I honestly can't say enough good things about our stay at Grace Manor. From the moment we arrived we felt welcome and relaxed; greeted promptly by Albert and the Inn's two lovely resident Yorkies (Dawn was at the cupcake shop, and we got to sample her culinary creations for breakfast!), we were treated to a brief and interesting history of the building and short tour before being shown to our exceptionally nice suite! Full of original details, it consisted of a bathroom featuring original tiles, a sitting room with a working fireplace, and spacious bedroom with a good view of the beautiful street and a charming little interior sink tucked away in the doorway between the bedroom and sitting area - so convenient!
Breakfast was three courses (tailored to accommodate the dietary needs of the various guests), generally starting with a fruit-based dish, proceeding into heartier fare like eggs Benedict, and finishing with a cupcake - yes, cupcakes for breakfast, and mimosas if you want them - you're on vacation, so why not indulge in the little pleasures? Wonderful teas from Carytown Teas are also available; I recommend trying some, then stopping by the shop to pick up a bag of your favourite to take home. The portions at breakfast were perfectly sized, leaving us satisfied but not so full that we wanted to roll upstairs and sleep it off. Conveniently located within comfortable walking distance of many excellent local restaurants, you won't be left wanting for lunch or supper, either - enjoy your meal in the spacious back yard by the swimming pool (yes - a private pool in the heart of Richmond!), or do what I did and savour that sandwich from Kuba Kuba while you soak in the massive antique bathtub.
Parking was limited but easy, with a small private lot behind the property, and the lovely Fan district location made for safe, comfortable walking, so trying to re-park wherever we went wasn't an issue. The street was quiet in the morning and remained relatively peaceful throughout the day, adding to the tranquil, relaxing environment so carefully curated by the innkeepers.
Dawn, Albert and their adorable Yorkies have taken a rare jewel of an historic Richmond property, revived it, and created a truly magical place inside the bustling city. While there are certainly more lower-priced places to stay, if you're going to treat yourself to a proper vacation why not treat yourself to the best? Far from some forgettable hotel where you spend as little time as possible (and as much of it asleep as you can), with its exceptional service and exquisite surroundings, Grace Manor becomes a part of the experience that turns a trip into a happy memory.
Ever since fancy, frilly (and often expensive!) cupcakes became a trend, quite a few cupcake shops have opened which should more properly be called frosting shops. I'm sure anyone reading this is likely familiar with the tired cliche of a towering squirt of tooth-aching frosting atop a stale afterthought of cake that's come to define a lot of the cupcake trend. So what about those of us who love the cake? Where's our place for single-serving sweetness?
Carytown Cupcakes, that's where! The spouse and I stopped in to this Richmond charmer one afternoon for a post-walk snack and were delighted with every bite. There were plenty of choices, including vegan and gluten-free options (which the young lady at the counter swore were delicious despite being neither vegan nor into gluten-free eating herself), and while my own uncool and never-catered-to food allergies (walnuts and pineapple) limited my selection, it really didn't matter to me as soon as the clerk told me that the lemon cupcake had a lemon curd filling. Sold!
The first thing I noticed about their cupcakes was that I could see cake - actual cake! - beneath a modest dollop of frosting. The second thing I noticed was that said cake was moist, flavourful, tender and not at all an afterthought, with a good texture that paired well with the frosting. The spouse opted for a chocolate and peanut butter concoction which he praised for representing both ingredients well without being too sweet or overly rich; I also found the lemon cupcake well-balanced in tartness (my preference) and sweetness.
The shop itself is small but lovely, with a view into the well-maintained kitchen area where you can see your treats prepared; the staff were friendly, and the prices quite reasonable for the size and quality of the cupcakes. But most importantly, they serve *cupcakes* and not piles of frosting on hockey pucks inside wrappers! I'm hard-pressed to think of the last time I had that at a shop specializing in cupcakes, so three cheers for Carytown Cupcakes!
