it was crowded, but the servers were prompt and friendly.
Ethan went with the Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom enchilada, a side green chile rice and a bonus Crispy Taco. The enchilada’s Boom-Boom sauce, comprised of green chiles and tomatillos, had a great flavor and mixed well with the rice. The taco was constructed from a fresh made tortillas shell (note: you can see them being made) that was delicious, but sadly the contents it delivered were forgettable. I had the Chile Rellenos in a green chile sauce, a side of Mexican rice and refried beans. The rellenos came in three varieties, but I went with the oven-roasted chicken and cheese. The chiles were deep fried and huge. The protein inside was juicy and well seasoned. The crispy exterior played well with soft interior and created a delightful texture. The Mexican rice was just OK, a bit dry actually. Next time I would get the green chile rice Ethan enjoyed so much.
Chuy’s was a big big hit for us. A fun experience from the decor to the food. Even waiting to be seated, chips in hand, was a good time. It is not the local hole in the wall, but as franchises go, it feels unique. This not the haunted house at the county fair with cracks of sun light peeking through its walls. Chuy’s is grade A, uncut quality, Disney level stuff. They are at the top of their game and it shows. Earning them a spot in our Hall of Fame.
The word of mouth is strong on the West End’s newest barbecue place, Deep Run Roadhouse. A friend pinged us the day it opened (March 25th) and a coworker mentioned it a couple days later. We knew this would be a higher-profile-than-usual week for 52L, so we decided to go to the new place and hope for the best. Spoiler Alert!: Deep Run Roadhouse is a 52 Lunches Hall of Fame entry in the Barbecue category.
Entering the restaurant, you’re greeted by a smiling cashier and a wall-sized chalkboard menu on your left. Chalkboard menus for a BBQ place aren’t new, but the sheer size of the thing gave us pause. Deep Run Roadhouse has the sort of menu where you’d like to come back and try everything. Having played this game for over two years, we have patterns to our dining. We don’t draw attention to ourselves, and we give extra consideration to ordering “signature” or “classic” dishes. Put us in a barbecue place, and you can count on both of ordering the standard “two meats and two sides” plate. What was not typical was the experience of reviewing a lunch spot with a reporter and photographer in tow. Out of necessity, the photographer asked permission to take photos of the interior and of us eating. No incognito lunching this day. Might as well eat with your parent who might loudly proclaim, “My son is a food blogger”. (Yes, this happens).
Adam and I ordered our meals and exhausted all of our Photo Smile Faces in front of the chalkboard for the photographer. Then we sat down in a booth and had some pretend first bites. Felt a bit like a wedding. This left us with two distinct feelings: amused awkwardness and ravenous hunger. Like our recent visit to Lunch, DRRH boasts an aromatic atmosphere. You smell the food and you want it immediately.
Once the meal started and we got talking, all awkwardness went away. We had a fun time talking about ourselves (go figure) but also about Richmond Foodie Culture. Oh, and the food was great. Jay didn’t eat, but Daryl shared the meal with us. All three of us ordered the two meats and two sides. Adam ordered Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork, Cowboy Beans (beans cooked with barbecued beef), and Southwest Slaw. Daryl ordered Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, Jalapeno Mac & Cheese, and Collard Greens. And I ordered Beef Brisket, Rope Sausage, “Texas Caviar” (a mixture of beans, onions, and cilantro), and Jalepeno Mac & Cheese.
Adam deemed his meal great. The pulled pork was very good, the brisket better, and the Southwest Slaw as the big winner. I’m not a slaw guy, but Adam is and for him slaw is a balancing act between bland and too much. The Southwest Slaw had just the right amount of spice to thread that needle perfectly… tangy and spicy but not too hot. As for me, I also preferred the brisket but had no complaints about the sausage and loved the sides. Texas Caviar is a great counterpoint to the spicy and wonderful Jalapeno Mac & Cheese.
Our guest Daryl was pleased with his meal too. I don’t know that I can describe it better than him, so…
The pulled pork was nice and tender and fell apart as I imagine pulled pork is supposed to (I’m no bbq expert). The collard greens were tasty, despite the fact that they were not cooked in fat (the nice lady at the counter told me the pork on top was added afterwards) and the jalapeno mac and cheese was creamy with just enough of a little kick to make it interesting. The beef brisket was shaped like bacon strips, which had me confused (is that normal?), but still good. Weird detail, but the one thing I really loved was the big chalkboard menu. Made everything nice and clear and unmissable.
Can’t argue on that last point. The wall-sized chalkboard adds to the overall character of the place. Admittedly, it was a fun visit because of our guests, but we came away very pleased with Deep Run Roadhouse and I returned the next day on my own dime. We’re both pleased to add this to our Hall of Fame for Barbecue and encourage you to check it out.
