Stella's, 1012 Lafayette Street, Richmond
Since we've been at this brunching thing for a little over a year now, we thought it would be fun to occasionally (about once a quarter, we think) re-visit a spot where we've previously brunched. We may pick a spot to re-brunch because it was missing something the first time (a liquor license, etc.), several of us weren't there for the first brunch, or just because we miss the food. This is our first re-visited review! See our first review of Stella's here.
Karisa: From our first brunch at Stella's, it has been my favorite Richmond restaurant. I celebrated my birthday there, we had our little brunch club holiday dinner there, I've raved about it to anyone who will listen, and will always be a willing participant for lunch, dinner, or happy hour there. Basically, I love the place. Fortunately, my love did not waver with our rebrunch this week.
Stella's doesn't take reservations for less than six for brunch, so I expected a little wait when we arrived. There were several large parties lingering when we arrived, but our 20 minute wait seemed very reasonable, even if I did get hungrier seeing and smelling all the wonderful food coming out of the kitchen. The wait also gave me a chance to notice the Bellini served in a tulip wine glass and decide I needed one.
Once seated we remembered the Greek coffee wasn't available on our first visit, so clearly (Michele and) I had to give it a try. We had the options of unsweetened, semi-sweet, or sweet. I love options. I drink my regular coffee black, so went with unsweetened. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. but the differently shaped demitasse cups made us feel fancy. I really enjoyed my cup, but was surprised to find a thick sludge of coffee grounds nestled at the bottom. This seemed strange, but since it's Stella's, I assumed they were doing things right... and a little research showed me (of course) they were.
I had a really strong internal struggle over what to order for brunch. On one hand, Stella's crab benedict is the benedict that kicked off my addiction and is the dish all others are measured against. Is it really as good as I remember? On the other hand, so many dishes! So many vegetarian dishes! So many non-typical-yet-totally-make-sense-for-brunch dishes! Eventually my curiosity of new dishes got the best of me, and I went with the Vegetarian Poached Eggs. Plus, it has that to die for sun-dried tomato hollandaise What can I say about it that cannot be inferred from this love letter of a review? It was, simply put, perfect. Perfect in every way, as Stella's always is. Perfectly cooked eggs, perfectly cooked ingredients, perfect flavors. Even the grapes were perfect. I want to move in and never leave; I could totally live in that back booth.
Michele: It was pretty neat for me this week to look back at our Stella's review from last January (over a year ago y'all!) and remember the first brunch we had there. Both Stella's and the RVA Brunch Club were just starting out. Stella's did not yet have a full liquor license, nor did they serve their signature Greek coffee. Our visit to Stella's was only our second blog post, Marin hadn't joined in on the fun yet, and I didn't even know Kathy. I think these revisits are going to be fun for us, but hopefully for our readers / moms as well.
As difficult as a dinner table is to get at Stella's, apparently brunch tables are no big whoop. When I called to make a reservation a couple days prior, the hostess informed me that they only take brunch reservations for 6 or more, but that we would only be stuck waiting if we arrived between 12 and 1. Well, we showed up at 12:30 anyways and experienced maybe a 20 minute wait. Shoot, we've waited longer than that for a brunch of lesser caliber.
After settling in, I ordered a Greek coffee and a Bloody Mary, the two items not available to me first time around. The Greek coffee is served either sweetened and unsweetened, and I selected sweetened. Our coffees arrived in cute little espresso cups with a saucer. The first couple of sips were gritty, so I stirred it, only to discover lots of the gritty stuff at the bottom. Is that the sweetener? I liked it much better after stirring it. However, I felt that disappointment that I usually experience after drinking a cute mini coffee. I missed having a big warm cup of American style coffee. My Bloody Mary was a 100% success, definitely worth a year's wait. It arrived in a Mason jar, smiling at me. Course spices floated in suspension. When I finished the drink, I was smiling as big as my Bloody Mary Monster was when he arrived.
