You have to hand it to Kathleen Richardson, owner of the Urban Farmhouse Market & Café enterprise. She’s a master at creating cute and cozy meeting places for an easy cup of coffee and a quick, simple meal. Every town deserves a spot like this.
Richardson has opened six locations across Richmond in six years, with the latest on the fringe of South Side’s Manchester. The space resides below an apartment building in a part of the neighborhood that still has an office park vibe and little street parking. Potted portulaca and rosemary are in bloom along the outdoor terrace, river breezes from a block away float by and there’s a persistent feel of expectation. Foot traffic is sparse, and I’m wondering if the people living in houses two blocks away know there’s coffee nearby.
If you’ve ever been to an Urban Farmhouse, the space will be familiar. There are sturdy tables and chairs with almost enough personal space between, a sofa, chalkboard signs, baskets of candies and treats on the counter and pastries from local bakeries. There are board games and magazines and Wi-Fi if you’re there for a longer hang.
Like the interior, the menu is standard. Richardson is clearly a supporter of the shop-local movement and incorporates a number of area purveyors into her offerings — among them Prairie Grain Bread Co., Anna B.’s, Olli Salumeria and Ironclad Coffee Roasters. Buzzwords speckle the menu: fresh, natural, locavore, hand-prepared, non-GMO, seasonal. Even soup stocks are made from scratch.
Yes. I love places that take the time to do these things.
Soups, salads and sandwiches make up the bulk of food that’s simple and casual. I have high hopes for the Cubano ($10.95) because one of the employees said it’s the best Cubano she’s ever had — in 35 years. I would say it’s good, with all the requisite ingredients at work — ham, pork, swiss, pickles and mustard on a baguette, though the flavors don’t quite meld together. I order it as a half sandwich and half salad ($10), which is still a good deal, and the cucumber, mint and feta salad is meticulously prepared and refreshing.
The grilled cheese and tomato ($8.25) is interesting but the smoked Gouda doesn’t melt the way you want a grilled cheese to melt — with cheese stringing from teeth to bread. I’ve had this one before and wished for cheddar then, and I still do.
The hummus and sweet pepper sandwich ($8.95) is perfectly good, but boy is it skimpy. I’m all for people-sized food, but this sandwich — and also the fact that coffee refills are 95 cents — makes me think of an old man with a monocle slashing line items with a red pen. Please sir, I want some more.
In the morning, there are variations on egg and cheese sandwiches, as well as juices and smoothies. If you like clichéd health food as much as I do, try the health warrior smoothie ($4.85) with berries, kale and chia seeds.
Evening fare is bready snacks that go great with draft beer ($4 at happy hour, along with $5 wines, from 4-7). On one visit, I try the charcuterie plate ($18) with a glass of carmenere, a deep Chilean red. Salami, golf-ball-sized dollops of creamy goat cheese, massive slices of sheep’s and blue cheese, and thick slices of bread all are piled on a plate. Each of these things is excellent quality, though it would be even better with preserves or fancy mustard, and maybe a couple of shreds of pickled something. It’s intended for one or two people. I say three or four would do just fine.
While the food part of the market still seems to be in the works — or is intentionally Spartan — specialty soda, beer and wine are plentiful. The wine selection (about $10 to $25 per bottle) is interesting and international: Spanish, South American, Romanian and French. You may not see a label you know, and I’m doubtful you’ll find help with this behind the counter, so bring a phone for reference. Craft beers and cider are familiar and mostly local.
Shelves and refrigerators hold a small and random assortment of sundries — greeting cards, a tube of anchovy paste, ramen, condiments, a small basket of produce in the fridge and a couple of boxes of frozen meals.
It’s difficult to imagine being at home and actually making a pit stop here for any of these things. But then again, if you run out of something … you can also get a cup of coffee to go. S
Urban Farmhouse Market & Café
Monday-Fridays 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m.;
Saturdays 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sundays 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
1200 Semmes Ave.