We enjoy eating barbecue all year long, but we’d be lying if we said it didn’t taste best in the summer months, and apparently we’re not alone! According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, the most popular holidays for barbecuing are July 4th, Memorial Day and and Labor Day, in that order. As we approach the holiday where barbecue steals the show, we’re sharing a few spots where you can find the best BBQ in Richmond.

In our quest, we ventured to spots from Ashland to Church Hill and everywhere in between — and whether you like your barbecue traditional or you’re looking for an eclectic spin on an old favorite, there’s a spot on this list that is sure to suit your taste. From the brisket to the collared greens to the macaroni and cheese, this is a taste test we were glad to tackle.

Best BBQ in Richmond

Alamo BBQ

When you work at the bottom of Church Hill’s hills, you’d be a fool to never try Alamo BBQ. Alamo has one of the more eclectic menus of all the barbecue joints here in Richmond, but that’s fine by us. The menu includes a wide range of meats including smoked sausages, ribs and brisket served Texas style. A few of the non-traditional menu items are what this place is known for — case and point, the Texas Trainwreck which includes your choice of meat over mac & cheese, cowboy beans, and cornbread, topped with diced onions and jalapeños. And don’t worry this place is vegetarian friendly too, with a whole menu of options to choose from. You can visit Alamo BBQ at 2202 Jefferson Ave in Church Hill where the restaurant is open seven days a week. It does have limited outdoor seating, so if it is too crowded to find a seat you can always head over to Jefferson Park or Libby Hill Park to enjoy your food.

Alamo BBQ Richmond - Texas Style Barbecue

Alamo BBQ Richmond - Jalapeno Mac and Cheese

Alamo BBQ Richmond Taco

The Dish

I go non-traditional at Alamo, my two favorite main items are the blacked tilapia tacos — which come topped with taco sauce,  slaw and corn and black bean relish — and the Alamo Cuban, a pressed sandwich served with your choice of meat (pulled pork, sausage links or pulled chicken), mustard, sriracha, onions, pickles, jalapenos, and cheddar jack cheese. Meg and I agree on our favorite side item — the jalapeno mac and cheese — it is spicy, creamy and incredibly addicting. The Texas caviar is a close second for those who don’t like heat or for those looking for something a little more diet friendly.

-K

Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue

Buz & Ned’s Real Barbecue has been a Richmond staple since 1992, but it’s not just Richmonders that are fans of this spot – the BBQ at Buz & Ned’s has gotten national attention from the likes of the Food Network – where Buz beat Bobby Flay in a throwdown – and the Travel Channel. With an original location that you can’t miss at 1119 North Boulevard and a newer location at 8205 W. Broad St. that opened in 2012, owner Buz Grossberg is ready to feed the hungry mouths of people all across town. Both locations are open Sunday – Thursday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and  Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. If you go, you’ll find that the menu is expansive, the service is friendly, and you won’t have a problem finding a comfortable spot to enjoy your food, whether you choose to eat indoors or out.  You can read more about the story behind Buz & Neds here, but one thing’s for sure – this is a spot that lives up to the hype.

Buz and Ned's Richmond

What to eat at Buz and Ned's

Buzz and Ned's Mac and Cheese

The Dish

I’ve never had something I didn’t like at Buz & Ned’s, but I do have my favorites. I usually opt for the pulled pork or chicken and top it with extra barbecue sauce, which is sold at both restaurants and also online. It’s hard to choose between the side items, but the hushpuppies, macaroni and cheese and baked beans are among my most ordered. The coleslaw has more of a kick than most but the tangy flavor of the coleslaw is the perfect complement to the barbecue sauce which is spicy and sweet all at the same time. They offer cajun fried corn on a seasonal basis, and if you pop into the restaurant when it’s available, the well-seasoned treat is worth adding to your order as an appetizer or a side. When it comes to choosing a beverage, I always order a fresh-squeezed lemonade to go along with my meal. The portions are large, so depending on your appetite this is definitely a spot where you could share a platter with a friend – or even better – have leftovers to enjoy the next day.

