Wednesday, March 28, 2012

821 Cafe

821 Cafe, 825 W Cary St.

Karisa: I didn't get a crab benedict this week. Shocking, I know. This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that one wasn't on the menu. I did, however, have the pleasure of my mom visiting for the weekend (and guest brunching!) She spotted Fried Artichokes on the menu that we ordered as a "tizer". These hold a special place in our hearts from when we lived in California and our day trip to the Castroville Artichoke Festival. We were pleased with the abundance of fried goodness, but surprised at the accompanying duck sauce, as we've typically had them with ranch. (Un?)fortunately, they were gone before the waitress could come over to take the ranch request, so it must not have been too odd of a choice. 

With my mom here, I've been feeling particularly nostalgic. So, with crab benedict off the list of options, I happily ordered the biscuit and gravy with veggie sausage. Ah, childhood. This especially felt like a treat since gravy is so often not a Karisa-friendly option. The gravy was good and plentiful, the veggie sausage didn't feel soy-y, but the biscuit was a bit dry. I wish they'd split it before gravying it up. Ah well.

Andrea: 821 Cafe holds a special place in my heart because I think of it as the spot where Karisa and I conceptualized the brunch blog. The last time Karisa and I were there (using the 10 point scale), we gave it an 8, but the meal this time wasn't quite as good and it didn't deserve such a high rating, especially compared to some of the great meals we've had over the past few months. I enjoyed my peanut butter and banana french toast (one of the specials of the day), but it was made only for the most intense peanut butter lovers due to the richness of the PB itself (kinda tasted like it came out of an industrial vat but I didn't mind). Coffee was disappointingly watery and like usual on a weekend, there was a bit of a wait because it's such a popular spot with the VCU crowd. They have an interesting beer selection for those of you interested in a brew instead of a cocktail.

Michele: I lobbied for brunch at 821 because my friend Emily's paintings are on display there this month. Everyone should go check them out because they are really cool! 821 was quite busy this past Sunday. The dreary weather didn't keep he crowds away. The restaurant was full of VCU students, and it made me feel old and un-hip! I ordered the dill pickle Bloody Mary from the specials menu to enjoy while waiting for our table. It didn't taste very pickle-y, not even a pickle spear garnish. I wonder now as I'm writing this if the bartender just didn't hear me say "dill pickle". In any case, there WERE three green olives garnishing my drink, so I feel there was a sufficient number of fermented food items in my beverage. I also liked the coarse pepper in the drink.

We were seated in a booth right next to a collection of miniature paintings by Emily that I absolutely love. I decided on a steak breakfast burrito from the specials menu with a side of grits and a biscuit. When my burrito arrived I was a little weirded out because the meat inside looked like a Steak-Umm, you know, the frozen strips of steak-like food Andrea tried it and said that it's probably not a Steak-Umm, it has a more beef-like consistency. It was more like the steak you would get in your Philly cheesesteak from Pat's or Gino's. In addition to the steak, there was egg and black beans in the burrito. I like when I get beans in addition to meat in a burrito. The salsa on the side was very tasty. The grits were plain which is fine, but I've gotten so used to cheese grits now that it's hard not to find plain just a little bit offensive. I didn't have room in my tummy for the biscuit, so that went home with me to have for breakfast another day.

Overall, I enjoyed my meal at 821. The food was tasty, but nothing fancy. Great people watching here as well.

Karisa's Mom (aka, Magretta), Guest Bruncher: I enjoyed having brunch with the regular Brunch crowd; Andrea, Michelle and Karisa are great company. The restaurant was fine, but not a place where I feel a need to return. The eating area is small and crowded and we had to wait for 20 minutes before being served.  We had a mimosa while waiting that I thoroughly enjoyed.   

I saw fried artichokes, and we just had to try them.  They were well fried and served with duck sauce. I've had them before with ranch dressing, and I really prefer the ranch dressing, but we couldn't catch the waitress's attention to try to get some.

I was brought some water that I couldn't drink because the glass was stained with iced tea. I also tried a sip of my daughter's coffee and was glad I had not ordered any.

There were several things I considered ordering, and settled on the Big Fancy, rosemary potatoes covered with vegetables and lots of cheese.  It was good, but it needed something, I'm not sure what.  Maybe a bit more rosemary?  

I was happy to be with the other ladies today, and enjoyed the conversation even if brunch was a bit of a disappointment. I had hoped that I would get to experience one of the top rated brunch places.  Maybe on my next trip!

Rating: 3
Food - Good. Excellent variety and ample options for vegetarians. Grits aren't the best side to choose; biscuits are a safer bet.
Service - Fair. You won't get the smiliest, friendliest, most attentive wait staff but they're decent. They do a good job for a small space and lots of tables.
Ambiance - Good. Great people watching, cool art on the walls (the current paintings on the walls were by Michele's friend Emily - good stuff!)
Coffee - Fair. Style points for having kitschy coffee mugs like Bamboo Cafe (Andrea's had Santa on it and Karisa's featured a Caribbean sunset)
Mimosa - Good. Standard Richmond mimosa.
Bloody Mary - Good.  Michele liked the coarse pepper and olives in the drink.

821 Café on Urbanspoon


  1. ..hmmm. the fried artichokes do not look at tempting as the Roman Artichokes that we had in the Jewish Ghetto in bella Roma! alas, alas.