We tried to visit Ashland Breakfast & Lunch before and had trouble finding it. Google maps failed to lead us to this storefront in a strip mall in Ashland. We’re glad that we tried again because we found great food and a warm, comfortable atmosphere.
ABL doesn’t present like your typical eatery. The store windows are hand painted. We visited close to Valentine’s Day and the store front mural reflected that with a seasonal theme. This was a nice touch that lifted our spirits immediately.
The menu is straightforward, diner-style. Many good choices to choose from. Adam ordered Studley’s Homemade BBQ (a pulled pork sandwich). The sandwich had a great sweet BBQ taste with a hint of heat, which he liked a lot. The texture was a bit off.. a little too pasty, like it was overworked or extruded from a tube. But the taste beat out the texture; it was a good sandwich and was served with coleslaw on top. The slaw was good and crunchy and his only complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it. The meal was finished out with potato salad that presented a great tart taste, and featured more mustard than mayo with not too much of either. The salad really let the red potatoes (and their skins) shine.
Myself, I couldn’t resist adding another Sailor to my list. I’m always curious to see how another restaurant handles this Richmond staple, and ABL makes a good one. The knockwurst was smoked (rather than just pan-fried) which changed the character of the Sailor in a good way. The bread wasn’t too greasy, a typical mistake but not here. The sandwich was great and I had no trouble finishing it. As is often the case, the fries were fries, good enough but unremarkable. I didn’t need them with the size and quality of the Sailor.
Overall the food was good and incredibly affordable. It felt very small town diner, and we felt at home even though it’s not our normal style of dining.
Lunch topics: Minecraft, rumored XboxOne price drop, that LotR Assassins Creed clone, 10k training team, running watches, running shoes, personal data tracking, work, identifying a Cockney accent, The Lies of Locke Lamora.
Driving down Patterson Avenue, you could miss Cuisine a la Carte 9 times out of the 10 you were looking for it. The signage is minimal and it is nestled into a nondescript shopping center. What you’d miss though, might be well worth your time and coin.
Similar to Homemades by Suzanne, Cuisine appears to be in service of catering first. The dining space is small and a little bit cramped actually. While the kitchen, which also is on the smaller side, dominates the space. Ordering is easy enough and set up as if one were ordering box lunches for a work conference. There are loads of options and most every one was appealing.
We picked our dishes out with the hesitation of missed lunch time opportunities. What arrived at the table though confirmed that we had chosen wisely. Ethan had the Herb Cheese Delight. A fantastic boursin cheese with bacon, red onions, lettuce and tomato sandwiched on two slabs of pumpernickel bread. The contents ended up being a bit too stout for the soft bread. Ethan was adamant that he would order it again howerver, but on a harder roll. Chips, orange slices (well played) and a blondie joined into to make his combo. All were welcome. Especially the blondie.
I had the Wrapper’s Delight with potato salad and chocolate cookies on the side. The wrap was packed with chicken, turkey, bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato. A balsamic vinaigrette topped it off and made the meal. The bacon got second billing though, providing a great crunch and the texture the otherwise soft wrap needed. The potato salad was nothing to write home about, but the cookies before the wrap was the best choice I made all day.
Overall Cuisine a la Carte was an awesome surprise. It had been sitting on our list of places to visit collecting dust for months. When we finally cleared it off we were rewarded with meals that were delicious and affordable ($9 with dessert). We’d go back again and would recommend you give them a visit too.
Our visit to Casa Grande was an accident. We’ve both been to this West End family-style Mexican restaurant many times, one of several in the area. It never surfaced as a 52L choice because it seemed too similar to other places we have reviewed. This day we tried to go to a new nearby restaurant, only to find it was not open for lunch. Casa Grande was nearby and known to serve food. We are suckers for carnitas.
Predictably, we both ordered the slow-roasted pork, which is served with the standard accompaniments of Mexican rice, refried beans, lettuce, tomato, and guacamole. And tortillas, which we never eat. Our readers might be better served with some variety, we’ll work on that in the future. Neither of us walked away impressed with Casa Grande’s version of the dish. We both found the meat to be fattier than average. Don’t get us wrong: we ate most of it anyway, but as Adam said, “It’s not a texture that adds to the meal”. The sides were serviceable, neither remarkably good nor remarkably poor. One thing in Casa Grande’s favor was the the portion sizes, which were generous. Adam was unable to finish his plate. I did, but it probably wasn’t advisable. Too much of a good thing is still too much.
In the end, Casa Grande checks the boxes it needs to without standing out in any one area. The service was good, not exceptional. The food was good, not exceptional. The value is there, and for that reason it’s worth a repeat visit if you’re in a group and looking for a place where no one will be disappointed. It’s not a destination but it’s there if you need it.
