By Ted Elmore
Known for exquisite fine dining in The Fan for almost seven years, husband and wife duo Bruce and Virginia Rowland are broadening their appeal, while shortening their restaurant’s name. Their intimate dining room at 2132 W. Main Street will no longer be called Rowland Fine Dining, instead, simply, Rowland.
“A fine dining restaurant has become somewhat passe. We want to attract everyone looking to eat well, not just the well-to-do. We love The Fan and would like to see our neighbors and friends in here regularly, instead of just for special occasions.”
With the name change comes a dramatically updated menu, and a renewed focus on all price points. Their “bites to share” menu includes nine options from Calamari Tacos with Roasted Tomatillo, Avocado Crema and Virginia’s Slaw, to an appetizer version of their famous butter bean cake. These small-plate style selections range in price from $8 to $13.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, the Rowlands will put together a three course meal of appetizer, entree, and one of Virginia’s award winning desserts for only $25. Bruce tells me he’s calling it: “Come out and feel good about the bill night!”
The restaurant has also added a daily happy hour from 5:00 – 6:30 PM during which a selection of small plates and all wines offered by the glass will cost only $5 each. They will also mix you a cocktail of house liquor for only $3 or pour you one of their unique beer selections at a substantial discount; tip back a Blue Mountain Rockfish Wheat for $2.50 or a Duvel Ale for $3.50 during daily happy hour.
The most notable menu change is the added wide selection of scrumptious iron skillet pizzas. The Rowlands agree, “The key to a good pizza is the crust.” Though Bruce aggressively guards the recipe, he does reveal that he developed it with a friend in New York while working there as Malcolm Forbes’ private chef. “We use cold, fermented dough, and each pie is formed, tossed and prepared to order.” The iron skillet achieves optimal heat, allowing the crust to crisp and tasty air pockets to develop at the same time. The result is a thin crust pizza that exhibits just the right combination of crispy and chewy.
Pizzas are designed for one and range from a margherita ($8) to a loaded “Rowland Pie” ($13). The adventurous can create their own combinations, selecting from a list of 22 ingredients (an additional $1 or $2 each), including applewood bacon, pork carnitas, Kalamata olives, and crimini mushrooms. On a recent visit I inhaled a pie with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, green olives, grape tomatoes, roasted garlic, and fresh basil. My mouth did it’s best impression of Pavlov’s dogs.
For the Rowlands’ many long-time fans, the new menu still includes old favorites like the Pecan Crusted “Joe Chop” with White Cheddar Mac and Cheese and the Grilled Coriander King Salmon. As they always have done, the couple will continue to change the menu with the seasons and include a heavy dose of local ingredients. “Virginia and I really enjoy going to the South of the James Farmers’ Market every Saturday and stocking up!”
The Rowlands’ unique blend of low country sensibility imported from Bruce’s popular South Carolina restaurants with the Latin American flair of Virginia’s Peruvian heritage gives Richmond a revered dining gem–one now designed for all of RVA to enjoy.