Regarding Rva

InLight Richmond

Recorded on November 12th, 2016

Tonight we went to InLight Richmond in Scott’s Addition. It was a creative, supportive shot in the arm after the dumpster fire that this week was.

I know that we’re not out of the woods by just having lived through this week. Shit is just getting started and we have to be ready. But InLight was an oasis of art and beauty that I felt doing a lot of good everywhere I looked. It reminded me that even if dangerous idiots are in power, that the people can still inspire each other with what they make with their minds and hands.

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Studio Two Three’s 2016 Auction by the Campfire

Recorded on October 1st, 2016

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Studio Two Three, Richmond’s jewel of a community art/printing studio, had their annual auction tonight. I don’t know how they pulled it off, but they somehow managed to have a crowded, loud party that was also cozy, friendly, and inviting.

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It should be no surprise, because the studio itself and the people who run it are also cozy, friendly, and inviting. Tons of people showed up to bid on the metric ton of beautiful art. I hope they made a lot of dough tonight. RVA is way cooler with Studio Two Three in it.

And Sarah’s piece sold quickly (of course)!

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I Will Totally Return to Wong Gonzalez

Recorded on July 13th, 2016

photo of interior of Wong Gonzalez restaurant

My brother once said that he’d love to write movie reviews if all he had to do was see the movie and write one-sentence summaries saying “Sucks” or “Go see it”. This isn’t a review of Wong Gonzalez on Grace St. so much as a direction to “Go eat there” because:

  1. The staff is friendly.
  2. They have a really good but not overwhelming beer selection.
  3. The Wong’s Guac appetizer (with crispy fried shallots and shrimp crackers) that our friends got tonight looked great, and I think they liked them. I was too full to eat anything more than my own entrée.
  4. I can 100% recommend General Wong’s Fried Chicken Burrito. It’s glazed fried chicken with rice and other stuff in a burrito. Delicious!

The photo above was taken tonight (Tuesday) at 9:14, well past their peak hours. It was quite a bit busier an hour before. With all those people eating and drinking well, it can get loud and cavernous. That could be solved with some acoustical treatments on the ceiling, but that’s the only thing I think Wong Gonzalez needs. They’ve only been open a few weeks, so I’m sure that finishing touch is coming eventually.

Go see it!

Dudes: Just be aware that there’s a big-ass Farrah Fawcett print taking up an entire wall of the men’s room. It can startle a person if they’re not expecting it.

photo of bathroom at Wong Gonzalez

Half-Price Veggie Sushi Tuesday Nights at Sticky ToGoGo

Recorded on June 16th, 2016

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Sarah and I feel it’s our duty to let all of Richmond know about Sticky ToGoGo’s half-price veggie sushi Tuesday nights. After 6pm, it’s open season, and more than once, we have gotten way too much sushi for two people. We’ve always been able to deal, but it hasn’t been easy.

Here’s what we got last night. For the two of us, it was a bit much. Next time we’ll dial back on at least one of the smaller plates. I doubt we’ll go hungry:

  • 1 Hot Hippy
  • 1 The Silence of the Yams
  • 2 Gardens on Fire
  • 2 South Rolls
  • 2 Avocado Rolls

Be aware that Tuesday nights there are naturally very popular, so it’s best to call your order in and pick it up. If you just drop by and make an order in person, you’re going to have to wait around for 40 minutes.

The Quirk Hotel Rooftop Bar

Recorded on June 2nd, 2016

For our anniversary tonight (woo-hoo! nine years with the love of my life and partner in nerdy crime!), we went to the Hill Cafe and then back into the city to the Quirk Hotel rooftop bar. I had heard tales of it and had some preconceived notions about the danger involved in alcohol + many floors up + open sky above, but it turns out there’s plenty of safety margin around the edge. If you don’t mind having to wait 15 minutes (or more if it’s busy) in a line to get in, it’s a treat, especially on a balmy night. The drinks are delicious, and the line (or “queue”) serves to keep it from getting unpleasantly crowded.

We both had an “Iron Society”: bourbon, aperol, strawberry schrub, lemon juice, and orange citrate bitters. Sarah watched them make it and said it was a healthy pour of bourbon. Alright!

view while they made our drinks

view to the west

random people. so many Apple Watches.

Iron Society

The Levi’s Store in Short Pump Is Gone

Recorded on May 16th, 2016

That title makes me think of American Music Club.

In case you dudes find yourselves wanting to make a twice-a-decade trip to buy some jeans in Richmond, you can take the former Levi’s store that once was at Shorte Pumpe Towne Centre off your list. It’s just gone, replaced by something else — I forget what. No warning. I felt like it was somehow my fault for not buying enough jeans over the years. The H&M is still there, though, for when your significant other needs to take a retail break from your hunting for retail.