Lunch topics: work, QlikView User Group, Nelson Mandela – sports icon?, this strange NFL season, Santa, parenting, GT6, Red Dead Redemption, AC4, Max payne 3, COD:G, Kieron Gillen, Young Avengers, company ink
As you travel west of Parham Road on Patterson Avenue, it is rare to see new restaurants. When they do pop up though, we make an effort to get out to them. Such is the case with Greek Cuisine. In the same shopping center as Alexander’s BBQ, next to the Dairy Queen, Greek Cuisine recently put down roots. The second location in Richmond, after their first in Carytown.
The exterior and interior are in service of serving food. A simple look and pleasant enough place for lunch. Our food was delivered to us by a friendly staff and quickly too. There was a good size crowd the day we met our friend Meg, but we easily found a seat.
For eats we each got something a little different. A sampling of some Greek standards. Meg had the Moussaka, of the Greek eggplant variety and it was good, but not great. Ethan had the Pastichio, a stack of pasta, beef and béchamel sauce. The layers worked well together and offered a warm and filling meal. I had the Lamb Gyro Platter, which is essentially a de-constructed gyro. I think I prefer the fully assembled version. There was not much that wowed me in the flavor department. Not bad per se, but there is certainly better gyros on offer in the river city.
Greek Cuisine is not especially close to our office. Given that, I don’t imagine we will going back. We prefer Zorbas, Trak’s and 5 Star to be frank. That said if you are in the area or work out of West Creek, you could not go wrong with a lunch trip there.
It’s easy to get distracted by trendy sushi places, the latest soup & salad franchise, and the abundance of great Vietnamese that Richmond has to offer. But every once in a while you notice that great diner that’s been around forever. Or maybe you don’t notice it at all, because its nondescript and timeless exterior renders it nearly invisible. We’ve been to one or two places like this and come away delighted. We’re not sure how we heard about Maclean Restaurant… it was probably its favorable Urbanspoon rating. Armed with GPS and address, we only drove by it once. That’s how unassuming it is. Seek it out and step inside, though. You’re in for a great home-style meal.
Maclean sports the requisite lunch counter and when you walk in you’ll swear it and its inhabitants have always been there. Service was as friendly as can be. Is the Open-Faced Meat Loaf Sandwich I ordered really the best thing on the menu? I wouldn’t be surprised, but maybe our server telling us so was just part of the charm. But maybe it really is. Served with mashed potatoes and gravy, it was exactly what I wanted from a southern-style diner. Warm and satisfying and gone way too fast.
Adam had the Open-faced Roast Beef. At the time he remarked that the portions seemed small, but when I checked in with him later he felt full and quite nappy. The roast beef came covered with gravy (as you can see in the picture) which was easy to mix with the mashed potatoes. Adam ordered potato salad on the side, and while it was good, he admitted that he probably didn’t need it.
Maclean was a great meal that tasted and felt like your mom made it for you. As southern-style diners go, you can’t go wrong here.
Six months ago we were dinning and writing up the now closed Bocca Toscana. A few months later we heard the owners of Toast were taking over the spot. We like Toast, it made our Hall of Fame. Estilo is what they opened and just a stones throw from their first location. Like its sister eatery, Estilo endeavors to take traditional dishes and turn them on their head. In its case upscale Latin American cuisine.
The bones of Bocca are still in place, but Estilo has a more vibrant feel. The modern, but warm aesthetic that we liked at Toast is present here as well. The wait staff was pleasant and the food came quick for a new spot. We started by splitting guacamole that came with the tortilla chips we expected and a surprising spread of pork rinds. They were still warm, not too oily and had a great crunch. The guac was more in line with our expectations, but that didn’t make it any less smooth or tasty.
Ethan’s lunch consisted of two tacos paired with a beer I forget now (a shame as they had a good selection). The Oaxacan Beef was his preferred pick. A great combination of poblano sauce and cilantro a top tender beef. Unfortunately the sauce wrecked the tortilla that delivered it. Carnitas was his other pick and was not bad, but a bit forgettable. Its tortilla suffered the same fate. I picked up two tacos as well with Hardywood’s Hoperation Pink. My Camarones was the real winner of the two. A shrimp taco with a citrus jalapeno slaw that packed a punch of flavor and textures that played marvelously well. Sadly with high highs come low lows. The Venera taco was a real let down. Seared scallops, candied pancetta and cashews that were all bland. Top that with textures that had too much crunch for the soft tortilla.
