We left for Richmond on a Wednesday evening, the day before the 4th of July, and struck out through the congested artery of I-95. We feared the trip would take 4-6 hours, instead of the typical 2ish, due to holiday traffic. We and the Universe split the difference, however, and it took just under 3 hours. We arrived to the Jefferson Hotel in good spirits, excited to start vacation after a three-day workweek that somehow felt like it had lasted 870 days.
The Jefferson Hotel, a massive stone structure, looms over Franklin Street. Its imposing façade echoes its impressive history. 13 presidents have been residents (oh, that sounds positively Suessian!), as well as a host of writers and celebrities, including Henry James, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, and Anthony Hopkins. Once upon a time, it even housed alligators who swam in the pool feet from the reception desk.
Way too good for the likes of us, we spent our visit wandering its halls in slack-jawed awe, particularly when faced with the nine original Tiffany stained glass windows and the glass dome in the check-in lobby.
The opulence of our room blew us away. From the walk-in closet, to the separate vanity, to the ornate drapery, to the marble bathroom, it felt more like living in a swanky penthouse apartment than a hotel. Embracing our new 1%-er status, we vowed never again to live somewhere without a huge walk-in marble shower, complete with bench, or a TV built into the bathroom mirror. Whether or not you could actually see the TV in its highly refracted glare is immaterial. There. Was. A. TV!!
We planned to supper at Secret Sandwich Society, as we’d heard good things. But flush with the luster of the bougie life, we decided to live big(ger) and head to Acacia Midtown. Getting a last-minute reservation was a breeze and we took an Uber to the unassuming New American restaurant with its décor accented in greens and neutrals.
Promptly seated, we met the first of many super friendly and helpful wait staff. I’ve been to many Southern towns where the charm and politeness have felt fake or forced, the general tenor being “bless your heart,” which as near as I can tell is Southern code for “I hate you, you fucking moron” (or maybe that’s just my inner Yankee misunderstanding quaint Southern mores). But time and again Richmonders just felt genuinely, unabashedly nice—from Uber drivers, to wait staff, to random couples met in bars—the people there wanted to engage, to be sociable, to get to know you a little better, if only for a short while.
With a full hunger after our drive, we ordered a wide range of items, starting with the most perfect vodka, St. Germaine, lemon cocktail. Bright, refreshing, and the antidote to a hot summer’s day, its crisp tang accented the fare perfectly. Paul enjoyed fried oysters with a tiny dot of garlic aioli. My squash blossom stuffed with crab and ricotta proved flavorful, but far too small for my liking. The stand-out was the bracingly acidic homemade pickles that completely overpowered the delicate squash blossom, but shone on their own.
For mains, Paul devoured a meaty soft shell crab sandwich and side of roasted fingerlings. I opted for a beautiful tomato salad studded with slices of homemade mozzarella and drizzled with balsamic, alongside a half-portion of pasta with pesto and octopus. The pasta underwhelmed and the octopus tasted so much like mushrooms, I wondered if there had been a last-minute swap without telling me.
For dessert, Paul had a chocolate cake that alternated between fudgy and crispy with a layer of sugar crust embedded in the bottom tier. My olive oil cake with basil ice cream was helped greatly by fresh strawberries and puree. Some inconsistencies didn’t stop us from eating every bite.
After, we strolled through Carytown, admiring the shops and buying the most delicious, fruit-forward taffy we’d ever tasted. We attempted to drink at the popular cocktail bar, The Jasper, but turned back, as every table was packed.
We stumbled on the cute Can Can Brasserie, a taste of Paris in the middle of Richmond. Muggy and crowded, the place still held a certain French fascination and Paul’s off-brand Havana-themed cocktail convinced us to return here again later in the trip.
We went back to the hotel with just enough energy to enjoy cocktails at the bar at Lemaire restaurant, the fine dining establishment within The Jefferson. As we sank into our King size bed and our freshly laundered snow white sheets, we wondered what other delights awaited us now that we no longer roomed with hoi polloi.