Friday, January 14, 2011

Grace Place, Richmond's first vegetarian restaurant, 826 W. Grace St., image from 1992.

Grace Place - closed in the 1990s - was considered one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Virginia - maybe the first in Richmond (it opened in 1973).  This building and most of the 800 block of W. Grace Street is gone now - thanks to VCU. The image above is from a 1992 issue of F. T. Rea's Slant - which is now Online (and in this entry he discusses Grace Place).

I remember coming to Grace Place sometime around 1984 and asked for a coke to go with my veggie lasagna. The waitress looked at me as if I ordered a dead rat. I got apple juice instead.This building had a wonderful cast iron fence. That's gone too.

While working on this entry I found a great site on Grace Place here - includes two images.

I found this text online about Grace Place - found it here - this view includes an image of the building.
Since 1973, Grace Place has been pleasing diners with its brand of international vegetarian cuisine. The restaurant in Richmond, Virginia, started as I an offshoot of a small natural foods store but has grown into a local legend with a reputation for quality and variety.
Just a block away from Virginia Commonwealth University and located in a quaint Victorian home, Grace Place originally attracted college I students and radical professors. Today, Chef Michael King describes his clientele as a potpourri of the city population--university students as well as tourists, families and out-of-/owners, who drive in for satisfying dishes such as the seitan gyros, a temp eh Fish less Fillet sandwich, or hearty bean and rice combination plates. Grace Place also offers appetizers, made-from-scratch soups, pizza, pasta and bountiful salads. After 5, the menu grows even more varied with the addition of dinner entrees and daily specials. Desserts feature home style favorites as well as a daily list of "baker's inspirations" (which always includes vegan selections). Specialty juices, smoothies, a range of herbal and caffeinated teas, micro brewed beers, wines, organic Mexican Pluma coffee, the restaurant's fabulous house coffee, and espresso drinks round out the extensive menu.
Filtered water is used in all preparations and beverages, and beans and grains are organic. All tofu products are made in Virginia and produce is purchased from local growers whenever possible. Only egg less mayonnaise is used and soy cheese is available upon request.
With its eclectic menu and uncompromising attention to quality, it's no wonder Grace Place has stood the test of time.
Anyone have any memories or more info. about Grace Place that they'd like to share?

BTW - Old issues of the paper edition of Slant (1980s-1990s) are housed in Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries. 

- Ray B.


Anonymous said...

What a great place Grace Place was. I moved to RVA in 1990 to work at VCU and was grateful to find this place early on. Coming from St. Louis and Chicago, I was largely appalled by the restaurant food in Richmond. I used to drive to DC for a decent dinner on the weekend! Grace Place gave me hope that I might enjoy Richmond after all. The enclosed patio was a wonderful retreat. I ate and shopped the little store regularly until it closed. It was the only store I found that carried Tiger Balm & Dr. Bronner's soap at the time. Even after it closed, I would go sit on the vine-covered porch and read during lunch. I watched sadly when they tore it down.

Scott said...

Just yesterday, Chris Maxwell was telling me how he rescued an awning off Grace Place just before the bulldozers came in. Its on his house now.

So much waste- for what?

Grace Place is missed.

Anonymous said...

I washed dishes for awhile at Grace Place in about 1974. Charlotte was the main chef. Joe was one of the owners. Fantastic people.

Randy Clarke

johnnysgirl said...

Awwwww. I was just thinking about this place, and hopped on line to see if it was still there. I am so sad to discover it's gone:(

I fell in love with Grace Place when I moved to RVA to attend VCU. I moved there from rural VA, and often found the dingey urbanity of RVA a bit much to bear. I used to love to go to Grace Place by myself, and sit at one of the bay windows with my yummy Farmer's Bowl (a bowl of hearty soup, served with fresh fruit on the side and a nice hunk of homemade bread, and cheese). The windows were hung with chintz curtains - so as you sat there in that room, with sunlight and breeze coming through the curtain, you could easily image yourself not in a dingey city but in a farmhouse on a hill, looking out over a sunlit meadow...*sigh*. Thank you, Grace Place, for being a bright haven during my stormy college years. You will be missed!

Micah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Micah said...

As a dishwasher, one of my duties was to make the carrot juice. I'd feed the ancient juicer with bushels of carrots, watching as the pulp get lodged in every bit of the damned device like gore into the works of some wartime Huey. It was a bitch to clean. One night, a customer ordered 7 of the things in a row and I drew the line, telling the waitress that was all I'd stand. "But it's Michael Stipe," she said. "Well Mike can come and order the next glass himself then," I replied. Sure enough, he came down and ordered the 8th glass, which I made and he enjoyed out on the front stoop, talking to me about the sunset and sleep deprivation.

