Luncheonette Owner Brings Waffle-Themed Joint To Downtown
If you work near the Capitol and smell the alluring aroma of batter, sugar, and toasty goodness, you can thank Brad Barzoloski for that.
The restaurateur, who owns both Luncheonette spots, opened a new venture downtown on East Main Street at the beginning of September and it only serves one dish: waffles. You can walk into Capitol Waffle Shop any time of day through the week and build your own waffle with a variety of toppings and flavors for only $4.
“I wanted to open up a specialty food shop and I’d been kinda looking around for a building and the Financial District doesn’t seem to have much specialty food or anything that’s really different so that’s what I decided on,” Barzoloski explained.
The space has been home to Sugar Shack, a coffee shop, and a few others, but remained vacant for the last year. Every time Barzoloski would pass it, it would get his gears turning. “I know other businesses haven’t been successful in that building, but I kind of like trying something different,” he reasoned.
Besides offering something different to the movers and shakers downtown, Barzoloski said he wanted to offer something to patrons that his other restaurants didn’t. “The only thing breakfast wise that we don’t serve there are waffles, and people always ask about waffles. That location is actually very small, it’s already hard to keep the product we do have in available at all times so rather than putting something else in there, I literally just decided to open up a whole separate shop.”
And for those who’ve yet to venture into Capitol Waffle Shop, it’s not just your run of the mill place selling waffles slathered with butter and syrup. Of course, you can get those toppings, but Barzoloski wanted to shake it up a little, so the shop sells sweet and savory waffles as well as a combination of the two.
“There’s plenty of things you can do with waffles, not only can you do different toppings, but you can do different batters, rosemary waffles, a pretzel waffle, a red velvet waffle, pineapple upside down…,” he listed.
The shop sells savory toppings as ham, turkey, chorizo, chili, and gravy, to fruit, and on the sweeter side, Capitol Waffle offers everything from Oreos, to M&Ms, Sour Patch Kids, and Caramel. And the options don’t stop there. “We have Ruben waffles, club waffles, a Coney dog waffle, waffles topped with sausage gravy and Doritos,” he listed. “We let people get creative and we also get creative ourselves.”
His shop boasts a regular menu of 20 waffles and the plan is to expand to 40 soon. In addition to waffles, Capitol Waffle Shop offers homemade dessert and local coffee blends from Black Hand, Ironclad, and Rostov’s.
The Luncheonette owner, which has locations in Shockoe Bottom and Northside, has never dabbled in waffles before, but so far the concept seems to have taken off. “This is a concept I really enjoy and the staff really enjoys and I plan to move forward with it, more of these specialty shops in other areas,” he said.
And if the above isn’t enough for you foodies out there, Barzoloski is already churning out another idea which he plans to unveil soon. Ice cream made by an employee from his Northside Luncheonette spot who is opening their own ice cream shop, will soon show up on the menu. “Waffles topped with ice cream and then whatever toppings people want. We’re looking to roll out a whole dessert thing too for night-time,” he said.
The shop is open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 pm, but the owner said he plans to expand to weened hours soon.
Bagel Shop To Rise In The Fan This Winter
You’ve seen them at farmers markets. You’ve seen them at Union Market and Roaring Pines. You’ve probably even ordered some online. If you’re super into them, you’ve probably become a member of the club.
Well, for those of you who haven’t tasted Nate’s Bagels, you’re in for a treat. The first bagel subscription service and pop up shop to launch in Richmond will have a home of its own by next year.
Nate Mathews, who launched his bagel startup in May 2016, has been looking for a place to settle into from the very beginning.
“Early on, we decided we wanted to have a place,” Matthews explained. “That was always the goal. We really did want it to be in the Fan. It can be hard to find good real estate in the city.”
He landed a former longtime appliance repair shop, at 19 S. Allen Avenue, just recently after relentlessly scouting out locations in the area. “It was a lot of me spending two hours in my car driving around the city meeting with realtors. I wanted it to be in the city, but not downtown; I wanted to serve our city folks. It’s not out in the suburbs. I really think this location can feel like it’s been there for a long time.”
And while the subscription service is no longer available, people can still pre-order bagels through the website and most of the business now comes through regular pop-ups around town serving breakfast sandwiches and bagels in large quantities. “We have three throughout the week where you can buy bagels in bulk,” he detailed.
Mathews has pop-ups at Byrd House Farmers Market and Randolph Community Center on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at Roaring Pines in Church Hill, and The Veil Brewing Co. the second and fourth Fridays of every month, as well as Union Market and Outpost. “When we serve sandwiches, we serve about 40 to 50 customers and [at] the Farmers Market, we usually sell about 100 bagels,“ he said.
