Beyond the pots of colorful flowers, past the tiny Moroccan mosaic fountain and down the steps to the English basement of a red-brick row house on East Clay Street, Trey Wilkerson thinks about the evolution of the menu at his new restaurant, the Reachmonde. He calls the food Mediterranean and Southern soul-food fusion. “A lot of the ingredients cross over,” he says. “We're going to be doing things like osso buco, but with beef [instead of veal], and doing it over stoneground grits instead of polenta.”
Wilkerson grew up working in restaurants -- his grandparents owned the Back Porch in Ocracoke, North Carolina, and he says, his favorite job was working at Mel’s Café, the only soul food place in Charlottesville at the time.
Richmond’s growing dining scene attracted Wilkerson to the city. Charlottesville’s restaurant business is seasonal, and when the students go home in the summer, he says, it seems as if half of a restaurant’s customers leave, too. He found the Jackson Ward building on Craigslist. “We have absolutely amazing landlords,” says Wilkerson. Fifteen years ago, there was as much sky as there was roof, and since then, the space has been completely overhauled. Besides the little fountain outside that Wilkerson brought with him, there’s another, larger one in the back of the restaurant, built by a previous tenant.
Inside the warm yellow walls hung with bright paintings, Wilkerson says he wants to bring in more Mediterranean classics and Moroccan flavors. But for right now, he’s starting things out more simply. You’ll find dolmades and stuffed artichokes along with shrimp and grits or a Southern Cubano sandwich made with pork barbecue.
Wilkerson wants to put down restaurant roots before he begins more experimentation. “We were attracted to the diversity of the community,” he says. “We don’t want to only pull from people who don’t live here. We want the neighborhood in here.”
The Reachmonde is open for dinner each night and lunch on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s located two blocks from the Hippodrome, near Mamma J’s Kitchen and Thai Corner at 219 E. Clay St.