Monday, October 8, 2012

Sedona Taphouse

Rating: 4 stars

Shout out to the Southsiders!

It is often incorrectly stated by those who live within the city limits that there are no good places to go in the Southside. Luckily, those of us who live south of the river know better, and I am happy to state that Sedona Taphouse is one of the best new additions to an area that already has several great options such as Cafe Caturra, Crab Louie's, and Capital Ale House.

Located in the newer development of Westchester Commons off of Midlothian Turnpike, Sedona Taphouse stands out among other Southside newcomers as an upscale bar/restaurant that provides a hip "city" feel, minus the thirty minute drive. Boasting over 500 craft beers (one of the largest selections on the East Coast according to the website), Sedona attempts to rival Capital Ale House. While it may not quite succeed, it definitely provides an excellent option for beer lovers, and may even be good enough to make city dwellers cross the river every once and a while.

Photo accredited to Richmond Times Dispatch

Walking into the restaurant you are immediately taken with the tall warehouse ceilings and the impressiveness of the bar, which has been full all three times I have visited. A warm glow emits from the area, and a stately stone wall produces a dramatic effect that draws your attention to the numerous taps and rows upon rows of bottled beers located there. Dark tables and a concrete floor serve to match the hip but still inviting vibe of the establishment. While it is well put together there are some minor complaints about the atmosphere. The tables are a little tightly packed together, and the tall, unfinished ceiling doesn't dampen noise well. So, when it's packed, the restaurant is fairly loud and takes on a definite bar feeling, rather than that of an upscale restaurant. But it is a taphouse right?

Sweet bar!  Photo accredited to Sedona Taphouse's Facebook page. 

Speaking of the bar atmosphere, Sedona Taphouse has some great happy hour offerings till 6:30 on weeknights, with select $3 beers and wines, and $5 martinis. They also feature specialty nights like $5 steak night on Mondays for charity, Wine Down Wednesdays, and live music on Friday evenings. Beer flights are also offered for those who may want to try out a few options, and I am guessing with 500 beers available that is a popular selection.

I must say the beer list is impressive, but my only complaint is that it is a bit overwhelming. Unlike Capital Ale House, which gives a detailed description of what their draft beers taste like, so you have something to go by when ordering, Sedona only lists the name, location, and type of beer (IPA, Lager, etc.). That is not really much help when there are tons of beers to choose from. While the servers are knowledgeable and can assist by providing more info, it would be much easier if you could just peruse the descriptions on your own. That is probably my biggest recommendation for Sedona, and I think both the servers and customers would find things running more smoothly if this improvement was added.

So many choices! Photo accredited to Sedona Taphouse's Facebook page.

To be honest, there have been a few other complaints over my several outings to Sedona Taphouse. During my first visit, only a few weeks after the place opened,  we sat at long skinny tall tables (a la BlowToad) near the front windows of the restaurant beside the bar. While we were only there for drinks, the size and placement of the tables caused us to have to squeeze together and sit with strangers. I was glad to see by my third visit in June that they had replaced the skinny tables with the normal four seater size, granting easier access to that section and allowing it to double as both a food and bar area.

Another issue that had been remedied after our original outing was the addition of liquor to the restaurant. (Yes, they had started out with just beer and wine.) Seriously ... you can have all the beer in the world, but if you are going to make it as a full scale restaurant with a big bar atmosphere, an ABC license is pretty essential. I was also happy to see specialty martinis added to the menu, again contributing to the upscale feel of the place.

Check out the hip urban style. Photo accredited to Style Weekly.

Ok, enough about the alcohol, now on to the food! During our first outing to Sedona Taphouse the menu consisted of mainly appetizers and small plates with very few full entrees. I was disappointed, but I figured they were really pushing the bar feeling and wanted to limit having to focus too much on the food. That's fine ...  a ton of places in Richmond do that ... but it definitely shapes your clientele.  That's why I was super excited on my second visit to find a much lengthier list of dinner items including multiple seafood, chicken, and steak options. They still offer their signature small plates like grilled flatbreads, sliders, and tacos  if you're interested in lighter fare or a late night snack, but the expansion of the menu was certainly a welcome change.

$5 steak night on Mondays - Photo accredited to the Westchester Commons website.

So far I have had the chance to sample the BBQ sliders, the crab cake, and my friends have had the fish tacos. I thought that the BBQ was ok as far as BBQ goes, but the "blues," Sedona's signature thick cut chips, were great. My friends had no problem scarfing down their fish tacos (I didn't even get offered a bite!). Though they did think they were a little overpriced at $6.50 a piece. As far the crab cake, I thought it was wonderful, along with the tasty redskin mashed potatoes and broccoli. It was mostly lump crab meat and was nicely pan seared. A simple dish thankfully not overdone with too many add-ons. The price was also right, at only $14 for a delicious and well proportioned meal.

