Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Continental Divide

Continental Divide, 2501 W. Main St., Richmond
Brunch menu

We're back! Sorry for such a crazy hiatus, and you maybe didn't even notice... but we're back! We've still been brunching together, just not writing about it. Blame Michele. Actually don't, because it hurts her feels. We're planning to slow down the blog pace a bit - probably once a month. We'll do our best, and we hope you keep coming back to our past reviews for your brunching needs :)

Karisa: We needed a perfect place to kick-start our re-blogging, and Continental Divide seemed perfect. I've been there a handful of times for dinner, and outside of a few horrendous waits, have loved the food (and drinks!) Well, Continental Divide clearly is on their drink game, as I received a delightful group text while running late that mimosa pitchers are only $8.50. Eight. Dollars. And 50 cents. We had several.

One dish I've enjoyed for dinner is the Tuna Tostada. Since the brunch menu (and dinner menu, really) isn't exactly vegetarian friendly, I jumped at the chance to enjoy a similar dish, the Tuna Brunchada, with an egg component. Tuna steak and eggs sounded a little weird, but sometimes you just go with it in the name of brunching. I've got to admit, the flavors were fantastic and not at all weird. The egg completely worked with tuna, jalapeño béarnaise, and crispy tortilla. What didn't work was the temperature. Everything was room temperature at best. Fortunately my meal didn't need to be super hot to be delicious, but some warmth would have been very welcome. It turns out everyone had a similar problem. Nonetheless, I ate most of my brunch and was stuffed all day.

I have no doubt I'll return to Continental Divide for happy hour and dinner, and perhaps another brunch. Their drinks are fantastic, and the menu offers options not seen anywhere else in Richmond (the Red Hot Blues - nachos with goat cheese - are not to be missed!), I just wish my food had been warm.

Michele: I had been to Continental Divide once before with Kathy and Karisa, for a soft opening one evening late last summer. I remember having tasty, cheap margaritas. I also enjoyed the southwestern atmosphere of the restaurant. It reminds me of past trips to Colorado, Utah, and Austin.

Continental Divide’s brunch menu features a long list of brunch classics, all with a southwestern twist. For my meal this week, I selected the steak and eggs. I ordered my steak medium and my eggs over easy. I loved the medallions of tender steak. The spicy jalapeno béarnaise complemented the meat very well. My eggs were cooked perfectly, and the egg yolks mixed in well with the delicious goat cheese grits. The grits also provided the perfect medium for sampling Continental Divide’s house-made hot sauces. The teeny tiny little biscuit tasted a bit dry, but it absorbed the extra béarnaise and egg yolk from my plate. While the food tasted great, my only complaint is that the entire dish felt lukewarm.

As far as the brunch drinks go, I was a little disappointed with the Bloody Mary. The drink was way too small for $7, and it was too spicy for my tastes. After I finished my Bloody, I gladly accepted a clean glass and set to work helping the other ladies with their mimosa pitchers.

I’m on the fence about whether I would head back to Continental Divide for brunch. The temperature of the food was a little off-putting. However, it’s hard to argue with cheap mimosas.

Andrea: This week, the Brunch Club was reunited, and it felt so good! We tried Continental Divide, in the former Mint space on Main Street. When we dined at Mint, I remember feeling cramped in the space. The Continental Divide owners did a good job with their design because I definitely did not have the same reaction this time around. There was lots of natural light hitting us in the front of the restaurant and it had a cheerful vibe with oldies-style music playing throughout the meal. I arrived first and secured us a big cozy booth as well a pitcher of mimosas! The mimosas were definitely one of the highlights. Only $8.50 for a pitcher with a good juice/bubbly ratio, fresh-tasting OJ, and a flavor that went down real smooth. Mmmm I could go for another one now...

I had been excited to try Continental Divide because I have heard great things about its sister restaurant in Charlottesville and I have yet to try that out. My boyfriend and I have been trying to work our way through the restaurant scene in Charlottesville since we live closer to C'ville than Richmond these days.