Lovely location, warm service, and baked goods that range from the standards to the unexpected! We'd stopped in just planning to get a loaf of bread and ended up leaving with some coffee cake for an afternoon snack and a peanut butter brownie for dessert. Despite it being later in the day there were several varieties of brownie available, croissants and turnovers with different fillings, baguettes, sliced breads, and more! The coffee cake was still perfectly moist even though it was the last piece on the tray, and the tender cake held a surprise - jam was beneath the crumb topping, adding surprise deliciousness to an already tasty item. The brownie had peanut butter cup bits scattered across the top to amp up the peanut butter taste, and the one serving was enough for the two of us to share for dessert both that night and the following night! It kept well in the refrigerator and didn't become stale or dry. If you're looking for baked good classics done right with a twist here and there, Lucille's is the place for you!
Nile offers some of the best Ethiopian food I've ever eaten, especially when it comes to vegetarian options. The mushroom tibbs is something I've never seen anywhere else, and it's superb. They offer the usual standards for Ethiopian restaurants as well -lentils, cabbage, and so forth- but they're done with care, seasoned to highlight the main ingredient rather than to make everything a slop of spices. In particular this approach stands out to me with the shiro wat, which I don't always care for in general but adore at Nile. Recently, it was announced they'll be closing in July; I'll miss one of my Richmond favourites and I hope the owners have something wonderful waiting ahead!
This Southern gal hereby declares this to be the most delicious coconut cream pie ever made that did not originate in her family's kitchen. Seriously. Good. Perfectly creamy pie, just enough coconut, not at all overwhelmingly sweet, and a crust that reminded me of ANZAC biscuits which was a lovely departure from the typical crusts one finds with such pies. If for no other reason, go there and experience this pie!
Proper Pie Co's interior is lovely, made bright with large windows and pleasant with charming retro-style decor. Offering pies savory and sweet with a smile, along with traditional Aus/NZ sweets like Lamington (which are lovely; try one), this adorable shop would be a regular destination for me if only I lived closer! It's definitely on our list of Reasons to Move to Richmond - that's just how good they do it.
Books. Lots of books. Book new and used. Books you have, and books you want, and books you see that you didn't know you wanted but now you do. A bookshop cat. Lovely views from the upstairs. Could I ask for a wider selection of cooking and history books? Of course, but that's always the case when you already own nearly 5k cookbooks (for real, yo); even Amazon can't satisfy me there. Chop Suey offers all the wonderful little experiences that don't come via downloading something to a Kindle, and they combine those with very fair prices and helpful staff. Books: Go here, and make them part of your life today.
I don't know if sitting outside on a beautiful day and experiencing great service made our pizza taste better, but I can say that Flames 231 served up some delicious pie! The spouse and I went a little after the usual lunch rush and had the entire patio all to ourselves; the better to wolf down tasty pizza without trying to look classy! We ordered the parmigiana pizza and a garden salad (Proper Pie Co was our next stop, and we aimed to save room for dessert); I'd hoped to try some local beers, but the taps were being repaired that afternoon. The salad featured a generous portion of Gorgonzola, paper-thin red onion slices and some pretty tasty cherry tomatoes, and while the lettuce looked as if it might be a little wilted, it ended up being perfectly crisp - I suppose it was a butterhead or other softer-leaved variety. The balsamic vinaigrette worked well with the strong profile of the cheese and the faint sweetness of the lettuce.
When the pizza arrived, the first thing I could smell was the crust; appealingly bready with a hint of wood smoke, it promised to be divine. It lived up to that promise for sure! Though thin, the nicely textured crust held up well to the toppings, which consisted of light sauce, fresh whole basil leaves, eggplant, and mozzarella. The cheese was sweet, creamy, lightly browned and very fresh-tasting, working perfectly with the sauce. The eggplant appeared to have been breaded prior to roasting, which is something I could totally do without - eggplant is delicious, and the flavour would have been better represented with a more simple preparation - and sadly, was greasy. It took two napkins to soak up the extra oil on my slices, and those napkins were transparent after the fact. Those nit-picks aside, the pizza was extremely enjoyable overall, and excellent in taste and texture. Less oil and a focus on the eggplant would take it to religious experience levels, I imagine.