Sorry, no pic of the crab cake, but here are the crab cake sliders!
Photo accredited to Stephanie from

As you can see, living in the Southside I have had the opportunity to visit this restaurant a few times over the course of its short life, and have gotten to enjoy watching the owners grow and enhance their business. Each time I have seen new adjustments made as they attempt to correct problems and expand options in an effort to create an establishment that truly makes people want to come back. It's refreshing to see a place that is continually trying to improve. Every time I have been to Sedona, whether it was for drinks, a nice dinner with my mom, or girls' night out, I have had a wonderful experience. I am proud to have another great restaurant in the Southside, and I look forward to seeing what Sedona does next!

Photos accredited to Cassandra B. from

Check out the Sedona Taphouse website at:
See their Facebook page at:

Be real.

Sedona Taphouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kuba Kuba

Photo from Kuba Kuba's website, by Chris Smith

Rating: 3.5 stars

Nestled in the Lower Fan, this quaint little spot is known to serve up the best Cuban food in town. So if you are craving some traditional Cuban dishes, or want to expand your taste buds into something new, Kuba Kuba is probably one of the better options in Richmond. It offers an eclectic experience that might just make you feel like you have indeed traveled to the little island itself.

I have told my friends often that I would like to try this place, and a month or two ago we finally found the perfect night. The four of us headed over on a lovely spring Friday evening, and upon walking in I found a small, 1950's looking restaurant, with a few tables and booths, and a dining bar complete with 50's style stools. Not really what I was expecting, but it is pretty charming in its own way.

Packed house...

At the front of the restaurant we were greeted by a wall of reviews and newspaper articles touting the greatness of this place, and a couple of benches for waiting. It took a bit, but after a few minutes we were approached by a hectic looking waitress, and while there were two tables that could have been pushed together for us to use, we were asked to wait for a booth to open up. I was not too happy about this, but apparently it is their policy, and I suppose with a small, busy, restaurant it is best to conserve space as much as possible. As a project manager who always strives for efficiency I was willing to let that one go. Sadly though, the booth right next to us while we waited was taken up by two people watching a video on their laptop while they ate nothing. much for efficiency.

After waiting about 10 minutes, while other smaller groups were seated ahead of us, we finally got our booth. As I glanced around the restaurant I could see that it had been decorated to reflect the owner's family, with original family photos from the 50's adorning the walls and recreated as works of art painted around the restaurant. It's a pretty cute concept, your typical family restaurant decor taken to an extreme. Shelves of packaged Cuban foods and drinks also align the walls like a corner store, reminding you of the culture you are supposed to be experiencing.

Family photos as art!

Once we were seated we perused the menu, and my friends let me know that the specials were on a chalkboard behind me, above the dining bar area. While it was a little uncomfortable having to turn around in my seat to check them out, at least they were very legible. I think it would be nice to have more description available about the specials on a paper menu though, because I was not very familiar with the dishes and did not have much time to focus on the chalkboard, which prevented me from trying something from the list.

Specials on chalkboards ... turning around in my booth to get this shot.

For drinks, three of us split a bottle of wine (the list is not extensive but the options cover pretty much everything) and one of our friends chose from the limited beer list, opting for a $1 Miller High Life pony bottle. We encouraged him heavily on this choice (because really where do you EVER see pony bottles?) and he was ecstatic about it once he got his beer. In fact, he was adamant that I give this place an extra half star just for the pony bottles ... very adamant about it ... as in he would not stop talking about it the rest of the night...

Pony bottles!

So now that I have gotten in the bit about the pony bottles, back to the restaurant. Not being that familiar with Cuban food, I settled on the Cuban sandwich, really branching out I know, but I figured that I would keep on the safe side for my first trip here. Another of my friends followed me on the sandwich, while the other two got Arroz Con Pollo (very traditional chicken dish with yellow rice) and Paella Valenciana (Spanish rice with clams, mussels, shrimp, and chorizo). We also ordered an appetizer of tostones (deep-fried plantains).

Honestly, I am not a huge fan of fried plantains, I know alot of people love them though, and Kuba Kuba's are very good. Sweet and salty, and fried to perfection. My only drawback was that they also come with all the sandwiches. Had I known that, I would not have eaten so many as an appetizer, so just FYI on that if you have never been here before.

The Cuban sandwich was delicious, the meat was tender and juicy, the cheese was heartily applied and the bread was perfectly crispy and chewy. It is also a big sandwich; I definitely couldn't finish it after having an appetizer. But man was I craving some french fries to go with it! I guess I am so used to having that salty taste to complement a sandwich that the tostones where just not cutting it for me. If I could pick one thing to change for this restaurant it would be to add fries to the menu as a side option (even if they are not very Cuban).

Cuban sandwich and tostones ... delish!

