Food News: Zzaam, Whisk, South African wine, Stroop, and more

OMG Korean food for us to eat, and OMG new bakeries, and OMG South Africa, and OMG Travis Milton, and OMG a bunch of other stuff.

Photo by: Zzaam


Derek Cha has gotten to the point that all culinary entrepreneurs know well: those last few days before opening. Contractors and employees vie for his attention, in person and on the phone, all day long. He’s practically got City Hall on speed dial with all the permits and inspections he’s gone through in the last month in order to open Zzaam! Fresh Korean Grill in Carytown. He is ready, so ready, to open the doors and start serving his fast-casual Korean food.

Cha knows the industry well. “This is not a business for people who are afraid of hard work and long hours,” he says. After growing a chain of art-framing stores that suffered after the financial collapse in 2006, Cha opened Midlothian’s Sushi Box and then founded Sweet Frog in 2009, growing the company to over 150 locations in over 25 states and abroad in just three years. “But I always wanted to start a restaurant chain,” says Cha. And Korean, says Cha, was the obvious choice.

“Because I’m Korean,” Cha says, and then adds, “But not just because I’m Korean. Korean food is healthy and very flavorful, lots of flavors and different spices.” Cha noticed that, while Korean culture is trending in bigger cities, citing Korean fashion and the rise of K-Pop, there’s a notable lack of options for Korean food in Richmond. “If you look around, there are so many Chinese restaurants, so many Thai restaurants, so many Japanese restaurants, so many Vietnamese restaurants; but the Korean market is underserved. I saw an opportunity and wanted to serve a market that was underserved.”

Cha says many Korean dishes lend themselves well to his “quick-serve” concept. The menu for Zzaam, which is almost identical to that of the Charlottesville location which opened last year, features noodle and rice bowls (Guk su and BiBimbap) as well as salads and burritos. Guests can customize their Zzaams with a base of black beans, roasted potatoes, or bean sprouts; add a protein like pork belly, spicy chicken, or tofu; and then accessorize at will with any of six additional toppings, including pickled or roasted vegetables, kim-chee, and fresh cilantro. Last step–diners will choose a sauce, one of six ranging from the mild Ginger Sauce to the intimidatingly spicy sounding Angry Bull.

Zzaams range in price from $4.49 for a small to $6.95 for a large, a move that Cha hopes will appeal to a younger audience. Cha says, “I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant in Carytown. There is a Sweet Frog here, and I know a lot of young people come to Carytown to eat and drink.” He’s hoping his selection of craft beers on tap will also be a draw for Carytown diners. Once the Carytown Zzaam gets settled, Cha says, he’s looking to expand the concept to Short Pump and Chesterfield locations, eventually growing the business the same way he did for Sweet Frog, locating them in small college towns in Virginia and beyond.


Whisk, the new bakery in the former Globehopper location at 2100 E. Main Street, will open to the public next week. Owner Morgan Botwinick shared a preview of what’s to come with Kickstarter backers and media this week. You can expect to find sweet and savory pastries, cookies, macarons, and sandwiches; plus beer, wine, and Lamplighter coffee.


Take a trip to South Africa without leaving the comforts of Richmond this Monday at the Sip, See & Savor South Africa wine tasting at Ellwood Thompson’s. South Africa native and Origins Farm owner Alistar Harris will be joined by travel expert and Slow Food RVA founder Stacy Luks, plus Ellwood’s Indulge Manager Lucy Cassinera-White as they share six of their favorite South African wines and a primer on the history of the South African wine industry.

Interested in actually leaving the comforts of Richmond? Luks will be on hand with resources to guide you from sips to safaris in South Africa, including their own small-group food & wine tour of the tip of South Africa, scheduled for February 2016.


WPA owner and baker Dave Rohrer recently announced plans to open a Southside location of WPA Bakery. The new spot will be next door to the recently-opened White Horse Tavern, at 3414 Semmes Avenue. Southside neighbor Rohrer says he’s excited to open a spot in his own neighborhood. The bustling Church Hill location, he says, needs increased production space to meet demand.


The Daily is expanding to Short Pump, bringing their healthy, dietarily sensitive menu to a new audience in the forthcoming GreenGate multi-use development west of Short Pump Towne Center in an effort to bring “that Museum District feel” to the West End.


Please, just read this. It’s fabulous writing on a fascinating subject. High fives for everyone.


Restaurant week is coming, and we’ve got menus. Plan your week wisely.

Does this round-up of food-related events in Richmond this month fill you with giddy anticipation or disappointment over your lack of multiple stomachs? Add to this list Metzger’s Oktoberfest and The Shell-Raiser’s Shindig, both happening this Sunday, and you might just need to clone yourself to accomplish all the possible eating.

Speaking of needing two stomachs, map your plan of attack for Fire, Flour & Fork now, with the help of this!.


Paul Prudhomme passed away last week. He was one of the early television chef personalities, a great one, big and comfortable and funny, like an uncle in New Orleans that could cook and had lots of parties. Here’s the New Orleans legend’s second line.

Danny Meyer is eliminating tipping at all thirteen of Union Square Hospitality Group’s restaurants. He’ll raise menu prices and wages to compensate staff. Let’s watch what happens!

SIP: DelFosse 2004 Cabernet Franc

Virginia Wine Month continues, and this week’s local crush is DelFosse’s big, fruity/meaty Cab Franc, which comes from the highly-visitable DelFosse vineyard and winery just outside of Charlottesville. Drink this with your pot roast this weekend–It’s supposed to get down to a brisk 56 degrees on Sunday! That’s Cabernet Franc weather!


The line starts forming around 11:45 Saturday morning, sometimes as early as 11:30. A few folks show up, thumbing through their phones and chatting with Dutch & Company chef Phil Perrow. Perrow lifts the lid on a modest Weber grill and begins loading it up with hot dogs. But it’s not just any old hot dogs he’s cooking. These are fancy, all right, with the same inspired flavor combinations that make Dutch & Company a dining destination. These are the backdoor dogs, and people just love ’em. So much so that, starting in just a few weeks, if you want one of Dutch & Co’s signature gourmet hot dogs, you’ll have to go in the front door to get it.

Say goodbye to the Saturday backdoor dog this weekend, and make room in your hearts for Stroops, a hot dog shop with a cute mascot, house-made sodas, ice cream, and of course stroopwafels, located at 2709 E. Marshall Street. This Saturday’s dog will be Pate de Campagne hot dog with brie, jam, whole grain mustard, and pistachios. Get ’em while they’re hot!


Let’s give a big Food News welcome to Rancho T, new this week to Instagram! HI, RANCHO T, did you bring us chilaquiles!?

#rvadine #workinghard

A photo posted by Rancho T (@ranchot_rva) on

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Stephanie Ganz

Stephanie Ganz thought there would be pizza.

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