The little we saw of the interior (far too nice outside to be indoors!) was modern without being cold, and the service from both the host and waitress was friendly and attentive, but never hover-y. We got lucky in parking, though I can see how it could easily be a hassle, but I can't fault the restaurant for that - they don't zone the streets! All in all, Flames 231 made a beautiful day even better with a great meal, and will definitely require a return visit the next time we find ourselves in Richmond.
Don't overlook this neighbourhood treasure if you're in the area! From local coffee to a relatively impressive (and pretty well-priced) array of beers and wines both local and international, there's a lot to quench any thirst. Strawberry Street Market has you covered on a variety of food fronts as well; there's a small hot food counter in the back, a selection of cold items in the front cases, and a nice choice of chocolates by the register to complement the various beverage selections, as well as a few short aisles featuring your typical convenience store items. The store is clean and well-organized, and the staff are friendly and efficient. Definitely worth stopping in!
Now, I love sweets. There are few desserts in this world that can best me, and this week I met one of those at Blue Sky - the Buckeye cake. A thick, fudgy, brownie-like cake layer, topped with a confection not unlike the peanut butter inside a peanut butter cup, all covered in chocolate. Someone hold me. Five bites, and I was unable to go on! Fortunately, the spouse stepped in and took up the gauntlet, vanquishing the pastry. GLORIOUS.
The broccoli-cheese soup was one of the best I've ever had outside my own kitchen, the vegetable foccacia put pizza to shame, and the pimento cheese sandwich was Southern quality. A Greek salad with plenty of feta, olives, and mixed greens completed the meal to perfection; everything was fresh and delicious. Prices? Let's just say you couldn't get one of those bone-dry, stale-pile-of-frosting, trendy cupcakes you find at 'boutique' bakeries for the price of that monumental slab of cake!
Vegetarian options aren't plentiful but the ones they have greatly outdo the usual limp iceberg salad and sad cheese sandwiches that are usually pawned off on meatless eaters in many cafe situations, with plenty of filling choices for the meat-eating crowd as well. The little bakery itself is charmingly shabby-chic, with very friendly staff and a menu which, though certainly not haute-cuisine-creative, takes the usual soda counter standards and makes them a step above the rest.
If you're in Lexington, a trip to Blue Sky will brighten your day no matter what the weather!
A treasure hunt for the book lover! Floor to ceiling books - literally - in just about any subject or era or binding or author you could want. It's a small shop, but the place is crammed with books! Old, new, antique; you'll find it all here, with specialist offerings of a far higher quality than the average chain bookshop and, for what we bought, prices that beat Amazon by a fair amount. If you prefer actual paper books to digital content that can be remotely deactivated at someone else's whim, come indulge your love at the Bookery!
Monty Python fans will no doubt be thinking of the cheese shop sketch, but unlike that classic this particular shop is filled with cheesy goodness! All sold by the half-pound, you'll find everything from the finest aged cheddars to locally made washed rind cheeses along with crackers, jams, and other cheese accompaniments so you can get your snacking going as soon as you like. The cheeses are properly cared for here, resulting in maximum flavour and quality, and the seemingly limited selection is actually a carefully curated assortment of the best of each style. Don't miss this rare gem of a specialty shop next time you're in Lexington!
Tucked away across from the Stonewall Jackson house, Washington Street Purveyors is a nice little bottle shop with a good selection of wines, a fair selection of beers (with plenty local offerings), and the delicious foods that go well with both, like gourmet crackers and varieties of olives. Some interesting non-alcoholic bottled drinks, like herb-infused lemonades, are also offered, making it a great stop on your way to an afternoon picnic by the river! While the selection isn't massive the quality of the beverages doesn't stray below the mid-range, so while there may not be aisle after aisle of choices, you also won't have to sort through cheap dreck to find a pleasing, affordable bottle. Service is friendly but not hover-y, and the store dog is a fun addition - head pats gladly welcomed!