For the other dishes, the Arroz Con Pollo was very good, and it offered alot of food, with two large chicken breasts, veggies, and rice all mixed together. The Paella was similar, though it had alot more broth on it, which unfortunately made it a bit too salty. All of our dishes were of ample size and most of us could not finish, so you definitely get your money's worth here. Dishes range from $7 to $20, so you can pick how fancy and how expensive you want to get. They also have non-Cuban options like a New York strip and pork shank if you get dragged here and aren't in the mood for Latin American tastes. We did not opt for dessert but I have heard great things about the Tres Leche Cake and I will be sure to try that next time.

Arroz Con Pollo = alot of food.

Paella Valenciana ... more broth and a little salty, but still good.
Outside of the food there are a few complaints though. This restaurant is very small, like I said, so if you get here on a busy night you could definitely be waiting for a while. And I don't think this place would be good at accommodating large parties. We had to wait for a booth while there were open tables, and while the service was fine, it was nothing special. Also, it was very hot the night we were there (one of the guys was pretty sweaty, and I do not get hot easily, so if I say it was hot, it was hot). We attempted to laugh it off by saying they were trying to make us feel like we were really in Cuba, but it did make the night rather uncomfortable.

There isn't alot that is fancy about this place, but it doesn't claim to be fancy, so as long as you go in with that expectation, I don't think you will displeased. I can't see myself dying to go back here, but if I was in the neighborhood I certainly wouldn't mind stopping by. If you are looking for a special night out with an extravagant experience, look somewhere else, but if you love Cuban food, want to try it for the first time, or just desire a chill night and a beer in a pony bottle, I would definitely recommend hitting up Kuba Kuba!

The pony bottle was the star of the night!

Check out the Kuba Kuba website at:

Be Real.

Kuba Kuba on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cafe Caturra

Rating: 5 stars

Are you looking for a place to enjoy a nice glass of wine on a patio? Want to have a tasty sandwich in a charming, laid back, atmosphere? Craving a great salad?

Well look no further than Cafe Caturra.

This is one of my absolute favorite places to go in Richmond. There are three locations around town, Midlothian, Grove Avenue, and Short Pump. I can personally only speak to the Midlothian branch, but I am sure it is a fair representation of this fast growing, all in one, coffee house/wine bar/cafe.

If you are desiring a fancy night out with a waiter and full entrees, this is not your place, but if you are out shopping for the day and need to refresh yourself, want somewhere fun to have a drink with your friends, or are just looking for a quick bite that is great quality, consider giving Cafe Caturra a try.

When I first started going here I thought it was a new chain that had ventured into Richmond, as great care has been put into making this establishment feel like it has been around for a while and that they know what they are doing. You will not find any peeling walls or dirty floors here, and the bathrooms are all spacious and modern (which is hard to say for many local coffee shops/cafes).

Photo accredited to Cafe Caturra's (Midlothian) Facebook page.

The inside of the cafe is very cute and welcoming, with rich dark woods, warmly colored walls, and soft lighting inviting you in. A variety of table options accommodate all sorts of groups, and a large wood burning fireplace, surrounded by four comfy, high back, chairs presents an ideal option for a little wine and reading.  The decor looks like it came right out of Anthropolgie (love it!), which adds a perfect mesh of classy and hip. There is also a bag of coffee beans and a huge coffee grinder in one corner of the cafe, causing the rich scent of coffee to greet you as you walk through the door. And while you dine or drink, feel free to peruse the interesting images of local artists which are displayed throughout the cafe.

The back patio (my favorite part) has plenty of tables and a few umbrellas, as well as a roof over the middle, so you can enjoy either the shade or the sun, depending on your preference for the day. A second fireplace also adorns the patio, so if you still want to enjoy the outdoors once the weather turns cooler you now have an option!

Awesome outdoor patio! Photo accredited to Daniel A. from Foursquare.
When you have selected your table and are now ready to order your food, head on over to the bar area where you can either go ahead and order or do a little wine tasting before you decide. I highly recommend you do some wine tasting from their extensive list! Cafe Caturra prides itself on being a great wine bar (they actually have their wine "on tap" ... literally), and you can taste anything you want. They offer 3, 6 and 9 oz glasses, as well as bottles, so you can drink several different varieties, or go with one big glass of one you love. While tasting, be sure to grab a few of the appetizers they have at the bar for you to try!

Being that it is a wine bar, and a good one at that, their wine is certainly not cheap. There are only one or two options at around $6 a glass, and the rest range from about $7-10. But, it is all excellent wine and they offer many options you will not see elsewhere in Richmond. We have discovered several types of wine that we now enjoy on a regular basis specifically because we were able to try them at Cafe Caturra (Viognier and Gruner Veltliner to name a few).  They also hold actual wine tastings on a regular basis if you are interested in learning more about the wines you are drinking.  The "bartenders" are eager to assist you and are very knowledgeable about the wines, so if you have questions or want a recommendation don't be afraid to ask! There are also a few different bottled beers to choose from, as well as tea, soda, etc, if you are not a big wine fan.

