We all have traditions. Traditions are formed by our circle of family and friends and sometimes by the town in which we live. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and still, live here with my husband and kids. One of my favorite childhood memories is Richmond food. Now, that’s a great memory of a childhood tradition.
A #DWSfan posted a photo of her own version of the iconic Ukrop’s Breakfast Pizza and cheered that, after many trials, she figured out the recipe. Now, that’s a Richmond food tradition. We all remember that Ukrop’s pizza.
So, when the idea for a story about food traditions in Richmond emerged, I raised my hand.
Traditions give us something to look forward to or a roadmap for the year ahead. Richmond is no stranger to tradition. After growing up in the area, and now raising a family here, I have a list of favorites. Actually, Richmond loves tradition and good food. I asked my friends and neighbors for their favorites. The list contains food, farm markets, and festivals. Many have been around for so many years, that you can bet will be on your calendar every year.
The Grocery Store Icon
One of Richmond’s more unique traditions isn’t a festival or specific food, it’s a grocery store. You can ask locals about Ukrop’s, and they can tell you something about it. “Their breakfast pizza!” or “You can’t beat their mac and cheese.” Ukrops became a Richmond icon and known across the state for their line of prepared foods.
I remember shopping there as a kid. Everyone’s mom or dad would take them by the bakery to get a free cookie. You would stop by the bakery and get one of their signature Rainbow Cookies in a square of wax paper. If you grew up in Richmond and your family shopped at Ukrop’s, you remember enjoying a Rainbow Cookie. It was just part of the experience. (And so were those Ukrop’s birthday cakes with the fluffy frosting-we all had those)
Unfortunately, stores close, but Richmonders were not going to let this store go into the history books. Fans can still purchase Ukrop’s signature items at other grocery stores. Still, it is not enough to fulfill the appetite for fans. Thankfully, Ukrop’s has a plan.
Now Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods has its own food truck, and soon it’s going to open a physical location that will sell everyone’s old favorites. Personally, I’m hoping they have the potato wedges I devoured in quantities– that I shouldn’t brag about. Until then, keep an eye out for their food truck filled with iconic baked goods.
Oh, you can now find tins of Rainbow Cookies in Richmond. Same recipe as the memory. For the die-hard cookie fans, you can order Rainbow Cookie apparel, including socks.
Glazed Donuts & Only Glazed Donuts
When I started talking about Richmond food traditions with friends, one place popped up several times. Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen. This is a family-owned Mennonite business that sells thousands of donuts on Saturday mornings. Having one of these melts in your mouth donuts is an absolute necessity for your RVA weekend. You can find them at South of the James Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. Look for the booth with the long line.
What’s the secret behind this fantastic donut? One secret is the sourdough Judy Yoder makes weekly. The donuts are hand-crafted without a pre-made mix. The Yoders only make glazed, and they only need to make glazed. Perfection does not need to be messed with.
Go to the South of the James Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning and get in line. I promise you the wait is worth it.
A Huge Fresh Fruit Cake – No, not your grandmother’s holiday fruit cake…
One of my personal favorite food traditions is going to Shindigz. My love of Shindigz started with a multi-layer fresh fruit cake. Their layered Fresh Fruit Cake is vanilla cake wrapped in cream cheese icing and layered with fresh strawberries, blackberries, and pineapple. That cake is now the showpiece for birthdays and holidays at our house.
Several years ago, Shindigz changed its location from a small shop front to a much larger and charming location on Cary Street. My entire family loves going in on Thursdays. They have a deal called Third Thursday where buying two desserts will get you a third for free. Since no one can ever decide on just one thing, having three to share is the best option. Another family favorite is a Salted Chocolate Caramel Cake that is layered with chocolate buttercream and caramel sauce and fleur de sel. No matter which cakes are on the daily menu, no one leaves disappointed. The cakes are a work of art, but we still eat them up. (They’ve recently added a Savory menu, and I can’t wait to try it.)
Gourmet Ice Cream Sandwiches
Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches are becoming a year-round favorite in RVA. In the past year, their fan-base has exploded. I see them in specialty stores and high- end restaurants plated for dessert.
I love to entertain family and friends around our dining room table. Whenever I come across a case filled with these richly flavored sandwiches, I buy several. I serve them to friends and family, plated just as they are in area restaurants. These are not your old- school kid’s ice cream sandwiches. Imagine flavors like Blueberry Lemon, Blackforest Cherry, or Fat Banana, which is dipped in chocolate and made with peanut butter cookies. Check out their website for a list of locations all over the state of Virginia. http://www.nightingaleicecream.com
If you are looking for something a little wilder, check out Granstaff & Stein Burlesque
A Richmond festival is a great place to try local food. It’s the ideal place to find a favorite food truck.
In 2020, The Richmond Folk Festival will celebrate its sixteenth year. The festivities last three days and include seven stages offering a fantastic lineup of live music. The music is excellent, but we also enjoy the food.
The festival includes a showcase of traditional, ethnic, and regional foods. Visitors can pair the food with Virginia craft beers. In the past, the festival has even served their own branded beer named Hazy Folks, brewed by Alewerks Brewing Company.
In 2019 Friday Cheers celebrated its 35th year. It’s the longest-running event, of its kind, in Richmond. It takes place every Friday between May and June. Thousands of people flock to Brown’s Island for music, beer, food, and friends. They have a fresh lineup of live musicians, and the scenery is beautiful along the James River. If you are a Richmond Foodie, you will find the food truck lineup is fantastic at Friday Cheers.
These are just a few of our family food traditions. Traditions are personal to everyone. They are frequent reminders that bring people together. Food is a huge part of family and tradition in Virginia. We would love to know about your Virginia food traditions. Visit our Facebook page at Dine, Wine, and Stein and share photos of your favorite traditions. #DWSfan