Second thing was the chef/owner Mike, who used to save one cigarette for himself to enjoy at the end of the day, after the cash was counted and the produce ordered and the guy who was the heart of the sort-of legendary band Bang wandered in to start baking. When I heard about Grace Place closing down, all I could think of was Michael up in his spare office, waiting for it to be time for that one cigarette.

Victoria Marinelli said...

When I was a kid, Kathy Benham (friend of my mother's and, as such, my de facto aunt) sometimes took me there (among numerous other Richmond eateries, because Kathy didn't cook, which was fine with me because it was always exciting, going to all these cool places with my damn cool aunt). There as everywhere else, she'd fuss at me for "reading the right side of the menu" (i.e. looking for the bottom-line cheapest items and then choosing that).

Not to get all hokey and shit, but... it was, for me, a genuine place of Grace.

(*exits sobbing*)

Victoria Marinelli said...

["...elsewhere else..." - this phrase courtesy of the Department of Redundancy Department.]

Anonymous said...

I was an intern at Riverside Hospital in 1990, having graduated from MCV in 1989 (and never gracing Grace Place the entire 4 years there). My upper level resident mentor and his wife 'kidnapped' my wife and I one evening when I was post-call- no sleep for 36 hrs-- and drove us to Grace Place for a vegan dinner. I remember the black bean Quesadillas and listening to Patsy Cline courtesy of our hosts on the drive back to NN, the wrought iron fence and patio were fantastic.

Ribe said...

I did a lot of work on the place without charge, some time in late 1989. When I was painting the dinning area I remove much of the old wall paper I found one layer that had little green churches on it. I was told it use to be a funeral home, around 1860 and notable deceased criminals were displayed in the front window. I love the court yard in the back. I saw lots of celebrities and politicians come in for lunch and dinner. I did this work because I wanted to help keep the best restaurant in Richmond alive. Michael only bought and served the best of the best organic food available.I thought it was going way overboard with it, now I think otherwise, he has a great and caring sprit. Richard Beasley

Anonymous said...

Grace Place was iconic. I was back in Richmond two years ago and sad to discover that it had disappeared. I used to date a woman named Jessica who ran the natural foods store downstairs, can't remember her last name for the life of me... I would love to catch up with her, anyone know who I'm talking about?

Faith Strong said...

Is it possible that someone out there is hoarding a menu that they might share with the rest of us? Please and Thank You

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite places of all times! I often dream about the food that I used to eat there. Does anyone happen to have any of the recipes from Grace Place? I would be forever grateful!

Kim Taylor said...

I went to VCU in the early 90s and lived in a grand pre-depression condo mostly inhabited by original owners. I would walk to Grace Place which was practically behind my building. The avocado melt was my favorite. I miss Grace Place and whenever back in Richmond drive down Grace street still looking for it, wishing it was still there. Bring it back please, in so e fashion someplace in Richmond or Virginia. Robin Inn vegetarian spaghetti was my next favorite.

Anonymous said...

We worked near Grace Place and loved to eat there. There was always such a sense of peace about the place.My friend moved to NC and wrote Michael asking for his Chili Recipe because we really missed that particualr item. She sent me a copy. I have never made it or shared it as the measurements are vague but this is the recipe he sent her and it sounds right:

Bean Mixture:
70% red chili bean
10% black turtle
10% kidney
10% pinto
Cook separately in small amounts of water. When 90% done, add tomotoes (blended whole) cumin (ground) tamari
chili powder

Cook White beans cook in vegetable stock with diced carrots, white onions, green peppers, mix with corn from cob- put to the side

Saute in olive oil:
2 dozen cloves galic (2 bulbs)
and cumin seed
optional 2 jalepeno peppers with a splash of vinegar to jalepenos

When garlic is clear, add carrots and all veggies- last 2 minutes add corn and warm.
Season with a pinch of salt, tumeric, and chili powder

Add bean mixture to sauteed mixture and simmer on low heat for 1 hour

Garnish with sour crean ,chopped green olives, grated cheese, and corn chips on the side.

I would love to have the Farmers Plate recipe- that was also a favorite and maybe not too complicated-

MoneyMe said...

Grace Place was somewhere I are as a high school student at TJ and was not thinking of it as a vegetarian restaurant but as simply good food! I love sweets and they served these HUGE slices of Bluberry Cheesecake. It was not until I moved away and came back looking for GP and it was closed;-( I was telling someone about it and they said "that tofu place". Lol from that day on I have dreamed and thought about that cheesecake! Better than anything Ive had anywhere!!! Everything was enjoyable on the menu.

Brad said...