Wine on tap!  Photo accredited to Cafe Caturra's (Midlothian) Facebook page.

As for the food ordering, they have their menu on a large, professionally done, chalkboard that is clear and easy to read while you are in line, and they also have paper menus you can take back to your table to peruse at your leisure before ordering. Wait ... a legible chalkboard AND paper menus?! Genius! This place is heaven!

Once you have decided, go ahead and give your order to the cashier, and you can either pay at that time or start a tab. You will be handed your receipt and a number to take back with you, and in a few minutes your food/drinks will be brought to your table. Waiters will also periodically ask you if you need more wine or refills, but feel free to go back to the bar and order more when you are ready. Pretty classy, eh?

Ok, on to the food ... finally ;). The menu consists of upscale small plates (such as a cheese plate, caprese crostini, and crab cakes), sandwiches, soups and salads, and desserts. Sandwiches come in full or half sizes and you can get either chips, garden salad, or raspberry walnut salad as your side. I have tried several of the sandwiches and soups and they have all been delicious. The sandwiches are very hearty and filling, no skimping on size here, and the side salads are plentiful as well. I have never walked away from this place hungry.

Caprese crostini ... Photo accredited to Cafe Caturra's website.

I always get the crispy cheese panini with the raspberry walnut salad. It is the best grilled cheese you will ever have!!! Mounds of cheddar spilling out beneath perfectly grilled sourdough bread, with a juicy tomato in between (my idea of perfection!). And the salad is a perfect combination to the sharpness of the sandwich, with sweet romaine, Gorgonzola, walnuts, dried cranberries, and amazing raspberry walnut vinaigrette. I literally crave this meal.  My mom, on the other hand, always gets the Tuscan panini, which consists of chicken, mozzarella, tomatoes, and bacon, which she swears by. We really should branch out and try more of the menu, but we just love our sandwiches and salads too much! (Note: If you get a sandwich, PLEASE try the raspberry walnut salad. I swear it is divine!)

Crispy cheese panini and raspberry walnut Salad ... you will crave it too!
Photo accredited to Foodalicious Follies Blog.

Cafe Caturrra also has specials throughout the week, as well as occasional live entertainment, and a killer happy hour on wine and appetizers if you can make it there before 6pm.

The only issue I have with this place is that it can be a little expensive for a cafe, especially if you order wine. Most of the sandwiches are around $10, but like I said, you get a good amount of food and great quality for your money. But don't go in expecting to eat for cheap.

Instead, go in expecting to have a great experience, delicious food, and to probably find your new favorite casual dining spot ... because this place is much more than your average cafe.

Make it in for the great happy hour and enjoy some awesome wine!
Photo accredited to Cafe Caturra's (Midlothian) Facebook page.

Check out the Cafe Caturra website at:

Be real.

Cafe Caturra on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Small Plates

So I wanted to share a few tidbits from recent experiences in May. Not restaurant reviews, but just a few personal thoughts and recommendations. Hope you enjoy!

Summer Wine Recommendations

Winzer Krems - Gruner Veltliner Ried Sandgrube (whew, that's a mouthful!)
So the main part of the name that you want to get is the "Gruner Veltliner". This is a type of white wine that comes mainly from Austria, and it is perfect for the summer. We discovered this style of wine at Cafe Caturra, and have since purchased two different brands, finding the Winzer Krems option to be the best.

I would describe it as in between a Pinot Grigio and a Chardonnay. It is perfectly crisp, but with a fuller body, and it creates a nice bite at the back of the jaw, ideal for light summer dinners and evenings on the porch.

You can find this specific brand at Total Wine for around $12. If you don't want to buy a bottle to start off definitely look for this at area restaurants, it is seems to be getting more popular. But I don't think you will be disappointed if you jump right in.

Dr. Loosen Bros - Riesling

I am guessing a few more of you know what a Riesling is, and this is one of the best I have ever had. If you are looking for something a little sweeter, but not dripping with sugar like a White Zinfandel, Riesling is a great bet. The Dr. Loosen brand is wonderful, still crisp but not as biting, and a bit smoother than the Gruner Veltliner. It would be perfect for summer get-togethers where you want to offer something that pleases everyone.

I usually can't just sit and drink white wine without any food to go along with it, I always end up getting tired of the taste, but that is not the case with this great find. The night I opened it I ended up drinking half the bottle by myself, and not because I was getting drunk, but because I liked the taste so much!

We also found this gem at Total Wine (it was one of their free samples) and it will cost you a little less than $10 there. If you like Riesling you should definitely give this one a try ... it may become your new favorite!

Naked Mountain Winery - Raptor Red

Photo from
Ok, so this is not really a "summer" wine recommendation, but I have to put it in here because it is my favorite red wine! And it's from Virginia, which makes it even better ;) Located in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, this winery is a charming place to stop by if you are in the area. It is a ways off the beaten path, but if you have time, brave the winding roads to enjoy some lovely scenery and some great wines.

