Richmond was recently named to Travel and Leisure’s list of America’s Favorite Cities for Brunch. In fact, RVA ranked number six on the list and I’m in full agreement — Richmond is a great town for brunch. But Travel and Leisure (and its readers) failed to mention one of the best brunches in town. Don’t get me wrong Metzger and Southbound deservedly made the list — I’ve been to brunch at both restaurants and was extremely impressed. But, Shagbark is also doing something special. (Note: Lucy’s is probably also deserving of its mention, I just haven’t had a chance to make it over there for brunch yet.)
On a recent trip (aka on Easter Sunday — which was a date chosen accidentally), I was smitten with everything that came out of the kitchen at Shagbark. And it didn’t hurt that the weather was beautiful and we were given the option of sitting outside on the shaded patio.
You’ll notice a common thread in my brunch adventures — sharing is caring — and my friend Nicky and I shared three dishes on this trip to Shagbark.
Our meal started where every good brunch meal starts: cocktails. I enjoyed the brunch punch while Nicky went a little more traditional and sipped on the classic mimosa. The brunch punch was sweet, but not overly so, and made for easy drinking — a good choice for a warm spring day.
Making decisions on what to drink was easy, making decisions on what to eat was a very, very hard. Everything on the menu sounded delicious, so we had a difficult time choosing between these four options:
BBQ spiced duck confit hash with roasted sweet potatoes, caramelized onions, soft egg, buttered almonds and Highland County maple creme fraîche.
Dill pickle-brined chicken & waffles with Hubs peanut crumble and bourbon-maple butter.
Sub Rosa polenta bread french toast with local strawberries, lemon mascarpone and oat streusel.
The Old Virginia — Edward’s country ham steak, Byrd Mill grits, SSU hen egg, red eye gravy and a buttermilk biscuit.
Ultimately we went with one sweet and one savory dish. We couldn’t say no to the duck hash — (1) because I wanted to see how it compared to Metzger’s and Southbound’s versions and (2) because it is freaking duck hash. Always. order. the. duck. hash. For our sweet entree, we went all in with the french toast made with Sub Rosa bread.
What a pair. We cleaned both plates and we were dying for more. The Sub Rosa polenta bread french toast was less sweet than I expected, definitely less sweet than most french toasts, but I wasn’t mad about it. I mean, let’s be real, it is pretty hard to mess a dish up that starts with bread from Sub Rosa. The strawberries tasted so fresh and bright, and the lemon mascarpone was to die for. My only complaint was that the crust of the bread was a little hard to cut with the not so sharp knives we were given, but if that’s the worst part of the meal I’ll take it.
I’m honestly not even sure where to start with the duck hash. It was plated beautifully, and the soft egg was poached to perfection. The roasted sweet potatoes balanced well with the salty, rich duck and the toasted almonds gave the dish the crunch that it needed. And that sauce, I could eat that Highland County maple creme fraiche by the spoonful. I love the duck hash at Metzger and Southbound, but Shagbark’s version blew those out of the water. Let’s just say our server was impressed at the speed at which we consumed this plate of food. I promise I’m not exaggerating, it really was that good.
To wrap things up we split the coffee cake for dessert. The roasted banana brown butter coffee cake came topped with honey chantilly, fresh blackberries and toasted malt powder. I don’t know what honey chantilly or toasted malt powder is, but what I do know is that they taste great on top of this coffee cake. Similarly to the french toast, this dish was not overly sweet and it was a lot lighter than expected.
Overall the brunch experience at Shagbark is top notch. The service was lovely, the drinks were refreshing and the food was incredible. This meal for two came out to about $70 (including tip), which might seem a little spendy for brunch but when you factor in the fact that we both had drinks, shared a dessert, and we were at Shagbark, I was actually pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive our meal was.
The cost of brunch at Shagbark is much more approachable than dinner is there but they are both equally delicious.
Shagbark is located at Libbie Mill-Midtown (4901 Libbie Mill East Boulevard, Suite 175) and they serve brunch on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. They do take reservations, and you can browse a sample menu here. P.S. There is plenty of free parking around the restaurant so you won’t have to worry about parallel parking.