Posts Tagged ‘Shockoe Bottom’

In keeping with the ever-expanding holiday spirit, this Friday is Richmond’s 26th Annual Grand Illumination.  In the past I have stayed at a distance to avoid the traffic, but this year, with a shiny new parking space right in the thick of things, I am ready to join the countdown.  This is really the kick off to the holiday season in Richmond so holiday events will be non-stop from here on in.

At 5:59pm, Santa will begin the countdown to light up all the downtown office buildings, the James Center tree, and all the beautiful James Center reindeer at 6pm sharp.  They have been hard at work for weeks placing all the reindeer and decorating inside the James Center.  It will definitely be beautiful.  Richmond isn’t going to miss out on a chance to turn this into a street festival, so there will also be blocks of family entertainment including live music, the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Richmond Ballet, various characters from The Nutcracker, the Snow Queen, and the Virginia Piedmont and Central HO Model Railroad Club.  Radio Disney will also be there to keep the kids entertained (as if the twinkling lights aren’t enough).  Although the Grand Illumination itself will run from 6pm-7pm, much of downtown Richmond has gotten in on the act and there will be free and discounted activities until 9pm.

From 6-10pm (on Friday AND Saturday) there will be free horse and carriage rides around the historic River district (these are usually $10/person).  A 12-passenger holiday decorated carriage will carry families around Shockoe Slip & Shockoe Bottom.  All rides start and end at the fountain at 13th and E. Cary Streets and last approximately 20 minutes. 

Make sure you don’t miss out on the $2 canal rides while you are in the area (ages 4 and under are free).  Canal rides are being offered at this discounted rate from 6-9pm on Friday.  Rides last approximately 20 minutes and provide an awesome view of the lights and the city.  There will be a marching band in the area providing live music, and rumor has it Santa may even take a boat ride or two.  Boats leave from the Turning Basin at 14th st. and Dock St.

Main Street Station will also be offering holiday activities during Grand Illumination.  Their holiday open house, with a Polar Express (the children’s christmas movie) theme will be held from 5-9pm.  There will be a tree lighting, decorations, and free kiddie train rides, hot cider & cookies, and live music.  There will also be professional storytellers to read to the children (am I the only one that thinks this could be the best job ever??) by the fireplace.  The Richmond public library will even “gift” a free book to the first 300 children in attendance.   

Finally, if you didn’t finish all your holiday shopping on Black Friday, there will be a holiday market at the 17th Street Farmer’s market from 5-9pm featuring homemade crafts, gifts, music, snacks, cider, and Mr. & Mrs. Santa  Claus!

Main illumination festivities are held in front of James Center 2 (by the clock tower) and down into Shockoe Bottom.  Discounted parking is available after 4pm at the parking deck on the corner of 10th and Canal St. for $3.  There will also be $2 parking available at Main Street Station on the West Side using the Franklin St. entrance.  This promises to be a huge holiday event so if you aren’t lucky enough to attend, and you work downtown, count on escaping around 4pm on Friday if you want to make it home before 10pm.  Otherwise, stay and enjoy!



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Don’t get too excited Richmonders, I’m not talking about pet dogs, just hot dogs.  I’m almost embarrassed to say I didn’t know this place existed until about a month ago when I was dragged there for lunch with some co-workers.  Hot dogs for lunch?  My mind strayed to a recent episode of “How Its Made” but I’m adventurous so I tagged along.  We went to the original location in Shockoe (there is now one in the Fan as well).  Its located at 1316 East Cary Street, not too far from the Tobacco Company.  I was expecting hotdogs, ketchup, buns, and paper trays — boy was I surprised.

These are not your average backyard hotdogs.  The menu takes you on a trip through American culture with the Chicago Dog (mustard, onions, relish, pickle, tomato slices, peppers, poppy seed bun), Coney Island Dog (chili, mustard, onions, cheese), Boston Dog (sauerkraut, bacon, relish), Carolina Dog (Pork bbq and cole slaw), Miami Dog (homemade salsa, cheddar cheese), and Santa Fe Dog (homemade salsa, cheese, jalapenos, guacamole, and tortilla chips).  Don’t worry, there is more, but I didn’t want to torture your taste buds.  The corn dog nuggets (what I ordered) were fantastic and should definitely be considered when you look at the menu.  In summary, be prepared for a few strange looks if you order a plain hot dog!

There are also sandwiches, burgers, chicken, etc for the more cautious diner, but whatever you do, don’t pass on the french fries and/or onion rings.  You will definitely be missing out. If meat isn’t your thing, don’t stop reading yet, there are vegetarian and vegan options available on the menu as well.  Oh, and of course, what is a hot dog without beer?  There is a full bar at both locations.

