Savoring The Savory Grain

Through excellent service, 24 beers on tap, and a comfortable environment, The Savory Grain hopes to grow a great and lasting reputation.

  • Who: Jami Bohdan, former GM of The Republic
  • What: American comfort food with a robust beer selection
  • When: Opened Valentine’s Day 2013
  • Where: 2043 W. Broad Street
  • Why: To create a cozy spot to get great food and great beer using locally-sourced ingredients
  • Dishes: The Savory Burger blending Angus chuck, brisket, and short rib ($9); roasted quail stuffed with andouille and Shenandoah Farms fresh herbs ($17); cherrystone clams baked with smoked bacon ($8)

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“Naming your restaurant is harder than naming your kids,” said owner and operator of The Savory Grain, Jami Bohdan, inside her restaurant last week. She and her husband volleyed names between each other for nearly three months before finally settling on The Savory Grain.1 “We wanted a name that really focused on the food and beer.”

Hours of operation

  • Tuesday & Wednesday • 4:00 – 11:00 PM (kitchen closes at 10:00 PM)
  • Thursday – Saturday • 4:00 PM – 12:00 AM (kitchen closes at 11:00 PM)
  • Sunday • 4:00 – 10:00 PM

For good reason. The Savory Grain carries 24 beers on tap and about 20 bottles, including local brews from Hardywood and Center of the Universe. Beer is also a common ingredient in several menu items: brown ale in the BBQ sauce served with the crispy pork belly appetizer ($9), a seasonal beer in the daily-made house bread, and even the beet and apple salad comes with a vinaigrette made with Bold Rock cider ($8.50).

A few of Bohdan’s menu favorites are the grilled quarter of chicken with Belgium herb au jus ($15) and the pork chop with a wild mushroom ragout ($16). Other items on the menu include potato and bacon chowder seasoned with Longtrail Amber Ale ($5) and the Savory Burger with an Angus chuck, brisket, and short rib paddy ($9).

Bohdan, her friends and family, along with head chef Sean Murphy (F.W. Sullivan’s, Lady N’awlins) collaborated on the menu, creating what Bohdan calls a catch-all of American comfort food. “Great food, great service, and great experience,” are the hallmarks of restaurant success, said Bohdan. She would know–she has nearly 18 years of experience.

She began her career at 15 as a hostess at Charleys in Stony Point. She’s since been a waitress, bartender, and restaurant manager. “I’ve kind of done the gamut of things,” she said.

Before owning The Savory Grain, Bohdan was the General Manager of The Republic, which sits just two doors down from Bohdan’s new space. When Melissa Barlow, former owner of The Empress, announced that she wanted to sell her restaurant, Bohdan and her husband–a loan from Bohdan’s father-and-law in hand–made an offer. Bohdan took ownership of the space last November, balancing her work as The Republic GM with refurbishing her new restaurant. “We were here day and night,” she said.

The atmosphere inside is deliberately warm and homey. “I decorated very similarly to how I would decorate my home,” Bohdan said. “If you feel comfortable being here and have a great dinner with great service and a great bar” then it’s hard for customers not to come back, she said.

In addition to providing a loan to help Bohdan buy the restaurant, Bohdan’s father-in-law also provided a decorative element: wood from an old tobacco drying business. Bohdan hired Van Jester Woodworks, which milled the wood into the bar and the large dining table that sits in the rear of the restaurant.

The Savory Grain opened on Valentine’s Day. In the two months since, Bohdan said “business has been great. Better than expected.” She attributes some of that success to her neighbor and former employer. “I’ve got a lot of foot traffic because of The Republic.” She also thinks The Savory Grain’s modest size helps. “It’s not too overwhelming,” she said about the 83-seat restaurant (10 of which are outside on the Broad Street sidewalk).

But it’s also Bohdan’s scrupulous attention to service that has helped the restaurant succeed in its first months. “I greet every person. I seat every table,” she said. Good food is vital to a restaurant’s success, of course, but “service is of the utmost importance.”

When asked how she wants people to regard The Savory Grain ten years down the road,2 she thinks of perennial places like Comfort and Chez Foushee. That’s the company she wants to keep. “I hope to be one of those restaurants that’s grown a great reputation,” she said. “I hope to be one of the restaurant owners that can make that happen.”

The Savory Grain is located at 2043 W. Broad Street.

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  1. Bohdan said she’s always loved the word savory. Grain, which alluded to the restaurant’s beer selection, complemented it nicely. 
  2. More immediate goals include using Quickness RVA for deliveries and opening for Sunday brunch sometime in the fall. 
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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