1 of 3
Tom Haas, general manager at 525 at the Berry Burke Photo by Kaitlyn Wilson
2 of 3
Molten chocolate cake at 525 at the Berry Burke Photo by Kaitlyn Wilson
3 of 3
Fried calamari at 525 at the Berry Burk Photo by Kaitlyn Wilson
When Tom Haas moved to Richmond from Charleston, S.C., in the fall of 2010, he knew he wanted to open a restaurant.
"I intended to take a couple of years building up the capital and the connections to meet my plans while I searched for the right location," he says. Meanwhile, he found a job bartending at Lemaire in The Jefferson Hotel, which is under the same ownership as Kiawah Island Golf Resort, where he previously worked as a bar manager. But Haas says that the location and backing for 525 at the Berry Burk "pretty much fell into my lap, and the timetable got moved forward dramatically. I think I'd been in Richmond all of three or four months when I hand-drew my first rough sketches of 525."
Haas, a San Antonio native with 17 years of experience in the restaurant industry, fell in love with Richmond when he spent a summer here while enrolled at the College of William & Mary. "Richmond is a ridiculously historic city with an equally impressive future, and I think the idea of a forward-thinking restaurant in one of the city's classic buildings is the epitome of that dichotomy," he says.
The history of the Berry-Burk building at 525 E. Grace St. appealed to Haas, and he based the restaurant's concept on its past as a high-end retailer. As an homage to the 1920s, when the structure was built — an era when Grace Street was dubbed "Richmond's Fifth Avenue" — all the booths and banquettes have pinstriped backs, and red-accented tiling on an entryway wall is reminiscent of a tie.
"No one's going to walk in and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I'm inside a suit,' " says Haas, general manager and one of four partners in the restaurant, including executive chef Taylor Hasty and father-son team James and Ted Ukrop. "But if you look for it, it's subtle and it's there."
Hasty is the mastermind behind the menu of New American cuisine at 525, which opened June 13. He and Haas met through Hasty's older brother, Brian, a college friend of Haas. The two eventually became roommates for a couple of years in Charlotte, N.C., where Haas worked at Bentley's on 27 and attended culinary school at Johnson & Wales University. (Hasty graduated from the former JWU branch in Norfolk.) Among Hasty's creations at 525 is the Rockfish Ceviche Mojito, along with a twist on calamari that consists of the traditional rings and tentacles as well as strip steaks from a Humboldt squid. More casual fare includes paninis and grilled bison burgers. Prices for small plates start at about $3, and most entrées are less than $25. "If you want to be owner of a restaurant and run the front of the house … you need someone you can trust in the kitchen," says Haas. "Taylor is someone I trust explicitly."