I’ve waited patiently for the opportunity to dine at the Empress. Recently, I got to fulfill my wish.
Located among the plethora of restaurants and hip spots along Broad Street, the Empress fits perfectly among bars, tattoo shops, and thrift stores.
The interior of the Empress is minimal but yet, surprisingly quaint. The exposed brick wall, rich red accents, and beautiful art (I think by a local artist) on its walls let you know you’re in a place that look delicious. The tables are small and closely placed, this could be sweet and cozy or a nightmare based on who you get seated next to. luckily for my girlfriend and I, we sat next to quiet and pleasant diners.
The buzzing popularity about the Empress, is its gluten-free menu…that actually tastes fantastic. Not to ignore its made from scratch dishes and innovative use of local and organic ingredients.
Before dining here, I caught a quick YouTube clip of the Empress- this only fueled my desire to eat there and let me know exactly what to start with the bacon wrapped dates. The diners in the video raved about these soft dates wrapped in savory bacon with gorgonzola-honey infused sauce ($9). As soon as I sat down, I put in my order.
I’m not sure if we picked the wrong night to go (a Friday night) or if the floor was short staffed but our service was very slow. It didn’t taint my experience but it was a small letdown. Luckily, I’ve waited tables for 4 years of my life so I completely understand the downside of a short staffed night. It just made me more eager to see my food arrive at my table.
Our bacon wrapped dates arrived at the table; I couldn’t wait to dive in. They were incredibly rich, flavorful, and exotic. The slightly crispy bacon wrapped in the warm smooth dates with added notes gorgonzola and honey (not drooling, promise?) made this one of my favorite Richmond dishes. I slowly started to notice ALL the tables around us order the same thing, I’m not exaggerating when I say all. I think this is an Empress staple, and leaves such a powerful impression that it keeps customers coming back.
My girlfriend ordered the risotto and added chicken. When our food came to the table, there was no chicken, after prodding her risotto (making sure she wasn’t missing it) we tried to find our server to get the added chicken. About 4 minutes passed and our server was nowhere to be found. My girlfriend had to find him and asked for the chicken- he kind of gave her the cold shoulder about it. One of the co-owners brought the chicken out, all was good but it was kind of an awkward situation.
I settled on the duck with vermicelli noodles. It was good, I usually don’t order duck but I decided to go outside of the box that night. It was a hearty meal and left my belly full and satisfied.
Where did we end up? Krispy Kreme, of course.
Yeah, I can pull a dinner of culinary excellence and then move along to a polka dot box of “Hot Now” donuts. Classically versatile.