Our trip to Estilo was very hit and miss. From one taco to the next we delighted in new flavors and were disappointed by others. At $4 a piece we expect a bit more consistency. In addition, it is hard to ignore extremely short walk down to Toast. Given the choice we might pick the elder sibling. If tacos are on your brain however, you’d be better served with the offerings at Habanero, Rocoto or Boka Kantina. Those are a fair amount of cards stacked against Estilo’s favor, but there’s an upshot. Their craft beer list is deep, you could take a date there and they are experimenting with new flavors you might not get anywhere else. If we do go back, we’d probably skip the tacos and try the fork food.
As you might expect, Zoup is a soup-and-salad place, new to the West End of Richmond last week. We found a restaurant with some early open jitters, a flow that takes getting used to, but a soup offering and gimmick that will keep at least one of us coming back.
We each took the “Take Two” option of a side soup and half-sandwich, standard fare. Zoup’s claim to fame is its variety of soups. They boast over a hundred soup recipes, but they only offer twelve each day and rotate through them. Offering twelve daily soups allows for variety beyond the standard “chicken noodle soup and French onion” that they’d have to offer daily with a static menu. Each soup was clearly labeled as appropriate for vegetarian, gluten-free, spicy, healthy, etc. They’re quick to offer samples if you’re having trouble choosing.
I was intrigued by the Chicken Pot Pie soup but settled on the Zesty 3 Pepper Chicken soup and Southwest Turkey sandwich on ciabatta. The bread was well toasted, but a bit greasier than it should have been. Although the menu didn’t label the sandwich as spicy, I expected a sandwich with Chipotle mayo and pepper jack cheese to have some kick. It had none. Still, good bread well-toasted usually means “good sandwich” and that was my impression here.
The spiciness of the sandwich might have been overpowered by the soup, which I’d rate as a solid Medium (or a Supermarket Salsa “Hot!”). This tomato-base soup had a great consistency and kick and it was gone before I knew it. I finished my entire portion of soup before getting to the halfway point on the sandwich, which is not normal. The only low point for me was the bread that came with the soup which was clearly thawed from frozen, dry and bland. And also the wrong bread: I got Adam’s “sourdough” and he got my “French” and we didn’t notice because they were equally inconsequential. And I airquoted those on purpose, the sourdough was merely suggestive of that style.
Adam ordered the Lemon Lentil soup and a Turkey Club sandwich. He described the soup as good and healthy and acknowledged that a less healthy soup might have been better, but it was tasty all the same. Good texture to the lentils (they weren’t mush) and the lemon and pepper worked well together. He was severely disappointed in his sandwich. The club was a flavorless mess between merely “ok” toasted bread.
In the end, 52L could not reach consensus, a rarity for us. Adam said he’d never return, clearly preferring Panera, which is the obvious comparable for this place. Adam rarely gets a soup at Panera, sticking to sandwiches and salads (we did not try a Zalad). I agree that Zoup’s sandwiches do not merit a switch, but I love a good soup and this was a great soup, better than any I have had at Panera. I am also intrigued by Zoup’s soup menu gimmick. I can see myself returning to Zoup, but perhaps not with Adam.
Lunch topics: Call of Duty: Ghosts… ” an accountant’s sequel“,
GTA V, dedicated servers explained, the crappiness of PSN, why we’ll never have cross-platform online play, Planet money on payday loans and Amazon vine, Amazon pricing checking and algorithm, designing visualizations around data and vice versa
Mellow Mushroom is franchise. You couldn’t tell that from the outside or in though. It is located in the old Plan 9 space and fits the Carytown vibe perfectly. The interior design feels unique. A fantastic wall mural of vinyl records and audio equipment pays homage to the tenant before them. The beer selection is deep and many local breweries are represented on the draft. Their attention to detail meshed with strong branding is what makes it work. It isn’t just another store front on their map.
The food is on par with the look thankfully. On the Friday we met up with Allison and all partook in the fermented beverages mentioned above. Ethan paired a Apocalypse Sixth Seal Stout with a Bubba’s Bacon Bonanza pizza. A pie piled high with crispy bacon, pulled pork and ham. The only unwelcome topping was BBQ sauce, but that is usually a preference thing and Ethan did not prefer it.
Allison ordered the Kosmic Karma with a Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar. A veggie pizza swirled with pesto sauce that made for a good flavor combination. I picked the Red Skin Potato Pie and what I think is now my favorite pale ale, Stone IPA. My pizza was nearly perfect. It was topped with roasted potatoes, bacon, caramelized onions and a swirl of spicy ranch. The texture was in perfect balance with flavors. Tart and savory. Salty and sweet. All three of our pies came of the same seasoned crust, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. It was crunchy and warm, you could serve dirt on it and see smiling satisfied faces.
