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