Erin Wright and Jessica Goldberg of Little House Green Grocery Photo by Jay Paul
There's a new faction of people in Richmond who are concerned about your health and welfare. They deliberate over whether or not you're eating enough whole-food-based meals, they participate in debates about whether good meal choices are available in your neighborhood, and they're always trying to balance the scales of cost, convenience and nourishment. They aren't nutritionists, though. They're your local independent grocers.
THE HANGOUT: Union Market
Church Hill's new addition stands to become a favorite summer spot, with plans for live music on the patio, tap takeovers and weekend happy hours. Adjoining the market is a 28-seat café serving sandwiches, soups, salads and a fantastic beer selection (with a growler-filling station), and outside tables that nearly double the seating. Owners Hunter Robertson, Gillian Field and Shawn Tunstall take care to offer products at varying price levels. The most exciting variety is definitely in Tunstall's wine selection, some of which is unavailable anywhere else in Richmond. Favorite market scores: La Bella Vita lemon-rosemary cookies and Hispania Bakery's pepper jack-guava empanadas. Best tangential detail? The patio is dog-friendly. "As long as you have a friendly dog," Tunstall says.
2306 Jefferson Ave., 716-7233 or unionmarketrva.com
THE COOK'S UTOPIA: Little House Green Grocery
The first re-imagined "corner store" in RVA — and still the only old-school-style green grocer — is tucked into the Bellevue neighborhood of North Side, the brainchild of owners Jessica Goldberg and Erin Wright. Little House serves as a hub for anything and everything related to local food. You'll find lots of fresh, local produce in stock, plus all the cooking essentials you might need — Little House orders from over 100 local vendors directly, item by item, with only two distributors finishing the spot off with basics. "If you're in here for more than 10 minutes, you're going to see a neighbor, a farmer, a pickle maker," says Goldberg. "We're a locus point." Plus, you can take part in their CSA-style veggie box program, which they fill with ingredients that work together in recipes they provide.
1227 Bellevue Ave., 262-7474 or littlehousegreengrocery.com
THE NEW-SCHOOL GENERAL STORE: Harvest Grocery + Supply
When you walk into Harvest, you're as likely to notice a beautiful handmade cutting board as you are a bar of craft chocolate or a jar of Pickled Silly okra. Harvest does a fantastic job of ordering specialty goods that marry well with their wide selection of food and beverages: Becoming a "cook's market" is part of owner Hunter Hopcroft's mission. Other than fresh-from-the-farmer's-market veggies, you can find provisions like tamarind chutney, fresh bread and bulk grains. Harvest offers educational events, too. "The local food movement has come a long way to improve access," says Hopcroft, "but it hasn't educated consumers on some of the traditions and preparations that go along with it."
1531 W. Main St., 257-4300 or harvestrva.com
THE GOURMET QUICKIE: Saison Market
Coffee options are tightly curated to include an espresso bar, house-blend and single-origin drip coffees, and cold brew on nitro (as in, it comes out kind of like a Guinness). Craft beer is available in bottles or as a growler fill-up. More cool points get awarded for blending the best of Saison restaurant into the market and making favorites available as take-home products, such as chef Adam Hall's hot sauce and aji (Peruvian aïoli) and the house-made tonic from Saison's groundbreaking bar. And for breakfast, lunch and dinner, to-go items with their Latin-Southern appeal are available: a Majorca breakfast sandwich, chicken a la brasa salad and rotating small plates from the restaurant. Rounding out the shelves are local favorites like Sullivan's Pond goat cheese and Olli salumi.
23 W. Marshall St., 269-3689 or saisonrva.com