I ordered the Benny Divide, a glorious harmony of cheddar biscuits, poached eggs, chipotle peppered bacon, and bearnaise. The bearnaise was touted as "jalapeno" but I didn't taste much spice from it. I also wasn't bothered that the bacon didn't seem chipotle-y to me because it had the absolute perfect texture - crisp and not fatty. I would have liked to order another side of just bacon. Overall, the flavors were excellent and the side of fruit was high quality including strawberries and mangos (when was the last time you saw MANGO in a fruit cup?). However, my major gripes were with temperature. All of our dishes except Kathy's were lukewarm at best. And my fruit cup was darn near frozen (like literally I think it may have been in the freezer). The service was adequate but a bit slow. We had to ask for sufficient napkin supplies several times to accommodate a water spill and a need for at least one napkin per person. On the beverage side, I was happy with the hot tea choices. Between Kathy and myself, we tried all 6 of the flavors presented to us. Again, the water wasn't piping hot, but the waitress was around often enough to bring us new cups when needed. Overall, some of the missteps in food prep and service won't keep me from trying Continental Divide again either in Richmond or in Charlottesville. The menu looked inviting and the prices are moderate too.  

Kathy: Today I used the Chipotle name generator and discovered my Chipotle name is Guachelle Sofritkins. That's just to let you know 1) obviously I've had a very productive Friday and 2) I love Tex-Mex so much. Also, had I known my true identity last Sunday, it would have been only appropriate to insist my club mates call me by my real name while brunching at one of Richmond's best Tex-Mex spots. No, we didn't brunch at Chipotle itself (next time??).

We went to Continental Divide, a new-ish import from the Charlottesville dining scene. I've been to CD in Richmond over the past few months for dinners and drinks, starting with attending their soft open, and am pleased every time. Everyone in the world knows my feelings about the sad, sad state of Richmond's food diversity, and CD is a bright spot among all the usual Southern style fare. 

For this brunch, I had the corned beef and brisket hash, which was delicious, and had just enough spice. I didn't care for the folded tortilla blandly sitting under my pile of hash. Maybe it was like a little pillow for my meal to rest upon? Who knows. I like pillows, so fine. They cooked the egg on my hash perfectly - over hard, but not overdone. I love, love, love when waitresses refill hot water for teas, as ours did without us asking, though the mugs were a bit small for my liking. The tea selection was plentiful! An $8.50 pitcher of mimosas was like a gift from the goddesses of booze, even if it is Richmond style with ice in non-fancy tumblers. Perhaps somewhat curiously, as many times as I've enjoyed CD, I don't lose my mind over the place for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. But, I am so glad CD is consistently dependable for tasty Tex-Mex. and now we know cheap brunch booze to boot!

Rating: 3
Food – Good. Delicious all around with great texture and flavors. However, all of our dishes arrived at the table lukewarm.
Service – Fair. Our server was forgetful in bringing things out, but also apologetic. She improperly judged our needs several times.
Atmosphere – Very good. The space seems bigger than when Mint occupied it, likely due to the mirrors and lighter finish on the booths and furniture. Exposed brick and interesting light fixtures contribute to the “Tex Mex-y” feel of the restaurant.
Coffee – Good. Tasty, Karisa and Michele drank a lot of it. However, the mugs were very tiny, which resulted in many refill requests.
Tea – Very good. Andrea and Kathy were more forgiving of the small mugs. They received quick hot water refills from our server without having to ask. They also received a good selection of teas to share.
Mimosa – Very good. $8.50 pitchers, what what? Served Richmond style. Good ratio of pulpy OJ to champagne.
Bloody Mary – Fair. Very small for $7. The drink got watery fast. Interesting garnishes, including jalapeno and lime slices and chili powder on the rim. Too spicy for Michele’s taste.

Continental Divide on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Boka Kantina

Boka Kantina, 1412 Starling Dr, Richmond
Restaurant Website (brunch menu below)

Karisa: It pains me to say this. It really, truly pains me; but here goes... Brunch at Boka was terrible. Really horribly terrible. I had such high hopes. Boka is super close to my house. I've had several wonderful lunches and dinners there. I've had a few late night taco runs. They have a fantastic beer selection. However, they need to either stick to what they know, or start over with brunch. Where to begin? First, no mimosas or other brunchy drinks. I understand not having a liquor license (and therefore no Bloody Marys), but when you have brunch and a wine list, there should be mimosas. If you're not going to have mimosas, have a suggestion (or several) for a brunch beer. "I usually work lunch" isn't an excuse. Second, the brunch menu is extremely limited. Y'all know I like to order straight from the menu, and that just wasn't possible at Boka. I ended up going the 'without bacon' route and ordered the Green Eggs and Ham without bacon, and (from the regular menu) Shrimp and Grits without bacon. The egg tako was bland and uninteresting; and I'm not convinced that ham would have made a difference. The shrimp and grits taco (minus bacon), a typical favorite of mine just didn't taste great this weekend. I'm not sure if they didn't have their typical chef (I didn't see the owner around, who I usually see), but the food just wasn't up to the standards that I expect from Richmond's favorite food truck. Come on Boka, we're willing to give you another chance... but step up your brunch game, or just wait until lunch to open.

