Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Soule Fusion

1714 E Washington St
Petersburg, VA 23803
(804) 733-7725
          Soule Fusion is a Korean Restaurant located in a rather seedy part of Petersburg but just a two minute drive from Fort Lee.  The only time I ever go to Soule Fussion is when I get the rare opportunity to meet Amanda for lunch and a few weeks ago I was able to. The sign for the restaurant is quite tacky, they recently added extra words and the name in Korean which makes it look jumbled and will probably keep more people away than it draws in.  Inside is not much better a bunch of tables with very little to know ambiance and a sever lack of decorative flare. The one interesting feature they had has recently been taken out. It was a wall of famous people who have lived in Petersburg, the most unusual of which was Dee Dee Ramon and Nancy Reagan.  The place is clean but it is very dark on the inside and roughly thrown together so it can appear dirty to some.
I’ve had a few Korean friends who have told me that Soule Fusion is more Japanese than it is Korean and they may be right but it still tastes good to me. This last time Amanda and I went here there were quite a few people there for lunch. They are almost always in the military with a few civilian workers thrown in.  Amanda and I started off with the Man Du, a sort of fried dumpling with ground beef and vegetables inside and served with soy sauce for dipping. They are rather expensive but they tasted good with a nice crunchy outside. We make these at home sometimes and they are quite labor intensive so in can understand the price. Amanda lived in Korea when she was younger so she can sometimes have the taste for real authentic Korean food and when she does she orders Japchae. It is a Korean dish made from sweet potato noodles (called dangmyeon), stir fried in sesame oil with various vegetables (typically thinly sliced carrots, onion, spinach, and mushrooms), sometimes served with beef, and flavored with soy sauce, and sweetened with sugar. It is usually served garnished with sesame seeds and slivers of chili. It may be served either hot or cold. But more often than not we both get the “Bento box”.
 The bento box is a really good deal, it comes with two pieces of sushi, usually just a California roll, tempura fried vegetables, a salad with house dressing, the most amazing rice in the world and your choice of meat and sauce.  We usually get teriyaki chicken but this time I sprung for the big bang chicken. Their teriyaki chicken is always good but I felt like trying something different. The big bang chicken was covered in a creamy orange sauce that was sweet but had a bite at the end. It was awesome; I think that I will stick with that from now on.  The tempura fried vegetables are usually slices of sweet potato and zucchini and it is always delicious, deep fried in very hot oil so that the outside is crispy but the inside in soft and sweet. Other than the meat the real standout of the bento box is the sticky rice. I really can’t explain why it is so great but it really is the best rice I’ve ever eaten.
Don’t be scared off by its outside appearance and actually it’s inside appearance either because Soule Fusion offers very good food and is one of the few Korean restaurants in the area. It may be more Japanese oriented than it is Korean but it does offer quite a few Korean dishes that are cooked well, taste good and are served at a reasonable price. I highly recommend checking out Soul Fusion even if it just for their Bento Box, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

