Summertime Gladness

Three new restaurants serve up grilled cheese, tacos and pizza.

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Restaurants, breweries and bars are now open if they so choose at half capacity both inside and outside. Three new spots – all less than a month old – are now open downtown, though they’ve been in the works for a while. 

Put your masks on, tip big and check out the newest additions to the Richmond dining scene:

Cheddar Jackson
522 N. Second St.
Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays for takeout and delivery

Cheddar Jackson owner Brandon Jackson says he knew he wanted to own his own spot when he realized that would be the best way to “try my own weird stuff.” For most of his adult life Jackson has been in the music and media industry, working at places like Sony in New York and freelancing as a content manager and video producer since 2013. He’s a creative through and through, and Cheddar Jackson is very much an inventive endeavor. 

“I was sitting around talking with cooks I knew and I said ‘I wonder what a restaurant with no hood would look like?’”

The ideas started flowing and they landed on a hoodless option: grilled cheese. But not just any grilled cheese — epic grilled cheese sandwiches made for both meat eaters and vegans, with a variety of dipping sauces (yes, you should dip your sandwich!), plus tomato soup. 

Cheddar Jackson was supposed to open in October 2019, Jackson says, but between zoning issues and the pandemic it got pushed back. Serendipitous, though – the delay gave the grilled cheese team time to mull over different sandwiches and their vegan iterations. “Originally it was just the regular sandwich and then the ‘vegan version,’” Jackson says. “But then it evolved so much.”

The restaurateur, who identifies as “mostly pescatarian,” wanted to create a robust menu that would cater to all eaters, so no one was getting the short end of the stick. Cheddar Jackson is sourcing vegan sharp cheddar from Greece because most vegan cheddar tastes like plain old American cheese, Jackson says. And that’s simply not good enough.

He’s going the extra mile, seeking out vegan pesto so vegans can enjoy the shop’s Bella Verde. All its dipping sauces are vegan, and while he has yet to find a good substitute for the sardines on flagship sandwich the Grandpa, you better believe he’s going to keep trying. 

Kahlo’s Taqueria & Bar 
718 N. 23rd St.
Open for lunch and dinner daily, dine-in and to-go

Kahlo’s patio is the immediate draw, though the renovated inside is bright and airy, with a spacious dining room and inviting bar. Owner Iliana White-Padilla has been working on her Church Hill restaurant for more than two years and is excited to finally fill the niche of casual tacos and margaritas in the neighborhood. 

White-Padilla comes from a long line of restaurant owners, and once she got out of corporate America she decided she wanted to try her hand at running her own spot. Kahlo’s is a family establishment, run by White-Padilla, her 20-year-old son and her sister. “It’s definitely been challenging but the community has been really supportive,” she says.

The restaurant is a hybrid of counter and full service. Customers order drinks at the bar – margaritas are available in a variety of shapes and sizes, but for our money we’ll take a medium orange ginger on the rocks – and food at the host station, then take a table number to their seats. During our visit, staff refilled drinks and took orders tableside after counter orders were placed, so you’re never left fully unattended. Munch on complimentary chips and salsa while you peruse the menu of tacos, fajitas, burritos, tortas and seafood platters. 

Hot for Pizza
1301 W. Leigh St.
Open for takeout and delivery, check Instagram for hours 

This funky pizzeria is owned and operated by Herbie Abernethy and Josh Novicki – they also own Cobra Cabana a mere six blocks away. 

Abernethy says while he wasn’t sure if he was ready to open another spot, Novicki is “always ready” and Hot for Pizza was born. The tiny restaurant and bar, like Cobra, is not adhering to any state guidelines, meaning – it’ll open the inside when the owners feel it is absolutely safe to do so. Abernethy says Cobra has “pandemic regulars,” a feat that he values above swinging the doors wide for any and everyone hankering to dine out. 

Hot for Pizza is still in its soft opening phase, with flexible hours depending on demand and oven capacity. Abernethy says they are attempting to install a second pizza oven over the Fourth of July weekend. “The first day was … rough,” he laughs. “It was a disaster. But the second day was better, and the third day was even better.”

The musician and restaurateur says that they chose to pursue pies because the space and the budget just worked. Plus, the staff is “passionate about pizza.” Order specialty pies like Runnin’ with the Basil made with vegan mozzarella, or the Regal Beagle with a pesto base and toppings galore. And once the dining room is open and you can enjoy your Yankee Rose salad in the air conditioning, Abernethy says don’t even ponder a table. Head straight for the bar. 

“I’m going to market this as a pizza pub,” Abernethy muses. “We were working one day and afterwards I sat at the bar, took a big long swig of beer and thought, ‘this is a great place to drink.’”

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