Opinion

Whole Foods

Open letter to Whole Foods

 

Dear Whole Foods,

Some might get frustrated at me for this. You know, the folks that think Whole Foods is a hispter-mecca-cash-cow or the others that turn their nose since you’re a chain grocer. There will also be others that argue that I can find the same experience and selection at Ellwood Thompson’s in Carytown, plus I’d be supporting local businesses.  That’s entirely valid but my 5 minute drive to Whole Foods vs. 20 minute drive to Ellwood’s makes it convenient.

I’m really not concerned because I love you. Yes, I love you, Whole Foods.

To be quite honest, I don’t go to you for my routine Sunday grocery shopping trip, if I did, I might be a little broke. But I’m there, in your store, at least once a week. Anything can bring me in from “oh crap I need a gift”, your awesome health and body section, to a crack-like craving for your salad bar. I feel bad to even call it a salad bar, hell, let’s call it the salad smorgasbord of awesomeness.

Although you satisfy my every need, what really makes me come back is your staff and service.  Your employees are pretty rad.  Unlike the 95% retailers and restaurants I visit, I actually get the vibe that your Whole Foods team likes working there. Travesty!  To like your job so much that you converse with the patron, offer suggestions, a smile?! Yes! Yes! Yes!

Your people are awesome.  I’ve never run into someone at your store that acted above (or below) me.  On my most recent trip, I was looking for new body wash for my girlfriend and I – specifically one with a woodsy-lavender smell.  While searching the shelf, one of your team member’s came up to me and started a conversation, not a stale standard “can I help you” response, but a warm and natural “hey there, you doing good? Anything I can help you find?” After he listened to what I wanted, he pointed me to two options, one that his girlfriend used (which was a little too floral-y for me), and the other they actually use there in their showers at the store.  This guy knew exactly what he was talking about and had connection with both products.  While thanking him for my new $10 body wash (proceeds going to raise funds for community projects in West Africa & trade free certified = feeling good), I realized I needed some more incense.  He directed me to the newly moved incense section and helped me pick a new one.  He never said, “you should get this, it smells good”  instead, he told me about the guy that makes these particular sticks in New Mexico, how seriously he takes the craft, and he blesses each stick.  Sold.

This guy took his time listening.

Your store is exceptional and your employees are a beam of hope, reigniting the faith that customer service is not a lost art.

Thank you times infinity.

Truly Yours,

Grub like a girl.

p.s. - Whole Foods Market is selling pies for 10 bucks through the 14th.  They’ll also be hosting a Pie Walk & Tasting this Saturday, July 6th from 11am to 1pm.

Who: You eating pie!

What: Pie Walk & Tasting

When: Saturday, July 6th 11am-1pm

Where: Short Pump Whole Foods Market, 11173 W Broad St  Glen Allen, VA 23060

Join in the Pie Walk fun and you could win a free pie! A Pie Walk is just like a traditional cake walk but with PIES! Pie Walks will be held every 15 minutes, starting at 11am. And, there will be plenty of pie sampling happening too.

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Discriminate my H20

I have beef. Major beef.

Over time I’ve let it slide and calmly (and slightly annoyed) accepted it. It wasn’t until I was handed a shot glass sized cup (ok, a little exaggeration) at a local barbecue joint that ignited my festering frustration.

When I order water, give me a normal cup. That is all.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. No grownup wants a baby cup. Just because I choose to consume water instead of carbonated chemical crap doesn’t mean you hand me a flimsy plastic 4 oz cup.

In true Stephanie Tanner fashion “how rude!”.

And I believe in karma, so I promise if you give me a “normal” cup, I won’t sneak a soda. It ain’t my style.

So when you place a rinkydink cup in my hand that holds 3 gulps, I’m going to ask for the same cup other customers get. And if its a problem, I might just bring my own.

BYOC.

 

scolding

Reservation Rules

My co-worker came across some seriousness on The Roosevelt’s site that got me cracking up … yes, this is real.

RESERVATIONS

Please call us at (804)658-1935 to make a reservation. You can most easily reach us after 4pm Tuesday-Saturday.

We have exactly 36 seats in our dining room. We leave approximately 12 seats for walk-ins on a first come, first served basis. Our bar seats are also first come, first served. During prime dinner hours we often have a wait list. Our host will be able to give you a wait time approximation as you arrive.

***WE DO NOT TAKE RESERVATIONS BY EMAIL***
We don’t always get emails in a timely manner and we don’t want to miss our chance to get you a table!

WE DO TAKE PHONE CALLS
Please call during our business hours 4pm-10pm Tuesday-Saturday. If the phone line is busy or you get our answering machine, please try again. We get a large influx of calls and sometimes can’t help all of our customers at the same time.

LATE SHOW POLICY
We need one member of your party to claim your table within 5 minutes of your reservation time. We will not seat you until your whole party is present. We try to be flexible, but if your group runs late by 20 minutes or more you may lose your reservation or have your names added to the end of the WAIT LIST.