BBQ EXTRAVAGANZA- 25th review special

                 For my 25th review I wanted to do something special. I decided on something near and dear to my heart BBQ. I consider myself a sort of BBQ connoisseur; not on how to cook it but on who has the best.  I try to eat only at family owned restaurants in the Tri-cities and they are the only places that I regularly review here because there are numerous other people reviewing Richmond area restaurants. The one thing that I do travel far and wide to eat is BBQ and I have been to just about every BBQ restaurant in the Central Virginia area. I would like to share you with my favorites and the ones that I would stay away from. These are almost all purely BBQ restaurants; if I listed every place that serves BBQ I’d name almost every place in the area. If you happen to know of any that I have left off please let me know because I would love to try them out.
                I will begin with the average BBQ joints, these places are neither great nor are they so bad that I’d tell you never to eat there.  I am going to bullet these so that it will easier to navigate.
·         K&L in Hopewell- K&L is very inexpensive and has very good potato cakes but their BBQ is mediocre. It is either sliced or extremely finely minced both of which are the easy way out.  Their sauce is a NC style hybrid that I neither hate no truly enjoy. 
·         Prince George BBQ in Prince George-  I have always felt that PG BBQ is overpriced. Their BBQ is smoked on site and is ok but for the price you can definitely find better.  
·         VA Dinner in Wakefield-  VA Dinner  has a lot of great food, particularly their carrot soufflé and stewed tomatoes but their BBQ and NC style sauce leaves a bit to be desired so they are on the mediocre list.
·         Dickie’s on Forrest Hill Avenue in Richmond- It is a chain BBQ restaurant. Their BBQ is Texas style BBQ with Ribs, Brisket, Sausage, and chicken. Their BBQ is pretty good and they have a nice thick tomato based sauce but it loses points for not being cooked on site and being a fast food style chain.
·         Benny’s BBQ of Richmond- It makes the mediocre list strictly because their peanut based BBQ sauce is out of this world.  Their BBQ is run of the mill and I would not recommend eating here if they did not have such an amazing sauce.
·         Buzz and Ned’s BBQ in Richmond- I know that I may be forever blackballed for this but to be honest I was not amazed the few times I have eaten here. I understand that BBQ is a labor of love and therefore should cost a little more but I felt that their prices were pretty high. Buzz and Ned’s is also a bit of a dump. Eating there makes me feel like I’m eating at the State Fair under one of their big tents. The only reason Buzz and Ned’s has been the “Best in Richmond” is because Alamo BBQ was not there at that time.
·         Extra Billy’s in Richmond and in Midlothian- No one really talks about Extra Billy’s and now I know why. I should have known not to trust a BBQ restaurant that advertizes a salad buffet out front. Inside it was extremely dark and quite tackily decorated like an old saloon. They serve brisket, ribs, pork and chicken.  It was not bad by any means but it was really not anything special.
·         Pierce’s in Williamsburg- This place is highly overrated. It is always packed to the rafters and the only reason I can think of is that the only other BBQ restaurant in Williamsburg is Red. Hot and Blues. Their BBQ is very common tasting and really does nothing special for me.
·         Sibley’s in Chester- Another place that is always packed for no apparent reason. They do serve all of the BBQ staples including sides and they do have a nice tomato based sauce but other than that disappointingly plain.
·         Double T in Richmond- I admit it has been a while since I’ve been to Double T but there is a reason for that and it is because I’ve found better elsewhere and wanted to look to see if I could find better.
Below are my least favorite BBQ restaurants, some people love these places and swear by them by I do not. 
·         Bill’s BBQ all over the area- Extremely bland in every way possible the food, the atmosphere and the décor. I leave here full but depressed and unsatisfied.
·         Red Hot and Blue in Richmond and Williamsburg-  A big time chain that has lost a lot with its size. It just seems fake and is trying way too hard.
·         PQ’s BBQ in Midlothian- This place is hidden on Midlothian and no one has ever heard of it and it is because there is nothing to talk about. 
·         King’s in Petersburg- I had to blackout my windows after my last review of King’s because people were so upset but it just was not good. The food was dry and the extremely minced.
·         VA BBQ in Midlothian- Chain Fast food style restaurant without the Texas flavor that Dickie’s offers. They offer a couple of sauce types but it is not enough to salvage this place.
·         Brocks in Chester- I was not disappointed when I ate here for lunch because I was told it stunk, they were correct. I will admit that I just had the buffet not their supposedly awesome brisket, but when you go to a buffet and leave hungry because it was so bad there is something wrong.
·         Cub Creeks Farm BBQ in Powhatan- Nothing to this place very mediocre BBQ, will not be going back.
·         Grandpa Eddie’s in Richmond- I should have known that any place that needs to play commercials 200 times a day on 96.5 KLR is doing so for a reason; because no one would come otherwise. Not only is Grandpa Eddie’s out in the middle of nowhere in my opinion their BBQ is also not very good.  I am being nice when I say that because I did not like this place at all and will NEVER go back.
·         Cowlings in Waverly- My least favorite BBQ restaurant. This place is like a dark, dank dungeon of bad BBQ. I know some people love it but for the life of me I do not know why.

