If you see a faded sign by the side of the road that says the Hub, Richmond's first shopping center, pull in. Especially if you're in the mood for brunch.
SB's Lakeside Love Shack feels like the kind of place a friend would tell you about. I know I first heard about it when a friend posted a picture of Grandpa Joe's cinnamon buns ($6) with the caption, "This place is the real deal." That may be, but tucked into a shopping center near Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden as it is, it's not exactly the kind of place you're likely to stumble upon on your own.
The jewel-sized interior is colorful, cluttered and cute, with food and drink specials listed in neat handwriting on separate chalkboards. Like a lot of other brunchers, we couldn't help but gravitate to the slender outdoor space to the right of the restaurant, appealingly appointed with mismatched tables, fans, hanging flower pots and a pergola overhead.
Hanging from a wooden post is a metal sign reading "Hangover cures around the world," an informative and hilarious hair-of-the-dog catalog. A welcoming place to sip and sup, the patio is particularly family-friendly if your little ones are boisterous or eager to explore while you're savoring a Love Getaway of RumChata, coconut rum and coffee.
As hangover cures go, the Bang Bang on the Door Benny ($13) does the heavy lifting with a grilled croissant under a pair of poached eggs and Virginia ham smothered in a smoky tomato hollandaise. You may need a nap afterward, but what's more fitting post-brunch anyway? Appealing to the pancake lover in us all, you can order them individually ($1 each) to complement whatever else catches your eye.
The only breakfast misstep I encountered was with the Notorious Bruleed Irresistible Grapefruit ($8), which comes with a ramekin of honey rosemary Greek yogurt. Instead of a thick crunchy crown of burnt sugar over a sectioned grapefruit, we were served an unsectioned half of the fruit with barely enough sugar to register and none of it hardened and caramelized. Difficult to eat and without the brulee crust, it may be notorious but also definitely resistible.
Boasting mounds of chicken salad and house-pickled red onion on English muffin halves, the I Got Me a Chrysler Melt ($9) is topped with a slice of tomato and blanketed with melted cheese, making the accompanying salad of dressed mixed greens an appropriately light counterpoint. Other sides available include kettle chips or fresh fruit, which usually involves blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and sometimes cherries. American, cheddar and Swiss cheeses between Texas toast make for a fat and filling Jukebox Money grilled cheese ($8) that can be gussied up with bacon or ham ($2) for carnivores.
The most memorable sandwich was the Dancin' and a-Lovin' club sandwich ($12), no surprise given the absence of standard deli meats. Instead, hunks of house-roasted turkey, a thick slice of ham, freshly cooked bacon, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, lettuce and tomato roost on a grilled croissant that's both messy to eat and far more memorable than your average club sandwich.
Service is casual and friendly, with a steady stream of regulars greeted by name. Chances are good that owner Sarabeth Hagen will stop by your table — even when she's working in the kitchen — to make sure everything's to your liking. It's not unlike going to a family member's house where your Aunt Betty just can't help but check in.
Although SB's is a brunch restaurant with primarily daytime hours, come Fridays it's open from 4 - 8 p.m. and Lakeside neighbors make their way to the patio for happy hour and brinner: breakfast for dinner. The cocktail list is broken down into Love Potions, Love Shack Bevs, Mug Shots and Love Shack brews and wines, including local beers.
With little touches like the bathroom sink mounted on a piece of wood with an old bike for support and the "Happy Everything" sign on the wall, SB's Lakeside Love Shack feels like a labor of love for Hagen. For brunch lovers, it's a guarantee of elevated diner food, funky cocktails and smiling service. I haven't yet seen folks lining up outside just to get fed, but give it time. The Love Shack is the real deal. S
SB's Lakeside Love Shack
Tuesdays – Thursdays 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.,
Fridays 7 a.m. – 2 p.m., 4 - 8 p.m.,
Saturdays- Sundays 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
6935 Lakeside Ave.. 922-2371.