– M

Jake’s Place

Jake’s Place is located just north of Richmond at 511 Thompson Street in Ashland, Virginia – a town known as the “center of the universe” for its central location within the state. Depending on traffic, it’s about a 25 minute drive from downtown Richmond but it’s also an easy pit stop for travelers passing by Ashland on Interstate 95.  Jake’s Place opened as a restaurant in the winter of 2015 with a name that pays homage to the owner of the gas station that occupied the site decades ago and the owners, John and Wendy Yohman, have been serving up southern comfort food with a focus on BBQ ever since. In addition to indoor seating, Jake’s Place has a patio located around the back of the restaurant. The restaurant is open Tuesday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. for lunch and from 5 – 9 p.m. for dinner.  On Sunday, they open for lunch from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

jakes place best bbq in richmond

jakes place best bbq in richmond bbq

jakes place best bbq in richmond collared greens

The Dish

I made my first visit to Jake’s Place for lunch on a Sunday afternoon after promising Taylor the trip out to Ashland would be worth it – and worth it it was. Everything on the menu at Jake’s Place looked delicious, from the fried green tomatoes drizzled with honey to the pimento grilled cheese, but we stayed focused on the task at hand and ordered the Jake’s Platter to share which included brisket, pulled pork, and two sides for $13. We choose french fries and collard greens, which were among the best I’ve ever had with just the right amount of vinegar and salty ham. We also ordered an additional side of macaroni and cheese for good measure. We didn’t have room to try anything from the dessert menu on this visit but I would come back again just to try the “Screened Porch”, a decadent sounding combination of vanilla pound cake, Homestead Creamery ice cream, Virginia peanuts, whipped cream and maple bourbon sauce. My favorite thing about Jake’s Place? Even as a first-timer, I felt like a regular at what is obviously a local favorite.

– M

Ronnie’s BBQ

I’ve been wanting to try Ronnie’s ever since I heard the buzz about this spot during Richmond 2015 last Fall. This barbecue joint is a little off the beaten path but perfect for if you’re out for a ride, walk or run on the Capital Trail, a 55 mile bike and pedestrian trail connecting Richmond and Williamsburg. Located at 2097 New Market Road in Henrico, it is about 10 minutes west of Rockett’s Landing. Meg and I visited one afternoon for lunch and by noon they were already sold out of cobbler — that’s how popular this place is out in the East End. Like many barbecue restaurants, you place your order at the counter and then wait for your number to be called. At Ronnie’s there is limited seating inside with additional seating outside right next to the restaurant and picnic tables under a tree around back. Oh and if you think the food looks familiar, it is because you might have seen it on Food Network.

Ronnie's Barbecue Richmond

Ronnie's Barbecue Richmond Brisket

Ronnie's Barbecue Richmond Pulled Pork

The Dish

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we tried Ronnie’s but I’m so glad we did. The homemade barbecue sauce is sweet, tangy and addicting. I found myself wanting more and more of it as we ate. The pulled pork sandwich and the brisket were both smokey and tender, and the side dishes were full of flavor. We tried the baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, collard greens and french fries. I have to say the baked beans and coleslaw were my favorite and I know Meg really enjoyed the collard greens. The portion sizes were sizable for lunch, and although I was sad that we didn’t get to taste the cobbler, I’m not sure we could’ve taken another bite.

-K

ZZQ

When I was growing up, my family spent many of our summers in San Antonio and ZZQ’s central Texas style barbecue really takes me back to those times. Memories aside, Chris Fultz and Alex Graf are smoking some of the best barbecue I’ve ever had. And this year they’re doing it with a whole new smoker, Max, which allows them to keep up with demand a little better than last year. Confession, last year I was sort of insane and ate ZZQ on more Fridays than I’d like to admit — I had to stop posting #meatchurch photos on Instagram so I didn’t seem like a stalker.