Now for the best BBQ restaurants in the area:
·         Famous Dave’s  all over Virginia-  I know that this is a large chain but their BBQ is surprisingly good, he did come in second on the Food Network’s  BBQ challenge. This place offers it all and has five types of sauce that will please almost any palate. The meat is well cooked and the offer, sausage, pork, beef, and chicken.
·         Ronnie’s Ribs in Richmond on Church Hill- This is another place that was on the Food Network on the show “The Best thing I’ve ever Eaten” for their ribs. The ribs lived up to the hype. They were not quite the best I’ve ever eaten but they were delicious although a little pricey. Be forewarned though this place is just a little trailer in a parking lot with a smoker out front so if you’re not looking closely you will miss it.
·         Hog Wild BBQ in Toano- I still thank my little brother for discovering this place. It is near Williamsburg but unless you know exactly where you are going you will miss it. Hog Wild is home of the two pound bbq sandwich.  This is Louisiana style BBQ and food so some of the offerings are a little unusual but they are all delicious.
·          Q BBQ in Midlothian- I know that there is another in Norfolk but I don’t think this is a chain. They have great BBQ for such a fancy place. They offer it all and do it all very well. Probably the best BBQ on Midlothian Turnpike.
·         Little Pig BBQ in Petersburg-  This little stand right next to the now closed Eley’s BBQ is an underappreciated gem. Located in no man’s land between Petersburg and Dinwiddie it is out of the way of almost everywhere but it sure is good. It is also one of the very few places that serve South Carolina style mustard BBQ sauce.
·         Kings Korner in Chesterfield at the Airport- This is another hidden gem. It really is hidden and almost impossible to find if you don’t know where to look. This is a BBQ buffet that only the true foodies know about. Everything on the buffet is great and it changes every day.  The real secret though is the rib dip, go for yourself and check it out.
·         Alamo BBQ in Richmond on Church Hill- This place recently stole the title of best BBQ in Richmond away from Buzz and Ned’s. It is true Texas style BBQ and is locally owned and run. They offer all of the usuals such as brisket, pulled pork, chicken and sausage plus tacos, burritos and the amazing train wreck.  There prices and food are out of this world. Best in Richmond but it is kind of a hipster hangout.
·         Saucy’s Walk-up BBQ in Petersburg- This place has the best BBQ in the Tri-Cities and maybe even in the commonwealth.  Everything including the sides and cole slaw is fresh. I love their pulled pork with cole slaw on top, truly amazing! Their three bean casserole is to die for the best beans I’ve ever eaten. They have a few different kinds of sauce and each one is great. Everything about Saucy’s is amazing except that it is closed on Sundays.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Demolition Coffee

215 E Bank
Petersburg, VA 23803
(804) 732-2991

  as a restaurant

 as a coffee shop hangout

            With my brother leaving to go back to school, I wanted to take him out to lunch one last time so we could hang out. I was planning on bringing him to Saucy’s Walk-up BBQ, one of my favorite places to eat in the Tri-cities, only to find out that it is closed on Sundays. After driving checking out a few different places we decided to eat at Demolition Coffee. I had eaten there a few times before with Amanda and was never really impressed with their food but Alex had never been there so I figured we’d try it out.

Demolition Coffee is not located in the real downtown area of Petersburg but is a just a few blocks away. Inside the place looks awesome. It is extremely clean with a mixture of brick and vintage wallpapered walls and a wooden ceiling. It is really impressive looking but it does have an air of hipsterness, that comes off as if it may be trying a little too hard. Of course Alex, a sort of hipster himself, loved the décor and ambiance but did agree that it was trying pretty hard to pull off the look. The menu matched the overall vibe. There were fancy coffees, mochas, and cappuccinos along with simple sandwiches, wraps and Panini, many of which were vegetarian, and a variety of different cakes, pies and pastries.  We were immediately a little disappointed that they did not have chocolate covered bacon that day, they usually don’t.

At Demolition Coffee you order everything at the counter. It only took Alex an I a few minutes to decide what we wanted, there really is not that much to choose from, and all vegetarian items were a no go, because we are meat eating manly men,  so our choices were even more limited. I decided to go with their special of the day, The Duke for $7.95. The Duke, I would assume named after John Wayne but why I have no idea, is a wrap with strips of baked chicken breast, bacon, cheese, and ranch, it is then pressed in a Panini press to warm it up and give it a little crunch.  It came with a pickle and the choice of a side, I chose pasta salad. Alex ordered a Panini with sliced deli meat, cheese and mayo.

