Monday, December 3, 2012

nom nom nom

Dave and I go to the movies a lot.  Everybody knows that.  People always ask me for movie recommendations, whether it's in the theater or something they can watch at home, and then we get lost in conversation...which inevitably turns into "Where should we go to dinner before the movie" or something similar and I always go blank!  Awkward silence.  Then I spit something out, but usually it's a place that I hear is cool but have no first-hand experience to share.

So hopefully to avoid this awkwardness in future conversation, I wanted to write all my thoughts in one place so I could refer people to it.  Or refer myself to it. :)  I'm no expert on RVA food haps or tour guide, obviously, but these are some places we love and hope others love.

  • Brick House Diner - Dave's parents took us out for breakfast one weekend, which is unusual because our breakfast times definitely do not coincide, but we fell in love with Brick House that first time and now it's our go-to breakfast spot.  Although we can only go on Sundays because they serve breakfast all day.  Which means we can roll out of bed at 11am and still partake in that yummy pancake goodness. 
  • Note: all the other categories have more options - Brick House is so good that we rarely never go anywhere else for breakfast.
  • Sunday brunch at the Jefferson - I've only experienced this once, but it was very memorable.  I just can't afford $42 per person on any given weekend.  Christmas time is the best time!

Quick and cheap lunch or dinner without sacrificing quality:
  • Coppola's Deli - Barnyard for the win!  Fresh bread, sandwiches grilled to order, and our table is always free!
  • New York Deli - Full disclosure: we've only been here once, but it was last week and I want to go back right now!  It instantly moved to the top of the dinner rotation - great music, awesome hipster servers, good beer selection.  The best part:  the simple, classic ice cream sundae I had for dessert.  No frills or fuss, just an old-fashioned treat.  Yum.
  • Mary Angela's - This is the type of place where you walk in realizing you will wait for a table, you will get meh service because the staff is busy watching a soccer game, and you like it anyway.  NY style pizza with any topping you can imagine.
  • Stuzzi - the first time I visited Stuzzi with friends was a little rough, but I've been back with Dave a few times with better luck.  They cook Neapolitan style pizza in a wood-fired oven so it is smokey with fresh ingredients on top!  Mmmmm.
  • NEW! Eat China Street - from the owners of Pescado's (which we don't recommend) this place specializes in Latin Caribbean cuisine and every dish we've tried is FANTASTIC!  I especially love the risotto ball appetizer and the fish tacos! Yum.
Special occasion dinner without breaking the bank:
  • Portico - Last time Dave's brother, Rich, and his wife, Cindy, were in town, we took Cindy on a tour of our work campus and took the scenic route home via River Road.  We passed a cute little house on the left with a sign out front saying "Now Open" and Cindy and I were both gasping and saying "What is that, let's go there!"  The boys had us on a schedule so we couldn't even see what it was, but I later Googled it to figure out what it was.  Dave and I decided to go there for Valentine's Day, and were blown away by the food.  The salmon is to die for, and they grow all the herbs used to season the food on-site.  They have a patio space outside complete with a fireplace, and the ambiance makes you feel like you're on a grand Colonial estate.  We've since gone back for Father's Day and our anniversary, and it's becoming our go-to place for special occasions.
  • Wild Ginger - Wow.  The flaming avocado.  That's all I have to say about this pan-Asian fusion .
  • Crab Louie's - I love restaurants housed in buildings with history.  This place is known for the sweet bread selection they bring to your table before the appetizer course, they have fantastic clam chowder, and I always get the shrimp and grits.  Always.  Don't try to talk me out of it.
  • Lemaire - Another restaurant within the Jefferson Hotel, with seasonal dishes like autumn apple salad and pumpkin seed crusted salmon.  It just might break the bank, depending on the account number.

Sweet treats:
  • Sweet 95 - Housed in a little hut across the parking lot from Kitchen 64, this place has great treats for a hot summer night.  Most of their items have RVA-themed names like Nuttzy, after the Flying Squirrels mascot.  My favorite are the blizzard-like creations that they call 'Traffic Jamz', which is hilarious since they are located under the I-95/I-64 split which is notorious for daily traffic backups.  I don't even know why they bother announcing the backups on the traffic report anymore - it's a given.  PB&J is the best.
  • Pearl's - Of the several cupcake shoppes in RVA we've tried, this is our favorite.  Moist cake and a modest amount of frosting.  Classic cupcake without all the trendy fuss - and they have gluten-free + vegan options.
  • Ray's Italian Ice - Italian ice is so refreshing on a hot day, and they have a huge selection of flavors.  Peanut butter is always safe, but tangerine is my current obsession!
  • Sweet Frog - Make your own froyo + toppings creation, the weirder the better, and pay by the ounce. Everybody wins.

Places we love but don't visit often enough:
  • KubaKuba - fabulous Cuban food, and I hear the tres leches cake is the best around.  I love the Cuban sandwich!
  • Blue Goat - part of the Wild Ginger family, this place was a favorite of ours last year.  Everything they serve comes from local farms, the food is fabulous, and the industrial decor sealed the deal for me.  We haven't been in a while - traumatized by a stomach flu that popped up soon after finishing a meal, totally unrelated and not food poisoning because we had different dishes with no common ingredients - but we need to bring it back into rotation.  My favorite is the open-faced burger with a quail egg on top - yum.
  • Bottom's Up - Everyone knows Bottom's Up has the best pizza in the world, right?  Why don't we go down there more often?  
  • Empress - We've only been to Empress once and were very impressed by the small portions and quality of the meat and sides.  I had a buffalo dish that is no longer on the menu, and I'm not sure why we haven't gone back.
  • Honorable mention:  Mekong - I don't think Dave and I have been to Mekong together, but I LOVE it!  Vietnamese cuisine (mmm spring rolls and peanut sauce) and the best beer selection in RVA!

Wish list:
  • Black Sheep
  • Millie's
  • comfort
  • Mediterano
  • Pescado's - UPDATE:  tried it. meh.
  • Ideas?

Finally, there are some places that have great reputations and are recommended to us often, but we just can't get into them:
  • Kitchen 64 - After a few attempts, trying to like it, it's just not for me.  But yay for any place that has sweet potato fries on the menu.
  • Brio Tuscan Grille - I think this is the only chain on my list.  It's not too expensive to be out of range on a regular old Saturday night (or, who am I kidding, a Wednesday when I don't feel like cooking), but feels like upscale dining.  I'm just glad they let me in wearing jeans.  Yep, I'm that girl sitting next to the Prom party wearing flip-flops.  It's in this section because there's nothing exceptional about it - but we keep going.
  • Frostings - These guys were on Cupcake Wars and are insanely popular.  But I just don't like their cupcakes.  They're dry and there is way too much frosting.  And that's coming from a fat kid who loves frosting.
  • Urban Farmhouse - I was obsessed with this place when I first heard about it.  The location is fabulous, they open all the windows/doors on nice days so it feels like an open air market, and their blog shows they truly know the composition of the ingredients they serve.  But when we finally drove to the slip to check it out, we walked out without ordering because nothing on the menu sounded good.  I don't know that I've ever done that before or since.  Nothing about it was bad, it just wasn't my style.  I could be convinced to go back if I'm in a culinarily-daring mood. 

This was fun.  I might do another one with things to do around town!  #nerd #isanyonereadingthis

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