Having successfully completed 56 renovation projects in the Jackson Ward district to date, Walker Row Partnership's Ron Stallings is putting the finishing touches on a venture that's taken seven years.
The Hippodrome Project encompasses the Hippodrome Theater and the adjacent Taylor Mansion, two major players from when "Two Street" was the hub of post-emancipation African-American culture. In an effort to reinvent Jackson Ward as a historic destination in Richmond, the Taylor Mansion — at the turn of the century, one of the largest homes to be built for an African-American in the United States — has been transformed into an upscale, Southern-inspired restaurant and speakeasy. Mansion Five 26 (526 N. Second St., 308-2913) was set to begin serving inventive twists on Southern classics on Oct. 19, after a benefit dinner the evening before.
"I don't want to say we're about soul food, because instead, we have food for the soul," says Stallings. "The difference? A whole lot less grease."
The Mansion's "culturally connected cuisine" features locally acquired ingredients that are blended into dishes such as mascarpone cheese grits with shrimp, tender milk-braised pork shoulder, and the Mansion Lettuce and Tomato — a baguette topped with lettuce, tomato, thick-cut bacon, house sauce and a poached duck egg. And while the Mansion prides itself on healthier versions of old favorites, this Southern hot spot won't stay away from fried goodies completely; crunchy waffles with fried young chicken pieces topped with honey and honey butter promise the perfect combination of sweet and salty, crunchy and tender. Stallings keeps photos of the dishes, prepared by a chef who goes by the single name "Vegas," handy on his iPhone. "The presentation is almost as fantastic as the food itself," he says.
On the speakeasy side of Mansion Five 26, small plates will be available alongside an old-fashioned cocktail menu and smooth rhythm-and-blues until 11 p.m. on weeknights and 1 a.m. on weekends.