“I know it’s silly, but it’s worth it…trust me.” No truer words have ever been spoken. Picture it…a big city girl, on a family trip to…Hampton. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t very hopeful, when I set out in search of brunch on Sunday morning as I left the great city of Hampton, VA, but what I found, ended up being one of the best meals I’ve had so far this year…and I eat A LOT!
I’m not going to go on and on about how boring Hampton, VA is. It’s pointless, and people live there, so I’m sure they aren’t all being forced. I’d like to focus on something much more amazing…Venture Kitchen and Bar. I attempted to find a place for brunch, earlier in the week, before heading out of town, but I got discouraged because I couldn’t find what I considered a reputable review, nor anything that seemed even remotely interesting. The moment of reckoning came when I rolled over Sunday morning, awakened by the growling in my stomach, followed by a thirst that could only be quenched by mimosas. So I gave the ‘net another try, and came across a number of places, none of which sounded like they were much more than diners. I’d almost settled on a place, when I scrolled past Venture. There’s just something about the words kitchen and bar, that make me feel right at home. I gave them a call to inquire about brunch and the accompanying mimosas. Whoever answered the phone explained that it’s against the law in the state of Virginia to give drinks special prices over the phone. I was tempted to give up on them, but then she said “I know it’s silly, but trust me…it’s worth it.” So I thought…why not?
We pulled up into “Downtown Hampton” which at first glance looked a little abandoned until we turned onto Kings Way, leading to Queens Way, and it all began to feel very quaint and colonial. When we walked into the restaurant, one of the servers told us to sit wherever we liked. We had a bit of a bumpy start, but I’ll attribute that to our devastation over the brioche doughnuts being sold out, and our need for coffee and champagne. The menu. Can we talk about the menu for just a minute? It’s very small, which, at first glance, makes you a little nervous. Then, they only prepare their eggs fried or poached. Way too many things have gone wrong at this point for a lady in desperate need of caffeine, a cocktail, and a scrambled egg. The drink menu is longer than the actual brunch menu, including regular items and the “Just Visiting” section, which includes new featured items each week. As I finished my cup of coffee and sipped my first poinsettia, I began to peruse the menu and saw things like, French toast with a sweet potato custard, cranberry compote, and bacon…just bacon. I love when people know that you don’t have to do anything to bacon other than cook it right. Needless to say, I began to feel much better about our decision to venture into downtown for brunch rather than haul it back to DC in enough time to catch brunch at a more familiar place. And would soon learn, that the small menu is indicative of a confident staff, who isn’t interested in muddying the waters of their kitchen with trite offerings, when they have such awesomeness to share.
We ordered the french toast for the table. One of us just wanted a breakfast platter, which she made from two sides of bacon and grits, initially. The other two of us went for an item each off of “The Regulars” and the “Just Visiting” lists. Brace yourself…Fried Chicken Benedict. Instead of English Muffins…Buttermilk Biscuits. Instead of Canadian Bacon…fried chicken thighs. Slow poached eggs and Hollandaise rounds it out and makes it Benedict. While these pieces are absolutely phenomenal, the highlight of the plate is the tots. When I think tots, I think of those little pellet shaped balls of frozen shaved potatoes that we got with every school lunch. Not here…no sir…these geniuses have made perfectly fried mashed potato squares (golden brown and crispy on the outside and perfectly creamy and delicious on the inside) and messed up the tot game for anyone who thinks they’re doing it right. The whole plate…a party in your mouth.
From the “Just Visiting” section we had the Short Rib Rarebit. So, this basically open faced short rib sandwich had the most tender braised short rib, thinly sliced and piled high on toast with slow poached eggs, and an amazing cheddar/mustard sauce. When speaking to our server about the process of coming up with the features menu, which they update daily, she said they just come in and see what they have laying around, and make magic with it. As awesome as this sandwich was, I can’t help but wonder what the original short rib entree was , and wonder on one hand, why wouldn’t someone eat it all, but on the other hand, thank my lucky starts that there was enough leftover for this masterpiece. As your mouth begins to water, you should really be upset, because you won’t be able to get this again. Just sayin’…
We proceeded to drink, and order more bacon, and more tots, and then grits, and more mimosas/poinsettias ($2 ea), and watch them make more tots because we ate them all, to browse the t-shirt section, to plan our next roadtrip around brunch at Venture, to literally almost pass out from sheer brunch drunk bliss. This is one of those things that you almost don’t want to tell people about so that you don’t have to fight for a seat once people get a clue. The kitchen was full of classically trained chefs who are passionate about making good food. This cutie came out for a pic…everyone meet Chef Daniel. The overall atmosphere is very laid back and casual, but the food that comes out of this kitchen is nothing less than five star quality. The care with which each plate is constructed, is nothing short of amazing. Next time I’m there, I’m definitely sitting at the chef’s counter. And when I say the next time I’m there, I mean, sometime in the very near future. If you’re anywhere near Hampton, VA, you owe it to yourself to visit the restaurants on Queens Way, specifically Venture Kitchen and Bar. This is a mecca of culinary excellence, and I’m always for supporting hometown talent…go support them, or I’m coming down there and bringing them back to DC!!