Chef Bryan Voltaggio is serious about making your entire family happy.
Suddenly, Richmond is looking very attractive to celebrity chefs. And why wouldn’t it? With its dynamic dining scene, collegial professional atmosphere and a population always hungry for — well, always hungry and ready to go out. Restaurateur Hilda Staples liked what she saw so much, she’s not only bringing D.C.’s Graffiato here with partners Bryan Voltaggio, Mike Isabella and Travis Croxton, she and Voltaggio (James Beard-award finalist, and Top Chef and Top Chef Masters finalist) are opening an outpost of their Frederick, Maryland, restaurant, Family Meal, in The Shops at Willow Lawn in early 2015. (Another Family Meal location in Ashburn will open in late winter of this year.)
Rumors of Voltaggio coming to town have been circulating since Isabella announced his decision to open a branch of his enormously successful restaurant on Broad Street in the old Popkin Tavern space (The opening is slated for Aug. 5). Staples' husband, Jonathan, is a Richmond native, and she says, "Jonathan has been pushing Richmond for about a year and half now. We started talking about it, but couldn't find the right location."
Staples didn't think that Broad Street, where the new Graffiato will be located, was the right fit for a family-style restaurant, nor was East Grace Street, where Croxton's Rappahannock is located. When approached by Federal Realty, the folks developing the newly redesigned Willow Lawn, Staples and Voltaggio felt that they'd finally found the right spot. "We needed a central location, lots of parking and easy access [for families bringing children]. Willow Lawn is a good fit for us. ... We're super excited."
Voltggio says, when talking about the impetus for the original Family Meal in Frederick, "This kind of restaurant was important to me as a chef, and now as a father — I have three small children. I also love classic American comfort food." He felt that there was a real need for the type of restaurant all members of the family could enjoy. "It's something people are looking for. You see chains going into the suburbs and strip malls, and I felt there was need or opportunity for a chef-driven concept, alongside with those chains."Family Meal, given the name, may not be quite what you expect. It has a roster of comfort food, but things like the Voltaggio-inflected duck-fat-fried French fries, salads with charred Little Gem lettuce and halibut with rhubarb lobster sauce are mixed in with fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and the house-cured pastrami sandwich. "The menu will change with the seasons and location," says Voltaggio, "but the most popular, key items will remain."Fearful that your family may not be sophisticated enough? Voltaggio knows those fears and has got you covered. Family Meal also has an under-$10 kids menu with kid-standards like spaghetti and meatballs, grilled cheeses and burgers. Breakfast is served all day and throughout dinner service. Let me repeat that: Hotcakes, breakfast burritos and eggs any style are always available. In addition, the restaurant is open seven days a week.
So listen up, for those of you craving lobster risotto, you can now take your kids AND that annoyingly picky brother-in-law who eats like a 3-year-old out for a meal when he visits, and everyone will be happy.