52 Lunches will appear in the June issue of Virginia Living. Yes, we’re very excited.
Lunch topics: Virginia Living, Work, 52L, Richmond foodie culture
We knew Plaza Guadalajara had closed. It was a decent spot to catch a bite to eat, but it was too similar to the ten other family style Mexican places you had to pass to get to it. Last month we stopped into a new FLGS and we were surprised to see a restaurant had risen from the ashes of Guadalajara. Last week we went back to the FLGS and made a stop in at Maya Mexican Grill & Tequila Lounge with 52L regulars Chuck and Wayne.
Maya is not another family style Mexican place. It is the same poor location. Tucked into a shopping center that is screened by other shopping centers off of Pouncey Tract. The menu and interior however, endeavor to put a contemporary twist on the traditional Mexican most Richmonders have come to expect. Dark woods and open space coupled with dishes that seem familiar, but dabble with upscale ingredients.
All great in theory, but the promise was slowly whittled away by the reality. The music in a restaurant is rarely noticed by either of us. Maya plays Latin American pop though and plays it loud. The volume of which came up in conversation during lunch on three different occasions. The staff was friendly, quickly taking our drink and food orders and returning often to refill, but we waited nearly 30 minutes for our meals to arrive. On a day were Maya was barely at 25% of it’s capacity.
Ethan ordered three tacos (Sirloin, Ancho Chicken, Carnitas) all with a pineapple salsa. They tasted fine, but they were delivered at room temperature. Chuck had the Torta, which also had good flavors, but was not hot and had been allowed to sit long enough for the lower bun to turn into a sponge. It fell apart after one bite. I lucked out with the Chipotle Rubbed Skirt Steak. It arrived piping hot and was served with grilled pineapple, Spanish rice, well seasoned black beans, guacamole and fried plantains. Every bit of it was delicious.
My meal left me slightly optimistic, but I saw disappointment in my compatriots eyes. Whether it was opening month jitters or poor execution on a good idea, Maya squandered its potential on the day we visited. With prices that are slightly above average for a West End lunch and a poor location they’ll need to fire on all cylinders to stay afloat in Short Pump. It is my sincere hope that they do, but it won’t be by my recommendation or repeating patronage.
Lunch topics: BioShock Infinite, Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider, G.I. Joe: COBRA, Unreal Engine and Epic‘s future, Game of Thrones beer, comic pricing, Gears of War: Judgment, ”Crom laughs at your
Five Rings Four Winds”, Army of TWO The Devil’s Cartel
We both live and work within a few miles of Chianti, but in seven years I confess I had never tried it (and Adam had only bought takeout once or twice). I think it’s the name. Fair or not, I associate the word “chianti” with terrible cheap wine in a basket. Scratch that, it’s completely unfair, because I was fortunate enough to visit Tuscany a few years ago and found that chianti can be delicious and I shouldn’t confuse it with cheap American supermarket wine. So for no good reason, this restaurant resided in a blind spot for me.
And that’s a shame. Adam and I visited the restaurant located in Gayton Crossing Shopping Center and had a lovely meal. We both felt like salads this day and thankfully were offered a much better selection that your standard “House or Caesar” choice. The menu offers these of course, plus eight other choices. Adam ordered the Annabelle Goat Cheese Salad, a spring mix salad with beets, tomatoes, walnuts, and (you guessed it) goat cheese. Adam loved his salad, Adam calling the warm goat cheese “fantastic” and later telling me it was a top-3 salad for him, ever. I got over my prejudice and ordered the Chianti Special Salad, a spring mix salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers,and grilled chicken and each ingredient was excellent, culminating in a satisfying whole.
One note about the location itself. The service was very friendly and efficient, but the atmosphere was perfect. In 2007, I visited Italy during the summer, and loved the respite of a meal indoors, a shelter from a persistent sun. Chianti used natural lighting and stone-colored tones to provide this same feel. I can’t say that I forgot I was in Richmond, but I felt that same embrace, a lovely and content meal while hiding from the sun.
We have picked most of the Short Pump restaurant scene clean. There is still carne on the hueso, though most of it is crumby chain places we will never review. I’m looking right at you Chili’s, with your brain snatching jingles! In any case, last week we
needed wanted to go to Short Pump to visit a new gaming store. Baker’s Crust fell out of the bingo hopper when we gave it a spin. Not really a chain since there are a total of six locations, all in Virginia, but nothing that truly excited us.
Baker’s is located on the back end of Short Pump Mall proper, which is mostly a ghost town on weekdays. Tough for the businesses there, but great parking for the lunch crowd and no wait to be seated. The interior is best described as upscale fast casual. More along the lines of Café Caturra than Panera. The kind of place you could meet for brunch, something we have both done separately at the Carytown location and enjoyed.
