This recently renovated Jackson Ward mansion has ben bitten by the restaurant bug. And it’s working well.
Another team dinner brought my work associates and I to Mansion Five26 last week. As we walked through the opened wrought iron gate and up the steps leading to the front door, the reality set in that this is a beautiful house turned restaurant. It’s turret-style grandeur is reminiscent of its modern-Victorian architecture. It’s a beautiful building to say the least. Inside, you’ll find the same to be true. The entrance is tiny with a small chandelier but reminds you again, this was once a home. I dug a little deeper, it looks like it was once home to the president of The United Order of True Reformers (black fraternal organization), Rev. William Lee Taylor in 1907. Adding a little history to your dinner.
Now, I hate to rant. But I’ve noticed other reviews and articles about Mansion Five26 start with passive-agressive-like caution that it’s located in Jackson Ward…gasp. Richmonders, calm down. It’s Jackson Ward, it doesn’t bite. It’s one of the coolest parts of town and is home to some of the city’s best restaurants (Mama J’s and Ettamae’s). Not sure when this silent stigma of J Ward will let up, I’m sure a lot of other’s feel this annoyance, too.
The interior is rather swanky with large plush high back booths and tables, wall lamps with floral glass work designs, and detailed crown moulding. This place is sexy but yet it’s comfortable, not pretentious at all.
We started with buttermilk drop biscuits adorned with Virginia smoked ham with dijon mustard ($5), fried Oysters Charleston ($10), and pulled pork sliders ($9). As soon as the plates arrived to the table we dug in and quickly realized they were too incredible to have one of each. So we added on more biscuits and sliders.
I’m not a fan of oysters but after trying a small bite, something happened. I enjoyed these oysters, they were perfectly seasoned with delicious spices and fried golden. The ham drop biscuits were a hit as well as the sliders. Good Southern food. No frills, just plated exceptionally cute.
Before we moved on to the main course, we found ourselves wandering the building and making our way into the next door Hippodrome theater and Speakeasy. My co-worker and I made our way wandering the premises and bumped in to the owner, Ron. He was happy to show us the entire restaurant, it’s swanky Speakeasy, and venue next door including the balcony suites tucked into the sides of the theatre. He also gave us information on upcoming events, booking the theatre, and the popularity of the venue for weddings and private events, and I can see why. This place is gorgeous.
We found our way back to the table and didn’t wait long for our main course. A few of my team members went with the Mansion Meatloaf ($16) with “ground Angus meatloaf, slow brazed then grilled and topped with stewed tomato gravy, with creamy smashed potatoes and early sweet peas”- read straight from the menu because it can’t sound more perfect. I decided to go old school southern style and ordered the waffles and fried chicken, or as I put it, fat and carb.
My chicken and waffles were excellent. The waffles were sweet and fluffy and the chicken, crisp and savory. The chicken was delicious, and to my surprise a large chicken breast, no bones- I loved this. It’s typical for chicken in a chicken and waffle dish to have bones still on, much like a bucket of KFC dumped on a waffle. Not here, they left the diner with no awkward bone pulling or time-consuming cutting out of the equation. Kudos, Mansion Five26. I was a little disappointed when our waitress informed me they were out of mac and cheese that night (this was a side that came with my dish). Travesty! Instead my side was substituted with collard greens. Another surprising win-over. I’ve never had good collard greens, this night, I did. One of those times I ended up thankful they were out something so my taste buds could experience something new. And beyond delicious. The greens were full of flavorful comfort, words can’t describe. Try these yourself, you’ll know what I mean. Another side included with my meal was a sweet potato mash… obviously amazing. It was fresh, sweet, warm, and had hints of cinnamon. Both sides were a hit.
Everyone around me seemed to be enjoying their meals. There were a few “ehs” from the bland-ness of the fish (haddock, I think). This was the only negative comment coming from our table. Overall, we liked. A lot.
Even though we probably all gained two inches around the waist, we couldn’t resist dessert. We chose the cheesecake and peach cobbler. Both good. And to our surprise, sent us some bread pudding. Even though this is one of my favorites, I could only manage a few bites. It was fantastic.
This place is a hit. It’s swanky interior, traditional exterior, and phenomenal Southern inspired menu has Mansion Five26 on the Richmond restaurant radar.
Go, and you’ll see why.