Archive for the 'Dining' Category

Highwater to Flip (Burgers)

According to staff at Highwater, Richmond restaurateur David Bess (of Lucky Buddha, Cha Cha’s, and most recently Verbena) will be taking a stake in the establishment and turning the restaurant into a gourmet burger joint.  Highwater,  located within Toad’s Place, currently offers southern influenced casual fare and a few offbeat bar food items like buffalo fries and Lima bean hummus.  Expect a completely new menu.

The restaurant will be closing within a couple weeks for the revamps to take place.  There will be a new name for the project as well, tbd.

Bar-B-Cuban at Kuba Kuba

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It was only time before Kuba Kuba moved from master of their domain to take down another Richmond empire – barbecue!

I never liked pork until Kuba Kuba.  Pepperoni and bacon are one thing, but simply pork in its other white-meat glory?  No way.  But then, one taste from my friend’s Kuban Roasted Pork and it quickly became one of my favorite meals in Richmond.  It’s tender, it falls apart, and it’s flavorful without any added hoopla.  It’s not the  dried up pork chop or overcooked pork shoulder that grandma used to make.  I mean, can you blame her?  She wanted to make sure the meat was done?  It was done!

But sorry grandma, at Kuba Kuba, the pork’s not well done.  It’s done right.  And now, they’ve taken those delicious morsels of slowly roasted pork and chalked up their specials board with the “Bar-B-Cuban.”  Their twist, served on Cuban bread, features a guava barbecue sauce and a carrot-ginger coleslaw.   The coleslaw provided a nice crunch and a pleasant after-note complimenting the fruitiness of the zippy sauce that didn’t take away from the flavor of the roasted pork.  Although the sandwich wasn’t drowning in sauce, there was one disappointment in the cardinal sin of soggy bread!

The tostones made that all okay.  Playing second banana to the bodega’s entrees, these salty smashed slices of deep-fried plantains are always worthy of ordering an extra side.

Kuba Kuba knows what they do best.  While nothing compares to the comfortable simplicity that is the Kuban Roasted Pork,  it’s nice to step outside the box every once in a while.

Local Mom Sees Drag Show, Gets Giant Fruit Plate

Each Sunday morning, while the most pious of Richmond folk are in church, a smaller, more boisterous bunch are gathering for a different kind of weekly ritual.

Godfrey’s Drag Brunch has become one of the most diverse social events in town bringing together gays with soccer moms, yuppies, and even those grandmas that wear the big hats. With two sittings a week – one morning and one early afternoon – reservations are a must.

I had the pleasure of taking my dear, sweet (and incredibly supportive, not to mention brave) mother for her first drag experience. The morning brunch had been overbooked so the dining room was packed with the abovementioned melting pot ready to see some ladies of illusion strut their stuff.

Normal brunch fair is available – French toast, eggs, hash browns, a few salads, and also specialty quiche. My slice of the Chesapeake quiche had a buttery crust filled with full chunks of lump crab meat and cheesy goodness. As for Mom’s fruit plate – well, let’s just say the gays know fruit. It towered and would have done Carmen Miranda proud.

Any decent brunch and drag show would not be complete without a good supply of alcohol, so the speedy and efficient wait staff were ready to serve up Bloody Mary’s and mimosas. I had a mimosa, which in the Godfrey’s tradition of strong drinks, was a flute of champagne with a miniscule splash of orange juice. Mom had the decaf coffee.

Food and drink aside, the main course is the show. As a gay man frequenting the bar on occasion, drag has lost much of the glitz and shock value – both of which are the appeal to many of the guests partaking in the day’s brunch.

You had your hodgepodge of performances including a few up-tempo numbers with cartwheels, leg kicks, and other acrobatics; and of course, your ballads complete with dramatic lip-synching. It’s an eventful feast for the eyes with outfit changes and sparkles galore.

Don’t be fooled thinking the performances are toned down for a more general audience. When one of the queens took off her mink stole to reveal her gigantic implants covered in nothing but rhinestone pasties, my mother’s jaw dropped and summed up the “OMG” reaction of the dining crowd. You just don’t see a drag queen in pasties every day.

It’s not only the drag queens that make the brunch some of the best people watching around. A noteworthy performance was by one of the audience members, a rather crazed middle-aged woman crying during drag queen Tiffany Deveroux’s rendition of Whitney Houston. Rumor at our table was that she was Tiffany’s eccentric (and highly intoxicated) neighbor.

