11.06.2016

Richmond, VA. Or never eat dinner at the same place when traveling for work

Just back from Richmond, VA.

I had been here once before for a wedding and that was pretty RAD! This time I was here for a work conference and that was a very different experience. Where as before I had access to a car and we rented a house, this time I was in the middle of downtown and in a hotel. The hotel was awesome by the way. It was the Hilton Richmond Downtown and everyone who worked there were really friendly and helpful. I am the queen of questions and they always answered them or found someone who could. If you are looking for a place to stay in downtown Richmond, I recommend the Hilton.

I love to travel, even if it is for work, and this trip to Richmond was no exception. I arrived in the evening and asked if there were any restaurants the hotel would recommend that were close. They had a list of restaurants within a four block area and I used this list and Yelp to find places to eat. One of the Hilton employees also mentioned two places and those made my list.


I have this thing that I try not to eat at the same restaurant for dinner when I am traveling for work. When I travel for fun I am usually in a place for so long that going to a restaurant a second time is not that big of a deal. Not the same thing with traveling for work (except for the time I went to the Red Iguana in Salt Lake City two nights in a row. It was THAT good, and there were not too many other choices……). When traveling for work I (99% of the time) make a choice to try new places for dinner. This trip to Richmond was no different.


My travel day to get to Richmond included a breakfast of string cheese and a lunch of string cheese and water. When I arrived it was dinner time in Richmond and I was hungry!


I think I should mention something odd here that my parents are probably going to say something to me about……. My shuttle driver from the airport was pretty cool and as I was his last job for the night, he took me the scenic way to the hotel because I asked if I could sit in the front and told him I like to be able to see a new place. He showed me the capital and also told me some areas to stay away from. I am pretty independent, but I like to think I am not dumb. I was listening. He said some of the areas were okay if you were in a group, but he would worry about me being alone. I get along pretty well with everyone and he said at one point that he had a daughter and he just wanted to make sure I was safe. He also thought I was in my late 20’s when I am actually almost 40, so maybe that had something to do with it. He told me to be cautious around my hotel, but then called and left me a message after he dropped me off to let me know he was confusing some of his directions and when he left he realized I should be okay. I thought that was sweet, but it did make me more conscious of my surroundings.


For dinner the first night I went to Julep’s which was just around the corner. I ordered the hanger steak and a glass of wine. I wasn’t a huge fan of the glass of wine, so after a bit I ordered the flight of wine. I had just finished a wine tasting weekend in Santa Barbara and must of been in the habit of having all this wine to taste….

Wine flight
Red Wine Flight

I usually sit at the bar when I travel alone and the bartender Abby was really nice. My order ended up getting kind of lost but it wasn’t a big deal, I wasn’t in a hurry. I asked her if the neighborhood was safe and said my shuttle driver had warned me a little. She said it was fine. There were some homeless people who might ask you for money, but she had been walking it for over a year and been okay. It was a city and it came with some of the typical things associated with a city.


Dinner, when it arrived, was good. I had ordered the hanger steak with bacon baked beans and brussel sprouts. I guess the restaurant is seasonal and had just changed to the fall menu. Game 6 of the World Series was on the one TV in the place. The TV seemed like an afterthought as the restaurant was pretty swanky. I ordered dessert and had the Virginia Peanut Butter Pie. Wow. Like a whipped peanut butter cheesecake with a chocolate crust. Pretty good. Abby “bought” my wine because she said it was ridiculous that I had to wait so long for my food and I had been so cool about it. That was nice.

Virginia Peanut Butter Pie
Virginia Peanut Butter Pie

The next day I skipped breakfast and made the mistake of eating the boxed lunch at the conference. Or trying to eat around the boxed lunch at the conference. I mentioned recently that I had completed my 4th Whole30 and that things had kind of stuck. Now Peanut Butter Pie is not Whole30 approved, but I made a choice to eat that. The boxed lunch choice was based on not making good breakfast choices and then being pretty hungry at lunch. I ate around a lot of things in the boxed lunch, but the food wasn’t amazing so I decided the next day I would have a really good breakfast and skip the boxed lunch.