LARGE PARTIES
Because of our size it is difficult for us to seat more than 12 people at one table. We do accept large party reservations but for no more than 8 persons on Friday and Saturday nights.

TABLE LIMIT
All reservations have a 3 hour maximum time limit. If we have no other choice and have reservations to honor, we may have to ask you to finish your evening at the bar .

CHANGES TO RESERVATIONS

LESS PEOPLE
If you know your party will be less than your reservation amount, we would appreciate you letting us know ASAP, so we can use those spaces for other customers.

MORE PEOPLE
Because of our limited seating, we cannot always accommodate a party that has added members to their reservation. Please call ahead and ask if the extra seating is available.

I know, I know, the Roosevelt is noteworthy and they’ve snagged an Elby but the rules of their reservation game might be a little intense.

And I get it – they’re strict. Don’t email your reservations, don’t be 5 minutes late to your reservation time, and note the 3 hour table limit or you’ll find your sweet ass sitting at the bar.  I thought 3 hour table limits were only for Golden Corral-ers.

Whew.

TExas

Texas Trending

I started to take notice when Dickey’s Barbecue Pit appeared on Broad Street. It wasn’t until I heard Chuy’s was opening a location in Short Pump (April 9th) that I realized Texas generated restaurants are making their way to the East Coast.

This is exciting folks! Finally a [potentially] good Mexican restaurant – something that RVA’s been lacking since… well, forever.

A little background on Chuy’s .. A Texas born chain of Tex-Mex eateries, its first location opened in ATX (Austin) and served up badass burritos, beer marinated fajitas, margaritas, and a plethora of signature sauces (the Creamy Jalapeno is not to be missed). Since then, they’ve spread to 8 states including Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Finding a home in Short Pump Village will be cause for some serious hour long waits and cramped parking lots, but I’m hopeful the food will be exciting for Richmonder’s that haven’t experienced decent (or real) Tex Mex.

What is Tex-Mex you ask? Even though its definition is highly arguable, the simple explanation is this – Mexican cuisine adapted and influenced by Southwest American culture and ingredients. It seems easy right? But blending Mexican and American flavors to pump out good grub is trickier than it seems. Hearty meat sauces, liberal cheese toppings, and an emphasis on bold spices are standards for real Tex Mex.

You won’t find stale bagged tortillas or jarred salsa here. Chuy’s hand rolls tortillas (yes – all day), cranks out fresh salsa, and fire roasts Anaheim chilies for stellar Chile Rellenos. This authentic “made with love” taste is classic Tex-Mex but might spoil some taste buds (but in a good way).

Although I’m stupidly thrilled, I’m still cautious. As with many chains, its easy for decreased quality, crappy service, and flavors to diminish from the original taste.

With this being a new kid on the block, give it a try. You just might love it. Check out updates and upcoming events here … https://www.facebook.com/ChuysRVA

And a quick tip… [for god's sake] please don’t order “cheese dip”, it’s called “queso”.

Chuy’s will be at 11229 West Broad Street (in West Broad Village)

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Foodie News

A few quickies for your RVA foodies …

- Weiman’s Bakery in Shockoe Bottom closed their deliveries and production last weekend after 78 years of business.  Still looking for buyers, Richmond restaurateurs including Mint, Bottoms Up, and Street Deli RVA are now looking to other bakeries for their supply.

- Urban Farmhouse is looking to open two other locations in addition to their East Cary Street Market & Cafe.

- Burger Bach owner, Michael Ripp is eyeing space in Short Pump Village to expand.  Local eateries in the West End? Yes, please.

And, if you missed it, the Elby Awards winner list …

Fine Dining Restaurant: Lemaire
Upscale Casual: Stella’s
Neighborhood Restaurant: Kuba Kuba
New Restaurant: Deco Ristorante
Cocktail Program: The Roosevelt
Excellence in Service: Wendy Kalif of Bistro Bobette
Rising Culinary Star: Mike Yavorsky of Belmont Food Shop
Chef of the Year: Dale Reitzer of Acacia Mid-town
Restaurateur of the Year: Kendra Feather (love this girl) of Garnett’s, Ipanema and The Roosevelt

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Burger Bach

When Burger Bach (pronounced Batch) moved into Ellwood Cafe’s old digs last February, it triggered a buzz that this Carytown newbie was not just a burger joint but a gastropub that’d be serving up quality New Zealand grass fed burgers.  Like the procrastinator that I am, I waited almost a year to grab dinner here.  Shame on me.

The word, “Bach” is New Zealand’s term for vacation home so it’s no surprise the interior is small, airy, and laid back. The decor is practical with walnut colored woods, exposed ductwork, corrugated tin, and exposed brick. Aim to get here early, the dining room slowly begins to fill around 6 with hungry energy, by 7 there’s a wait.

The West Coast burger ($11), a recommendation from my server, was wonderful.  The jalapeno remoulade, bbq sauce, cheddar, bacon, and caramelized onions housed with a savory grass-fed beef patty is a kick in the mouth. Burgers are served alongside a simple mixed green salad with a tangy vinaigrette.

