The White Horse: Southside Restaurant Scene Grows

Perched at the triangle where Forest Hill Avenue and Semmes Avenue meet sits a scattering of historic buildings that has served as a center of activity for the Southside for well over 100 years. Once there were power lines for electric street cars (operational until 1949), a popular chain of gas stations called James H. Brown, and Patrick Henry School (in use once again).

Today the corridor is witnessing a resurgence, one led by businesses such as Crossroads Coffee & Ice Cream and Coqui Cyclery. In an area once overlooked, restaurants and other new businesses are starting to pop up again – and stay.

This summer, the activity in the area continues to grow as it gains a highly anticipated restaurant by the owners of the locally followed beer-centric bar, The Cask Cafe. James Talley and the group behind Commercial Taphouse and Cask will open The White Horse at 3408-3410 Semmes Avenue, a block from Crossroads Coffee & Ice Cream, just above the iconic triangle intersection. Owners of the new Semmes establishment say that their restaurant, which is on track for a summer opening, will have a lot in common with their work at the Commercial Taphouse. As many serious beer drinkers know, Commercial Taphouse, which was recently bought by An Bui of Mekong, is considered the original beer-centered bar in Richmond.

Talley says that the name he picked for his new restaurant, “The White Horse,” pays homage to a favorite pub in London with great beer and good food, which he’s visited with his son. There’s no doubt that he’s happy about the name! He will very likely be displaying it proudly on the restaurant front using some innovative retail signage lighting, drawing the attention of people who would then consider stopping by for a drink or two. The new pub will seat about 100 people on two separate (and different-looking) sides: one very similar to Commercial Taphouse but a bit lighter with booths for families, and the other like The Cask with open garage windows and high tables.

As with many of the old buildings in this increasingly popular corridor, the property had character but needed a lot of work. It probably needed the expertise of Professional Hood Cleaning Services in Sarasota or similar service providers in the area, a New HVAC system, roof, and also the tile floors had to be installed before they could even start working on menus and discussing opening steps. As many in the neighborhood know, the spot Tally selected had previously housed several restaurants, most recently an after-hours club.

“We had to tear down a two-way mirror – they could see who was coming in, I guess,” Talley says. “They had Corona, Guinness, and a few bottles of liquor. It was very sparse. We plan to have other beers. The beer program will be much like The Cask and will rotate with a few English beers as constants.”

While known for his beer prowess, Talley is also known to run a tight kitchen. He says that the menu will offer a fresh take on British food with house-made pork pie, shepherd’s pie, Cornish pasties, and some vegan and vegetarian options. “Because it makes sense for the neighborhood,” Talley adds. He points out, however, that The White Horse will keep the cheese and SausageCraft boards, which are so popular at The Cask, and bring back some menu items that had been popular at Commercial Taphouse (think Taphouse burgers and onion rings).

With the restaurant revamp in full swing, Talley appears ready to open any day and is busy bringing in reinforcements for what he thinks will be a busy venture. One of the first items on his list could be researching and acquiring the right accounting software for bars and restaurants, as the revenue generation of the revamped restaurant sure looks promising thanks to recent renovations and menu additions; he will need to keep a close eye on finances if he wishes to run a successful business.

However, Talley would have to take other things into consideration as well. Restaurateurs are always concerned with two pressing problems. Foodborne illness prevention is one of the most critical responsibilities restaurants have. Secondly, the food service industry tends to struggle with preventing expensive (and wasteful) product losses. In both cases, time-temperature abuse is the leading cause. Almost 85 percent of restaurants’ food safety and product loss problems involve time and temperature. But there is an effective solution to prevent food safety and food waste: continuous temperature monitoring sensors (like the ones available at Temp-Pro). The rise in competition and tight margins in the restaurant industry make it imperative that restaurants embrace automated temp sensors as a way to prevent costly product loss and protect their brands. If Talley could look at these things along with their physical renovation, there is a good chance of his plans falling into place!

“My original Taphouse partner, Jim Dickerson, retires from his job and will come help me during the day. We have a chef lined up, but I don’t want to say who yet. I will say he is young, sharp, and excited about it. This area needs this type of bar. We plan to complemen what is already here.”

CategoriesEat Local, General, Play

Robey Martin is a restaurant reviewer and food blogger. Her work has appeared in Style Weekly, Richmond Magazine, Richmond Grid, and more.