There is almost nothing more exciting than getting an email about a new brunch spot, so when we got word that Castanea had brunch, it took us almost no time to head down there to try it out. I had never been to Castanea, so my first impression was the big font on the front of the building, a huge mural on the side of the building and a large patio with colorful umbrellas.
When you walk into Castanea, it looks exactly what you'd imagine for a Greek cafe, complete with a dessert counter and golden chairs. We opted to sit on the patio. As it was a sweltering mid-August day in Richmond, what could go wrong? Oh, that's right, rain. It rained on us. And you guessed it, right when we got our food was when it was hardest. But I digress.
I went to dollar drinks at Tobacco Company the night prior, so the last thing I wanted was more alcohol. But then one of our waiters said their Bloody Mary's were the best, so I caved and got one. With a lamb shank, because why not at this point, right?
Ordering food was fairly easy, as they had mussels in a garlic sauce on the menu, which is definitely what I wanted. Cazey wanted it too, but I bullied him into getting the roast pork scramble, which was my third option on the menu that I wanted (the second being the loaded patisse fries). After we ordered, the drinks came. I was one sip in and could already verify that it might actually be the best Bloody I've ever had. What I don't like about most Bloody's are how salty they are, and this one was just deliciously spicy. Cazey, who doesn't even like Bloody's liked it. Cazey got a sweeter drink called the tinto de verano - red wine and a lemon spritzer. It was really refreshing given the humidity and heat (and rain).
The wait for food was quick, and the servers even braved the rain to bring us water, food and to check up on us under the shelter of our island umbrella. They probably thought we were nuts, but we were too far gone to actually move.
My jaw dropped when the food came out. I didn't really read the description of my meal, but it was a healthy serving of mussels with a generous topping of bacon and garlic. I also got lots of baguette pieces, which were clutch in mopping up the garlic sauce.
I don't consider mussels very brunch-y, but honestly it tasted so good I don't think it mattered. I tried a spoonful of Cazey's scramble and almost died. No, seriously, I had a brief moment where I wondered if Cazey knew CPR. What had happened was I saw the waitress coming and tried to swallow a bit of pork that was kind of fatty and it got stuck halfway down. I tried pulling it out but it wouldn't budge, so I just swallowed a lot until it finally went down. I think it tasted good, but it was hard to focus on taste when death seemed imminent. I'm happy it wasn't my last meal.
Cazey enjoyed his pork scramble. There were a few fatty pieces, but overall, it was awesome. He only wished there were some baguettes on his plate to sop up all the savory juices afterward. It also had a spicy slant, and you might not want this dish right out of bed. But, thankfully, Castanea only serves brunch 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM, so it's not like you'll be eating this at the crack of dawn.
We then got the loaded patisse fries to share. They're very similar to poutine, but more Mediterranean. I loved the green sauce that came on the side (cilantro-based, but similar to the sauce that comes with tandoori), but the one that looked like butter (saffron aioli) added a weird flavor to the fries that just didn't quite suit me.
Overall, I'm very thankful we were told about Castanea, as I don't think I would have discovered it on my own. It doesn't seem like a restaurant that would do brunch, but they do it well. The patio will be lovely once it's not sweltering and raining, and the staff were all incredibly helpful and happy to make recommendations. It's also different, which is refreshing. And something else I love about it, everything from the mural (which was done by a woman through the Richmond Mural Project) to the patio to the employees and the culture embodies the spirit of Richmond. They only started serving brunch a couple of months ago, but this is a welcome addition to the scene. And they have gelato for after brunch!