April 5 Restaurant Report

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - For this Restaurant Report, we went back in time to the century old Hippodrome Theater, newly restored and reopened just six months ago.

Ron Stallings, the developer who brought it back to life, told us, "Richmond's Hippodrome is one of what's called the Chitlin Circuit. The Chitlin Circuit ran up and down the east coast, where performers went from venue to venue to venue."

Performers like Bojangles Robinson, Ella Fitzgerald, and James Brown used to light up its stage. Now the theater is filled with live music again.

"It's geared toward grown-ups," said Stallings. "It's not rock, it's not hip hop, it's blues, R&B, jazz and soul."

The adjacent Mansion 526 restaurant was once the home of Reverend W.L. Taylor, who chartered the first African American bank. And behind the Mansion, a speakeasy, just like during prohibition.

We asked Stallings if visitors used to use a code word to get in. "Absolutely," he laughed, "'I brought cash!'"

The Hippodrome had 5 critical violations on it's last health inspection, but they were all corrected on the spot, including that a food worker didn't wash their hands before donning gloves.

Stallings told us staff was retrained on hand washing requirements immediately. "We did it right then. The health inspector took the time to give everyone a mini-lesson."

Stallings also had the fridge fine-tuned to keep food at least the required 41 degrees, and it's all dated properly. He says the violations were minor, but important learning opportunities for the new restaurant. "We learn from those things and since then, I'm the person who makes sure the line stays perfect."

Perfection is his goal so that guests will continue to enjoy the tastes and sounds of the Hippodrome.

This week's NBC12 Hall of Fame Winner is Jersey Mike's Sub Shop at 708 England Street in Ashland. It has aced 3 of it's last 4 inspections, and hasn't had a critical violation in two years.

Check out "Dine," Richmond Magazine's Spring/Summer cuisine guide. It features an article about Richmond's recent boom of breweries and craft beers.

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