Monday, September 23, 2013

Richmond bites

Enjoying the rocks on Belle Isle
Here's a brief respite from healthy smoothies. This past weekend my boyfriend and I made a mini trip to Richmond, VA. We went to a beautiful park, called Belle Isle, which is an island in the James River. It was a POW camp in the Civil War and later used for industrial purposes. Now it's a revitalization project with an impressive retrofitted pedestrian bridge under the car-centric Robert E. Lee Memorial Bridge. The revitalization seemed to be working, as the scene was vital -- with lots of brave bathers in the rapids.

The park would make a fine spot for a picnic. However we were also in Richmond to dine out, which we did at these three veg-friendly spots.
Vegan breakfast burrito with salsa and grits

821 Café 
We hit 821 Café for brunch.  Located at 825 West Cary Street, this busy café had a kitchen staff of very energetic punks. It was fun to watch them slice massive amounts of onions from the counter bar stools. My boyfriend and I both ordered the vegan breakfast burritos with sides of grits and salsa (above). The burrito was filled with curried tofu, vegan sausage, rosemary potatoes, and black beans. My boyfriend thought his burrito was too bland but I doused mine in the readily available hot sauces.

The grits were rather meh; like Cream of Wheat. But I think that's a style. (We are spoiled by the delicious jalapeño vegan grits at DC's Smoke & Barrel.) 821 Café also had an impressive draft list, good coffee, unsweetened tea (hard to find sometimes in the South), and spacious bathrooms.

Vegan Buffalo Wings

Strange Matter
Next we visited Strange Matter, a barcade/music venue at 929 W Grace Street, for pints and classic 1980's video games. We weren't going to get any food but could not resist the Vegan Buffalo Wings, served with vegan ranch dressing (above). Made of tofu, these greasy, breaded faux wings did the trick. Overall, Strange Matter is a little funky but lovable. Half of the arcade's games are out of commission but that adds to the charm of the few working machines. It's like playing in a video game graveyard.

Panda Veg Buffet plate
Panda Veg
Finally we ended our Richmond excursion at an old favorite, Panda Veg, located at 948 West Grace Street. Okay, I guess this restaurant has, in fact, changed their name to "Panda Garden" and they are no longer all veggie. They now offer meat. But the inviting sign on their facade continues to read "Panda Veg" and that's what it is in my heart.

Panda Veg still has an all vegan buffet on weekend nights. Yes, an all vegan Chinese food buffet. The quality and quantity of the buffet was very good on the night that we visited. Although some of the dishes are laughable. Like the salt potatoes, which are my boyfriend's favorite buffet item. I enjoy the donuts for dessert but you shouldn't overdo. (Once, with my parents, we got an entire Chinese take-out container of them. Too much of a good thing.)

Dessert of oranges and donuts

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