Nate’s Bagel shop will be open seven days a week with seating for about 12, but mostly serve as a takeout place. All the bagels are hand-rolled, kettle-boiled, and then baked on stone, and the menu will consist of 10 staple bagel flavors, though they will also be mixing it up with unique recipes. “We’ll always have really awesome creative bagels you’ve probably never had before rotating out,” he remarked. “We’re going to have a really good the birdseed bagel. It’s got chia, sunflower, poppy, and a little bit of toasted coconut. Seasonally, we’ll have a pumpkin spice bagel with pumpkin seeds on it. We’ve got a gingerbread bagel we do at Christmas.”
In addition to bagels, the shop will have eight cream cheeses including scallion, olive, plain, and veggie, along with breakfast sandwiches and lunch options that include lox, whitefish salad, and pastrami. Also available is coffee from Blanchard’s as well as out of town rotating blends, Nitro cold brew, Kombucha, and a line of house-made sodas. Mathews even said he has plans to work with a local brewery to sell a beer-boiled bagel.
All of the bagels will be vegan except for the jalapeno cheddar, and its extended vegan menu includes vegan cream cheese made with fermented cashews as well as vegan meats, vegan chicken soup, and vegan lox according to Mathews. “We’re going to have a good vegan sausage and good vegan bacon. We’re really looking to serve the vegan crowd for sure… and we want to give people the option of treating their body well if that’s how they feel.”
And while he took inspiration from New York bagel shops and made connections with entrepreneurs in the big city, make no mistake, Mathews stressed these aren’t the same as you would find in The Big Apple. “We’re not a replicating what is done in New York,” he stated. “This is a Richmond bagel.”
Mathews said he plans to offer discounts to VCU students, those who bike to the shop, and local musicians. If you are all three, do you get a triple discount? That remains to be seen.
Once the shop gets up and running, the plan is to expand with a catering service offering sandwich platters for parties and events. Online ordering for pickup and delivery will still be an option, but expect to see less of the pop-ups once Mathews opens his shop.
Look for Nate’s Bagels soft opening sometime in the winter and an official opening sometime in the spring.
Mike Ledesma: A Chat With The Mystery Chef Behind Some Of RVA’s Most Successful Restaurants
He may have managed to fly under the radar in Richmond’s culinary scene, but Chef Mike Ledesma’s resume is quite impressive. With 16 years in the industry, the chef has worked his way up through tough apprenticeships and fine dining, to developing menus for six restaurants in the Richmond Restaurant Group. Now, he’s multi-tasking at the helm of Kabana Rooftop, hosting pop-up dinners at Belle & James, and will soon open his own venture. RVA Magazine recently caught up with the busy, but laid back and sweet chef to get his backstory and find out why he decided to make Richmond home.
“I thought I could have a career as a cook in Richmond. I didn’t know the direction it was going to be,” he began.
The chef has lived and worked all over. Born in Brooklyn, Ledesma grew up in Annapolis and worked in finance in Baltimore for six years. Around 2000, he moved to Hawaii to contemplate his next move. He worked for the Bank Of Hawaii and Morgan Stanley before growing tired of the corporate grind and daily 9 to 5. Like so many other late starts, he decided it was time for a change, and entered an entirely different field.
“I chose being a chef because growing up in Annapolis, I used to work as a deckhand and that was a lot of learning how to sail, how to cook and entertain, bartend,” he remembered. “So I kind of drew upon that as a reference point.”
In 2001, he enrolled in culinary school at the University Of Hawaii Kapi’olani Community College. After working with restaurant veterans Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong in Hawaii, the two encouraged Ledesma to explore other locations if he wanted to branch out on his own. “That was their push for chefs to get more experience,” he explained. “There was actually a lot of chefs pushing me to learn more by going to these crazy apprenticeship programs.”
And so that’s what he did. He went to work at luxury resort The Greenbrier in West Virginia, cooking 20 hours a day alongside 150 chefs to hone his craft. “You would work service, and then you would have to go into cooking competitions,” he recounted.
Similar to Food Network’s “Chopped”, the apprenticeship program would give chefs mystery baskets and ask them to make meals from the ingredients. “Our judging would start at 5 in the morning so we’d work all through the night,” he detailed. “It’s like the military. They would put sweetbreads and all kinds of internal organs in it, and it would show you how much you don’t know about the ingredients, so that just made you study more and open[ed] your eyes to different cooking techniques.”