The Raptor Red, specifically, is just a great red. It is warm and strong, and finishes with a pleasing after taste that leaves you wanting another sip. It's ideal for sitting by the fire in the winter, but since it's summer ... I would suggest this for when you throw some steaks on the grill!

I had been saving my bottle from the winery for a special occasion until we found it again at, surprise surprise, Total Wine, so now we can indulge in it whenever want! This one is a little more expensive at $20 a bottle, but trust me, if you like reds it is well worth it. So get some for the summer, or stock up for the chilliness of the fall, and enjoy a little whimsy while you "Drink Naked!"

Check out the Naked Mountain Winery website at -

Total Wine (Just a little vino.)

Photo from The Washington Post
So, after all that lovely promotion of Total Wine - check out their website at -

It is a really cool place to go, and they have great prices and tons of selection for wine, beer, and all the accessories! You can find them on Robious Rd and West Broad St.

Brock's Bar-B-Que

If you are from Richmond you have probably heard of Brock's BBQ, but you may have never eaten it. I just had some for the first time at my aunt's wedding two weeks ago, and man it is great! I think this may have taken over Bill's Barbecue for me.

I am definitely a North Carolina style bbq kind of girl, so I prefer my pork minced and vinegary, with a little hot sauce. Brock's meat is a bit sweater then Bill's, has a more tangy taste, and is a little less dry, making it a better choice in my opinion (though I still love Bill's).

Photo from VAgirl on

The only drawback is that the restaurant is located way out in Chester, so I doubt I will make it out there ... ever ... though apparently they have an all-you-can-eat buffet! But I look forward to the next event that features Brock's barbecue. Perhaps you should consider having them cater yours!

Check out the Brock's BBQ website at -

The Biggest Cheese Sticks I Have Ever Seen!

So, some work colleagues and I went out to F.W. Sullivan's for a happy hour last week, and I got these ...

OMG, look at the size of that thing!

... huge, brick-sized, homemade mozzarella cheese sticks with homemade marinara sauce.

Ohhhhh, it does not get much better than that! I was just amazed at how big they were, and they were delicious! And due to Sullivan's great happy hour special of any two appetizers for $10, I got these and their crab cakes, also great. Let's just say I did not get through all of it. Considering that their apps are normally $8 and up, I was very excited by my haul, and had lunch taken care of for the next day.

While their beer menu and late night weekend atmosphere is not my fave, I must admit Sullivan's has a great happy hour and decent appetizers (lots of choices from normal bar food to a couple varieties of shrimp). So if you are looking for a spot in the Fan with a good happy hour, especially one with a nice outdoor patio, this could be it!

Check out the Sullivan's website at -

Hope your May was good. Now on to Summer!

Be Real.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Zeus Gallery Cafe

Rating: 3 stars

I don't know about you, but when I am asked to pay $32 for a meal, I expect a little atmosphere to go with it. Unfortunately, Zeus Gallery Cafe asks but doesn't provide.

For our May Restaurant Club meeting we ventured to this little spot in the Museum District. I had put this restaurant on our list over a year ago, and we were finally going. I was excited to say the least, so I was pretty surprised when I parked in front of the restaurant to find a drab overhang and a very dark front window. It didn't seem very inviting from the outside, but I still hoped for the best having heard good things from others.

The place did seem fine enough when we walked in. Your typical small fan restaurant, with a small bar in the back and some four person booths. Checking out the rest of the place for a table, we found a side room that had some larger booths, but this part of the restaurant had the lights off and didn't seem set for dinner. Also, there was an open door at the back of the room revealing an office composed of a messy desk and boxes ... not very charming. We assumed they were not planning to serve in that area unless they had to, so we headed back to the main room. On the way we glanced into the waiting area, which has a couple of nice futons and some lovely wine racks, providing a comfy area to spend a few minutes if you needed to wait for a table. Sadly I would later come to realize that the waiting room definitely had the most atmosphere in the whole place.

The main room was pretty empty for a Thursday. Just two other couples besides us, but perhaps it was too early for their regulars. Taking our seats, I had some time to glance around the room and take things in. Zeus' M.O. is that they are a restaurant and an art gallery, so they display different artist's work, showing a certain person for a while and then changing things up. I think this could be a really cool idea, but you definitely need to have an artist who can fill up your walls. That was not the case the night we were there. There was lots of empty space and the art was rather muted, making the restaurant feel drab and unspectacular. I would suggest showing two artists at a time if one of them doesn't have enough work to go around. The experience of a pricey restaurant is just too important to have it's walls looking unkempt and unconsidered.

Another thing that is also very noticeable on the walls are the wine menus. They are split by red and white on two chalkboards hung about three feet above your head if you are sitting down, which makes them pretty impossible to read (a story to come on this later...). Also, I was unable to find a beer menu until after we had ordered because it is on a separate chalkboard at the bar ... very helpful.