Aside from private catering and pop-ups, the only place you’ll find ZZQ is at Ardent Craft Ales on Saturdays. It isn’t uncommon to have to wait in line for a while to place your order, but I promise it is worth the wait.

ZZQ Menu 2016

ZZQ Richmond Brisket

ZZQ BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

The Dish

If I had to pick a favorite item at ZZQ I’d probably pick something that isn’t officially on the menu: burnt ends. One bite and I am in heaven. If you ask nicely they might share a few pieces with you, or if you’re lucky sometimes Chris will reward you for waiting patiently in line.

The best way to try all of the meats is to rally a few friends and share. Trust me, you’re going to have a hard time choosing between the brisket, pulled pork and beef ribs. My go to is the brisket, but only when I’m forced to choose. My favorite side without question is the jalapeno mac and cheese — fair warning it is spicy so if you don’t like heat I’d opt for the potato salad or the slaw. And don’t forget to grab a few pickles and onions, that’s the only way to eat Texas style barbecue.

-K

What are your favorite places to eat BBQ in Richmond? Tell us in the comments below!

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What's Happenin' Wednesday June 29

Today is my Friday, YAY!

  • Trapezium Brewing Company recently opened, and I am excited to plan a day of adventures in Petersburg. Check out Liz Thomson’s post (aka I Heart Vegetables) to learn more about what to expect at the brewery. They have beer and a wood-fired pizza oven, I mean what more could you need? This also gives me a great excuse to finally visit Buttermilk Bake Shop, a place I’ve been stalking on Instagram for the last two years.
  • This week, Kinsfolk its debuting a new summer menu, and I’m dying to try the grilled flank steak with corn salad, grilled zucchini and smoked peach butter!
  • Yesterday, we lost a legend with the passing of basketball coach, Pat Summitt. Her passion and commitment to her players both on and off the court was evident in the number of games she won (1098) and the number of players that graduated (all of them, seriously 100%). She was an incredible coach, and an even better person. If you only watch one video this week, make it this one.
  • PSA: The Dog and Pig Show will be closing for summer vacation after service on July 2. Stock up on baked goods and be sure to grab something off the updated menu before they close down for one whole month!
  • My current dream in life is to be a guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef. I guess you could say I have a little bit of an obsession with food competition shows. Forty thousand people auditioned for MasterChef last year and only 20 were selected for the show. Learn more about the audition process for some of your favorite cooking competition shows in Bon Appetit’s article.
  • Does anyone have $1500 to lend me? The giant donut used by Dixie Donuts in Carytown is for sale!
  • Meg and I were lucky enough to attend one of the soft opening nights for Shagbark on Monday. Everything we tasted was incredible, my favorites were the pork chop, the vidalia onion bisque and the sweet potato ravioli.

Y’all. @shagbarkrva is insane. Congratulations @swmpbk on officially opening tonight!

A photo posted by Let’s Share a Dish (@letsshareadish) on

What to add to your calendar

  • This week is Style Weekly’s RVA Burger Week, meaning a bunch of local restaurants are serving up burgers for just $5 a piece through July 3. My favorite option is Savory Grain’s Savory Burger — Angus chuck, brisket & short rib; char-grilled with gouda cheese, smoked tomato aioli, baby arugula and tomato.
  • Jewelry lovers, the Kendra Scott store in Short Pump is hosting a soft opening on Saturday and I am so sad that I’m going to miss it. I love so many of the store’s necklace and earring options and I can’t want to try on this necklace in person. YAY accessories!
  • If you like wine or lobster rolls or both, Barrel Thief has an event that’s perfect for you on Thursday.
  • It is a First Friday week and as always you can expect music, art and food. I suggest starting at Antler and Fin for cocktails, checking out the Art 180 exhibit and then heading over to Saison Market for dinner. Oh and fingers crossed that a zoning inspector will make it over to Stoplight Gelato so you can finish your night with some chocolate gelato!
  • Fourth of July is quickly creeping up on us, can you believe it is almost July?! While there won’t be any fireworks on the James this year, you can watch fireworks at both Dogwood Dell and the Diamond on Monday.

