When you think of Virginia tourism or even day trips from Richmond, Petersburg, Virginia, probably isn’t the first stop that pops into your mind. Although downtown Petersburg is only about a half hour jaunt down 95, I suspect most Richmond city dwellers don’t think of it as a weekend destination. Not to mention, the recent news about the city’s economic issues probably isn’t helping its reputation as a tourism destination.
What pulled me down in the Petersburg direction? A hat sale of course. When you hear Ignatius Hats is hosting a super sale, you mark your calendar and go wherever you need to go. And, since I hadn’t visited the area in a while, I decided to make it into a day trip and see what there was to see. Here’s how I spent my day.
But First, Coffee
The hat sale started at 10 a.m. on Saturday, so I rolled out of bed early and headed down to Petersburg with time for breakfast before it was sale o’clock.
Demolition Coffee is a community gathering spot—warm wood tones, exposed brick and big tables inside beckon large groups catching up over freshly baked, gooey Demo Rolls (cinnamon rolls) and a spacious patio welcomes leisurely newspaper readers who linger over early morning espressos.
The beverage menu spans traditional coffee and espresso drinks with standout specials like the apple pie chai latte I’d like to return to try. There’s an extensive selection of breakfast sandwiches and other items, along with an enticing bakery case filled with all kinds of pastries and… wait for it… two types of chocolate covered bacon. Of course I grabbed some to take home for later.
While there I sipped a breve—espresso mixed with steamed half and half—and feasted on The Bipski, a breakfast sandwich made with egg and cheese on an English muffin, plus I sprung for the extra 50 cents and added bacon. I consider myself a breakfast sandwich connoisseur and what stood out on this one was the generous layer of perfectly cooked scrambled eggs.
With caffeine and protein coursing through my system, it was hat shopping time, so I headed over to Petersburg Pickers. This estate liquidation store is only open every other Friday through Sunday so make sure to check the calendar before you go. You never know what you’ll find in the eclectic, ever-changing selection, but on my visit, after fighting off a gaggle of chapeau-crazed shoppers to select one bargain priced Ignatius hat and one fascinator, I was impressed with the selection of antique glassware and the slew of vintage clothing, shoes, boots, and scarves.
Next I ambled down to Old Towne, where historic streets are lined with restaurants, antique shops, and a few other boutiques. My first stop was Penniston’s Alley—if I ever get married I’d like to select my glassware from this store—the selection of vintage crystal blew me away. Next stop was Sycamore Antiques and Architectural Art. One side of this shop features glassware organized by brand, making it a good stop if you’re in search of a specific item or brand to complete a collection. There’s also art, furniture, knick-knacks and more glassware and dining pieces. I selected two sets of glasses—four small cut crystal martini glasses for $12 and two other stemware glasses for $9 alongside a tiny crystal dresser tray I’m planning to use for serving drinks for two or small desserts.
There are plenty of other Petersburg antiques stores worth browsing, but after a quick walk through The Oak—a large antique mall with a range of consignment booths, I was ready for new merchandise, which brought me to Ciao Bella Old Soul. This funky, beautiful boutique had a bohemian, luxe vibe that felt much more Carytown than Petersburg shopping. A combination of vintage décor, accessories from other countries, eclectic jewelry and upscale-relaxed apparel mix and mingle in a store you need to walk through more than once to see all the goodies.
My last shopping stop was Sweet Dixie. This cute store is a combination gift boutique and bakery. The selection spans witty tea towels, eye-catching jewelry, candles made from old wine barrels, cooking spices, locally made bath products, and other fun items.
I couldn’t help but check out the bakery case in the front and take home a tub of the shop’s signature Rooster Bark—also called Old Towne Crack—a crunchy combination of graham crackers, sugar and chopped nuts.
Whet Your Whistle
Hitting all those Old Towne shops on a sunny day made me hungry and thirsty, so it was time to head over to Trapezium Brewing Co., one of two newly opened Petersburg breweries.
Located in an 18,000 square-foot former factory built in the 1820s that was intentionally designed with no right angles, the building is spacious, industrial, and carefully renovated with more than $600,000 from the Virginia Industrial Revitalization Fund—wow! The brewery has a 30-barrel brewing system and the taproom features a beautiful brick pizza oven. In need of lunch, I ordered the White Horse, a savory white pizza featuring ricotta, basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and capers.
While my pie cooked, I ordered a flight of beer, my favorite of which was the seasonal Lucky 30 Honey Lavender Triple—my bartender warned me this is an acquired taste, but I loved the herbal flavors with a hint of honey. I also sampled the signature Lucky 75 Honey Lemon Ginger, which was light and summery with a ginger zip, the Lucky 26 English Summer Ale, and the Lucky 71 RyePA, a rye-style IPA, as the name implies. The beer and the pizza were both delicious. On my next visit I’m planning to bring more friends so we can sample the beer cheese with pizza crust I was jealously watching my seat neighbors devour.
Petersburg’s second new brewery, AMMO brewing, is smaller and greener. The logo is inspired by a sculpture made by owner Terry Ammons and the décor reflects the organic vibe the I got from the logo with big windows, greenery outside, and light wood inside.
I tried a flight again—this time I was surprised that my favorite was Gose Without Saying—a refreshing, light, fruity gose-style beer made with coriander and sour cherries—it found it light and extremely refreshing. I also tried the Black Racer summer stout, the Benno’s Belgian pale ale, which featured notes of coriander and star anise, and the Rosemary’s Baby herbed saison.
The flavors and atmosphere at AMMO definitely had an intimate, experimental feel that provided a nice contrast to the polished, large-scale vibe at Trapezium—the two combine for a nice little Petersburg beer tour.
Before You Head Home
Because I’d asked for must-visit suggestions from friends, I knew to pack a cooler and plan on grabbing a few goodies to bring back home. I first swung by Petersburg Provisions, a gourmet takeout market owned by Andrea and Frits Huntjens (Frits may sound familiar as the former owner of French dining stalwart One North Belmont).
This adorable market features soups, cheeses, salads, produce, fresh pastries, and all the things you want in a neighborhood market. I grabbed some standout pimento cheese that featured sharp white cheddar and pepper flavors, creamy white bean hummus, zesty Maryland crab soup, and a few baked goods including an impressive pain au chocolat.
As I looked at it, Andrea said: “It’s amazing and delicious and everything you want it to be,” and she was right. A sharp contrast to your typical chocolate croissant that’s heavy on the bread and light on the chocolate, this was crispy, flaky perfection with a perfectly rich, indulgent layer of dark chocolate at the bottom.
I also ran by Buttermilk Bake Shop where I snagged a few single-serve sweets, including an insanely rich slice of oreo tres leches cake.
Layers of dense, tres-leches-style oreo cake were sandwiched between perfectly decadent chocolate cream. I want this cake again ASAP. I also grabbed a loaf of challah bread—this buttery, delicious bread was topped with a heavy layer of everything bagel-inspired spices.
Let’s just say it made the best breakfast sandwich ever the next day—not a bad way to remember my trip.