— Richmond’s food courts have become a hub for local foodies, but for many in town, they’re also a source of nostalgia.
In the early 1990s, local restaurants and bars were few and far between, and the food was often out of date, according to Mike Gee, who co-owns The Farmhouse, which opened in 1999 in the former McDonald’s parking lot.
As the restaurant expanded, the staff grew, and by 2004, Gee and his wife, Kathy, had to hire a chef to maintain the decor and make the food taste good.
“There’s a certain comfort in having the same kind of food every week, but having it taste fresh,” Gee said.
He also wanted to serve up food that had the consistency of a house-made salad.
But the idea for Richmond’s Food Court started to take shape during the late 1990s when Gee realized he could create a more upscale restaurant, with a more laid-back atmosphere and a bigger menu.
The first Richmond Food Court opened in 2004.
Richmonds food court became an urban hotspot in the late 2000s.
(Photo: Tim Smith)Gee has been involved in Richmond food courts for many years, but he says he started to see an opportunity for a place similar to what he remembers from the 1980s and 1990s.
That’s when the idea of an organic food court, with food from local farmers and organic, grass-fed beef, began to catch on.” “
And there’s a lot of that going on in Richmonds.
That’s when the idea of an organic food court, with food from local farmers and organic, grass-fed beef, began to catch on.”
The food court’s food menu, like the restaurant, has grown in size and sophistication over the years.
Gee said his menu was initially based on a few local farmers who wanted to keep the prices low, but eventually grew to include all kinds of local ingredients, such as local honey and goat cheese.
There’s also a large menu of locally made desserts, such a cheesecake, chocolate mousse, coffee and tea, gourmet ice cream, and more.
And while the food court does have some of the older-school, family-friendly food from the 1970s and 1980s, the new food court has been designed to appeal to a more modern palate, with more contemporary flavors and a more sophisticated menu.
The food court also serves a rotating menu of local craft beers, wines, and cocktails, as well as fresh seafood and produce, as local food lovers come to enjoy local fare.
“We do have a great bar and grill,” Gree said.
The food has also evolved over the past few years, with new menus being developed by Gee every year, including the original Richmond Family Food Court menu.
The new Richmond family food court is now open for business and serving the city of Richmond as a family destination.
To celebrate the new additions to the restaurant’s menu, Gree has partnered with local bar and restaurant owner The Farm House to offer a tasting of a few of the local local dishes.
For starters, The Farm has added a new selection of organic burgers and a selection of artisan cheeses, both made by local farmers.
Additionally, TheFarm has added the original family food menu and has added an all-local salad, Gees specialty.
Gee hopes the new dining experience will bring more people into the restaurant.
If the restaurant is successful, Gebes vision for Richmonds food courts could become a local phenomenon.
It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate time to bring a family-style restaurant to the town, he said.
Gebes restaurant has been open for nearly two years, and he says it has been a success.
Even though it has not been a hit-or-miss experience, the experience has been positive.
His business has seen an increase in traffic, and his business is growing at a steady pace, Ghee said.
But he’s also not surprised at the popularity of the food courts.
They’re a really popular attraction and something we try to make a point of having,” he said, adding that he is also working on expanding the food-court experience to include a craft beer and wine bar, which he hopes to open by fall of 2019.
As for The Farm, Gegers family-owned farm is well known for producing organic, whole-grain and local ingredients.
This year, Giebers family also expanded the family farm to include some other local farmers, with organic corn and a variety of vegetables.
Gree hopes the Richmond experience will serve as a gateway to a new kind of Richmonds dining experience.
Follow Elizabeth Wootton on Twitter: @EWoottonDC