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Curve Shot

Food Review: Greenleaf’s Pool Room unexpectedly brings good eats to the table.



A restaurant by any other name would still serve food, right? But with the stakes increasing in Richmond’s burgeoning scene, you’re bound to see more hybrids. Restaurants have upped their appeal by incorporating butcheries, markets and live music, so it’s no surprise that pool — the game with sticks and balls — would follow.

Greenleaf’s Pool Room isn’t only for those who assume a firm, yet relaxed stance, cue in hand. Named for Ralph Greenleaf, a 20-time world pocket billiards champion in the early 20th century, the pool hall has more going on. While the generous, light-filled space does house 12 regulation Brunswick Gold Crown tables, the diminutive dining area displays charming details and a love of Caravati’s Inc. Architectural Salvage.

Vividly colorful Mexican folk art paintings depict significant pool players. A well-stacked bowl of fruit next to a vintage scale on a table is a tableau worthy of a Tuscan kitchen. Black and white photographs of female pool players, stylish in ’60s bouffants and high heels, grace the ladies’ room.

Regardless of why you’ve come to Greenleaf’s, belly up to the handsome bar to begin your stay. What’s pool without beer? There’s a rotating selection of craft beers ($6 a pint/$22 a pitcher) as well as bottles and cans ($2.50-$6), including several Virginia offerings. Wine lovers are well served with a brief list ($7-$10 a glass/$26-$37 a bottle), all European except for a Washington sparkler. With an offering of eight cocktails ($8-$11) comes some restaurant cross-pollination: Two originals were created by the Roosevelt’s talented barkeep, T. Leggett.

While concise, Greenleaf’s menu aims to set your notion of pool-hall food on its ear with half a dozen snacks and as many sandwiches. A ramekin of Hungarian hash ($5) layers long-cooked chuck roast over croutons with a dollop of sour cream, hearty by anyone’s definition of a snack. Daily deviled eggs ($6) are packed with personality, all the more appealing because they come two different variations per order. I applaud that trend making it to other restaurants. Smitten with an exotic curry egg, I backpedal on my devotion once I sample tomato-basil amped up with fried chicken skin atop the creamy orb.

Another worthwhile excursion, an order of the cast-iron seasonal vegetables ($3) brings garlicky Brussels sprouts in a miniature cast iron pan to the table. Only the tomato soup ($5) fails to wow, its consistency so thick that the spoon stands upright in it. A few tastes are plenty.

Like the Earl of Sandwich who needed a hand free while playing cards, pool players appreciate the convenience of protein between bread. SausageCraft continues its domination of local menus with the daily sausage sandwich ($10), one time a fat Cuban sausage under a blanket of ham and Gruyère cheese, with pickle slices as the crowning touch.

Any other time of the year, the turkey dip ($12) would feel like pure out-of-season delight, with house-smoked turkey slathered with cranberry relish and a cup of meat-filled turkey gravy for dipping. In no time, I’m forking out bits of gravy-sodden meat directly into my waiting mouth despite the upcoming season. The Magic Kingdom monte cristo ($9) might be crisper than most versions of this egg-breaded classic, but the trademark ooze of melted cheese and ham will be instantly familiar to its fans.

Service is casual on my three visits, with the cook taking our order once when the lone server is busy running food. On a Friday night, there’s hardly a table that isn’t being used by players of both sexes, all ages and ethnicities, while boisterous indie music plays. Even a weekday lunch shows four tables actively played, this time to old-school R&B. Only on the Sunday of the Richmond Folk Festival does the room seem understandably devoid of energy. The kitchen, however, makes the most of the down time to make stock. Stock, you say? That’s Greenleaf’s Pool Room — far better fare than you’d expect given its raison d’être.

Should you want to take up the game, free beginner lessons are offered Sunday afternoons from 2-3 and Tuesdays from noon-1 p.m. As pool great Willie Mosconi said, “Pool is all luck — the more you play, the luckier you get.” Whether or not you play, luck should keep you satisfyingly fed. S

Greenleaf’s Pool Room
Monday-Wednesday 11 a.m.-midnight, Thursday-Friday 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Saturday noon- 2 a.m., Sunday noon-midnight. 21 and older after 6 p.m.
100 N. Sixth St.

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