The great thing about potluck dinners is that you can try a little bit of everything, then go back for seconds of the things you like most. I guess this isn’t an entirely new concept to restaurants considering Spanish tapas eateries have been on the scene for years, but until recently, my only encounters with the Southern comfort version were at large family gatherings. Within the past few months, however, two restaurants offering familiar local cuisine in snacks and small plates have opened in the city.
Pasture on East Grace Street, a new endeavor by chef Jason Alley of Comfort, is described as “a southern small plates restaurant with a focus on local products.” Our party of four ordered a whole smorgasbord of dishes – deviled eggs, pimento cheese with crackers, pork belly, fried oysters, a Virginia ham plate, and more, more, more. A standout was definitely the fried oysters. Perfectly breaded meaty goodness, they were so tasty, we ordered seconds. Oh, and we had more of the creamy pimento cheese, too. And therein lies the only problem with the small plate concept. Each dish is so reasonably priced, you feel OK about ordering more and more and more, but the bill can add up like a bachelorette party bar tab. A little self-control goes a long way. I went back to Pasture for lunch recently and was surprised that the small plates weren’t on the lunch menu. Still, the falafel sandwich – a special of the day – was fresh and flavorful, and they also offer those fried oysters sandwich-style at lunchtime.
My most recent small plate experience was at the freshly-opened Mint. This sweet spot in the Fan doesn’t bill itself as a small plates place, but our same table of four couldn’t resist sampling what seemed like the whole list of appetizers and a few snacks. We had pork BBQ Johnny cakes, calamari, crab dip, fried pickles, macaroni and pimento cheese, and more fried oysters. I love fried pickles, and Mint’s version was perfect. The crab dip was creamy with lots of crab, and everything else was “Mint-y” fresh and delicious. Really, we only scratched the surface of Mint’s menu, though. I hear the chicken and sweet potato waffles are yummy, and I do believe my next order will be the oh-so-Southern fried green tomatoes and a grilled pork chop with jalapeno/apple/ molasses barbecue sauce and Byrd’s Mill grits. Southerners sure do know how to do food right, and Pasture and Mint are serving up Southern cuisine to do our city proud.
Mint New Casual Cuisine
2501 West Main Street | Richmond, VA 23220
Carla Murray is Assistant Director of Marketing & PR for Maymont. She is a Richmond native and a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate. She lives in New Kent with her husband, two daughters, a dog, a cat and a turtle. Some of her favorite activities include letterboxing, long walks, Cirque du Soleil shows, wine tastings, reading novels, and spending time with family and friends.