Website with Brunch Menu
Karisa: I have an embarrassing story to tell. A few weeks after moving to Richmond I was bar hopping with a few other Richmond newbies and got very hungry. We stopped into Helen's for some food and beers where I was told I could only order from a small prix fixe menu and it had an odd price, $25.10. I was pissed. Of course, being brand new to the RVA scene, my compatriots and I had no idea about Restaurant Week, and no one bothered to explain the concept. Silly newbie Karisa. While this wasn't Helen's fault, I've held a grudge towards them ever since, which I hoped to remedy with this visit.
Kathy did an airport drop, so we had a bit of a disjointed brunch, with Janice and myself taking round one, and Kathy joining us for round two. Fortunately, even with a short wait (10-15 minutes), the hostess didn't mind putting two people at a table for four. One mark in the plus column for Helen's! Janice and I enjoyed our mimosas which were good and standard, and the coffee which was smooth and tasty. Another plus column mark! I settled on the Eggs Blackstone, which is basically just Eggs Benedict with avocado for the protein. This is where things go downhill...
Our server brought out our meals with plates stacked, as servers do. However, Janice's plate was IN my food - hollandaise covered the bottom of her plate. Ew. Our server went to put my plate in front of me and said "your egg got a little squished, do you want a new one?" Of COURSE I want a new one! A germy, icky, plate bottom was intimate with my egg. EW! She seemed less than pleased with me, as did the chef she asked to remake my meal. Are we the only ones that find that disgusting? There were scowls and eye rolls from both. Seriously, this was not an unreasonable request. Anyway, my entree was eventually very good although I didn't care for the curry potatoes. The experience was just marred by the inconsistent, and frankly bitchy, service. Helen's, I still hold a grudge.
Kathy: I had an amazing brunch at Helen's quite some time ago, so when we chose them as our spot I got excited. I'm not sure if the place has changed, if I have changed, or if I ordered a sub-par meal, but Helen's did not wow me. I ordered the Irish breakfast, but the waitress allowed me to add some avocado because I had a hard time choosing between that and the B-A-L-T, bacon, avocado, lettuce, and tomato on country white toast. The avocado was probably the best part of my meal.The portion was huge, perhaps too big. The potato cake was flavorful (herb-y), but not spectacular and a bit sponge-y. I like the potato side a lot, as well as the eggs, which were neither too dry nor too runny. The fried tomato competed with the avocado for star of the show, and the crispy, thin bacon tasted great. I have incredibly strong feelings for and about potato pancakes, and this underwhelming potato cake made me sad. Helen's is, as always, cute, but I also felt underwhelmed by the atmosphere. Perhaps I'm used to it now and the charm I initially felt has worn off? I used to feel it was shabby-chic, but this time I felt the place is shabby-light on the chic.
Janice, all too frequent guest bruncher and Sunday Funday instigator: I've been to Helen's once or twice before, never for food, and always at the behest of lady friends who wanted to chat with a purportedly hot bartender. I never met the bartender myself, but I have to assume from my friends' enthusiasm that he treated them with more kindness than we brunchers received during our visit. To be fair, the hostess was welcoming and warm. Our (designated? primary?) server was pleasant to our faces, but I caught more than one surreptitious side-eye cast in our direction during the course of our meal. Our (secondary? alternate?) server toed the line between open hostility and thinly veiled contempt. On an important and related note, I can safely say that we weren't holding up any other diners (there wasn't a wait for tables), we weren't speaking loudly or profanely, we didn't veer outside designated brunch hours, and we didn't make numerous or unreasonable requests (unless a request to replace an egg that was squished by the bottom of another diner's plate is unreasonable, see: Karisa's review). The point is, I was pleased with my food and beverages at Helen's; however, the disappointing service cast a pall on the brunching experience.
About that food and those beverages! The coffee at Helen's was good. While I like to dress up my coffee with sugar and cream, the flavor of the coffee was smooth enough that I could have taken it black. The mimosas were served in a pint glass with ice, with what I would say was a standard-to-liberal pour of champagne. (Unfortunately, there was no option for a mimosa pitcher. Tsk tsk.) At the server's suggestion, I ordered the corned beef hash with two over easy eggs for my meal. I was very pleased with my choice. The corned beef hash was a deep golden brown, perfectly fried, and, key to my enjoyment of hash, not overly salty. The seasoning was excellent, as was the ratio of beef to veggies. The over easy eggs were truly over easy (mottled, light golden brown and white) and I delighted in my...wait for it...yolk explosion. The dish was served with curry-seasoned home fries, which I thought were delicious. I typically dip my home fries in ketchup, but I abstained because I enjoyed the curry seasoning so much. My taste buds and tummy left Helen's happy; I'm disappointed I can't give a more rave review.
Food - Good. We all really enjoyed our main entrees, but Kathy was terribly disappointed with her potato pancake, and although Janice liked the curry potatoes, Karisa was less than impressed.
Service - Fair. It seemed like we had multiple servers, so it's hard to really judge just one main server. Overall our service started out okay, but went downhill quickly with servers doing a lot of sidework with slightly bitchy snares.
Atmosphere - Fair. Helen's seems to be going for shabby chic, but ended up light on the chic. The separation between the front and back of the restaurant seemed a bit odd, and we were glad to be in the front.
Coffee - Good. Several cups were enjoyed by all, and it was good enough to have black. The menu said it was from Apropos.
Mimosa - Good. Standard Richmond style served over ice.
Bloody Mary - N/A. Seriously Michele, we need you back. Come back to us.