Standing in line at my local grocery store, my eyes quickly scanned the magazine “throne” leading to checkout. Through the front covers of the pathetic Kar-trashian divorce fiasco (nearly holding every magazine hostage), I managed to find a beam of light. The new issue of Richmond Magazine featuring the Best New Restaurants. I don’t have to play everything by the book and I certainly don’t need be to told where to eat but, so far, Richmond magazine hasn’t highlighted disappointing restaurants in the past. I quickly grabbed this and headed to the register (is computer technically correct?)
One of the new Richmond restaurants featured in this article was the Roosevelt. Honestly, I hadn’t heard of it. My girlfriend had heard of it and really wanted to go for dinner, so that was easy, I agreed immediately.
We were “out and about” downtown that day (trying desperately to find myself a new-vintage dresser) so heading up to Church Hill for the Roosevelt to open at 5:00 was perfect timing. I was a little uneasy as we waited in the car a few minutes before heading inside. Thoughts of, “we’re going to be THOSE people who dart in the place right when they open the doors” and “ah, they won’t be ready”. Ok, I was wrong, way wrong. THOSE people (including us) were packed and shuffling in the front door at 4:55. And man, were they ready. I couldn’t believe how quickly the dining room had filled up but, after counting the dining room and all its 12 tables (yes, seriously) it wasn’t too surprising.
The hungry patrons that sat in tables around us consisted of a diverse mix of strangers that all had one common thing, good food. Yuppie families, girls night (no eyerolls, grublikeagirl), awkward first dates, and groups of young people were among the small dining room. There was almost a buzz in the air, was it because it was a new restaurant? One featured in Richmond mag? Not sure, but the energy was high and positive.
Mid-meal, I finally realized what the interior of the Roosevelt reminded me of… a sexier version of the Whistle Stop Cafe in “Fried Green Tomatoes”. The spaced ceiling fans, large windows, and bent wood chairs mimicked the appearance of this fictional eatery. Old wooden church pews line the walls of the Roosevelt and the walls are eloquently lined with vintage penciled maps of Richmond (think 1800’s era).
Enough about the interior. Now to the food. The Roosevelt’s serves upscale Southern spread, from pimento cheese and homemade potato chips to pork cheeks with cheese grits. This place has your home cooked Southern fare kicked up one fancy notch.
Scanning the drink menu, I was overjoyed the beer list was made up of local and southern brews, from Abita (Louisiana), Shiner (that’s Texan, y’all), and of course, local Starr Hill. I’m still not ready to let go of the fall and winter flavors so I settled on the Carolina Pumpkin Ale ($4). We started with the cornbread with honey-vanilla butter ($5). It was good, the cornbread arrived a bit dry so it wasn’t fabulous, the butter made up for it, it was thick and perfect. I believe I spread it on every inch of my cornbread, in hopes it would soak up some moisture.
For my main course, I settled on the chicken with gnocchi, mushrooms, and fois gras sauce ($15). My girlfriend choose the chicken fried tofu sandwich with honey mustard and pickled collards with a side of shells, cheese, and broccoli aka cheesy shells ($7). I was elated to see my food arrive after jealously eyeing other tables entrees. My chicken looked thick and juicy and the gnocchi was perfectly cooked. The mushrooms (that had to be local) were large and thinly cut. Everything tasted as good as it appeared, the meal was hearty and robust, the fois gras sauce and mixed with the chicken stock was fantastic, and enhanced the flavor of the mushrooms and gnocchi perfectly.
For my dining companion, she didn’t seem to fall in love with her sandwich; she’d never had tofu so this first time experience was an adjustment for her. I did manage to sneak a few bites of her sandwich, and I loved it, the earthy tofu battered in sweet chicken-fry style was fantastic and the added tartness of the collard greens balanced the taste ideally. The pasta shells with cheese and broccoli….ok, how could you go wrong, it was scrumptious.
We managed to find room for dessert and settled on the coca cola cake ($5). It was great, not too heavy or rich. The icing was creamy and light, and worth fork-fighting over. It was a perfect ending to a well-rounded meal.