Founded in 1737, Virginia’s capital and third largest city is home to 200,000 people. Situated along the James River, Richmond is full of diverse neighborhoods including an art and building boom in downtown over the past ten years.
The National Pork Board decided to explore some of the area’s best restaurant rows and neighborhoods for the 3rd annual Pork Crawl on October 9 – 10, 2012. Chef Jason Alley of Comfort and Pasture Restaurants was the host for the two-day event. On the 9th the crawl stopped at six of Richmond’s favorite local restaurants for pork tastings. Stops included Comfort, The Black Sheep, Kuba Kuba, Secco Wine Bar, The Roosevelt and Pasture.
Pasture, Comfort and The Black Sheep are all located within downtown Richmond and are playing an important role in revitalizing the area and bringing it back to its hey-day. Home to Secco Wine Bar the well-known Cary Street provides the perfect atmosphere for a wine bar next to trendy boutiques and galleries. Found in the Fan District, Kuba Kuba, the local neighborhood Latin joint, brings high energy and flavor to the historical tree-lined avenues. Lastly we explored Richmond’s old historic district, Church Hill. New to the scene The Roosevelt has been fully embraced by the community. Featured dishes along the crawl included: smoked molasses and bourbon glazed pork tenderloin, pork grillades and grits, Kubanaso sandwich, pork liver terrine, Piggy Tots and house-made chorizo meatballs.
On the 10th the group ventured to Topping, VA for a tour and farm dinner at Rappahannock River Oysters. The farm dinner featured oysters and pork cooked by Chef Alley, Chef Tim Bereika of Secco Wine Bar, Chef Lee Gregory of The Roosevelt and Chef Dylan Fultiner, of Rappahannock Restaurant. Also in attendance were some of the area’s finest artisan producers – Edwards Ham, Barboursville Vineyard, Sausage Craft and 3 Star Brewing Company. The group tasted shaved Surryano ham, Amerikrainer sausage with pimento cheese, wines ranging from Viognier, Virginia’s state grape, to Octagon, a Bordeaux blend, and a trio of beers – harvest ale, lime basil saison, and an imperial brown ale.
The National Pork Board was thankful to spend time with Richmond’s top chefs and artisanal producers. After spending time in the city it’s clear, Richmond is having a huge impact on the Southern culinary scene.
Chef Jason Alley took the Richmond culinary scene by storm when he opened Comfort in 2003. Now, he’s the man behind Pasture, a new Southern small- plates restaurant that has critics and customers raving, as well as a second Pasture location soon to open in Charlottesville, VA.
Growing up in Appalachia, VA, it was all hands on deck for the Alley family, and Jason started cooking at the age of four. What started as necessity soon became a calling. From working at Hardee’s and dishwashing at a country club, he worked his way up the ladder and his resume includes kitchens like 1848 House, Blue Ridge Grill, and ENO. He met soon-to-be restaurant partner Chris Chandler working as the executive chef at Europa Cafe and Tapas Bar, and they opened Comfort to fill the authentic-Southern-food hole in Richmond.
In the 10 years since opening Comfort, Alley and his restaurants have won numerous awards, including Best New Restaurant 2003 and Best Downtown Restaurant 2006 and 2007 from Richmond Magazine. His food has been featured in Bon Appétit, Southern Living, Food & Wine, GQ and the New York Times. Alley’s dedication to serving delicious, uncomplicated Southern food hasn’t changed, and Richmond has responded enthusiastically.