I was lucky enough to work at Grace Place after graduating from VCU in 1982. My partner and I had eaten there many times prior to that and shopped in the store. Not only was the food amazing and atmosphere wonderful but the people working there were among the kindest and coolest people I ever knew. Lang, Ribe, Linda, John, Lisa-just to name a few. Linda was a chef and she gave me a cookbook journal with several recipes of some of my favorite GP dishes she'd made. I moved to Boston and now live in California and I add my own recipes to that little book. I was sad to see Grace Place gone when I visited Richmond for the first time in over 20 years several years ago. It lives as a vivid memory.

Anonymous said...

And one more thing. I think I still have a copy of the menu somewhere. The Michael who wrote about making the carrot juice did the beautiful illustrations around the border of hummingbirds and foliage. Michael said that he was in China in 2011? Wow. I wonder where everyone else went? I tried connecting with Rebi some years ago but she didn't remember me but that was OK. I worked there a little less than a year 32 years ago so I don't imagine alot of these folks remember me.

Anonymous said...

My now Ex-wife and I rented the 2nd floor of that building as our first apartment. It was interesting that there were no closets in the apartments in the building. One day, I asked the owner about that and his reply was 'What do you need closets for in a Funeral Home?'. Apparently, that was one of its original uses. I will attest to the fact that there were ghosts/spirits in the building. Had a rocking chair that rocked when no one was in it. Heard foot steps up and down the hallways and stairs and no one was there. Never threatening, just a presence there.

Anonymous said...

My sister remembers you, Brad, and described the people you mentioned-- I will find and post the menues she drew. Her name is Jo-- she also played in a band there. Fun to find this blog!

LJ Hines said...

Just found this blog. My son worked at Grace Place for a couple of years...about '88 and '89 I think, Scott Hines. He used to tell us all kinds of interesting tales about life at GP. He loved the people and the restaurant. Didn't they use some Moosewood cookbook recipes? I think that was when Scott was introduced to them, and still uses them. I enjoyed the story from Anonymous who lived upstairs. One evening my husband and I drove down from northern VA to visit Scott and we had a late dinner at the restaurant. When we left we found our car had totally died. The manager let us stay overnight in one of the spare rooms upstairs. It was a little spooky, but we never heard any chairs rocking (whew!). We thought that was a very hospitable and thoughtful offer.

Unknown said...

I, as one of the original partners, have some Grace Place memorabilia. I think I have the original menu, and one other. Michael Robinson, a local artist, did a few of the menus. Would like to know what he's doing these days! I think I have some slides somewhere as well.

Grace Place was a little bit of heaven that was loved by many people!

Cathy said...

Randy and I were in Richmond yesterday to visit our daughter Liz, completing her MSW degree at VCU. It was my first time back in Richmond in nearly 45 years. She compelled us to find the site of the natural food store on Grace Street where I had worked in '71-72 a few months and lived in a tiny back room on the first floor (my rent was $35/mo).
One autumn afternoon, I was sitting at the store counter when Randy came in to buy yogurt. In the months that followed, we shared brown rice and veggies and baked rock-heavy seeded bread in the grungy kitchen, and we first kissed in the room between my room and the store. We married about a year later in Morgantown, West Virginia, where Randy ran a natural food store.
Since we couldn’t remember the house number on Grace Street, we wandered into the building a block away at 916, which closely resembled the one where the food store was. Although we thought the university had taken down that block where the store had been, I kept hoping it might be it, but the layout wasn’t quite right. Still, Liz took dozens of photos trying to capture the past.
It was on Grace we met and on Grace we’re still together!

Anonymous said...

Loved the smells,the vibe and the yummy green salad dressing.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I worked at Grace Place from September of 1974 to June of 1975.
The people I remember who were there at the time were Joe Merriman, Larry King and Mason Wyatt, along with Michael Robinson, Marjorie Bendl, Ardith Rose, and Maggie, a chef from London.
After we left, Joe would send us the calendars illustrated by Michael Robinson.
We have many happy memories of our time in Richmond.
Susan Goodband and David Lord

Dee Brockwell said...

what a beautiful place! I remember those delicious crunchy salads, the yummy dressing,
the nut loaf! the steaming mugs of herbal tea with the honey dippers on the table so you could add what you wanted...oh so many memories and everyone that worked there was graceful and joyful...even on those jam-packed days! I would love to have some of the recipes to try, even though part of what made them taste so good were people who made and served them!
yes, Susan and David (comment above) thank you and the others for great memories!
Deirdre (then Coghill) now Brandt-Brockwell

Unknown said...

Hello to everyone here who has replied about Grace Place! I lived in Richmond on Grace St a few blocks up from the restaurant and dined there many times.

I still have fond memories of that salad dressing! I would absolutely love to get the recipe. I'm willing to provide you with the original menu! Yes I have a copy of it. If you know where I might get the recipe, please let me know. Thanks for reading this.