If you stick with the hot dogs, prices are about $4 with a couple extra dollars for fries or rings.  Servings are large so the prices aren’t bad.  This place is casual, affordable, family friendly, and has a great atmosphere.   But remember, you are at a hot dog  joint.  This is not 4-star dining.  Sports and news are playing on the TV and loud music is playing.  The kitchen is open and they cook the food right in front of you.  At lunch time (when I arrived) it is crowded, loud, and the lines can be out onto the sidewalk.  But take that as evidence of the great experience inside.  I’ve read my fair share of reviews that complain about the service, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  I arrived at the height of the lunch rush with 10 other people, no reservation, and a 30 minute time limit.  After they realized we weren’t joking, they had us seated, fed, paid, and back out the door in 30 minutes flat.  I was impressed.

They open daily at 11am and close at midnight.  On weekends (Fri-Sat) they are open until 3am, perfect for a late night snack and beer at the bar.  The Shockoe location has already taken off and has expanded into the basement space with extra seating, a small game room, and sports bar.  The Fan location is located at 1309 W. Main St, close to the Monroe Park campus.  It has live music, game room, outdoor patio, and full bar.  I wish I could give you a link to their website, but I was shocked to find out they didn’t have one.  To be as popular as they are, with no Internet presence?  It’s almost unheard of and just goes to show how good the food and experience are.  Don’t be scared off by stories about bad service.  Some of the best places in Richmond (Mama Zu’s, Kuba Kuba, Carytown Burgers and Fries) have been known to suffer from service issues, but the food is still great.  Don’t confuse this place with the Jefferson and you’ll be fine.  Go hungry!

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Richmond has some fantastic farmers’ markets in the spring, but the 17th Street Farmers Market in Shockoe Bottom is the most well-known.   This farmers’ market is one of the oldest public markets in America.  It is located at the corner of 17th and Main downtown, in Shockoe Bottom.   

This location has been a public gathering place since 1737.  It has always been a popular site for business because of its proximity to the river, its location on Main Street (which served as the main road between Richmond and Williamsburg), and its proximity to nearby Shockoe Creek (which was used by small boats bringing shellfish into the city).  When the Virginia General Assembly officially moved to Richmond in 1779, an actual “public market” was established.

By 1854, the Farmer’s Market had grown so much that a larger market building, called the First Market House, was built on the corner of Main and 17th Streets. During the Civil War, this house was a gathering place for Confederate soldiers and later as a barracks for Union Troops. Throughout history, people visited the house to listen to political speeches and attend religious revival meetings.

In the mid-1900’s supermarkets became more popular and many farmers left to work at factories.  In 1961, the First Market House was torn down and the Farmers’ Market was turned into scattered vendor stalls.  Today the 17th Street Farmers’ Market is still located at the corner of 17th and Main Streets in the same open-air structure that was built in the mid 1980’s.    

Today, the market is open Thursday (8:30-4pm), Friday (5-9pm), Saturday (9-4pm) and  Sunday (9-4pm).  Thursdays and Saturdays are the Growers Markets where you can find locally & organically grown produce, cheeses, eggs, meats, and baked goods.  There are usually vendors selling locally made crafts, handbags, and  handmade clothing, as well.  On Fridays you will also find regionally-produced wines and micro-brews at the Market.  On Sundays the focus is locally made crafts and antiques. 
The Market is located in the heart of Shockoe Bottom in a great location to spend a day.  The Shockoe Community Garden is right next door as are several very popular restaurants such as Havana 59 and Lulus.  Juleps and Bottoms Up aren’t too far away either.  The Market is family-friendly as well.  My daughter’s preschool used to take field trips there to buy fresh vegetables and then take them back for cooking projects.  The kids loved it.  The popularity of the market has waned recently with new markets popping up on Monument Ave, South of the River, and the West End.  But there is only one original Farmers’ Market.  The market usually runs from April-October, although Friday’s market doesn’t start until June 4th this year.  Free parking is available at the 18th and Grace Street lot during open market hours.  This is the true definition of buying local, so do it!  Your taste buds will thank you.

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There is a new event in town:  The Shockoe Wide Open.  This Friday (and every second Friday) you can enjoy an art and food walk through Shockoe Bottom and Shockoe Slip.  These walks will feature the area’s local art, local food & wines, antiques, locally crafted jewelry, and local music.  In other words, there is a little something for everyone. 

First the food.  Some of the best Shockoe restaurants will be opening their doors for this event:  Tobacco Company (of course), Kobe, Sine’ (incredible food and atmosphere), Havana 59, Lulu’s (fantastic food, sister to Millies), Sheba Ethiopian, and more.  The various restaurants will offer small plates and “cocktail artistry” (not sure what that means, but my mouth is watering already!)  created just for the walk.

You can find live music at City Dogs and The Urban Farmhouse.  More venues are signing up every day so check the website for updates.  There will also be a DJ and dancing at the Tobacco Co from 5-8pm. 