It did not take long for us to receive our food; I wish that it had taken longer because the cheese on my sandwich was not completely melted. Yuck!  Over all the wrap was not too bad, the chicken was well cooked and not dried out, the bacon was nice and crispy and it was complemented with the thin layer of ranch dressing spread on it. I was glad it was a thin coat because sometimes too much ranch on a sandwich can ruin it. I will say though that I was disappointed with my mostly unmelted shredded cheddar cheese, I felt that this was a missed opportunity because a nice slice of a more high quality cheese would really have made the sandwich. I did like how the wrap was pressed on the Panini machine because it gave it a nice crispy outside which contrasted well with the moist inside. The best part of the meal though was the pasta salad; I would classify it more as a macaroni salad with more of a mayo base than I typically associate with pasta salad. The pickle spear on the other hand was limp and did not have the crunch I enjoy in a good pickle.

Over all, Demolition Coffee left a bit to be desired in terms of food. The prices were reasonable but the selection is rather small and nothing on the menu had what I would call the “wow factor” meaning that it made me drool just reading it. The place is beautiful and the atmosphere is pretty neat; I was extremely surprised and the very diverse clientele that were there. I imagine that they probably have awesome coffee and it would be fun to hang out there while searching the internet or listing to a band, even though they do not serve the hard stuff. I do not recommend eating at Demolition Coffee because I think that Longstreet’s has a much better selection of sandwiches. With that being said, you may very well see me there from time to time because Amanda loves the place and it's a pretty cool place to just hangout

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dance’s Sporting Goods’ Breakfast/Lunch Counter

570 Southpark Boulevard  
Colonial Heights, VA 23834
(804) 526-8399


          As you all know, I search high and low for the best places to eat in the Tri-Cities. This has brought me to the bad parts of town and to quite a few dumps but this is the first time that it has brought me to a sporting goods store. A couple of weeks ago on a day that I had off my dad brought my brother and I to Dance’s Sporting Goods for breakfast. I’m sure that a lot of y’all are probably asking yourselves “Why on earth would anyone go to a sporting goods store for breakfast?”.  I’ll tell you why- because it serves one of the best breakfasts in the Tri-Cities and is the only place where you can eat breakfast and buy an AK-47 or two. 
This is by no means a restaurant; it is just a food counter in the middle of the store with a waitress and a short order cook and a lot of people sitting around the counter eating and carrying on.  I have never eaten at Dance’s for lunch, only for breakfast. I do not get to eat there often because it is only open on weekdays and closed on most Holidays. So whenever I get to go with my dad it is always a treat. We always order the same thing; a sausage sandwich on toast with mayo, home fries with cheese and onions, and a sweet tea.  This time was no different.
The waitress is the aunt of one of my brother’s high school friends so every time we go she catches us up on how he’s doing. This time she informed us that he and his wife are expecting their second child; he’s a tougher man than I.  After we talked for a few minutes she took our order and brought it to the back. In less than a minute we had three super sweet teas in front of us and we were looking around to see what new items they had in the store. There was a cute young cashier walking around which my dad pointed out to Alex and then continued to give him a hard time about talking to her. Alex as usual was not amused.  Before they got into a big fight we were served our breakfast.
The sandwich is what you would expect, a piping hot sausage patty fresh off the grill nestled between two crispy toasted pieces of bread buttered with a quick slap of mayo cut into two triangles. I’m not sure what it is, I would guess a high quality sausage, but it is always fresh and awesome. The sandwich is great but the real reason we go to Dance’s for breakfast, other than to look at guns, is the homefries. Explaining homefries to a person who has never eaten them is quite difficult. The closest thing that they could be described as is hash browns, but they are by no means hash browns. They are more like velvety smooth mashed potatoes with a few onions, slightly fried on each side and topped with cheese. I put just a little bit of ketchup on them and I am in heaven. They of course taste kind of like mashed potatoes but being fried and I assume sprinkled with some secret seasonings makes them out of this world.
One of the best parts of eating at Dance’s is after we finish our delicious breakfast we can then go around and check out all sorts of guns and hunting equipment. Dance’s Sporting Goods offers a real man’s breakfast with a side of firearms. I will definitely be going back on my next weekday off and I recommend that you stop on by sometime to grab breakfast and buy an assault rifle.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bistro 23:1

