Friday, July 12, 2024

Inspired by the Bay: Brunch in James City County

A Crab Benedict made with crab cake, soft-poached organic eggs, hollandaise, on toasted English muffin. (Courtesy Gabriel Archer Tavern at The Williamsburg Winery)
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Brunch in the farm-to-table era is all about being local, from ingredients to sourcing and inspiration. 

For James City County residents, that means a wide array of options, from traditional to forward-thinking. Across demographics and eras, across styles and destinations, there are a few safe bets on local brunch menus. There will be seafood. And there will be pork.

Beyond bacon, grits and crab, though, there’s an added element and appeal to brunch that cuts across demographics and generations: it’s a weekend thing; it’s a time to slow down and enjoy food and family, according to Michael Kimball, the assistant vice president of marketing at Williamsburg Winery.

“It’s nourishing for you,” he added. “And it’s fun.”

Here are five brunch and breakfast eateries that celebrate local food bounty and history, winnowed from a recent compilation by James City County.

Old Chickahominy House

Whether you’re a foodie or a traditionalist, don’t plan on making reservations for Old Chickahominy House. Same-day only is the rule for reservations here, and only for the first lunch seating. The restaurant, which has been in business since 1955, has a web site touting Melinda, the cat and mascot who lives in the gift shop. 

Still, for an eatery which started as a tea room serving ham biscuits and pie, there are a few nods to food trends. There’s turkey sausage for breakfast and some vegetarian and gluten-free fare for lunch, according to the website.

But don’t plan on ordering “brunch.” It’s breakfast and it’s served only during breakfast hours, according to the restaurant’s menu. By any measure, it’s steeped in tradition, including pancakes and the Plantation Breakfast: old Virginia ham, country bacon, sausage, two eggs, grits, hot biscuits and coffee or tea.

Located at 1211 Jamestown Rd., Old Chickahominy House serves breakfast Monday through Thursday from 8:30-10:30 a.m. and Friday through Sunday from 7:30-10:15 a.m.

Carrot Tree Kitchens

With three locations in the Historic Triangle, including Jamestown and Yorktown, Carrot Tree Kitchens does cake. There’s carrot, of course, based on a family recipe that inspired the first outpost in 1995. And there’s a holiday menu that offers everything from bundt, coffee and pound cakes to cakes named according to size: baby, double baby and large.

But don’t let the name or holiday menu fool you. One of the eatery’s staples is a Tidewater burger, with a Chesapeake and Southern accent: crab, country ham and pimiento cheese.

In Williamsburg at 1303 Jamestown Rd., Carrot Tree Kitchens serves breakfast daily from 8-11 a.m.

Center Street Grill

Located at 5101 Center St., the grill has been in business since 2005, offering casual American dining with a twist, according to its website. Brunch is served on Sundays, starting at 10 a.m., and features locally influenced stalwarts such as crab Benedict, according to owner Jacx (short for Jacqueline) Ramos. The dish is on the menu regularly because it does well, Ramos said.

There’s also a crab cake breakfast platter and a country breakfast platter, with sausage from Surry-based S. Wallace Edwards & Sons, as well as eggs, bacon and hash browns.

Whenever possible, vegetables are from local farmers.

“We’re a scratch kitchen,” Ramos said, meaning they cook from scratch.

Baker’s Crust

With five locations in Richmond and Hampton Roads, this artisan-fare destination bakes its own bread, makes its own mozzarella and grows its own hydroponic basil.

The breakfast possibilities include locally sourced pork-belly Benedict, with sweet potato biscuit, arugula, carmelized pork belly and hollandaise.

At the Williamsburg location, 5234 Monticello Ave., breakfast/brunch is served Friday through Sunday, starting at 8 a.m.

Gabriel Archer Tavern at the Williamsburg Winery

Brunch at the Gabriel Archer Tavern, 5800 Wessex Hundred, is so popular the restaurant is expanding the menu, Kimball said.

Coming in December, there will be Shepherd’s Pie, with lamb from Border Springs Farm in Patrick Springs, Va., and a Chesapeake Bloody Mary, featuring Old Bay seasoning and Virginia crab and oysters.

Current brunch staples include crab Benedict, with crab from Poquoson, as well as omelets made from local eggs. Bacon is cured and smoked onsite. Quiche of the day changes weekly and features local eggs, vegetables and ham.

On Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the tavern’s Wine and Brine Lounge also has local oysters raw and on the half-shell, along with local mussels, shrimp cocktail and wine by the bottle or glass.

“It’s a little Chesapeake Bay celebration,” Kimball said.

Joan Quigley
Joan Quigley
Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post,, and Talking Points Memo. Her recent book, Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital, was shortlisted for the 2017 Mark Lynton History Prize. Her first book, The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, won the 2005 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.

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