On the outside it's a generic, brown building on Maywill Street. But inside the Ukrop's Homestyle Foods office is a secret filling — a sparkly showroom with a curvy bar (no alcohol will be served), pendant lights, lounge seats and a window wall to the kitchen. This is where the catering staff meets with brides, office-party bookers and retailers to offer a taste of what's new.
Beyond the top-selling chicken salad and trademarked White House rolls, now in 30 states, there's some new in the mix. A product development team actively tests ideas, "bringing more of-the-moment ingredients and trying to mesh them into what we've already done," Ukrop's catering manager, Mary Ruth Coleman, says. Quinoa salads, pretzel roll sandwiches and dulce de leche cakes are recent entries.
Next up is a bigger presence on the retail side, when the corporation opens a storefront for catering pickup. "We're evaluating locations now," Coleman says.
The family-run grocery empire sold to Martin's in 2010, but the Ukrop's food brand has grown, now selling prepared foods under the Good Meadow Homemades label to many of its former competitors here, such as Kroger and Fresh Market.
"We're developing relationships all over the U.S.," Coleman says, selling 150 items including the Mrs. Marshall's line from here to the West Coast. But local is still pivotal to the company's mission, Coleman says: "What we're aiming for is to have the catering business facilitate a personal connection back to the community." A new website, cateringbyukrops.com, and recent tasting events show the brand's polite push for strategic growth while keeping traditions on familiar ground.
Flavors of Arcadia: Chef Nicolai Creatore's new menu at the upscale Shockoe Bottom restaurant includes: house-smoked double Berkshire pork chops, Maine lobster linguini, fried eggplant with pomodoro and Asiago cheese, and seared duck breasts with yellow split pea dal sauce. 1700 E. Main St. arcadiarichmondva.com.
Stuzzi Santafies: Pizza still dominates the menu at the Museum District restaurant Stuzzi, but owner Peter Caserta also suggests a feast of seven seafoods on linguine, prosciutto and cheese-stuffed jumbo Kobe meatballs, and house-made butternut squash ravioli as variations from its Neapolitan pies. Italian doughnut fritters and rum cake with cream are holiday sweets this month. 1 N. Belmont Ave. stuzzirichmond.com.
Level Restaurant & Bar: Sushi, Asian snacks and soups, seafood and Angus beef entrees, hibachi and full bar in contemporary cafe. Lunch, dinner and bar daily. 2007 W. Broad St. 353-8885.
Cask Café & Market: Local meats, cheeses and beer to go or dine in, with pressed sandwiches, salads, meat boards, soups and sundries. Growlers, expertise and low-key charm, plus parking. Daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m. 206 S. Robinson St. 355-2402.
My Noodle & Bar: Asian appetizers, soups and fusion veg, meat and fish entrees in family-run cellar café and lounge. Lunch, dinner and bar daily. 1600 Monument Ave. 308-1613.
Max's on Broad: Belgian-French brasserie with seafood, crepes, chowder, sandwiches, entrees and spirits. Lunch, dinner and bar daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m. 305 Brook Road. 225-0400. maxsonbroad.com.
American Tap Room Classic Grill: New location of Virginia-based chain with burgers, chicken and waffles, sandwiches, steak and 100 beers. Wine and cocktails. Patio with fire pit, party room, kids' menu. Lunch, dinner and bar daily, Sunday brunch. 1601 Willow Lawn Drive, unit 840. 308-9013. americantaproom.com.
Postbellum: In the former Mulligan's, a diverse lineup of snacks, sandwiches, burgers and entrees from chef Jen Mindell. Vegetarian options, full bar, upstairs deck. Daily 3:30 p.m.-2 a.m. 1323 W. Main St. 353-7678. postbellumrichmond.com.
Burger Bach: Raw bar, New Zealand beef and lamb burgers and fries, craft beer and wines, sports on screens. Dinner and bar nightly. 2225 Old Brick Road. 716-6748. burgerbach.com.
Kobe Sushi at Stony Point: Specialty rolls, tempura and Japanese classics, with lunch and dinner specials daily. 9200 Stony Point Parkway. 323-3333. kobesteakandsushi.com.
Big's BBQ: Dry-rub barbecue and sides in counter-service cafe. Lunch and dinner daily 11 a.m.-10 p.m. 931 W. Grace St. 257-5460. bigsbbqva.com.