While not on the mainstream foodie front as such cities as San Francisco, NYC or L.A., Richmond has a restaurant scene all its own. From elegant settings in refurbished tobacco warehouses to the casual coziness of exposed brick and beams to the tried and true, hole-in-the-wall eateries that only the locals know about, there is a lot to discover in Richmond if you know where to look.
Since it would be nearly impossible to try to taste, photograph and describe every dish from all of my favorite places (though I would definitely be up to that tasty challenge), I am going to focus on dessert. And, really, don’t we all do that anyway?
I have to admit that I am a bit annoying when it comes to dining and dessert. Having caught the shutterbug virus, I make everybody wait until I’ve snapped a few photos before they can start devouring the cake, pie, mouse or whatever sweet thing is set before us. They’re pretty good about the whole thing. Sometimes they even save me a taste.
Located at Rocketts Landing beside the Boathouse (which is another excellent dining choice), the Conch Republic offers a tropical vibe along the banks of the James River. Having been to Key West, and tasted the real thing, I consider myself a bit of a key lime connoisseur. Not many places get it right. The Conch comes quite close. The pie is just tangy enough, and the graham cracker crust is excellent. The sauce on this particular version has a mild “cinnamon” taste to it. Sit outside, enjoy the view and pretend you’re on the dock at Mallory Square.
And then there’s this neat guy.
Next up is a Richmond classic.
Strawberry Street Cafe is a Richmond landmark. Decked out in stained glass, woodwork and staff-drawn chalk masterpieces, it has been here forever, which basically means that we just can’t remember what was there before. Pasta, poultry, crabcakes and spinach lasagna are a few choices on the always-evolving menu. I really want to try brunch sometime. This red velvet cake is just as rich and delicious as it looks.
In addition to the food, Strawberry Street is famous for its bathtub salad bar (an antique tub filled with, well, salad), and being an answer, or rather a question, on an episode of “Jeopardy.” Strawberry Street recently served as the official caterer for Travel Channel host and food aficionado Anthony Bourdain when he was in town on tour. How’s that for celebrity appeal?
Hailed “the best thing I’ve ever eaten” by Duff Goldman of “Ace of Cake,” the tres leches cake at Kuba Kuba is pretty darn near perfection on a fork. Similar in nature to a sponge or “butter” cake, tres leches means “three milks.” It is soaked in evaporated, condensed and whole milk, which makes it super moist. This version is topped with the most perfect blend of whipped icing (not too sweet). I would have to agree that Duff knows his cake.
Often associated with Cuba, tres leches is probably closer to Nicaraguan origin. It’s European influences include the tiramisu of Italy and British rum cakes.
This has been part one of my River City dessert dissertation. I hope to get out there soon and try out some more. My dining companions already have their forks in hand.