Sunday, April 06, 2008

Five favorite defunct Fan restaurants

Grace Place ad in SLANT (circa 1991)

In a discussion yesterday afternoon at Chiocca’s, as the Mets vs. Braves game played out on television, a small group of baby boomers spent a few minutes naming the local restaurants we missed the most. Once the list got too long, we narrowed it down to the five most-missed that were located within the borders of Richmond's Fan District when they were open (Broad St. to the north, Belvidere the the east, Cary to the south and North Boulevard to the west).

My own alphabetical list of the five Fan District eateries for which I'm still carrying a torch is as follows:

  • Grace Place at 826 W. Grace St.
  • John & Norman’s at 2525 Hanover Ave.
  • J.W. Rayle at Cary and Pine Sts.
  • Mad King Ludwig’s at 907 W. Grace St.
  • The Texas-Wisconsin Border Cafe at 1501 W. Main St.

Readers are invited to use the comments section to suggest other Fan District restaurants that should be added to our list of the favorite-but-no-longer-existing. Two other fond favorites were suggested to me in a subsequent conversation -- the original Village Restaurant; the Chesterfield Tea Room.


anne said...

Grace Place was my favorite restaurant for decades. Somewhere I still have a third grade essay I wrote about it, with a drawing of Michael King standing beside a table full of food. My dad didn't like it quite as much and insisted on calling it "Grass Place," but he was a sport and took me there all the time.

Anonymous said...

Now that's a conversation I'd liked to have been in on! I can't imagine how big a bar tab you guys ran up during that discussion. Grace Place, Rayle's & Mad King would also be in my top 5, perhaps in all of Richmond. Joining them in the Fan would be the original Bogart's and the Lamplighter (I'm assuming they're gone). I liked the vibe at the Border, but having moved from Richmond as the curtain closed on the 70's, I only went there on my occasional return visits to the city. BTW, what was the name of Chris Gibbs' place on Broad? I much prefered Gatsby's (his place in the Slip), but I'd almost give a nod to that northwestern Fan location just to honor him.

Ernie Brooks
Washington, DC

El Rib said...

I took a girl to Grace Place on a first date right before it closed. She was vegetarian, so I was trying to impress. I went to Wendy's for a burger after I dropper her off.

Aaron said...

Anyone have the recipe for widow-maker or the Border's country gravy? I'd pay a ransom (thatguydrinksbeer over at gmail).

My wife and I went there too often, we went there on our wedding night after the reception. I still have the receipt from their last night of business. I will spend the rest of my life looking for another Border but I doubt any success. I've moved very far from Richmond, but that place will be an indelible part of my Richmond experience. I'll never forget the staff there, especially Kathryn.

My first date with my wife was at Pagliacci. And we went there every Valentines day. The chef was an amazing saucier.

Outside of the fan, I'll miss the Corner Cafe in the Bottom. Best breakfast ever.

F.T. Rea said...


Katey and I ate there countless times.


Gibbs' place was the Mirror. Later Howard Awad had it and called the place "Vitello's."

Anonymous said...


Wasn't Gibbs' place on Broad called something else when he opened it in the late 70's? I keep thinking it was something like "5th Avenue" when Don had his bachelor's party there in Sept. '79.

Also, I was trying to remember the name of the sandwich shop on Cary, a couple blocks west of Rayle's. We used to go there sometimes after softball, if memory serves.


hoobie said...

I proposed to my wife at the Commercial Cafe on Robinson, across from the hospital where she was born, in 1981. So, obvious sentimental feelings here.

We also enjoyed Sobles back in the day. Does anyone know if that place is still around? I seem to remember that they had good burgers.

F.T. Rea said...


Yes, Gibbs' Fifth Avenue, at Allison and Broad, was the place for Don's 1979 post-party party. The same place had been the Bearded Bros. in a previous incarnation. Now it houses Cabo's.

From about 1986 through maybe 1991, or so, Gibbs had the Mirror, which was at Harrison and Broad. That building no longer exists.


Soble's, home of the world famous bacon cheeseburger, ended its run in Jan. of 2000. It was replaced by the Devil's Kitchen, which didn't last a year. Now I think the bar in that location is called Starlite.

in vino veritas said...

didnt bandito's used to be surfish station? and curbside used to be a raw bar? what was the name of that place? also racine has been like a thousand different things? a french restaurant and an old hang out, maybe - fandango??

Katey said...

I think Curbside used to be John & Normans.

Charlie said...

Curbside was Barracuda's before it was Curbside. Change happened in 01 or 02 I think.

Anonymous said...

Remember J W Rayle and Domino's Doghouse? Domino was my dad. I worked both while at vcu. Lots of dancing and drinking at hardtimes, coffee at the village, late night brews at the jade. I remember when I was little, passing monroe park while in the back seat of my parents car. I'd watch them protest the war (vietnam), and I couldn't wait til I was old enough to join them. I was in second grade and went back to school with my dad's tie around my head like a hippie headband. By the time I got to vcu, it was 1976 and the war was over.

Darn, They're worse off than I am! said...

I lived in Richmond from 1980-84 and the place I always took my visitors was Mad King Ludwig's! About the only dish I ever ordered? The Cornish Game Hen with Sausage Apple stuffing! Yummy!! Boy do I miss that time period in that city!!