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. 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. New HVAC system, roof, and 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 he’s busy bringing in reinforcements for what he thinks will be a busy venture.
“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 complement what is already here.”