A down-to-earth Southern joint, Comfort is a place people can relax, eat good food, drink good beer and enjoy good music. Co-owners Jason Alley and Chris Chandler wanted to serve comfort food with a twist, and since opening in downtown Richmond in 2003, Comfort has lived up to its name. From barbecue pork to pimento cheese, the fare is simple, appealing and incredibly delicious. Comfort welcomes guests with a menu full of authentic Southern dishes like country ham with bread and butter pickles, bacon vinaigrette and traditional pulled pork. The atmosphere parallels the food; the weathered interior features a high pressed tin ceiling, bare wooden tables, polished hardwood floors and stocked bar with almost every whisky you can name. Chef Alley’s down-home country fare has definitely made its mark in Richmond. http://www.comfortrestaurant.com/
Located in Richmond’s Carver district, The Black Sheep is a cozy restaurant packed with big flavor. The eclectic decor features wall murals, barn-wood wainscoting and church pews, and the menus are equally creative. Inspired by his time in New Orleans, chef and co-owner Kevin Roberts seamlessly melds authentic Cajun food with Southern tradition. From delicious brunch dishes to a sub sandwich menu that goes the extra mile, dining at The Black Sheep is sure to satisfy. Roberts serves up Pork Grillades over cheesy grits for brunch, and a Grilled Pork Chop with Peaches for dinner. If you’re really hungry, take a look at the sandwich menu. Recently featured on Travel Channel’s Man v. Food, the “Battleships” are two feet long and weigh in at a whopping two and a half pounds. The USS Congress is a fan favorite, made with chipotle-roasted pork shoulder simmered in tomatillo barbecue sauce. The USS Virginia, another popular Battleship, was named one of the top 12 sandwiches in America by Adam Richman of the Travel Channel. https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Black-Sheep/111305605584375
Located in Richmond’s Fan District, Kuba Kuba is a bodega-style cafe serving authentic Cuban food. Second generation chef and founder Manny Mendez finds inspiration in his Hispanic heritage and culture. His grandparents emigrated from northern Spain to Cuba, and he immigrated to the States as a child. Kuba Kuba reflects the fusion of Cuban and Spanish cuisine. Authentic flavors of Havana keep people coming back for more. From roast pork marinated in mojo sauce to Paella Valenciana packed with seafood and chorizo, Kuba Kuba delivers traditional foods with an exciting twist. The Kubanaso, a Cuban sandwich with a whole link of chorizo pressed between the ham and roast pork, is definitely a crowd favorite. And if you visit, don’t forget to have a bite of the delicious tres leches cake, whipped up by Mendez’ mother. Chef Mendez was recently featured on the cover of Discover Richmond magazine’s 2012-2013 edition. http://www.kubakuba.info
Julia Battaglini turned being a wine enthusiast into a career – she’s the woman behind River City Cellars wine shop and Secco Wine Bar in the Carytown neighborhood of Richmond. After owning River City Cellars for over ten years, she partnered with Chef Tim Bereika to open Secco Wine Bar in 2010. With an extensive wine list, amazing craft beers, and a menu full of delectable small-plate offerings, Secco offers diners European-style flair in the heart of Virginia. Chef Tim Bereika believes in crafting food with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Trained at the Culinary Institute of Florence, his style is rustic Italian, with a little Spanish and French thrown in for good measure. From smoked pork belly and rosemary-roasted pork shoulder, to house-made terrines, pates and traditional charcuterie, the menu reflects his taste – simple and simply delicious. In 2011, readers of Richmond’s Style Weekly voted Secco the Best Wine Bar with the Best Wine List. http://seccowinebar.com/
The Roosevelt opened in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood in the summer of 2011 and eagerly embraced Southern culinary traditions and regional fare. Chef and native Carolina boy Lee Gregory is the driving force behind the Southern pub menu, along with co-owner Kendra Feather. The Roosevelt is a continuation of Feather’s interest in Southern food and Eleanor Roosevelt’s WPA food programs. To reflect the public-house spirit, The Roosevelt wears a ’30s and ’40s look with worn church pews and an 1800’s-era map of Richmond. Chef Lee Gregory knows Southern and low-country food by heart. He worked under Chef Dale Reitzer at Acacia for five years and partnered with Reitzer at Six Burner before moving to Mockingbird in Staunton, VA. At The Roosevelt, Gregory sources ingredients from across the region, from North Carolina trout and South Carolina farro, to Tennessee ham. Even the wine list is entirely composed of local Virginia wines. He also menus several delicious pork dishes – the Sausage Corn Dog with maple syrup is a favorite brunch option, and the Crispy Pig Head Terrine, House Puffed Spicy Pork Rinds and Southern Poutine smothered in Benton’s ham gravy are great at dinner. The Roosevelt’s accolades include the 2012 Elby award for Best New Restaurant and a Chef of the Year nomination for Gregory from Richmond Magazine. http://rooseveltrva.com/
Located in the heart of Richmond’s historic downtown shopping district, Pasture focuses on delicious Southern food made with quality local ingredients. Chef and founder Jason Alley partnered with owner Ry Marchant and general manager Michele Jones to open Pasture at the end of 2011. Alley’s love of Southern food is all about family, friends and fresh ingredients. With a menu composed of small plates to share and a warm, open atmosphere, Pasture is a new experience in Southern dining. Alley uses the best products possible from some of Virginia’s finest farmers and producers across his menu. He serves a variety of house-cured and smoked pork dishes including Pastrami-Cured Pork Loin, Pasture Scrapple and House-Cured Tasso. Alley’s Potlikker Noodles, made with ham hock, bacon and mustard greens, was featured by Bon Appétit in their February 2012 issue. In 2013 he is opening a second Pasture location in Charlottesville which is due to also get rave reviews.