“We had the venue long before we had the name,” says Kevin Liu, co-owner and beverage manager of western Henrico County's newest dinner and music spot, The Tin Pan Restaurant and Listening Room, in the former Don Pedro Mexican restaurant. Liu, who co-owns the restaurant with general manager Lisa Harrison, says that while the place derives its style from the famed Tin Pan Alley of Manhattan around the start of the 20th century, the motive behind the establishment was at first, much simpler: “We wanted to open a listening room.” It was only after considering several other titles that The Tin Pan found its niche in a name. “The name really has two meanings,” Liu says, “One being musical while the other applies to food.”
While the listening room aspect of The Tin Pan is a clear-cut reference to the music industry that developed around historic West 28th Street in New York, as far as its food is concerned, Liu says the menu “tries to replicate food sensibilities from that time.” From starters like the loaded pierogi or the Irish nachos, to main courses like the traditional fish and chips or the obligatory spaghetti and meatballs, the selections at The Tin Pan, “offer both a faithful and creative version of the food then,” Liu says.
“We’ve crafted everything about [The Tin Pan], all the way down to the German and English style beers, which people would have been drinking at that time, from about 1870 to the 1920s.” Liu says that while research went into finding a selection of beers to accurately represent Tin Pan Alley times, getting the cocktails right has required him to be more meticulous. “Cocktails are my real passion in life,” he says, “and I’m really trying to be faithful to Prohibition cocktails and ingredients they would have used then.” Liu, who has also written the book Craft Cocktails at Home, says that while he has four cocktails prepared to roll out at the Tin Pan’s opening, the complete drink menu has yet to go online.
With its food and drinks in place, The Tin Pan is prepared to open to the public on Valentine’s Day and begin living up to its main objective; being a listening room. “The idea is to focus on high-end acts. We have national touring acts, but there are also amazing acts in Richmond,” Liu says. “We want to get local Richmond artists to come and play, using the same stage as national acts. There could be someone playing one night who you could just see on the street, and then there’d be someone who you had to wait three weeks to see.”
Among the national acts already scheduled to appear at The Tin Pan are Nellie McKay, in April, and Iris Dement, in May. Tickets for both shows are currently on sale, but eager patrons need not wait months to visit the restaurant. Though its official opening is not until Monday, The Tin Pan will open its doors for brunch and dinner on Saturday, making Valentine’s Day the “first chance for people to see it,” Liu says. Brunch begins at 10 a.m. and goes until 3 p.m. The evening’s musical guest is pianist Bruin Richardson, who will play during The Tin Pan’s dinner debut from 7 to 10 p.m.
While the restaurant would normally be open on Sunday, Liu says, it will close the day after Valentine’s Day and reopen Feb. 16. From then o,n The Tin Pan will be open at 8982 Quioccasin Road every day from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.