Exploring Richmond – Episode 1

I’ve been thinking about moving the various items about places we visit and eat to their own posts.  Since I am away this week at the Episcopal Youth Event, I thought I could insert the first one here.

We have been exploring for a while.  So I have a certain backlog of stories to share moving forward.  Can’t spend all our time being tourists, there’s work to do!

Having some time on our hands we decided to check out a Farmer’s Market.  Sadly, someone (oh fine, it was your humble author) forgot the magazine with the address in it and pulled the wrong place out of his swiss cheese brain.

Oops.  Next time.

Being intrepid explorers we simply set our sights on our next destination.  Besides, it was time for lunch.  Off we went in search of the legendary Alamo BBQ.

Ah, barbecue.  So many arguments to be created about what is or isn’t barbecue.  How it’s cooked, how long it’s cooked, what kind of meat is cooked, the ever tempestuous discussion of rub vs sauce/marinade.  At the bottom line what most of us think of as barbecue (or BBQ) in this day and age is the classic “southern style” barbecue.  Cooked long over low heat from wood charcoal with real wood smoke.  The other great divisor in this conversation is the sweet vs spicy discussion.  It’s about as complicated a foodie theology as anything that France has ever produced.

Here’s my theology of barbecue – I like it all.  Rubs, marinades, sauces (tomato or vinegar or mustard), pork, chicken, beef and links.  I want lots of meat and just enough of the sides to fill in the holes.

Living in central Virginia I among some serious barbecue folk.  Among those folk Alamo BBQ is spoken of in hushed tones.  It’s hard to speak loudly while drooling.  So the lady of the house and I headed into the heart of Church Hill.  Sitting on a wedge shaped corner of Jefferson, 22nd and Clay is a tiny little place with tables, chairs and benches clustered under the awning that shades the front.  The line was about8 folks long when we got there but business was steady the entire visit.  My lady wife opted for the pulled pork (her go-to barbecue) while I tried the barbecue platter (two meats and three sides.  Since she had the pork covered I got the brisket and chicken with jalapeno mac and cheese, potato salad and corn bread with honey butter).  Alamo falls on the spicy side of the sweet/spicy divide but was held within reason.  My Lady Wife was a little nonplussed by the cole slaw served Primanti style on the sandwich but allowed that it worked.  The brisket and chicken were both outstanding, the spicy mac was quite good, the potato salad seemed to have a zing as well.  I could have used something to contrast with the general spiciness but that’s a quibble.  The corn bread was outstanding.  The price for all of this plus a couple drinks was less than $20.

The Alamo certainly lives up to the legend.Photo-0024

Then it was on to the Poe Museum.  I’ve always associated Poe with Baltimore but a large part of his life, including much of his childhood, was spent in Richmond.  It wasn’t always happy times but out of it grew a strong and determined man who would become one of the pillars of American writing at its best.  While quite small, the museum offers a wonderful look at Poe’s life in Richmond.  The museum consists of four buildings surrounding a central “enchanted garden” (very popular for weddings.  While beautiful it still strikes me as odd).  At the far end is the Poe Shrine where the statue in the picture can be found.

Very inexpensive and very interesting.  Can easily be done in an hour and we thought it worth every minute.

By now we had worked up a thirst and wanted to see if there was someplace we could stop that had a view of the river.  Nothing turned up quickly (open to suggestions) so we settled on the Southern Railway TapHouse, near the Canal Walk.  We watched the end of a World Cup match, had a couple of mixed drinks ($10 a pop struck us as a good reason to stick to beer and wine) and enjoyed the excellent service.

Then we wandered down to the Canal Walk.

Now I’ve been to San Antonio’s Paseo del Rio.  Richmond is not in that league.  We wandered just a little way in both directions.  The path is generally well maintained with historical markers along the way.  We did find one restaurant/bar, but they had no TVs so we would have missed the end of the game.  There’s always a trade off.  They have guided tours on boats but we decided to save that for another day.

What really impressed us was the wall that shows the flood water levels for a handful of historic floods in Richmond.  Impressive, and a little frightening.  We’ll be back to explore some more.

On the whole it was a good day.  The food and drink were outstanding.  The museum was fun and the canal area looks like it’s worthy of some more exploration.  (Maybe on a Segway!  Saw a group go by on those).

Still so much more to explore!

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