AndreaI think all of us had high hopes for brunch this week at Boka Kantina. Karisa and I had a delicious dinner here about a month ago and I was impressed with their cheap and diverse beer selection and variety of dinner items...wayyyy more than just takos (for your mouf, of course!). I highly recommend the mac and cheese if you ever visit. Staying true to brunch, however, we decided to order from the "brunch menu", which featured about a half dozen items. After an appetizer of "cheese fries" (honey truffle tater tots topped with farm cheese and delicious guajillo mayo sauce) aka the highlight of the meal, I ordered the breakfast quesadilla, featuring two types of sausage, egg, cheese, and a drizzle of special sauce on top. I found it to be flavorful, but the spices in one of the sausages (perhaps it was the Chinese variety?) had a taste that just didn't sit well with me. The portion of the quesadilla was so huge I could barely eat half. The coffee hit the caffeine spot and was suitable not not very memorable. We all were bummed that they did not have a liquor license so no mimosas could be embibed. Although there were some intriguing seasonal beers, I wasn't in the mood to try one. Our server didn't help the overall experience; she was slow to take our order and refill our beverages and generally unknowledgeable and not terribly friendly. This restaurant almost seemed like a completely different one than when we were here for dinner. I love you, Boka, and I'll likely be back for dinner and delicious adult beverages, but you don't quite have this brunch-thing down yet. Take a page from some of the other Richmond destinations and elevate your game a little bit...your patrons will greatly appreciate it!

KathyI should have known I would dislike Boka's brunch. All the signs were there from the start. For one, I have strong opinions on Richmond's ethnic food offerings. Like, so strong my friends probably think I've soapboxed them to death with obnoxious comparisons to THE BEST FOOD EVER in New York. But, the best fuel for any sustained rant is feeling like I've been proved right, again :) So, here I go. Basically, I think it's incredibly rare to find good ethnic food in Richmond. I have yet to find good Thai, Indian, Mexican (Tio Pablo's is a quite decent option, but still not at all the best I've had), Greek... the list goes on. So, I knew before I tried Boka's Asian/Mexican/American fusion for the first time that I'd probably be disappointed. The first time, I went to their food truck and while I don't remember what I had, it was good enough. Brunch at Boka is another story, not even reaching good enough. The kantina's location (Am I missing a joke about using 'k" in everything in their name and slogan? More on that later.) is in a sad strip mall with a view of a tire shop. The inside looks and feels bland. They did not have hot tea, nor any brunch-y drinks. I ordered the brunch quesadilla, which tasted as bland as the place looks. I could only taste the overwhelming sauce on top. I took a few bites and gave up. I can't finish without mentioning that I can't stand Boka's "Takos for your mouf" slogan. Again, the cutesy "k's" in everything just rubs me the wrong way, icing the cake. The gimmicky line reminds me that it's an attempt to attract attention when the food doesn't cut it. 

Rating: 2
Food Fair. We've been here for lunch or dinner before (and have visited the tako truck on many an occasion), but the brunch items were subpar. Without modifications, there were no vegetarian options for brunch. The portion of the quesadilla was large, but Kathy was disappointed with the lack of flavor and Andrea didn't care for the sausage that was used. The brunchers this week were unanimous that the tater tots were delicious, though. 
Service Fair. Our server was not knowledgeable about the menu and was unable to offer recommendations on what to order for brunch. In addition, service was just slow - slow to take order, bring drinks, get food... It wasn't terribly busy when we were there (perhaps a few other tables of patrons) so we would have appreciated at least a few more visits to refill our beverages.
Atmosphere -  Fair. Chalkboards run the width of the restaurant and feature the specials and beer menu. A framed poster of Chuck Norris jokes in the bathroom was the highlight of the decor. The main dining area lacked color but was enhanced by the beer bottles that lined the shelves. Because of the lack of jazzy art or interesting furniture, there was nothing to change the fact that you're in a strip mall. The restaurant didn't play music; the only audible sounds were those coming from the sporting events on the TV. We found this a bit odd. Despite the shortcomings, the location was convenient and the parking was easy.
Coffee/TeaGood. Tea was not rated this week, as Boka does not serve hot tea (only iced). The coffee was served in small cups that needed to be refilled often, but ....
Mimosa: Not Rated. No mimosas or other fun brunchy drinks. No liquor license. Sad panda.
Bloody Mary: See above. :(

Boka Kantina on Urbanspoon