Monday, March 03, 2008

Bodacious Brunch at Bacchus (on a budget)

Since moving to Byrd Park in 2004, I assumed that the closest restaurant, Bacchus, was an overpriced eatery intended for young aristocratic swilling and $25-30 entrees. The cheap half-portions of pasta almost inspired Karen and me to walk the seven blocks for dinner, but something about the place just turned me off. Maybe it was the knowledge that one of the worst restaurants in Richmond had flourished in that Main and Meadow location before graduating to Broad Street bistro status. Surely, more overpriced underachieving had followed in its place.

Last week's Style noted that Bacchus is now offering Sunday brunch. Our recent weekend morning stroll to Cirrus was sorta underwhelming. But this trip was shorter and it gave me an excuse to peek inside an eatery that I've always found foreboding. I just hoped that this treat wouldn't be too expensive. The day after our babyshower, Karen and I walked to Bacchus for Sunday brunch (they don't do Saturday, btw). (it turns out that Style broke the news after 7-8 weeks of Bacchus brunches)

First of all, I don't consider myself a brunchaholic. I don't muncha buncha bruncha while downing bloody maries. Hair of the dog? No thanks. But I do jump at the chance to eat fancied up eggs in a relaxed setting. In my opinion, most Richmond brunch menus consist of the same boring line-up and feature unadventurous flavors. One exception is Kuba Kuba, and another is... of course, Millies. While I'm not ready to rank Bacchus with those two, I do think the brunch scene just gotten a little more interesting.

The mouth-watering 34 entree menu begins predictably with four varieties of eggs benedict, a simple dish that's too labor intensive for most of us to make at home. These feature a variety of meat and seafood that help justify the $10-12 price. From here, the fare launches into the Mediterranean with a list of inspired flavor combinations and very affordable prices. Read that last line over again, please. It's the one thing I want you to take away from this story and probably what's going to lure me back into Bacchus.

The next section of the menu involves polenta; with eggs, or sausage, or shrimp, all between $5-9. I had to try it. Luckly, polenta can also be had as a side, with marinera, for an extra $2. So, despite my curiosity, I kept looking. Below the polenta is a curious heading "Egg dishes with breakfast potato." What the heck is a breakfast potato? Well, they're homefries spiked with fennel, but the real excitement is generated by the additions to the eggs: gorganola, spinach, saffron, or olive oil fried (from $4-6). Karen got the eggs carbonara with basil: creamy, meaty, herby eggs. She loved finding something on the menu that she hadn't heard of and plans to roll her leftovers in a tortilla for the next day's breakfast on the go. For an extra two bucks, she got a side of perfectly cooked asparagus.

I chose from a list of eight delicious sounding frittatas ($6-9). These things are big and pretty and it had me wondering if there was any difference between the Italian frittata and the Spanish tortilla. They don't come with breakfast potato, but there are usually spuds embedded. The wild mushroom and ricotta frittata sounded good, but I had a lot of trouble choosing. One of them simply says "spaghetti". Chef Chris (who looks familiar, but I'm not sure where from) says it's eggs, potatoes and spaghetti. Maybe one of you will have to order it and leave a comment to clue the rest of us in. I got the smoked salmon, roasted red pepper, and cream cheese frittata and I was very pleased to see that it was wearing some tasty saffron creme. Before I was halfway done, I was full and picking through the potatoes and egg for the remaining salmon and peppers.

For many, brunch doesn't stop at eggs, and at Bacchus, there are a dozen or so salads ($5-7), pancakes ($6-7), a steak ($12), seafood dishes ($12-16), and an Iron Chef impressing Kobe beef burger ($12). Some of these incorporate eggs and all of them sound like a good way to start the day. Can you tell that I lifted one of their menus?

A note on the eating environment. Karen and I had a some time to take in the surroundings because we got there just as they were getting slammed. Chef Chris may have been in the weeds, but you wouldn't know it. His kitchen sits in plain view of the diners and the dude looked stoic. It also seemed that help was on the way, as another employee seemed to be apprenticing - watching his every move. Meanwhile, our server answered my every question, keeping us supplied with cornbread and butter and always refilling my coffee.

Along the bar sit a row of posh looking cushioned high-backed bar stools. I could see why people flock to this place for a cocktail on a cold night, because it does look like a comfortable setting. Personally, I'll probably stick to the brunches, but you never know. For me, there's more to Bacchus than I would have predicted. You can bet I'll be trying the saffron eggs or the fried goat cheese salad on my next visit.


  1. Saffron eggs.... I'm going to have to try those! Sounds yummy.

  2. BP,
    You are so dependable. I've been hanging back, acting disinterested, hoping that my aloof demeanor would net more comments (since my coworker told me that my comment crusade post sounded desperate). One thing I learned through my yoga post is that people read and people talk, even if they're not commenting. Yoga class was totally booked the next week. Watch brunch at Bacchus elicit a line out the door this weekend. Then I'll never get to try the saffron eggs.

  3. There's a fine line between dependable and way too much time on your hands... Not the case of the latter this week though. The store move is nearly complete and I think I'll open the doors in the morning. Just a bit exhausted. Normally the only muscle I like to give this kind of workout to is my liver...

  4. I come to Richmond on business a few times a year. I'll be back in a couple weeks and am staying at Virginia Crossings in Glen Allen (looks chi-chi - glad the company is paying!). Are there any must-eat places nearby? I am a vegetarian but am an adventurous eater otherwise. Love all kinds of cuising, especially cheap! Thanks in advance.


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