We shared a bowl of Greek yogurt as an appetizer, and now I will only be able to eat full fat Greek yogurt. The nonfat simply won't cut it anymore. We received a huge bowl of yogurt and fruit with honey drizzled over everything. The yogurt was so thick, creamy, and stiff. The honey and fruit cut the sourness of the yogurt without overpowering it.
For my meal this week I decided on the Black Kale Skillet, which I believe Andrea had the first time around. The dish consisted of two eggs over easy and a large portion of cooked kale served over a thick cut of toast. The dish is so simple, but the details make it stand out in my memory. The greens still had that greeny bite to them, and they were seasoned perfectly with lemon and coarse salt and pepper. My eggs were overcooked here a year ago ago, but this time the yolks spilled beautifully all over the plate. I used the toast to sop up the egg yolks and olive oil on the plate. I ended up finishing all the kale and eggs, but had to leave behind a few bites of toast. I think we all walked out of Stella's this week in a food induced coma.
Stella's is clearly a neighborhood favorite. This place is always bursting at the seams for dinner. There were some obvious regulars in there. My favorites were three older gentlemen, at least one in horn-rimmed glasses, sitting at the bar and enjoying their Sunday afternoon. That was a bro brunch that we haven't seen before. I will certainly head back to Stella's in the future for any meal. These folks really understand how to craft not only great food, but also great experiences.
Kathy: I've been a huge fan of Stella's since I first had dinner there a year ago. It's a particularly refreshing spot in a town that rarely gets non-American style food right. I'd never had brunch at Stella's before though, but based on my love of the place, I knew they would not disappoint. We waited only 20 minutes for a table, which is not bad considering we arrived at 12:30, a peak time. The tea service could have used an upgrade. They only offered black or green tea, but I can't really fault them because a waiter adorably presented my choices to me by fanning them out in his hands like I was in some kind of fantastic card trick or tea-jazz hands dance number. He offered 6 options of quality teas and while I first chose English Breakfast, I appreciated they had Lady Grey, and obviously chose that instead.They had big mugs, and will of course give free water refills, but you can't have a second tea bag without an additional charge, which is a bit sad. I ordered the pomegranate mimosa too, which had a perfect mix of champagne and pomegranate juice, cutely served in a mason jar. I didn't even notice or care that it came served or ice - that's how delicious it was. Plus, a mason jar is a great size for $7. We ordered the greek yogurt with fruit as an appetizer, and the berries were delightfully fresh. The whole thing was covered in honey, making it all very sweet and thick, and clearly amazing.
I ordered the lamb skillet (sorry bb lambs), and the eggs came cooked just to my liking. The lamb was tender and flavorful (really sorry bb lambs). There was some kind of cheese in the skillet that nearly killed me from awesomeness. Here is an excerpt from an actual conversation Michele and I had about this cheese:
Me: "I want to kidnap it and make it my bride so it can never leave me."
Michele: "In a cult kind of way??"
Me: "Exactly in a cult kind of way."
Basically, consuming this cheese will replace your need for love or any feelings, and I have been unable to function the same ever since we left Stella's.
Food - Very Good. Deliberate and complex flavors, modern spin on traditional Greek food, with unique menu items that are still brunchy.
Service - Good. We were well taken care of, except that our server was not especially personable.
Atmosphere - Very Good. Exquisite tin ceiling, and beautiful wooden bar. The communal table is a cool feature not seen often in Richmond. Kathy and Karisa want to live in the back booth.
Coffee- Good. Tried the Greek coffee, super tasty, unsure if we should stir it as there is gritty stuff at the bottom. Anything that was weird about this drink is because we did it wrong.
Tea - Good. Nice selection, large mug, served by a handsome man, free water refills. However, additional tea bags would have cost extra.
Mimosa/Assorted Sparkling Beverages - Very Good. Perfect juice to champagne ratio for all drinks sampled, pretty glasses (mason jar for mimosa, tulip glass for Bellini)
Bloody Mary - Very Good. Smiley face made out two olives and a lime slice, lots of coarse spices floating around, perfect spiciness level.