Programming note: I’m heading off to the West Coast this week, if anyone has any San Francisco or Yosemite suggestions let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear them.

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Easy summer salmon salad

Summer is here people! And you know what that means? It is toasty outside, so the weather is perfect for dishes that aren’t served pipping hot. And dishes on the lighter side are also a bit more appealing in the warm weather — although, even in this heat, I wouldn’t turn down a bowl of cacio e pepe. It is the perfect time to try a new summer salad recipe!Easy Summer Salmon SaladNow my at home salad game is typically lacking compared to what you might find in a restaurant, but I think you’ll find that this salad has a ton of flavor. The main ingredients for this salad are: salmon, feta, corn (still in husk), bacon, arugula and green onion.

Salmon summer salad ingredients

Oven baked

I start by popping my bacon and corn into the oven. If you have access to a grill you could probably grill the corn instead. I like my bacon pretty crispy so I use the Bacon Method — and I really do get perfectly cooked bacon every time. When I remove the bacon from the oven I typically turn the oven off, but leave the corn in to cook for a little while longer.

Bacon

On the stovetop

While your bacon is cooking you can season your salmon and then start pan searing your salmon (skin side down first, if it has not been removed). I typically cook it for 3-4 minutes skin side down and then another minute or two on the other side (Serious Eats has a great guide to pan searing salmon). After cooking the salmon to your liking, set it aside and drain off some of the oil before adding sliced peaches. Cook the peaches until browned on both sides. Again if you have a grill, you could definitely grill the peaches (and even the salmon) instead.

Salmon pan seared

Peaches

Chill out

You can eat this salad warm or chilled, I prefer it chilled. I put all of my cooked ingredients into the fridge for at least a couple hours, or even overnight. While your salmon, corn, bacon and peaches are chilling you can prepare the dressing. If you’re in a bind, a store bought red wine vinegar based dressing or even a lemon dressing would be just fine but if you have five minutes I would 100 percent recommend making your own dressing. It is so easy and makes your salad 10 times better.

Pull it all together

For this dressing recipe you need four ingredients (plus salt and pepper): cumin, coriander, white wine vinegar and olive oil. That’s it! You can use a whisk, blender or food processor to mix.

Once all of your salad components have had a chance to cool down add them to a bed of arugula and top with green onion and feta. If you’re feeling fancy you can also add roughly chopped cilantro. Dress lightly with your fancy pants homemade salad dressing, and enjoy — preferably with a nice glass of rosé.

If you have any favorite summer salad recipes, let me know in the comments below. I’m always looking for new options to add to my rotation.

Easy Summer Salmon Salad

Serving Size: 2 large salads

Easy Summer Salmon Salad

Adapted from a Hello Fresh recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 ears of corn
  • 2 ripe peaches, sliced into small 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Salmon Fillets
  • 2 oz Feta Cheese
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 package of arugula
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • For the dressing
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • A pinch of salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Bake bacon using the bacon method, while also baking the corn (in husk) about 20-25 minutes. Once the bacon is crispy, turn off the oven and leave corn to continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  2. Allow bacon to cool, pat dry and slice into small pieces. Then set aside.
  3. When the corn is cooked allow it to cool, then cut corn off cob and set aside.
  4. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper.
  5. Pan sear the salmon for 3-4 minutes skin side down, flip and continue to cook for 1-2 additional minutes.
  6. In the same pan add sliced peaches and cook until browned on both sides.
  7. Serve warm over a bed of arugula or let all ingredients chill in the fridge before serving.
  8. Top with feta cheese and garnish with thinly sliced green onion.
  9. For the dressing mix the white wine vinegar, olive oil, ground coriander seed and cumin in a small bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Let cool in fridge for 20-30 minutes. When ready to serve mix well again.
http://www.letsshareadish.com/summer-salmon-salad/
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things to do this summer in richmond vmfa

Though it’s felt like summer for a few weeks now here in Richmond, summer didn’t officially start until this week, as June 20th marked the summer solstice and longest day of the year. Those who know me know that I’m planner, and won’t be surprised to hear that I compiled a list of activities I’m hoping to do this summer in Richmond — or at least within an hour or so drive. In the hopes that it provides you with inspiration for a fun adventure or day trip, I’m sharing 10 things to do this summer in Richmond and the surrounding area.

