One of my very favorite Richmond restaurants, Tarrant’s, also happens to be a favorite of a couple of my lady friends. When we have opportunity to get together, we bounce dinner ideas off of each other for a while but somehow usually end up heading down to Tarrant’s.
Tarrant’s is located on the corner of Broad St. and Foushee towards downtown where First Fridays occurs and where a variety of other well known Richmond restaurants are located, such as Comfort, Popkin Tavern, and 27. I’ve never been to two of the three places I just mentioned, mostly because if I’m in that direction, Tarrant’s is calling my name, coaxing me with the smell of pizza wafting through their vents into the street. Tarrant’s used to be a drugstore, and the outside of it has stained glass windows that say “soda Alcohol tobacco” in a classic pharmacy fashion. It has a good-sized, smooth bar and the lighting is the perfect. It’s bright enough that you can read your menu without squinting and dark enough to where you still look attractive to your date. It’s pretty large with two separate dining areas. I’ve never had to wait for a table, even on super busy nights. While the restaurant is extensive, it still has a comfortable, homey vibe and you never feel like everyone is on top of you while you eat. A great place for dining intimately.
My first time at Tarrant’s, probably about two and a half years ago, a friend recommended that I try their Tilapia Reuben. My first thought on hearing her suggestion was: well, I don’t really care too much for tilapia, nor do I care for thousand island dressing or sauerkraut so this doesn’t seem like an option for me. When I looked at the menu and saw that the tilapia is pan-fried and the sauerkraut has been replaced by coleslaw, I decided to be bold. Very rarely do I take a chance like that and get rewarded. Ninety percent of the time I regret trying new things. Luckily, this particular questionable decision turned out to be a beautiful thing. The tilapia is lightly breaded and fried to the perfect golden brown. So crispy, the fish flakes off and melts in your mouth. The cold crunch of the coleslaw and the sparingly applied tangy thousand island dressing combine perfectly with the mildness of the fish. The grilled bread the sandwich comes on is a marble rye, which I love, not simply for the taste, but also the role a loaf of marble rye played in the famous Seinfeld episode where Jerry steals a marble rye from an old woman in the street.
In the many times I’ve been to Tarrant’s in the past couple of years I’ve dabbled in other meals, also dabbling in my friend’s and date’s meals as well. In that time, they’ve never served me bad food. I’ve had my favorites, but never has a bad thing crossed my lips. As much as I’d love to eat fried fish or pizza at every meal, I have found some healthier alternatives. Tarrant’s has amazing salad options, including a rich and flavorful Caesar and a simple house salad with such prizes as chickpeas, dried cranberries, and sliced banana peppers. They also offer the option of adding herbed or blackened chicken or salmon, fried calamari, ahi tuna, mini crabcakes, beef tenderloin, or fried oysters to any of the salads offered. There are few things more delicious than crabcakes chopped up in a Caesar salad. Once I added both crabcakes and calamari, pulled a little of each off the salad, and had an appetizer platter to offer the rest of the table. All entrees and salads are served with hot dinner rolls dripping in olive oil and roasted garlic. Luckily each person only starts off with one, so that fewer appetites are ruined by the time the meal arrives.
After learning about what a Niçoise salad is a few weeks prior, a recent visit to Tarrant's introduced me to my current favorite dish. The Niçoise salad has never been one that has appealed to me on menus. I’m not typically a fan of tinned tuna fish. I would always much prefer a nicely seared and blackened tuna steak to anything that comes from a can. Traditionally Niçoise salad is made with canned tuna, strongly flavored oily olives, and marinated green beans. This Niçoise at Tarrant’s was made with the tuna steak of my dreams. You order it the temperature you’d like (or medium rare) and it emerges rosy and shining, placed atop a masterpiece of neatly arranged salad components. So much of Tarrant’s food is not only appealing to the tongue but to the eye as well. Their Niçoise includes roasted red peppers, grilled and seasoned vegetables, olives, hard boiled egg, a tangy mustard-based potato salad, sliced hot peppers, and fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion. I get balsamic dressing with mine, which is the best option for the mishmash of flavors coming at you with each carefully stacked bite.
If you aren’t in the mood for salad, Tarrant’s offers multiple other delicious options including pizza and creative seafood and meat entrees. Gander at their menu here.
From a recent visit: An appetizer sampler including toasted dinner bread heaped with three different appetizers; hummus, crab and spinach dip, and caprese salad. Definitely enough for three ladies to get their appetites in gear.
Under ‘sandwiches,’ you can find fish tacos (whoops). Such a comprehensive platter. Made with grilled mahi-mahi and served with all the fillings you desire; black beans, guacamole, corn relish, pepper jack cheese, and fresh veggies. I’m a sucker for a fish taco just about anywhere and this is no exception.