That same day I left the conference a little early to do go on a walk. Here are some things I saw:

Walkway with windows
The Conference Center bridge
Library of Virginia
The Conference Center bridge
Library of Virginia
Library of Virginia
Library card catalog
Old school library card catalog
Old City Hall
Old school library card catalog
Old city hall and blue sky
Old City Hall
Inside City Hall
Inside City Hall
Walking around the Govenor's house:
Old school library card catalog
The white house of Richmond,VA
I think this is the Governor's house
Statue on horse
George Washington
Statue of people
Asking for equal education

That night I had dinner at Wong Gonzales, a Chinese / Mexican restaurant. Yes. I know it sounds strange. Someone at the hotel had recommended it and the reviews on Yelp were good. I wasn’t sold until I read the menu. I didn’t think I was hungry, but my stomach started grumbling and my mouth started watering when I read the menu so I took that as a sign.


This place had a hipster vibe and the bartender admitted to me that they were a new restaurant and still trying to “find themselves”. Aren’t we all buddy. The menu was so interesting I wanted to order way more food than I could eat. The bartender gave me some suggestions and I went with the beef skillet, kind of like a fajita platter but with pineapple, no tortillas, and an interesting blend of spices. The crab cake tacos (a bartender recommendation) and the fried bao buns. I picked a medium beer and all my food arrived at once. Really quickly. The crab tacos were amazing. An interesting flavor combination that worked really well. They were smaller, like street tacos so it took about five bites to eat each one. Whole boiled peanuts with guacamole and crab cakes in a small flour tortilla with spiced red cabbage…. yes please! The beef skillet was also good with some spice that wasn’t mexican or chinese. A little spicy that the pineapple blended with perfectly. The fried bao buns were not what I was expecting and had similar spices to the beef skillet. I tried one, but didn’t need to finish the other. For dessert I had the miso ice cream sandwich with churro cookies. This place was pretty good and I texted my brother-in-law who comes to Richmond a lot to make sure he tries it next time he is here.

Wong Gonzales food
Yummy food!

While I try not to eat dinner at the same place twice, I have no such rules when it comes to breakfast. I had skipped breakfast my first morning and later that day I walked by a place called Pop’s Market on Grace (Grace Street) and stopped in to look at the menu. Breakfast looked amazing and the gentleman I was talking to said I should add kale and the house made fennel sausage to the frittata I was asking about. House made I questioned and he said Yep and that he was heading back to make it soon. Turns out he and his Mom own the place. She told me later that when they started it in November of 2015. The next morning the place was hopping and I ordered the frittata with housemade fennel sausage. It was delicious. Very big with a great flavor profile. The seasoned potatoes adding a great dimension in the dish.

Frittata
Frittata and work

I skipped the boxed lunch that day and instead walked to the James River. On my first trip Jay took me running here and it was nice to visit again.

James River
James River

The conference finished about 4pm that day and I found myself back at Pop’s Market on Grace. They make their English muffins from scratch and I was hoping they had some left. They didn’t, but I ended up hanging out there for a few hours working on some stuff. It was the best version of a coffee shop / neighborhood place I have seen in awhile. Pop’s is big with lots of tables and windows. The Mom said they tried to make a place that people wanted to come and use. A neighborhood place where people could linger. I saw teenage ballerinas there, some medical students, and other people stopping by on their way home. It was pretty cool. Before I knew it seven o’clock rolled around and the few snacks I had at Pop’s ended up being my dinner.

Cafe

The next morning I was at Pop’s soon after they opened and ordered some english muffins to take home with me for T. They were not out of the oven so I came back when the conference was over and before I headed to the airport to pick them up. If I lived in the area, Pop’s would be one of my go to places.

English muffin
I had to try an english muffin...

The weather my last day in Richmond was brisk compared to the hot first few days and I had the same shuttle driver on the way back to the airport. On my layover in Chicago I eat at Tortas Frontera, a Rick Bayless restaurant inside the airport. You know, to keep the good food coming.


I ate at the places in the area I was in, and luckily there was some good choices. If I am in the area again there are some new restaurants I can try next time. Eating at a new place for dinner each night when traveling keeps the evenings interesting and full of flavor. I highly recommend it!


-elizabeth


A few travel notes to myself:

  • Bring yoga mat or towel. Maybe find a local yoga class.

  • Pack vitamins

  • Review sunrise / sunset times to see about running

  • Bring swimming stuff it there is a pool

  • If there is too much food, remember to skip a meal.

  • Bubble baths!

  • Ear plugs and eye mask. Even for hotel rooms.

 

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