On Broad: Dinner and a Show

Within a casual stroll to The National and Theatre IV, three neighborhood eateries offer unique options for a night on the town.

When Ted Santarella opened Tarrant’s Cafe in 2006, his goal was simple, to make people happy through hearty, approachable food.

From the grilled cheese sandwich and BBQ baby back ribs to lasagna and pork tenderloin, Tarrant’s offers a large menu of diverse food to satisfy any craving.

The former home of the Tarrant Drug Company, Tarrant’s Cafe (top photo) is a veritable jewel box of architectural detail and a favorite stop for the First Friday’s Artwalk crowd. (Above photo) Housed in the renovated Popkin furniture showroom, Popkin Tavern couples a fun, comfortable dining atmosphere with bustling city energy.
Bistro Twenty Seven offers contemporary European fare in an elegant turn-of-the-century dining room. All photos by Chris Owens.

Fresh seafood is the cafe’s specialty item, and it’s all over the menu in dishes like the Tilapia Reuben sandwich and the Seafood Combo (a medley of tilapia, crab cake, shrimp, and scallops with rice and vegetables). Pizza is a popular item among the younger crowd that frequents the restaurant, and is a great item for a couple to share.

Located at 1 W. Broad Street, the former home of the Tarrant Drug Company — a pharmacy that closed in 1987, Tarrant’s Cafe has a wide variety of “Prescriptions” for those who are of legal age. Sixteen taps, a vast selection of red and white wines, and a slew of specialty cocktails (like the sweet, citrus One West) offer patrons several ways to cure their thirst.

And when you grab a seat at the bar for Happy Hour between 4 and 7 p.m., half-price appetizers and daily drink specials are sure to keep you around to enjoy the evening entertainment, including live jazz on Thursdays, a different DJ every Friday, and live blues on Saturdays.

While keeping the food and drink menus and entertainment schedules fresh, Tarrant’s preserves many of the aesthetic qualities of the former pharmacy. A stained glass window reads “Tarrant’s” and the original drugstore logo is prominently display under a neon martini glass. Scuffs mark up the original hardwood floors that have not undergone restoration. An amalgamation of different colored woods that line the walls, bar, and booths show off the venue’s shabby-chic style. The linear suspension lighting is almost as if the modern light fixtures are mixed with old-time crystal chandeliers, and that continues the theme of classic with a modern twist.

It’s this warm, inviting atmosphere that defines Tarrant’s, and attracts the restaurant’s diverse clientele. Whether enjoying a meal after exploring Richmond’s First Friday art scene, or having a few drinks before a sold-out show at The National, Tarrant’s makes visitors young and old, professional and casual, feel welcome with its small-town, neighborhood ambience.

“The staff is friendly, the menu is ginormous and it’s consistently excellent,” says patron Holly Lucas.

Housed in the renovated Popkin furniture showroom, Popkin Tavern (121 W. Broad Street) couples a fun, comfortable dining atmosphere with bustling city energy. Owner Steve Soble boasts pride in creating Richmond’s first gastropub, a bar-restaurant hybrid that caters to seasoned beer and wine drinkers as well as foodies. So whether you’re thirsty for one of their 12 beers on tap, 22 wines, or exciting cocktails (the Long Night Out has a surge of basil that is surprisingly delectable), or if your stomach is rumbling for some Popkin’s Fries tossed in asiago cheese and garlic butter, you’re guaranteed a traditional dining experience with a Popkin’s twist.

A relaxed, yet chic, ambience fills the air of Popkin’s spacious, multi-level establishment. Solid light Maplewood floors are complemented by a dark Maplewood bar and matching furniture, and red accents on light fixtures and booth seats create an elegantly casual vibe with flair. Tables line the 12-foot-high windows that wrap around the corner of the building and provide sidewalk views of Broad Street. The bar stretches far down the center of the restaurant and offers house specialties like the Dirty-Dirty martini-a Popkin’s citrus twist on the original.

Manager Brian Lawrence knows how to use Popkin’s great space to enhance the traditional dining experience with evening entertainment.

Three pool tables (two upstairs and one downstairs) provide a place to socialize and compete with fellow pool sharks. During the First Fridays Artwalk along Broad, Popkin’s has a live band so that artwalkers can continue their fun indoors over food and drinks.

Every first Saturday of the month a DJ spins until close at 2:00 a.m., and parties celebrating political gatherings, holidays or special occasions like Cinco de Mayo are a regular occurrence. Popkin’s location in the center of it all on Broad Street attracts many types of patrons-from college students to professionals-looking for a great place to wind down after work. And with The National and Theater IV just blocks away, it’s the perfect culinary complement to a special night out.

“It has a convenient location with good happy-hour prices,” says patron Jason Cosby.

Owner/Chef Carlos Silva and General Manager/Partner Robert Hyatt brought international flair to Richmond when they opened Bistro Twenty Seven at 27 West Broad Street (known simply as “Twenty Seven” to locals) in November 2005.

Located on the corner of Broad and Adams Streets in the heart of historic “furniture row,” Twenty Seven prides itself on providing “a taste of Europe in your own neighborhood.”

Sales/Events Manager William Wright describes the bistro’s culinary offerings as “a trip around the Mediterranean coast with a little Richmond and Brazil thrown in for good measure.”

Chef Silva mastered his study of French and Italian cuisines in his native Brazil, and he often leaves traces of his heritage in the dishes he creates (some are recipes passed down by his mother’s family).

Start out in France with Escargots as an appetizer, enjoy the taste of Italy with a Caprese Salad, and bring it home with a cheeseburger made with Kobe beef and Italian Fontina cheese for a worldly taste. Pasta is also a favorite among patrons, including the popular Black Ink Taglianini and Fettuccine di Mare.

The wide array of red and white wines are also a journey around the world, with bottles from France, Italy, Spain, Africa, and even Virginia. The food at Twenty Seven is so exquisite, you’ll find yourself stealing bites from your date’s plate.

The building, which was home to the successful Korman Furniture Store, is 100 years old. Characteristics of the showroom are still evident in the dining room details.

Soaring to heights of 20 feet, the ceiling and the large glass panels that wrap around the corner of the bistro make the room feel open and airy. You’ll find yourself entranced by the street views as the understated elegance of the interior contrasts with the city bustle.

Marble and walnut touches trim the bar to the left of the main entrance complementing the sea of white, cloth-covered tables to the right. Hardwood floors add the perfect turn-of-the-century-Richmond touch to the venue.

Twenty Seven is not only minutes away from The National and Theater IV but it’s convenient to many office and government buildings-so you’ll find everyone from lobbyists conducting business at dinner to a group of young women enjoying drinks at the bar.

A truly authentic Downtown experience, Bistro Twenty Seven’s ambience and internationally inspired cuisine truly is nothing like you’ll find elsewhere the region.


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