- Ash Daniel
- At OMG Café and Lounge in Church Hill, a conversational theme engages guests and staff.
It’s a tough skill to remember repeat patrons: One likes her steak Pittsburgh rare while her husband wants medium-well done; the mom who gets one glass of cabernet and splits her child’s chicken dinner with extra fries and ranch dip. These idiosyncrasies take time and a hefty memory for a server to retain.
OMG Café and Lounge and STr8 Out of Philly, two new restaurants in Church Hill, have this retention thing on lock.
The long, thin cafe has décor that’s classy and modern yet filled with texting acronyms. SMH (shaking my head) and LOL (laugh out loud) are painted on the wall, proclaiming how good the food is. The menu, also long and thin, has the letters of its name, which stand for Oh my God, down the front. The owners aren’t strangers to the Richmond restaurant scene — they’ve owned four other local establishments, including some rights to the first incarnation of Mama J’s. They want regulars: happy, repeat customers.
The owner’s wife, the only server, remembers me each time. Don’t believe the distracted air she gives off — she knows exactly what’s going on. I lament to my companion the lack of mashed potatoes on my first visit, and the owner, all-knowing, reassures me of their presence on my second. On another occasion, I waver between a cinnamon and slightly overcooked waffle with chicken wings ($8.99) and the tender planks of fried lake trout, each priced the same. She’s there to help me work through the decision.
Sides are where OMG excels: crisp, baked macaroni and cheese, buttery ranch- and garlic-accented mashed potatoes, peppery shredded cabbage for $1.99 each. Still getting footing with some of the entrees, it does a good, thick-breaded pork chop ($7.99). The owner’s wife will tell you the collards are a perfect side with their spice and tang. She will be right.
- Ash Daniel
- The Philly cheese steak at Str8 Out of Philly is bona fide and beefy; a slather of Cheez Whiz is optional.
The owner of Str8 Out of Philly should know his faces. He used to be the chef to many famous ones — most recently former Redskins and now Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb — and he seems to treat customers like celebrities. He’s serving steak-filled monster sandwiches, including an 18-inch behemoth for $14.50, and he’s making a lot of friends doing it.
This is a cheese steak, packing pounds of cheese and meat. If you’re one of those Philly transplants who yammers longingly for Amoroso rolls, this is a place you need to try. Yes, they have Cheez Whiz and they’re not afraid to use it. You can get your submarine with Whiz if you like or head more Southern and keep to provolone. The pizza fries for $3.50 are eat-in food, but getting one of the three two-tops is usually difficult. If that’s the case, take it out — the hoagie with everything, no sides, forget the substitutions and find some friends.
It’s good when proprietors take the time to know their customers — it shows pride in their work and concern for their patrons. Both STr8 Out of Philly and OMG Café seem dedicated to making their establishments neighborhood places. Str8 Out of Philly has added delivery. OMG is taking suggestions for its wine list and throwing around the idea of getting subscription professional football on television for die-hard fans. These two new spots in Church Hill don’t just know your name — they’re invested in your sports team and your predilections. S
OMG Café and Lounge
412 N. 25th St.
Monday-Wednesday 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Thursday-Saturday 9 a.m.-midnight
Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
STr8 Out of Philly
306 29th St.
Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.