When the waitress brought our menu we discovered that it was also on a chalkboard (surprised?). So we then all got to stare across the table at the board, trying to make out what the scribbled and half erased writing said. When the waitress came back for our orders I asked if they changed their menu often, assuming that was the reason for the chalkboard. Nope, they don't. They have specials that the waitress tells you about and the rest stays the same. Really? Then why on earth put everything on a chalkboard that looks messy and cheap, and makes it difficult for your customers to enjoy the experience of your restaurant because they have to stare at something two feet across a table or literally get up from their seats and stand in the middle of the room to look at a wine list? I think chalkboards are fine for a sandwich shop where you stand in line to order your food, but certainly not for a restaurant that averages $28 a plate. I just do not get that trend in Richmond restaurants. Print out some menus! Chalkboards are not cute, or hip, or trendy ... they are a pain in the ass!

Photo credited to Rogview from

A little detour here while we are talking about the atmosphere. The bathroom is also really disappointing for an expensive restaurant. You basically have to walk through part of the kitchen/serving area to get to it, which is not pleasant for a customer. And during my walk I could see what I hope was the leftovers of the bread we were given, just laying out with the knife and crumbs. I don't know, it was just weird and awkward, and not what I was expecting given what I was being charged.

Ok, back to the evening. Due to not wanting to get up in front of the entire restaurant to examine the red wine list at my leisure, I asked the waitress for their house wines (that's the beginning of that story I was talking about). She listed off three options, we decided on the Cabernet, and then we proceeded to order our food. There are about ten entrees on the menu ranging from steak to seafood to pasta, which is a small spread but seems to cover everyone's typical likes. My friends ordered the cauliflower soup as an appetizer, the fish option (I believe it was croaker), the shrimp and grits, and two of us (myself included) ordered the filet mignon. To be honest I don't normally order a filet, which always seems so expensive for so little, but I figured I would go for it here since there wasn't much else on the menu that interested me, and I am not a big fan of new york strip, which was the other steak option.

The cauliflower soup came in a very large portion for an appetizer, which was good because it was $9. And it was very yummy, warm and creamy. We actually all ended up helping our friend try and finish it. Even after that she had to take some of it home. You could certainly make a lunch out of the soup. And the bread they provide is very good as well. Nothing spectacular, but certainly worth having two pieces ;)

When the entrees came out I was a little disappointed by the size of the portions. The meats were all decent but there was not alot to go with them. My filet had four strips of asparagus and four tiny roasted potatoes. I was hoping for a little more for $32. But I can't lie ... the filet was delicious. It was cooked to perfection, seared on the outside and medium on the inside. Tender and not over seasoned, so that it just tasted like really good beef. It made me realize why my mom often orders this cut when we go out. It's not as much meat, but what you get is awesome! Everything else was really good as well. The shrimp and grits had a great gravy on it, which allowed me to stand the taste of the grits alot better. And the fish was excellent as well, reminding me of when you catch the fish yourself and cook it that night.

Filet mignon = delish
Shrimp and grits with yummy gravy.

After cleaning our plates, two of the ladies opted on desert, and voila, another chalkboard appeared! And ouch, it was another $9 for each, plus $1.50 if you wanted it al a mode! They opted for the mixed berry dessert, which was like a cobbler, and we talked our friend into trying the beignets, which were the special for the evening, because how often do you get to have beignets in Richmond. The cobbler was great, but I was a little disappointed by the beignets. There just wasn't really that much too them, basically a donut/funnel cake kind of taste with some chocolate and berry sauce. But, hey, it was worth a try.

Mixed berry dessert ... mmm mmm.
Beignets so, but cute presentation.

So here's the good part (and the end of the story). When the waitress brought our check, we discovered that our little "house" wine was actually $40!!! What??? Does she not know what house wine means? It means yes, we are poor and we need you to give us your cheapest wine please since I can't read your menu to pick out one for myself because I am trapped in my booth and don't want to have to stand up and look like an idiot in front of everyone else! We felt totally ripped-off and I wouldn't be surprised if this happens rather often. So unfortunately we learned that lesson the hard way. Please, if you ever ask for a "house" wine (at Zeus' or anywhere), make sure you ask how much it costs, because apparently everyone's definition of that term is not the same.

Thanks to our little wine debacle, our dinners averaged around $50-60 a piece that night. I don't know about you, but for me, that is crazy high. Even if the wine had been a more normal $25 it would still have been our most expensive Restaurant Club to date.

Now, I am all for paying that much if you have a great atmosphere and the experience is out of this world, but no way am I happy about it with what we got. The food it great, I am not going to deny that, and that is specifically why I still rated this place 3 stars. But you can great food at alot of other places that also offer more charm and a more pleasant evening out, and may even be slightly cheaper. So unless you have plenty of money to throw around, or you just don't care at all about your overall dining experience, I don't think you will come away ecstatic about your trip to Zeus Gallery Cafe. In fact you may feel like we did ... a little ripped-off and disappointed.