1133 E North Sycamore St.
Petersburg, VA 23803


  Today I had the distinct pleasure of eating at one awesome new little southern restaurant and     bakery in downtown Petersburg, Bistro 23:1. For you heathens out there, 23:1 refers to the first line of the 23rd psalm, “The Lord is my Sheppard, I shall not want”.   It is located a block or two up from the main down town area but it is still in a pretty good and safe area of Petersburg.  It is small and quaint with only five or six little tables but it extremely clean and welcoming with their large front windows letting in the warm sunlight. The walls were sparsely decorated except for a few little pictures of recipes and a large chalkboard over the counter telling the prices of their bakery items. On the counter behind glass is all of their baked goods, a wide variety of cakes, muffins, brownies and cookies.  

I sat myself and my waitress, who was extremely pleasant, appeared quickly to take my drink order. Like any good southern boy I started off with a sweet tea.  While she fixed my tea I scanned over the lunch and dinner menu, they also serve breakfast. The menu was not very big and consisted of sandwiches, burgers and a few southern dinner entrees like chicken, fish, and country fried steak.  Everything on the menu looked good but I wanted to try something different and exciting so I ordered the harvest chicken sandwich. It is a grilled chicken breast, topped with bacon and fried apples on a croissant served with seasoned french fries for $7.99. To be honest I was not completely sure about how much I would like this sandwich but it ended up being out of this world. The chicken breast was huge and had a nice grilled flavor and the slices of bacon were thick and crisp but the part that made the sandwich amazing were the fried apples. They were probably the best tasting fried apples I’ve ever had. They were soft and mushy with a sweet cinnamon flavor that perfectly complemented the salty bacon and grilled chicken. It would have been good on any bun but on the croissant it was to die for. The croissant was freshly baked that morning and was airy and flakey. Even the thick cut steak fries were great. Usually, I do not go for thick fries but these were seasoned with parsley and I do not know what else but they were very tasty especially with a little ketchup and mayo. My waitress frequently checked on me to make sure that I was doing alright but not too often as to be annoying. I wanted to try one of their freshly baked deserts but I was way too full after my sandwich.

I really enjoyed my whole experience at Bistro 23:1. The place was lovely and the food and service was excellent. I think that it will make an excellent addition to downtown Petersburg and will hopefully bring new life to the block that its on. I will certainly be going back to Bistro 23:1 and recommend that you do so as well either for a meal or just to pick up something from its bakery. 

Bermuda Inn

103 E Hundred Rd
Chester, VA 23836
(804) 530-5454


I’m sure many of you are asking yourselves, “Where on earth is Bermuda Inn”?  It is a dumpy little wooden building on Rt. 10 with BBQ pits out front. I’m sure that most people have passed it 100 times without noticing it and if you did notice you would never even consider stopping there.  Well unlike most people I’ve always wanted to eat there, I had mistakenly assumed that they cooked BBQ. Last week when Amanda was in Baltimore I convinced my uncle, Corey, and our friend Robert to join me there for dinner because I had read online that they have the “the best freakin’ burgers on the planet”.  I hate gross overstatements so I wanted to go and debunk this one.

Well I must admit that the dinner started out a little bumpy with me missing the restaurant because it is a hole in the wall and had to drive down to Sheetz, turn around, wait at the light drive past Bermuda Inn and make a U-turn to get there. As we pulled up we noticed that the open sign was on but there was not a car in the parking lot and practically no lights inside. I peaked in the window and saw an older lady playing video poker at the bar, so we walked in. Boy did we not know what we walked in to. The restaurant had a huge pool table right smack in the middle of the place with three lonely tables pushed up to the edge of the walls. In two of the corners there was junk piled up practically to the ceiling and there were three rickety looking stools at the bar. There was one dim light on in the whole place when walked in but our waitress/cook/owner/possible mass murderer plugged in another light that gave us just enough light to see the various mounted animals on the walls covered in cobwebs and in various states or decay and dilapidation. The two that I vividly remember were the mounted deer butt and the squirrel with wings which hung over us looking ready to attack.