Friday Cheers

Cancel whatever plans you have on Friday, because you still have time to make it to the last Friday Cheers show of the season! This outdoor concert series is held at Brown’s Island and is in its 32nd season this year. The cost for each show ranges from $5 – $10, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — this is one of the best deals in town. Friday’s show kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with Major and the Monbacks and Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors at 8 p.m.

things to do this summer in richmond friday cheers

Goochland Drive-In Theater

The Goochland Drive-In Theater is located at 4344 Old Fredericksburg Rd in Hadensville, Virginia, about a 40 minute drive from downtown Richmond. The outdoor theater shows double-feature films on weekends in the months of March – November. The movies change on a weekly basis, and the cost for a double feature is $8.50 for adults and $4.00 for children ages 4-11.  You can’t bring in outside food or drink, but I have to say the prices at the snack bar are very reasonable.

Day trip to Merroir

Merroir is a tasting room run by Rappahannock Oyster Company located on the banks of the Rappahannock River at 784 Locklies Creek Road in Topping, Virginia, about an hour and a half drive from Richmond. The menu is largely focused on fresh seafood like oysters, steamed shrimp and crab cakes, but even those who don’t like seafood will find something they like on the menu and be quite happy with the view. Through Labor Day, Merroir is open Monday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m. It’s one of my favorite places to spend a day, and I’m hoping to cross this one off my summer bucket list this weekend!

things to do this summer in richmond merroir

Hollywood Cemetery

Confession time: I’ve lived in Richmond for five years now and I’ve never been to Hollywood Cemetery. Located next to the Oregon Hill neighborhood at 412 South Cherry Street, the cemetery is open to the public from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. throughout the year. Hollywood Cemetery is filled with history, as it’s one of only three cemeteries to inter multiple United States presidents —James Monroe and John Tyler. It’s also the final resting place for Jefferson Davis and a number of Virginia governors. In addition to history, Hollywood Cemetery is known for its picturesque setting and beautiful views. You can stroll through yourself using this interactive map, and there are a number of guided tour options available as well.

Flying Squirrels Game

Summertime and baseball go together like peanut butter and jelly. I’ve already made it to one Flying Squirrels game this year, but I’m hoping to make it to at least a few more before the season is over. You can watch Richmond’s minor league baseball team play at The Diamond, which is located at 3001 North Blvd in Richmond. The season continues through September and general admission tickets are as cheap as $8. Go Nuts!

Photo Jul 04, 6 53 29 PM

Picnic at Maymont

Oh, Maymont. There’s so many things I could say about this spot which is located at 1700 Hampton Street in Richmond. After many visits, I still can’t get over how neat it is to have this magical combo of a Victorian estate and public park right here in Richmond. Maymont has everything from gardens and ponds to wildlife exhibits and a historic house museum on its 100 acres. In addition to all of that, Maymont has an expansive green space that provides the perfect space for spreading out a blanket and setting up a picnic. Whether you pack your own lunch or order a picnic to-go from Garnett’s, this is a summer activity you don’t want to miss. Just don’t share your food with any animals!

Roseland Polo at King Family Vineyards

King Family Vineyards is about an hour and fifteen minutes from Richmond, located just outside of Charlottesville at 6550 Roseland Farm in Crozet, Virginia. This is one of my favorite vineyards to visit year-round, but I especially love going during the summer months when they host polo matches, every Sunday from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October (weather permitting). It’s a great way to spend a Sunday with a friends or family. I recommend taking blankets, chairs and even a pop-up tent as well as a picnic basket packed with your favorite goodies.