For eats we both picked salads. Ethan had the Wine Country and paired it with Chicken Guacamole Sandwich. The salad, with it’s mix of fruit, candied pecans and goat cheese was delicious, but hardly felt healthy. The sandwich was good, but a bit too gooey for the bread it was delivered on. Better bread would have made for a better sandwich. No sandwich for me, instead I went with a full Sirloin Steak Salad. Thin slices of marinated steak over Gorgonzola cheese, grape tomatoes and spinach. The steak was perfectly cooked and the whole meal was complimented nicely with a white balsamic vinaigrette that I used to much of.
Overall it was a slightly expensive, but very satisfying meal. At more than $10 an entry it was just above the lunch time average in the West End. What we got rivals nearly every salad option available in the same area though. If you are heading to the mall for lunch time shopping, avoid the disappointing food court and hit up Baker’s Crust instead.
[Insert your own obvious "Lunch"/"52 Lunches" pun here. It will be better than mine.]
Lunch is a cozy eatery just off Broad in Scott’s Addition, a small section of the City between Boulevard, Broad, 195 and the railroad tracks. Predominantly industrial/commercial (I buy my tires here, and have never been to that place next door), some other use companies have been moving in, like Richmond Cycling Corps and Lunch. Unaware of its stellar rating on Urbanspoon, 52L drove a little farther than normal to celebrate the end of a very hard work month.
Walking through the door, we were stuck by two things. First, the place is small. Compact and cozy. We were seated at a two-top, between two others, but it never felt cramped. The better part is that because it’s small, we were very close to the kitchen, which was a plus. Too often at other restaurants the only smells you get are of Windex from the table next to you getting cleared. Not so here. We were treated with the smells of delicious while we waited briefly for our food. This felt like coming home and dinner was already being made.
The menu is full and there are overlapping windows of time. You can order breakfast until 3pm, lunch as early as when they open, and dinner starting at 5pm. We both paged past some appealing brunch options to the sandwiches. Adam ordered the Scott’s Addition (grilled chicken breast with pulled pork, cheese, slaw, & BBQ sauce) and I had the Summit Avenue (grilled chicken breast with bacon, cheddar, & BBQ sauce). I took the default kettle chips and Adam subbed in more slaw. Adam had never had pulled pork on chicken and came away a big fan. The slaw was a winner, too, flavorful and not too tart. My sandwich was also excellent, the chicken and bacon perfect. We both noted that sandwiches with BBQ are super-messy, but not in a bad way.
The meal was great, affordable too. Lunch earns a spot in our Hall of Fame, edging out the Rose Marie Inn. Nothing against the Rose Marie, but Lunch is a place we will recommend to others and are sure to visit again on our own.
Tucked into the intersection of Three Chopt and Quioccasin is a shopping center that is easy to miss. Most of it is empty or part of a heavy rotation of stores, but at it’s cornerstone is Melito’s. Neighborhood bar by night and busy lunch spot for the folks that work on Forest Ave. by day. Last week we met Chuck and Wayne there, pre game night, and had a rare moment in 52L history. A wait.
Waiting for a table does not seem like the end of the earth, but it can eat up a lunch hour quick. Thankfully we were seated soon after, in less time than the estimate we received, a plus. Melito’s interior sports two rows of clustered booths (diner style) and a bar that extends the length of the restaurant. With so much traffic it looked a bit out of place in Richmond actually, not off putting, but different in a good way.
When we were seated, the wait staff was friendly and the food came out quickly. Daily specials for Chuck and Wayne, of which my mind has lost the details. I’m the worst, but they had no complaints. Ethan on the other hand, I know had the grilled Guinness bratwurst sandwich. A brat grilled in Guinness, on a hoagie, with peppers and onions and a side of fries. The sandwich had good bread, the brats and peppers were tasty too, but it felt a bit light. For $10 and change it would be nice to get a bit more volume.
I ordered the fried tilapia and bacon wrap. Filled with lettuce, tomatoes and a slightly tart sauce. I passed on the side of fries that came with and went with the coleslaw instead. The wraps contents were great. The fish was neither dry nor oily, perfectly prepared. The wrap unfortunately was bland and there was too much of it. When I decided to tear away a portion of it the meal came into balance a bit. Though just eating the insides with a fork would have been the pro move.
One could hypothesis that the crowd at Melito’s is do in part to the lack of selection in the area. I would argue that one is wrong however. “One” can be a total jerk sometimes. The quality of food and service warrant the wait we had last week. There are better options in the area, the portions could be a bit bigger, but not by much. You can not go wrong with a trip to Melito’s.
Lunch topics: The Black Company, PS4, Destiny, Dredd, Traveller, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Eberron, work, DOTA, Valve (Steam), EA (Origin), Ubisoft (UPlay), Far Cry 3, The Witness, Watch Dogs, Console exclusive content