The new just-as-good place to get jeans is the Macy’s in the same towne centre. They had everything I needed tonight, and even in my size. (Note: the 514 style is the new go-to. Not baggy, not hipster-skinny.) And they had them in Anton Newcombe White among other colors.

Bonus: Between the former location of the absent Levi’s store and the Macy’s is now a Chick-fil-A. Right there, right in the mall. It’s like God wanted you to eat chicken sandwiches.

Center of the Universe IV Belgian Quad Is One of My Favorite Beers Ever

Recorded on May 2nd, 2016

logo of Center of the Universe IV Quad beer

Mekong was serving COTU’s IV Belgian Quad the other night. I’d been wanting to try a real quad after hearing Nerds on Draft go on about them, so I ordered it as soon as I saw the words “quad” and “aged in red wine barrels” on the beer menu. It was everything I hoped it would be: Thick, complex, sweet but not too sweet, and with bubbles. I could have made a meal on it alone.

Aaaaaaaand, not that this has anything to do with anything, it has the same name as the unofficial title to Led Zeppelin’s fourth studio album, if that’s how you think of that.

From the COTU blog:

IV ( Four ) is a traditional Belgian Quadrupel clocking in at 10.6% alcohol by volume. This complex brew exudes flavors of dates, figs, and caramel. The beer is finished in VA born red wine barrels to add to the already intricate array of dark fruits.

Mary Angela’s Has the Best Fries in Richmond

Recorded on May 1st, 2016

photo of fries from Mary Angela's Pizza

If you’re looking for the best fries in Richmond, look no further than Mary Angela’s Pizza on Cary St.

Why would a place known for their delicious pizzas have the best fries? I don’t know. Just be grateful that you evolved from a much earlier life form and your parents bumped into each other a few years after the owners of Mary Angela’s did and they opened a business and you moved to Richmond and were hungry one day and ordered fries.

Let me describe the ways in which their fries are the best:

  1. There are no unnecessary bullshit spices on their fries. Who needs that? It would just detract from the taste.
  2. There is no unecessary bullshit skin on their fries. See #1.
  3. The surface area is off the chain. Crinkles. I’m sure if you do some math involving sines, cosines, and tangents, you’ll discover that Mary Angela’s has optimized the angles such that there is a maximum ratio of crispy french fry surface to length of fry. Oscar had a heap of apples, indeed.
  4. The temperature is perfect. Just barely hot enough to be uncomfortable to bite right into. You have to blow on them a little at first. Their fries are never burned, nor are they overcooked.
  5. They come in a basket big enough to share with one other person, but no more than one other person.
  6. They will deliver the basket of fries well in advance of the pizza.

Stop reading this and go get some fries at Mary Angela’s.

Mean Bird’s Chicken Tenders Sandwich

Recorded on April 24th, 2016

This weekend we visited the Mean Bird truck at the RVA Street Art Festival, and I was lucky that they were out of veggie chicken (which I love). Lucky, because all that left me was regular chicken to choose from. The menu had what seemed too good to be true: a chicken tenders + slaw sandwich. I think it was $8, which seems like a lot, until you realize how enormous the Mean Bird portions are. (No sides are necessary with their main dishes.)

Five minutes after ordering, the sandwich was ready. If you’ve read this far, let me say: get this if you ever see them offer it. There are so many giant tenders in the basket that you have to eat some just to get them out of the way before you assemble the remaining ones on the open-faced bun into the form of a sandwich. This is a burden, but someone has to do it.

The tenders: they’re very large, very crispy yet juicy, and tender (thus, the name). Way better than the tenders you’re used to as bar food elsewhere. All other tenders will have a lot to live up to from now on.

I still don’t see the chicken tenders sandwich on the menu on their website, but I hope it makes more appearances. A+++.

Ross Catrow on the “Two People” podcast

Recorded on April 20th, 2016

Thanks to the “Good Morning, RVA” newsletter for pointing out Ross Catrow’s appearance on the Two People podcast. Catrow is the publisher of RVANews and he struck me as just instantly likable, funny, and enthusiastic. He’s hopeful about Richmond’s future and unfailingly gracious to his publishing compatriots. And he’s a big fat unapologetic nerd about movies and other stuff he likes (which he co-hosts a separate podcast about). No guilty pleasures!

He also pointed out that RVANews’s voice — the voice I read it for — is a conscious effort to be informative, a little weird, and positive. And they don’t mind stating their biases upfront, which is refreshing for me. I don’t know if this is a recent development or if it just happened that I finally woke up to them during their astoundingly great coverage of the bike races last year. Whatever — when I read RVANews I feel like I’ve found my people.