The infamous chalkboard wine list.

Be Real.

Zeus Gallery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Roosevelt

Photo from The Roosevelt's Facebook page
Rating: 5 stars

This is the story of the best fish sandwich I have ever had ...

Back in December my friend suggested we try a new restaurant he had been hearing alot about. I myself had never heard of the place, but always being game for new adventures I decided it was a great idea. So we ventured out on a chilly and rainy Friday night to take a chance with two other good friends. Eating out is always more fun in a group!

Let's just say I am not a huge fan of cold nasty weather, so walking into the warm cozy glow of The Roosevelt was like coming home to sit by the fire. With it's high dark ceiling, open feeling, and dark wood tables, it is very welcoming. Sadly though, the place was full.

We wandered over to the bar because there was not really a clear hostess stand, and stood there to check out our surroundings for a few moments. Graciously, someone took notice of us quickly. When we told her we had four, she scanned the room and discovered that there were two smaller tables that they could put together for us, but they were on opposite sides of the room. Swiftly, she and two other guys proceeded to lift the table and chairs over and through the crowd to get them together for us! I must say I have never seen such great customer service in a restaurant before. It was like they didn't think twice about doing whatever it took to get us a seat. Awesome.

Our table was right at the front window, which worried me a little, but the spot was perfectly warm and enjoyable. The restaurant was full of several other small groups and couples, and one large table taken up by a birthday party. The group was joyously enjoying tons of dishes and champagne, and it was great to have that fun atmosphere around us but without it interrupting our night. I never felt crowded or that it was too loud, like I often do at other small Richmond restaurants. It felt just right.

Photo from The Roosevelt's Facebook page

And the waiters are very cool, with a chill hipster vibe, which I did not expect from the style of the restaurant. Ours was very knowledgeable about the menu and was more than willing to explain dishes to us. Their laid back attitude and attire allows you to relax instead of feeling like you are in a stuffy highbrow establishment, which you might expect when you first walk in.

Ok, so on to the food. First off, The Roosevelt has a nice wine and beer list (VA wines only!). It's not overwhelming, forcing you to stare at it in a panic trying to decide what to have, but seems to provide something for everyone. And there are several options from Charlottesville wineries, which is a nice touch (esp. if you went to UVA). Their cocktail list is very intriguing as well. If you like mixed drinks this would be a great place to try out one, or a few...

After selecting a nice red from Barboursville we moved onto the dining options. As for the food menu, it seems that they have made some changes since December according to their website (though the fish sandwich is still on there...but we'll get to that later). I am sure there will be a continual evolution as they strive to keep fresh and exciting, which is always a good thing. For our appetizer we ordered the Southern Poutine, which is pimento cheese and ham gravy over french fries ... basically fancy cheese fries (which I certainly don't have a problem with!). It was a good starter, though I guess I was expecting something a little more gourmet when we ordered it due to the description in the menu, but once I accepted that it was cheese fries I settled on in.

Couldn't find a photo of the fish sandwich, so you have to settle for the  Southern Poutine. Photo from Style Weekly.

For the entree I ordered the gnocchi because I had heard the name often but had never had it, and since you don't see it in that many restaurants in Richmond, I decided to go for it. My friends had steak, a sausage dish  (which I no longer see on the menu), and the catfish sandwich. I must note that he only ordered the fish after we told him he was not allowed to get a cheeseburger! Though I am sure the burger is good, we felt he needed to branch out a little, even if he didn't agree.

The gnocchi was good, but I guess since I've never had any other gnocchi I don't feel I can really judge it that well. Much like a pasta dish I started to get tired of it halfway through, since it's the same taste over and over again. But that's just what you get with those types of dishes (take note, I certainly managed to finish it all!). The steak was excellent, and even the sausage, which I am not normally a big fan of, was just the right balance of sweet and spicy, with great mashed potatoes on the side.

And then there was the fish sandwich ...

After taking a bite of my friend's meal early on in our dining experience I immediately wished I had ordered what he did. For the rest of the night I looked longingly at his plate, hoping that he would get full so that I could have the rest. It is heaven. A soft, melt in your mouth like butter, piece of catfish, with perfect remoulade sauce (which I love!). Thinking about it makes me want to drive to The Roosevelt right now. If I lived in Church Hill I would be eating this sandwich once a week. When you go to The Roosevelt please try it. I promise it will make you want to go back!

For the rest of the evening we all enjoyed our dishes (and our second bottle of wine) and each other's company in a lovely, charismatic atmosphere. I am not really sure how to describe it, but I was very happy to be there.

We were too stuffed for desert, but I am guessing it is pretty good, and so paying our check (note: the prices are not bad at all considering the uniqueness and size of the dishes offered), we left this wonderful place and headed back into the cold.