Photo Oct 05, 1 15 42 PM

Sunflower Days at Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery

I feel like I’m always talking about fresh flowers! They’re an impulse purchase I can’t resist, and they do so much to brighten up any space. That said, I’m not sure how I missed the memo last summer on the Sunflower Days at Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, but I am not going to miss out again this year. The dates for 2016 are TBD, but last year on two different weekends they welcomed the public to come pick “as many sunflowers as a reasonable person can” for FREE. Keep an eye out on the brewery’s Facebook page for the 2016 dates, which will take place over one or two weekends once the sunflowers are in full bloom. The best part? You can enjoy some of their delicious beer while you’re visiting. The brewery is located at 4100 Knolls Point Drive in Goochland, Virginia.

Order takeout from 8 ½ to enjoy outside at the VMFA

Yes, this is a very specific activity. But, ever since the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) added colorful patio seating near their sculpture garden, I’ve been wanting to put it to good use. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the outdoor seating at the VMFA than with dinner from 8 ½, a take-out spot serving up delicious pizza, heros, pasta, broccoletti and more. I’d suggest calling 45 minutes to an hour before you want to pick up your food, but I promise, the wait is worth it. If you decide to take advantage of this convenient combo this summer like I plan to, the museum is located at 200 North Blvd in Richmond, just a few minutes walk from 8 ½ which is located at 401 Strawberry St.

812 things to do this summer in richmond

Mini Golf at Bogeys Sports Park

Every year when warm weather approaches, I get in the mood to play mini golf. That might lead you to think I enjoy it because I’m good at it, but that’s certainly not the case — it’s just an entertaining and a fun way to spend an hour or two! My favorite mini golf course in Richmond is at Bogeys Sports Park, which is located at 1675 Ashland Rd in Richmond’s West End. Bogeys also offers a driving range and a batting cage.

What are your favorite things to do in and around Richmond during the summer months? Tell us in the comments below!

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What's Happenin' Wednesday June 22

Wait, what? It’s already Wednesday?

  • About a month ago I mentioned that grapefruit rosè had become all the rage over in France, but finding a bottle here in Richmond was next to impossible. Well, thanks to Wegman’s new location on Midlothian Turnpike that has changed! They’ll be stocking Ruby Red Rose Wine all summer, I’ve tried it and it is definitely a refreshing drink for the summer.
  • June has been a huge month for soccer fans. You’ve got COPA America here in the United States and UEFA Euro across the Atlantic. Sometimes fans can get out of control in the worst kind of way, but Irish fans are taking things in a different direction. My favorite is the chant they directed towards Swedish fans.
  • Hot dogs are my grilled item of choice during the summer. And if you’re in need of a few new toppings to elevate the hot dogs at your next barbecue, Bon Appetit’s got you covered.
  • I’ve always wanted to try a tasting menu, but typically they’re out of my millennial price range. I’m sorry but I just can’t drop $200 on one meal. Thankfully, Travel + Leisure has put together a list of affordable options (under $70 per person). I’m eyeing The Progress for my upcoming trip to San Francisco.
  • Michelle Obama welcome to Snapchat! And if that wasn’t enough of an announcement, special guest James Corden made an appearance because they are filming an episode of carpool karaoke!
  • One of my favorite bakeries, Idle Hands Bread Company re-opened last week in Jackson Ward (across from Max’s on Broad). Head on over this week because Jay is making chocolate chip sourdough again!