Our waitress brought us our menus and took our drink orders and to our horror did not include sweet tea. After settling for a Pepsi (in a can for $1.50) I looked at the menu. It consisted of burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, and various sandwiches including BBQ that was not smoked on site along with a few specials written on a blackboard.  I told the fellas that I heard that there burgers were good so we all ordered burgers and got potato skins $5.95 and two orders of onion rings $2.00 each as appetizers.  The cheese burger was $3.25; I added chili and fried onions for $0.75 each and slaw for $0.35.  Our appetizers came out rather quickly for a place where it looked like she might have to go out back and dig up the potatoes. We received 6 potato skins that were covered in cheese and bacon with sour cream to dip them in. They were ok but not worth six dollars in my opinion. Our two servings of onion rings looked a whole lot like one serving with only about seven or eight on the plate. Although there were not very many of them they were pretty good, a nice thick slice of onion surrounded by a crisp and crunch shell.

We were able to finish the appetizers before our burgers arrived. I have to admit that for a crappy little restaurant the burgers were really good. They were by no means the “best on the planet” or even the best I’ve ever had but they were thick, juicy, and extremely flavorful and did not appear to just be some frozen patty. They were served on thick, fresh rolls which came as the biggest surprise.  They were not overly huge but they were enough to fill you up. My only complaint about them was that I felt a little skimped on the chili, there was just enough to give it a chili flavor. The slaw and onions on the other hand were loaded onto the burger. The slaw tasted store bought but the onions were cooked to soft and sweet perfection. 

While, I will probably never return to Bermuda Inn and recommend that if you want to get a good burger there are better places in the Tri-Cities to get one, I must admit that I did enjoy Bermuda Inn; partly because the burgers were good and partly because of the excitingly scary feeling that I was in some cheesy horror movie and was about to be made into a hamburger for the next unsuspecting visitor.  But in the end we made it out with our lives and our belly’s full. I must tell everyone one frightening detail that one must know before they decide to venture into Bermuda Inn… they do not take plastic so make sure your bring cash.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Bistro at Market and Grove

422 N Market St
Petersburg, VA 23803

 For the past two years my family has gone to the Bistro in downtown Petersburg for a Christmas dinner. The first year we went with my grandmother, uncle, and aunt. The food was excellent and the restaurant was beautiful but our waitress was extremely rude to my entire family. While a few of them were acting a little crazy the way she behaved was uncalled for. Somehow my father was blissfully unaware of her attitude because he was deeply engulfed by the holiday spirit.  It was so bad that Amanda wrote a letter to manager complaining about not only the bad service but the extreme rudeness of our waitress.  The called and apologized but did not offer any sort of discount or anything.
This year for some reason my dad wanted to go back for Christmas dinner, but this year on a more intimate scale. Alex was at school entertaining some young ladies so it was only my parents, Amanda, and I and don’t you know we had the same waitress. She remembered us but this time she was a lot friendlier and a lot less rude although you could tell that she had it in her. It was strange she remembered small details from I do believe two years before like us getting our picture taken next to the tree and that my dad loved the crab soup.
The restaurant for the most part was well decorated for Christmas except for a few weird pieces of art on the walls that looked like some sort of strange African mask, it may have worked somewhere else but it did not fit the setting of the Bistro. The dinner area is very small and intimate with a quaint and cozy feel to it. My dad ordered a bottle of sweet white wine that was recommended by our waitress. It was pretty good and not too expensive. I started out with the crab soup. It was very good; it had a nice seafood taste and was filled with crab meat. The last time I went to the Bistro I ordered the crab cakes which were very good with a nice and crisp outside with tender and succulent crab meat inside with almost no filler. It came with corn pudding and vegetables. The corn pudding was less sweet that I normally like but it was still quite tasty. I ordered the duck with a honey Dijon glaze and served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The duck was awesome perfectly cooked and the glaze went extremely well with its flavor. It was sweet and savory. The mashed potatoes had bits of the skin mixed in with and were good but I wish I had switched to the corn pudding. The vegetables were cooked well but nothing special.
All in all this time my experience at the Bistro was a lot more enjoyable because our waitress was more friendly and my dad was not quite as consumed with the holiday spirit as two years before. Both the crab cakes I had the first time and the duck I had this time were good but if I went back I would get the crab cakes.  While the food was god and the prices reasonable, between $15 and $20, the Bistro is not my favorite restaurant in the Tri-Cities. Admittedly, I may still be harboring ill feelings from my first experience but I know that there are plenty of places which are just as good if not better and have a nicer staff. Unlike what everyone else says the chef never came to our table either time.  I would not tell you not to go there but I really don’t think I would recommend it unless you need to go somewhere fancier than usual, even then I may point you to a spot of two in Richmond.  