I have not had a chance to get back to The Roosevelt yet, but I have recommended it as a great place to many people. Hopefully they have taken my suggestion. I sincerely encourage you to go there soon if you have not yet ventured over to Church Hill to experience this lovely new addition to Richmond's restaurant scene.

Who knows, you may see me there ... eating the fish sandwich.

Photo from The Roosevelt's Facebook page

Check out The Roosevelt's website at:

Be Real.

The Roosevelt on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Rating: 4 stars

Do you like Greek food? Wait, do you just like food? Then you need to go to Stella's!

I must admit I had never heard of Stella's until recently when one of the girls in our Restaurant Club suggested it, and then I could not stop hearing about it. Apparently this place has a long standing tradition in Richmond, and if you check it out on the Internet you will find nothing but praise. And I would say I have to agree with all those reviews!

I myself enjoy Greek food when I do eat it, but I can't say I have ever really gone to a Greek restaurant, and have mostly only experienced Greek food in bits and pieces and at the annual Greek Festival. So there are some dishes that I have had several times, and some that I have never heard of or tasted. Either way, if you're interested in trying new things or just enjoying your regular favorites, Stella's is a great option.

Nestled in the Near West End, just over the highway from the Museum District is this charming little gem. It is a small place (so reservations are recommended) but the decor is lovely. Bright and airy, with a sweet yet classy feeling. And they even have a projector in the back screening black and white films on the wall, which just adds to the ambiance. This would be a great date place.

Luckily I went here with Restaurant Club and we decided to split two bottles of wine and a couple of appetizers, as well as each get an entree, so I definitely got to try alot of food. Our waitress was extremely helpful and friendly, explaining what menu items were like and making recommendations. It was very refreshing.

For starters we got the grilled octopus, the hummus & tabouli ("Stella's famous"), and the spanakopita, a must have at any Greek place. Even if you think you don't like Greek food you will like spanakopita. The only part I wasn't much impressed with was the octopus, it was chewy (though I guess it is supposed to be, hehe) and you mainly just tasted the char grilling. But the spanakopita was delicious, and oh my god, the pita bread for the hummus was AMAZING. It was soft and warm, right out of the oven. It didn't need any hummus. In fact I could have just eaten pita bread for my entire meal. If you go here PLEASE get this appetizer, you will not be disappointed!

After analyzing the large menu several times, I finally settled on the artichoke moussaka as my entree. I have had regular moussaka before at the Greek festival, and if you don't know what it is, it's very similar to lasagna, but has a more "spiced" taste. I figured I would go for something I knew, but with a twist. It was good but I wish I had realized that it didn't have meat in it. It was similar to a creamy vegetarian lasagna, and I am much more of a red sauce and ground beef kind of girl. One of the other girls got the regular moussaka and I definitely preferred that dish. I guess it's just all in what you like!

Our other friends had the pastichio (like moussaka but with fat pasta noddles instead of layers), the pikelia which was a tasting of all the standard Greek dishes (including tzatziki, which was raved about at our table) and the No. 5 Pasta (another Stella's famous), a huge mound of baked spaghetti with fat noodles. They were all very yummy. I think if I went back, I would get the moussaka if I wanted to go traditional Greek, and the No. 5 Pasta if I just wanted something delicious.

Stella's famous No. 5 Pasta ... wow!

The menu also includes several more meat based entrees like leg of lamb, new york strip, pork, and even salmon (which came highly recommended by the waitress). There is no lack of options here. The menu is expansive, and you can choose to do one big entree or pair together several smaller plates, allowing you to try out more, which is a great option to have, especially if you are not a Greek food aficionado.

They also have several desert options which I believe they change daily. We were extremely stuffed but really wanted to try the deserts, so we each got one to go. I got the chocolate baklava which was very good! I only wish that they carried regular baklava at all times. I would have preferred the original taste, as opposed to it being more chocolate focused. But let's just say I managed to get it down ;)

I must admit to you that this was our most expensive Restaurant Club outing to date. But we did get three appetizers to share, two bottles of wine, 5 entrees, and 5 desserts, all for around $45 a piece. You can definitely eat here for much cheaper, and I did not feel like the menu was overpriced at all for the size of the portions and the quality of the food, which has not been the case at several of the restaurants we have tried. I think the food and atmosphere was so good we just went a little overboard this time!

Everyone in Restaurant Club really enjoyed Stella's. It is a cool place to go that is out of the way, and it's much more relaxed than alot of places in the Fan or Carytown. It just seemed more homey and welcoming. Here's a great example: Stella's has a long communal table in the middle of the restaurant where they sit random groups together side by side, no space in between, just like at Burger Bach. At Burger Bach I found this annoying and pretentious ... at Stella's I found it enchanting. If that feeling speaks to you, you should definitely give Stella's a try.

Check out the Stella's website at:

Be Real.

Stella's on Urbanspoon