Here are some of the art events as well:

  • Cafe Gutenberg will host a Community Art Show featuring local artists (including “Life’s Journey” by Jenny Nunez) 
  • Eric Schindler Gallery will host “Complete Fiction” new paintings by Tim Harriss
  • The Urban Farmhouse will feature prized art by local high school seniors
  • The Gallery at Frame Nation will host an opening reception for Brett Busang’s show “Scenes from the River.”  The art will be framed in reclaimed wood from tobacco row which for a history freak like me, is very awesome

    "Complete Fiction" by Tim Harriss

  • Dora’s Brazillian Grill will feature paintings by Walter Ribiero
  • Historic 17th Street Marketplace will have many local artists
  • C’est La Vin & Wine Gallery will host an Art & Wine extravaganza featuring art by Dan Sheets
  • Dransfield Jewelers will feature art by the owner, Don Dransfield (an advocate for everything that is Shockoe and a frequent visitor to this page!)
  • Virginia Hair Salon & Spa will feature “Preview to Strawberry Hill 2010,” art by Gigi Brothers

The art events are listed here in no particular order, looking at the walking map may help you pick the best route.  The event suggests you start at Tobacco Company and end at the Eric Schindler Gallery.  Also, more artists are still being added so be sure to check the webpage for updates as well. 

"Scenes from the River" by Brett Busang

If walking on cobblestones is too much, or you have enjoyed too much cocktail artistry, or you just get plain tired, the To the Bottom and Back Bus will provide a transportation loop that covers all the events and safely take you to your next destination. The bus will run between Ellwood Thompson’s in Carytown (parking) and The Market at Tobacco Row at no cost, stopping anywhere along the route for a pick-up or drop-off.  To get the bus to stop, just flag them down by flashing the peace sign with your fingers (no, I’m not kidding).  There will also be low cost parking available at Main St. Station.   

The event runs Friday, May 14th from 5-9pm and , wait for it, is completely free!  Kids are welcome, although there are no kid-specific events at this time.  No word on whether the event is animal-friendly, but I’m guessing no unless you want to keep tying up the poor dog outside of every venue.  The next art walk is already well into the planning stages and will be on June 11th. 

I, for one, am very excited about all these new events coming to Richmond.  I thought I was going to have trouble coming up with 365 things to do, but now I am having trouble finding the time to cover the oldies but goodies, the mainstays of our awesome city!  Maybe there is another 365 on the horizon?  For now, I’ll just focus on Day 56.  Thanks everyone for your support in reading this blog!

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For those of you that have been asking for a fun Richmond activity that doesn’t cost anything, today is the day.  Today, March 28th starting at 10am the Shockoe Community Garden is having a painting and planting “party.”  All painting goods and BBQ provisions will be provided.  Volunteers are needed to paint the planter boxes green & get started on planting.  When I lived in NYC, community gardens were everywhere.  They were an awesome opportunity to get your hands dirty, especially for people who live downtown and don’t have their own outdoor space.  But they are also a great opportunity to participate in the community and meet new people.

Last year around this time, the 17th St. Farmers Market and Lovings Produce constructed the community garden adjacent to 100 N. 17th Street. The garden consists of 24 (4’x8’) raised garden containers that grow vegetables and herbs. The garden plots are available for area restaurants and businesses, as well as the market’s “Little Sprouts” program for children.  Many of the surrounding restaurants were granted garden spaces and actually grow vegetables and herbs there for their menus.  The Farmer’s Market also developed a compost program for local restaurants food waste which is used to provide organic fertilizer for the community garden.

You can get updates on garden activities on twitter @shockoegarden and on Facebook.

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Juleps opened in 2003 and has since been named one of the “Top Seven Sensations” by Richmond Magazine.  It was also awarded the “Award of Excellence” by the Wine Spectator in both 2008 and 2009.  The food is mixture of the flavors of Atlanta, Charleston, New Orleans, and Savannah.  In addition to the food, Juleps has  received rave reviews for its bar, also called its speakeasy, and its classic drinks such as the mint julep and martinis. 

Found in historic Shockoe Bottom, the atmosphere inside and out is fantastic.  The restaurant itself is located  in one of the oldest commercial buildings in the City, last renovated in 2003.  Although not too big inside, the entire building is open inside and never feels crowded.  The open staircase is beautiful, although I wouldn’t suggest it after a few martinis, I almost killed myself and I was only drinking water.  The service is excellent and attentive, even down to the small details (they will custom design your menus for special occasions).

The menu is altered by season, but some of the stand outs are the fried green tomato beignets & the shrimp and grits with grilled andouille sausage.  I can personally testify that the shrimp was delicious.  With main courses running $17-$27, I considered the experience a steal.  Disclaimer:  I don’t consider myself a food connoisseur.  I just love a good meal that isn’t so fancy I can’t recognize it or afford it & a unique atmosphere. 

Juleps is open Monday-Saturday starting at 5:30 with valet parking available on Fridays and Saturdays.  It is located at 1719-21 East Franklin Street Richmond, VA 23223.   Discount Gift Certificates are available on Restaurant.com.  Reservations are suggested and don’t forget to request your personalized menus! 

Special Note:  I’m hoping to have live pictures and/or video up of upcoming locations next week so stay tuned!

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