Pino’s Italian Restaurant

3420 Boulevard
Colonial Heights, VA, 23834
There are probably more family owned Italian Restaurants in the Tri-Cities than any other type of restaurant so finding the one who serves the best food for the best price is quite a challenge. Everyone has their favorite and swears that it is the best around. I also have my favorite but I have tried to stay impartial until now. Before I started this blog, Pino’s was my favorite Italian Restaurant and still is but I promise to be impartial in my review.

            A couple of weeks ago my parents and grandfather came over to look at Amanda and I’s Christmas decorations. Afterwards, we all went out for dinner at Pino’s. Right off of the Boulevard in Colonial Heights Pino’s does not look like anything special, there are at least three other Italian restaurants within half of a mile, but it is the best Italian Restaurant in the Tri-Cities. Notice I said Italian restaurant, Dante’s still have the best pizza but Pino’s has the best pasta, salads and calzones/Stromboli.  While it has the best food, that’s all that really matters, it is quite possibly the worst decorated. The walls have a stucco look and are covered in sparkles. The pictures on the wall are the most cliché things I have ever seen. They are all framed posters of  The Godfather, The Sopranos, Goodfellas and for some odd reason Scarface, Tony Montana was Cuban for crying out loud. There are also pictures of the family who owns the restaurant all over the place. The most annoying thing about the atmosphere though has to be the TVs in the corners blaring 24 hour news coverage of sports. But believe me the food is so good it more than makes up for these distractions.

            Without fail, every time my family goes to Pino’s we split the large chef’s salad and each of us get our own container of dressing. The salad is the perfect size for four people so if we bring Amanda we usually order two.  Along with the usual salad stuff the chef salad comes covered in shredded mozzarella cheese, ham, salami and pepperoni and an order of delicious bread knots, we usually double the order. The bread knots are covered in olive oil garlic and parsley and are to die for although they sometimes come out white a bit after the salad has.

            It is usually a tossup in regards to what we order when we go to Pino’s. Sometimes we will split a pizza, these are always very good. Many times we will split a large calzone and add pepperoni. This is more than enough for four to share and is amazing with the added pepperoni. It comes loaded with mozzarella and ricotta cheese that is warm and gooey on the inside while the outside is nice and crispy. It comes with a whole saucer full of marinara sauce and I mean nice, chunky, marinara sauce not some watery pizza sauce. If we don’t split something I always get either the seafood alfredo or the penne ala gorgonzola. Both plates are huge and I always have enough left over for lunch the next day. The seafood alfredo comes with huge scallops, shrimp and clams in the homemade alfredo sauce over fettuccini and comes with a side of four garlic knots. It is extremely rich and creamy and the seafood is always cooked to perfection. This may be the best pasta I’ve ever eaten. If I’m not in the mood for seafood I order the penne ala Gorgonzola. This comes with chicken and mushrooms in a decadent gorgonzola cream sauce over penne pasta. The chicken is always cooked well and the gorgonzola cream sauce is downright heavenly. I do believe that Pino’s makes their own sauces because they do not taste like they came from a can like many other Italian restaurants.

            This trip to Pino’s was like every other, the food, company and service was excellent. I would recommend Pino’s to anyone that is in the mood for Italian food because like I said before, in the sea of Italian restaurants in the Tri-Cities Pino’s is the best.