For 20 years, Bob Windsor had a restaurant concept–Boo’s Brown Bag–floating around in his head. Earlier this month, it finally popped out into RVA’s dining scene.
- Who: Bob Windsor, co-owner of EAT by Pescados China Street
- What: “Fun and quick” food with a focus on delivery and boxed lunches
- When: Opened on January 14th
- Where: 1201 W. Main Street
- Why: To give RVA food that’s quick, inexpensive, and good
- Dishes: Hand breaded fresh flounder filet sandwich ($7.50) • Boo’s Jersey Italian Dog that includes two boar’s head Coney Island hot dogs topped with fried onions, peppers, potatoes, and hot mustard stuffed in an Italian roll ($7) • The Brown Bag Special includes egg salad or grilled cheese sandwich, cup of tomato basil soup, can soda, and chips ($7).
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Boo’s Brown Bag opened near VCU campus earlier this month, but the idea for the take-out spot came long before. “I thought of that name 20 years ago,” said Boo’s owner, Bob Windsor, inside of his new 12-seat restaurant. “I wanted to do this my whole life.”
Getting here took several stages. The first came when Windsor was a child in New Jersey. It was then that his older brother, Greg, him the nickname Boo. “When I was a boy,1 he used to pick on me,” Windsor, 61, reminisced. He’s not sure exactly how his brother came up with the nickname, but it stuck. “Some of my closest friends [still] call me Boo.”
Windsor and his family relocated to Richmond in 1965 where he went on to attend VCU and become a contractor, starting Bob Windsor Construction in 1969.
The next stage of Boo’s life came in the 1990s. Windsor, who had no experience owning a restaurant, still envisioned a dining spot named Boo’s Brown Bag. About twenty years ago, he even created a limited run of T-shirts promoting the phantom restaurant. Yet while passionate about the idea, Windsor thought Boo’s wouldn’t amount to more than a mere “pipe dream.”
In the construction business for over 40 years, Windsor knows many restaurateurs in the area. One of them is Todd Manley, co-owner of Pescados in Chesterfield.
In 2010, the two partnered to open a Pescados in Oregon Hill (the name changed to EAT by Pescados China Street last year). In this, the final stage of Boo’s development, Windsor learned from Manley what it took to create and sustain a restaurant.
With experience helping to run a restaurant in his back pocket, Windsor decided to make good on the T-shirts he made 20 years ago and set up shop at the corner of W. Main and Morris streets. “I love the location…it’s a very diverse area.” Boo’s opened on January 14th.
“To get your share of the market, you have to do what you gotta do to get [people] in the door,” Windsor said. What he’s doing is offering good homemade-style food at a low price during breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Windsor also wants Boo’s to be the go-to for local offices by providing boxed lunches, along with food for corporate functions. “We want to do a lot of catering to businesses,” he said.
Boo’s has partnered with Quickness RVA, a bicycle food-delivery service, to offer free deliveries from Thompson Street to 15th Street, including late night deliveries until 2:00 AM on Friday and Saturday. “I have to do my volumes with delivery,” to make up for the limitations of the 12-seat dining room, Windsor said. Deliveries play into Boo’s concept of food that’s “fun and quick.”
Mon-Thurs • 6:00 AM-8:00 PM
Fri • 6:00 AM-10:00 PM
Sat • 8:00 AM-10:00 PM
Sun • 8:000 AM-4:00 PM
Only in its second week of business, Windsor said that executive chef Lynn Wade’s hand-breaded fresh flounder filet sandwich with smoked jalapeño sauce ($7.50) is already a favorite, along with the Boo’s Jersey Italian Hot Dog: two boar’s head Coney Island hot dogs topped with fried onions, peppers, potatoes, and hot mustard served in an Italian roll ($7). Desserts ($2.00 – $2.50) include select items from WPA Bakery. The menu also accommodates vegetarian and gluten-free diets.
Although Boo’s Brown Bag is now the sixth business at 1201 W. Main Street in a decade,2 Windsor is optimistic that the restaurant will persevere.
“The community is kind of hip and evolving,” he said. “I just want to roll with the times.”
Boo’s Brown Bag is located at 1201 W. Main Street.
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photos by Erin Soorenko