During a phone conversation with Dad later that evening, he said jokingly, “I think you’ve terrified your mother.” Her words were, “It was interesting.” Perhaps if Mom had something a little stronger than coffee, she would have let her hair down a bit more.

She was so impressed with how much one of the drag queens looked like Reba McIntire, she keeps bringing it up, urging me to show pictures to my father. It’s not really his cup of tea.

When you go, don’t expect just a meal and a show, but an experience. The morning extended well after 1 p.m. – rounding out the performances at a solid two hours. Be sure to bring plenty of ones as it is proper etiquette to tip the performers. We got a lot of bang for our buck and there’s plenty of fruit. I’m pretty sure Mom was eating on that fruit plate for a good while.

The Inos and Outos of Tarrant’s Pizza

Tarrantino\'s Quattro Formaggio PizzaTarrant’s, the popular downtown eatery expanded into the former Outre gallery space after being in business for less than a year. The bigger space also brought a new pizza venture, Tarrantinos, featuring gourmet pies and calzones. Surely this is a sign of a booming business, at least one can hope, since they offer an extensive menu, good service, and consistently tasty food. Their cobb salad is one of the best in town. I was curious to try the new pizza upon a reader’s recommendation post-Sette. I’m on a kick lately.

A committee meeting was moved to Tarrant’s at the last minute this evening, so I took this as a sign. I typically don’t indulge in the carb-filled treat very often, so when I do, I want wow. Tarrantino’s was certainly an indulgence. I’d been craving white pizza, so I tried the Quattro Formaggio – a blend of ricotta, asiago, mozzarella, and parmesan. The base layer of ricotta added a nice texture. All of the flavors mixed well, especially with the red pepper flakes and pizza seasoning that are served on the side.

The crust was tasty and soaked up the greasiness of the cheese as expected with a four-cheese pizza. The only setback was the unnecessary drizzling of EVOO on top of a pie already loaded up with fat and oil. The simple sauce underneath was just garlicky enough.

Compared to some of the other menu items, the pizza lacks a little of the Tarrant’s pizazz, but it’s a good pie, and certainly good enough to make it your neighborhood pizza place if you are in the proximity.

Sette’s Pizza Setback

Sette\'s CalamariMaybe it’s my fault for setting the bar high. After visiting Matchbox, a pizza bistro in D.C., I had big expectations for fire-roasted pizza in my hometown. The flames shouldn’t merely bake your pizza, it should mend the flavors together and make them One.

Sette is one street over from Tobacco Row. It’s a cute place with a killer patio. Their menu is a nice mix of salads, sandwiches, and of-course, the fire-roasted pizza which I had heard great things about. We started with a very tasty calamari that was garnished with marinara and an olive tapenade. The calamari wasn’t overly crispy and the shaved parmasan was a nice touch. The flavors went well together.

Sette\'s Little Italy PizzaFor our pizza selection, we went with the Little Italy – a red-sauced pie with chicken, spinach, mozzarella, and goat cheese. It arrived and looked amazing, but simply didn’t deliver. The sauce was not thick and made the crust soggy. The chicken was not freshly grilled and tasted salty like it was scoured on the piefrom a pre-cooked pack. Disappointing.

I guess some things are just left for the big city.

Best Nachos in Town

Speaking of Greek, if you haven’t had the Greek Nachos at Kitchen 64, then you are certainly missing out on one of this city’s culinary masterpieces.

The reviews of the kitchy preppy/hipster/family/anyone-depending-on-when-you-go hotspot have been mixed.

Greek Nachos at Kitchen 64

I’ve personally been satisfied with most of the food I’ve gotten there and the service has been great, but I go for the nachos. The heavenly triangles of corn tortilla are smothered in mozzerella and feta cheese, olives,

lettuce, spicy banana pepper slices, and tomato. The best part is the tzatziki sauce served in addition to salsa that just compliments the salty morsels so darn well.

The nachos are originally a menu item over at sister-restaurant Sidewalk Cafe. I’ve had Sidewalk’s variation a couple of times, but something is just missing in the delivery. Sidewalk’s use of kalamata olives over Kitchen 64’s black olives is alright. The presentation is just prettier at Kitchen 64, but perhaps that’s because Kitchen 64 is just a bit prettier too.


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Penguin Disco is a social blog based in Richmond, VA. Send love notes to kevin@penguindisco.com.

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