What to add to your calendar

  •  Next time you have a case of the Monday’s check out Dutch & Co.’s pasta night. In addition to the restaurant’s fabulous regular menu, they are also making fresh pasta (Monday night’s only). Follow along on Facebook for updates on what will be on the menu each week.
  • This weekend both Ardent and Metzger are celebrating their two year anniversaries! Both are having events to celebrate! On Saturday, Ardent will be having a block party with a sizable food truck line up and of course BEER! Also on Saturday, Metzger will be serving a three course menu for just $22!
  • Next week, Shagbark, the much anticipated restaurant by former Lemaire Chef Walter Bundy, is expected to open.
  • In a few weeks (July 13th) Richmond’s Tuesdays Together will be hosting RVA Creative Marketplace at Paisley and Jade. More than 25 artists and vendors will be onsite to show off their craft.
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Trader Joes Finds

I will admit it, I have a weird obsession with grocery shopping — you might have even picked up on that with my series on Richmond Markets (Stock Provisions, Little House Green Grocery). There’s just something about walking into a store where you don’t necessarily have to feel guilty about what you’re buying. We all need to eat right?!

Trader Joe’s is one of my favorite grocery stores, even if it is extremely inconvenient for me to make the trip out to Short Pump. Unlike most other grocery stores, TJ’s is small (typically between 10,000 to 12,000 square feet, compared to Walmart’s 105,000 square feet) but don’t let that fool you, there are so many options for you to choose from. And you won’t find many name-brand products here, Trader Joe’s relies mainly on its own private label items. Side note: Trader Joe’s is in no way sponsoring or encouraging this post.

If you’ve never been to a Trader Joe’s it can be a little jarring when you walk in — how will you ever find the eggs?! and why is all the decor tropical themed?! — but don’t you worry, I’ve picked out a few of my favorite staple items to get you started.

Five finds trader joes

Five Items at Trader Joe’s You Should Try

  • Riced Cauliflower – Low carb dieters rejoice, cauliflower rice is here! And I know, cauliflower rice really isn’t hard to make from “scratch” but when you don’t have a food processor and you try making it with a cheese grater cauliflower goes FLYING EVERYWHERE! Removing that step makes it ten times easier for me to eat healthy during the week, here’s one easy way to prepare cauliflower rice.
  • Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage – This is my go-to chicken sausage. The Italian flavor is mild and great in a variety of dishes. I typically sauté it with peppers and onions and serve over zoodles and tomato sauce or use it as the protein in a sweet potato hash.
  • Cinnamon Apple Stick Snacks – An apple a day keeps the doctor away. And if I eat the whole bag it is the equivalent of eating one apple, right? This light snack is just the right amount of crunchy and sweet. It sort of reminds me of Apple Jacks mixed with Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Note: Apple Sticks are extremely addicting, and it takes some willpower to not eat the entire bag in one sitting.
  • Shaved Brussels Sprouts – If you’ve ever wanted to make a shaved brussels sprouts salad, but promptly said no thank you when you realized you had to clean and shave a whole bag of Brussel sprouts, here’s your solution. I like to sauté the whole bag with chopped bacon and onion, and then lightly drizzle it with a bit of balsamic vinegar. A perfect side item for most summer meals.
  • RJ’s Mango Licorice – Mango is currently a hot item at Trader Joe’s. You’ll see it incorporated into what seems like hundreds of the store’s regular items just for the summer time (sort of how pumpkin spice infiltrates every thing during the fall). I picked up this new item and I’m hooked. Also, now I can say with certainty that Twizzlers are not actually licorice. I can’t wait to pack these as an airplane snack for my trip to California in a few weeks.

Honorable mention (not pictured): TJ’s soy chorizo. I think I cried last year when this item was mysteriously missing from the shelves for about four months. This crumbly soy substitute has so much flavor, I don’t even miss the real thing. I’ll either use it in an egg scramble in the morning or even as a topping for nachos (a “healthier” and tastier substitute to ground beef). Just remember to remove the plastic casing as it is NOT edible.

At the end of the day, Trader Joe’s sets itself apart in my book because so many of the things I buy there make my life easier — by reducing prep time or even making me feel less guilty about having a microwaved meal. If you have any favorite TJ’s items you think I should try let me know in the comments below!

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