20130114-211027.jpgOn my next visit, I ordered up the North Lamb ($11) – a lamb burger with tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, onion, and garlic aioli.  Similar to the flavors of a lamb gyro but 100% better. Burger Bach steers clear of plain ingredients – everything here’s high quality and fresh, resulting in something (much) greater than any fast food crap. My girlfriend made an outstanding selection with the French Chick ($11) piled high with honey mustard, brie, grilled green apple (yes, grilled), turkey bacon, and caramelized onion.  The combination of these flavors in this chicken sandwich are incredibly rich and unforgettable … this is something you’d crave. It’s a must try.

Being a bun enthusiast (take that any way you’d like), , I was pleased that Burger Bach does their buns right.  Fresh (baked next door at Ellwood’s) and perfectly doughy, these buns fit the burger in a simple, complementary way unlike some that overpower in size.

Besides delicious burgers (around 14, including lamb, chicken, and veggie), Burger Bach serves up mussels, shrimp, and oysters served traditional or jazzed up with exotic additions like red curry, ginger, green chile, lemongrass, coconut, lime, & cilantro.  Sexy, right?  Fries are just as enticing as they’re served with an lineup of dipping sauces like cilantro, roasted onion, and spicy dijon.

Being the foodie I am, I’ve grazed other reviews and comments. I haven’t seen one that disliked the food however, the only negative comments came from the folks that thought Burger Bach was a pretentious “burger boutique” established nickel and dime customers for some organic-smorganic food.  Go ahead and nickel and dime me … I’d rather feast upon a delicious burger that than force myself to order a Hardee’s Hot Mess (no, this is not on the menu).

My first time here was pretty damn perfect, I was so impressed that I went again (3 days later) and had the same experience. Burger Bach didn’t let me down … it’s consistently good and straightforward with crowd pleasing grub and burgers that are done unbelievably right.

Burger Bach on Urbanspoon

RVA

2012: In a bite

Congratulations! Since we’ve all clung on and averted the 12/21/12 faux-doomsday-Myan-Fiasco and entered the New Year, I thought it’d be a little cliche and appropriate to give a few shout-outs to some noteworthy (and not so noteworthy) Richmond dishes, drinks, and the restaurants that serve it.

lamplighter1

1. Best Coffee – Lamplighter.  Besides serving stellar coffee and chai lattes so good that’ll make Starbucks taste like an artificial imitation, Lamplighter sells their beans so you can bring the goodness home. Bravo.

2. Best Fried Green Tomatoes – This one is tricky since Richmond’s a die-hard Southern cuisine mecca.  I say Julep’s, my girlfriend says Helen’s.  We still bicker about it.

3. Worst restaurant in Richmond – Another tie!  Shackleford’s and Casa Grande.  Do I need to explain?  If so, let me know.

4. Best cocktails – I. Can’t. Choose. A tie between Blue Goat and Balliceaux.  Balliceaux conjures up a TOM YUM YUM – vodka & coconut rum with lemongrass syrup, fresh lemon, hot chili & ginger. On  the other hand, Blue Goat’s got a Black Buffalo with
Bourbon, Chambord, muddled blackberries, lime & cranberry juice. Read more about Balliceaux here

Helens5. Best overall restaurant – Helen’s. This place is consistent, it never lets me down and my last waitress was a hottie (and nice…bonus).  The scallops with vanilla cauliflower whip is orgasmic.  Li-ter-i-ally.

6. Best (worst) people watching – Cheesecake factory.  Ah, the mother of all chain restaurants nestled into a corner of the exquisite and refined Short Pump mall.  Get a preview of the patrons who dine here (and likely sitting next to) as you try to angrily wrangle a parking spot in the miniscule parking lot.  Come inside to wait 30 minutes for gluttonous over-sized portions that’ll cost you more than a trip to the gym. Diners here here are hungry and just got done blowing plastic at the mall.  I’ve never experienced so many people (during one sitting) complaining to management to get free food.  I was a waitress for 3 years, I know how it works (and looks like).

7. Best Mexican food – I don’t know, if you do, PLEASE let me know. Read about one of my Mexican food experiences here

20121125-105630.jpg8. Best Antipasti – Mamma Zu serves up a white bean, arugula, and squid dish that’ll make you so happy you might just ignore the shabby (not chic) interior and mediocre service. Try to get there before the big dinner rush, if they run out of it, they’re out. Read more about Mamma Zu here

9. Awkward food moment of 2012 – Yapple vs. Sweet Frog.  Carytown’s Sweet Frog location felt the heat this summer when Yapple set up shop next door.  My girlfriend and I would make a special trips (out of the lovely ‘burbs) just to sit outside and listen to the hilarious, defensive, and serious reactions to the neighboring competition. Read more about this throw-down here

10. Noteworthy Dessert – Pasture’s pecan pie infused with smoked maple and bourbon cream.  This place does a brilliant job at combining classic pecan pie with a bacon-bourbon creamy sweetness. Read more about Pasture here