Overall we had a great time at Mellow Mushroom. The atmosphere was welcoming and the beer selection was varied, local and of a high quality. The pies mostly err towards the boutique, but they do have more traditional pizza on offer. The only caution I would lend was the price. With beers in the mix and personal pies that all danced around $12 a piece it was not a cheap meal. Do with that as you will, but we will be going back.
Lunch topics: Rice allotments, bribery and mail service in the Philippines, Flat Stanley, water activated security tags, owning and boarding horses, Oculus Rift, This is Only a Test, Octoberkast, Child’s Play, Jeff Green, ladies in the food industry, The fall of Arby’s, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Big Science Data, Bacterial Vaginal Microbiomes, IT contractors
Leonardo’s has been in presence in both of our lives. A million years ago*, Adam worked there as an after-school job. And given its proximity and consistent quality, it’s a frequent choice for catering in where we work, for lunch meetings and training days. And we both drive by it to work literally every day. Not sure why it took so long for us to try it, official-like. This day we were joined by our friend and colleague Nick.
Adam ordered his favorite, Steak Sandwich and fries. He estimated he’s eaten 100 of them and prepared even more and this one did not disappoint. The bread (the key to a great sandwich) was toasted on the outside and soft inside, just the right vehicle for the steak, cheese, and caramelized onions. Adam skipped the lettuce & tomatoes to keep the meal crunchy. Fries were fries, unexceptional, but the sandwich reinforced Adam’s opinion that it’s the best meal at Leonardo’s.
I love a good cheesesteak, but have a habit of making a sausage roll my reference menu item for family-style Italian places, so I ordered their DaVinci with sausage, green peppers, and onions. The dish was good, but not great. I had hoped for thicker crust and the onions were raw, only slightly cooked from the baking. I would have preferred grilled or caramelized. Both the dough thickness & onion state are probably nods to the lunch crowd. I sizable baked item such as a sausage roll or calzone can take a while to cook, and lunch diners are on the clock. In the end the dish was good, but I’d try something else next time. Nick also ordered the DaVinci, his with pepperoni, salmi, and mushrooms. His impressions echoed mine, that is was good, not great, and was neither wowed nor disappointed.
Throughout the meal we were treated with exceptional service. The staff was exceedingly friendly and contributed to a pleasureable meal. None of us ordered pizza, probably because we’ve had it so many times at work. We know from experience that’s it’s good, and would steer diners towards it or that Steak Sandwich. Add all of this to very reasonable prices, and we’re happy to recommend Leonardo’s for eat-in, take-out, or delivery.
* Date is approximate
Lunch topics: Binge TV watching, Breaking Bad, Lost, The Blacklist, the NFL concussion “controversy”, League of Denial, gamification of fantasy football, work, Editorial, BS Report, commissioner talk, the NFL’s worst defenses
Most menus offer very little in the way of guidance to the customer. The worst offenders are so obscure that they mask what the server will eventually bring you. Crab, shrimp & corn. Is that a soup? The vast majority do a fine job of offering up the variety of items on offer with brief descriptions. Occasionally a picture. We like pictures. At Pho 79 you are presented a choose your own adventure style menu. A guided tour of the world of pho.
It starts with a paragraph about what pho is and then offers selections for the beginner. Steak, brisket and meatballs. Real pedestrian stuff. If you are feeling adventurous they offer more advanced paths. Bible tripe and soft tendon. The novelty of the menu and the tale it tells are worth the first trip alone. It was not what we expected from this stand alone shop right off Staples Mill.
Novelty doesn’t fill our bellies with delicious soup though. Thankfully Pho 79 has the chops to back up all of their menu fueled potential. Ethan had the Pho Tai Nam. A giant bowl of broth, noodles, fresh veggies, round steak and well done brisket. He picked from the advanced menu which meant and I quote “These beef cuts have a slight covering”. Neither of us could figure out exactly what that meant. I had the Pho Tai, Chin Nac which had the same exact ingredients sans a “slight covering”. More fat left on the meat? Maybe? In any case we both loved our pho. The beef was tender and well seasoned. The broth was a meal on it’s own.
We also had a Fried Pork Egg Roll (Ethan) and a Shrimp Spring Roll (Adam) to start our meals. Neither of us had much to say about them. Pretty standard and serviceable for the most part. Go for the pho and skip the rolls for a larger bowl.
Pho 79 is a great place to introduce a novice to the world of Vietnamese food. The menu is friendly and offers enough variety for even a seasoned eater. Their main offering, it’s in the name, is on point. The prices were reasonable (sub $10 per) and the service was friendly. Make time for it.
Lunch topics: work, Google Now, Agents of SHIELD, Moto X, transition to Android, Back to Work, Omnifocus is $20, Overcast, GTA V vs. SR4, cellular data caps, Republic Wireless, keg shopping, Tasker, iOS 7 control center, PC tinkering and gaming