The grueling program paid off because it prepared him for the grind and the effort it would take for his career. “I got lucky by choosing the right restaurants and the right chefs to work under,” he said of the experience. “[It] just kind of propelled me to, ‘What am I going to do? What kind of chef am I going to be?’ They kind of prepare you for that. You have to have that fire and that drive though.”
After the Greenbrier, he worked stints at the Baltimore Country Club, The Belmont, and the Woodberry Kitchen, sometimes as a sous chef, before finally deciding it was time to make his next move. “I just got tired,” he reasoned. “I wanted a change of pace. After being in Maryland, I didn’t want to cook there anymore, I was kind of feeling unmotivated,” he said. He drove around Maryland, Northern Virginia and other places in the states close by in search of his next gig.
Finally, Richmond Restaurant Group found Ledesma on Craigslist, which would build and grow his reputation in the foodie-obsessed city more than he predicted. Coming on as Corporate Executive Chef, Ledesma opened the second Hard Shell location in the Bellgrade Shopping Center in Midlothian, and from there, he went to work as a chef at Max’s On Broad, focusing on French and Belgian fare, followed by the relaunch of Patina Restaurant and Bar in 2014.
“Max’s was fun to open, super busy, and then I chose to go to the West End and be obscure for a bit and just cook,” he said of the move to Patina. “I just wanted to cook again. There’s no guidelines just cook food and have fun.”
Yearning to come back to the city, the chef joined RRG again in 2015. “I wanted to try to make a difference and figured I could do it with multiple restaurants,” he thought. And the group, which owns East Coast Provisions, The Daily Kitchen & Bar, Pearl Raw Bar, and The Hill Café, gave Ledesma free reign, for the most part, to develop menus for each place for two years.
With a strong background in Asian foods, Ledesma said he tends to gravitate towards that, but also his time spent in West Virginia creeps into his style when creating dishes. When it comes to a menu already in place, however, the chef has his methods.
“I find that developing menus for an old restaurant, you have to kind of cherry pick, change out the dated ones,” he said of his process. “Also, realizing who you have on staff, you don’t want to lose your cooks if you’re trying to execute something too difficult. So, write a menu they can replicate and also do it consistently and take pride in it. I work with the cooks and figure out their style and go from there.”
After making his mark with RRG, Ledesma was itching to get his hands on his next project. An opportunity came up with owner Kunal Shah at Kabana Rooftop and he jumped at the chance. “We started doing pop-ups downstairs at Belle & James,” he said. Shah and Ledesma created “Passport Pop-Ups” where the food focuses on different ingredients, recipes, and traditional cuisines from around the world. To date, they’ve sold out the a la carte pop-ups for the Philippines, Spain, and Cuba.
Seeing his potential, his creative culinary skills, and the clientele he was attracting, Shah brought Ledesma on in July as head chef at Kabana Rooftop to revamp the menu. “It was all small plates and I feel like, for this view, you spend your time dining and enjoying it,” he pondered. “I think multiple courses you can take the menu and choose your adventure sort of. Kabana is very contemporary. I just try to match the cuisine with where we are.”
In addition to running Kabana’s kitchen and creating menus for these pop-ups, this madman is also getting ready to open his own restaurant in Scott’s Addition in the former Joy Gardens restaurant space. “[I’m] just trying to break out and take all these influences that I have and the fun places that I’ve cooked and put it in one place,” he described. “This is like a 16-year process of opening restaurants for other people and now I’m taking all this information and executing it.”
He couldn’t give any specifics on the name, but said it would be a reflection of the cuisine, which he could only tell us would be “eclectic, but approachable” with an homage to Joy Gardens because of its 60-year history. The rustic/industrial restaurant is slated to open sometime in January or February.
For aspiring chefs, Ledesma has some pretty straightforward advice.
“Have a lot of passion, it’s not about the money, just do your own thing and stick to what you believe in,” he instructed. “There are no shortcuts to success. It’s all hard work and blood, sweat, and tears. Always challenge yourself. To be a successful chef, you have to have a great team so my goal is to train all these cooks to be sous chefs and then be chefs to own their own restaurants, if they want, and then eat at their restaurants and really feel proud.”
Ledesma’s pop-ups run Friday and Saturday nights.
Editor’s Note: Since the magazine went to press, Ledesma has released more details about his restaurant. It will be called Perch and focus on Pacific-inspired flavors and Virginia comfort cuisine. It’s slated to open in February.
Originally printed in RVA #30 FALL 2017, you can check out the issue HERE, or pick up your copy around town today.