Blaine Lay and Chris Payne do an excellent job of turning out a relaxed yet polished (but not too polished) podcast. When you check out the Two People Instagram, you can see that they use real microphones — no overmodulated shouting into laptops in a cavernous room here! There’s more to it than the gear, though. For me, when I saw that they’ve also interviewed Kendra Feather and Valley Haggard, it was an instant subscribe in Overcast.

Now I have to go check out this Letterboxd thing Catrow was talking about.

Pizza Tonight on Main St.

Recorded on March 19th, 2016

photo from Pizza Tonight restaurant

As soon as I typed the title for this, I started thinking about Bob Seger. Not a bad way to start. At least I didn’t title it, “Tonight We’re Gonna Eat at Pizza Tonight”.

As part of my All-Pizza All-The-Time Treat Yo’self 2016 Birthdaystravaganza, we went to Pizza Tonight’s new permanent home in downtown Richmond tonight (sorry). I’m not much of a restaurant reviewer, but I will say that we will 100% go back when we’re ready for pizza again. If it were up to me, I could return tomorrow, because as I always tell Sarah, “The pizza counter resets to zero every day.”

We’ve been fans of the Pizza Tonight mobile brick oven for years. Their full-on restaurant opened a few months ago and now serves dinner. I assumed we would feel at home before we got there, but once we walked in, I didn’t want to leave, ever (except for when I got sleepy later after eating so much). It has a lot in common with the cozy, dimly-lit, exposed brick at The Hill Cafe. The servers were attentive and friendly, and they have an excellent beer list. I believe I had a Heavy Seas Deep Six English Porter. I know the draught menu at least said “Heavy Seas English Porter”, and the Deep Six is the only one I know of from Heavy Seas. It was like having dessert first – no problem here!

We started with the house-made bread, dipping it in olive oil. That’s when my Homer Simpson yummy noises started. When the pizzas came out, they were just like the delicious ones from their mobile wood-fired brick oven, only now we were sitting in actual chairs at a table in a restaurant. Mine was a margherita pizza, and Sarah’s had thinly sliced potatoes, rosemary, chiles, and Grano Padano. They’re comparable to what you would get at the wonderful Stuzzi, but a little thinner and more cooked. We loved them and put them away easily. (Not because we’re pigs, but because they were great pizzas and we hadn’t eaten much today.) No leftovers to take home!

Go there and write a review on Yelp, or you know, on your own blog or wherever. Or at least just on Google, so you can increase their rating there from its current unjust 3.5 stars. I don’t get it.

The “Good Morning, RVA” Newsletter Is So Good

Recorded on March 10th, 2016

I have discovered an email list I look forward to getting every morning. This isn’t one where I see the subject line and think, “ugh, another too-long, hard-to-read-on-mobile email subscription that hides too much content behind hyperlinks so they can lure people to their website for clickthroughs”. The Good Morning, RVA newsletter from RVANews is the opposite of all that. I don’t know how long it’s been around. Probably years. But if someone had written about it like I’m doing for you now, and if I had read that then, I would have signed up long ago and had many happier mornings in the meantime.

First, the usefulness. They get out of their own way by linking not only to RVANews items, but often to other local and national news sources. It doesn’t matter where the content comes from. They just look for the good stuff and put it all in one place, and give you enough context to easily know whether you want to commit to the dreaded hyperlink tap. And they do it without taking forever to get through it all. It’s just the right length for something you get every day.

The end always includes a link to some longread that is well-chosen and usually irresistible and Instapaper-worthy, followed by a morning Instagram from a local Richmond person.

Every day, the whole message has a breath-of-fresh-air unstuffy tone. It is eerily, happily like a buddy who’s eager to tell you about what to watch for in town today. They’re not too cool for school and they don’t spare the exclamation points. This was their weather report yesterday:

Good morning, RVA! It’s 54 °F, and ALERT: Today we will experience highs in the 80s! If ever there was a time to wear a tank top or take your happy hour outside, that time is now. It is your duty.

^^^^^ THAT is the only kind of weather report I need. Talk about aligning with the values of your readers.

The one they sent out this past Tuesday opened with this head and subhead:

Good Morning, RVA: Oh it’s sprung
Not wearing socks today, I’ll tell you that much.

Who wouldn’t like to see that at the top of an email? Reading through the rest of it, it’s clear that it is written by a person, with a personality. If it’s not all done by the same human every morning, they’ve pulled off an amazing Borg-mind trick whereby their fun, approachable editorial voice is totally unified. Whenever I browse RVANews articles on the website, I get the feeling that they’ve nailed a consistent voice everywhere, not just in email.

Enough of reading me describing an email newsletter. Go sign up for it. I haven’t tried the “Good Evening, RVA” email yet, but it’s probably great, too. They do such a good job.