Richmond, looks like you had a pretty great year filled with donuts, award-winning beer, grocery stores, and heaps of glowing accolades. Let’s take a minute to reflect on 2014 before we all make good on our resolutions and head for the gym.
Doughnuts & beer
It doesn’t take a Reading Expert to tell you that Richmond’s collective palate demands a never-ending supply of doughnuts and beer. Every week it’s doughnuts and beer! Someone do us all a favor and open a place that combines the two and offers patio seating. You’ll be a hero!
Sugar Shack did its very best to stay in the news this year, with expansions and promotions aplenty, but only one made people absolutely lose their minds trying to get Foo Fighters tickets. (rvanews.com)
If you like doughnuts with your vacations, you were probably already well familiar with Duck Donuts. Perhaps you were one of the many who cheered at the news that they would join our own local doughnut wars with a Willow Lawn outpost. If “doughnuts are the new cupcakes” we are smack in the middle of the great doughnut awakening. At this point, it’s easier to find a doughnut than to not find one.
If there’s one name in beer that everyone in Richmond respects, it’s An Bui. For the past 19 years, Bui has educated and enabled Richmond’s beer-curious. His gregarious personality and encyclopaedic knowledge of beer have made Mekong as popular for its 52 taps as it is for its rocket shrimp. Bui made news twice this year with the opening of The Answer brewpub in August and purchase of The Commercial Taphouse from another Richmond craft beer pioneer, James Talley. THE beer guy himself, Lee Graves, had a great story covering the history of the taphouse and the future for the RVA suds scene. (Richmond.com)
You know what this city needs? MORE BREWERIES! I mean, right? Well anyway, Stone Brewing Co. is coming to town, a fact that’s been met with delight and dismay as the story has developed. I’m usually a staunch “Don’t Read The Comments” advocate, but the comments on the Style Weekly piece (previous link) are atypically eloquent and, for the most part, informed on both sides of the debate. My personal favorite is a comment from Stone Brewing Co. themselves saying:
Thanks for all the thoughts and perspectives. If you’d like to know more details about the partnership we are undertaking with the City of Richmond and State of Virginia, please read this: http://blog.stonebrewing.com/index.php/stone-brewing-richmond. Cheers and we look very forward to coming to RVA and being a part of the community! Stone Brewing Co.
Little House Green Grocery
When news of the fire at Little House Green Grocery broke, no one really knew what the impact would be. But soon we realized things were pretty bad. The fire was intentional, and the damage would take the neighborhood grocery out of commission for months. Richmond soon rallied around Erin Wright and Jess Goldberg with fundraisers and benefits to help the store owners get back to business.
Like the fire that shut down Sub Rosa Bakery the year before, the Little House fire reminded the community of what a treasure this neighborhood hub had become. And because crowdfunding is a magical gift that the internet has bestowed upon us all, friend of the store Cat Hulburt established a GoFundMe campaign, raising over $6,000. Little House vendors including Nettie’s Naturally, Norwood Cottage Bakery, and Sausage Craft also contributed with proceeds from sales and special events. Jon Goldberg from A for Adventure (and Jess’s husband) designed a fetching print to sell, which Studio Two Three printed.
The giving came full circle when Sub Rosa Bakery hosted a pop-up with Pizza 2000, from which all proceeds were donated to Little House’s recovery effort. But perhaps the most interesting example of the outpouring of support was a fundraiser by the folks at Ellwood Thompsons. By all rights Ellwoods is a direct competitor of Little House, but apparently Rick Hood and his staff didn’t see it that way. With matched donations, Ellwoods was able to raise another $1,146 for their friends at Little House. And now, we are all delighted to say, the Northside store is back and better than ever.
Perly’s, the sequel
It was the fall of 2013 when “Perly’s Watch” first began, with a letter posted to the door of the nearly 50-year-old Richmond breakfast diner by owner Gray Wyatt.
People were just not ready to say goodbye to the downtown institution, and an eager Richmond rejoiced to hear that Perly’s would live again, this time under the direction of The Black Sheep’s chef Kevin Roberts, who partnered with Johnny Giavos and Scott Coleman to buy the building and reimagine the institution as a Jewish deli with a twist.
The revamp restored Perly’s in its rightful seat as a downtown dining destination, but it’s certainly not the same Perly’s we once knew. Matthew Freeman’s insightful review for Style explains the case better than I can. And because Johnny Giavos and crew always keep things interesting, plans to develop a market adjacent to Perly’s were announced just last week. I can’t tell you how much I’m hoping this will become the bagel mecca Richmond so dearly needs.
Richmond grocery news always seems to be met with a funny mix of rabid enthusiasm and/or vitriol. Southern Season and Wegman’s both made news this year with plans to open Richmond locations. For a city that’s becoming known for culinary talent and exceptional dining options, the grocery scene had left much to be desired. Smaller neighborhood groceries like Little House and Harvest Grocery + Supply address some of those needs on a small scale. Now bigger retailers are paying attention and getting in on the action.
Southern Season opened in July, and while some were perplexed by the lack of fresh grocery options, eventually folks settled in to the idea of a fine foods store with a killer cooking school lead by Bob James and impressive cheese selection, under the direction of cheesemonger Dany Schutte. Wegman’s continues to move toward its 2016 opening goal. Each location will employ between 500 and 600 people. So many jobs! So many groceries!
ALL EYES ON ME
Are your ears burning? Because people have been talking about us. And talking. And talking. National media just can’t seem to sing the praises of RVA loudly enough. It seems like every week there’s a new reason to visit a place that, until a couple years ago, was always excruciatingly described as the “former capital of the Confederacy.”
Now it’s the capital of the new Southern cuisine, valued for its history and applauded for its modern charms. It’s about time! From praise for Church Hill to coverage of Ardent Craft Ale’s historic beer release, there were plenty of stories highlighting the best food and drink Richmond has to offer. Here are a few of the best national pieces from the past year, and here’s to many more in 2015!