By Kathy Chouteau
Upcycled shipping containers can produce some of the most unanticipated delights.
Take, for example, Roux, a new Richmond restaurant that, according to its owner Lydia Walker, serves up “fresh, southern-ish cuisine with a California twist” from a shipping container that’s been refashioned into a kitchen within the industrial-chic food hall that recently opened at the new Richmond Business Hub at 1503 Macdonald Ave.
With her sister, Lorinetta, by her side, Walker opened up Roux in late April 2019, after closing her Oakland restaurant, The Bay Leaf, and also learning about the Richmond Food Hall business opportunity from Oakstop.
This Rich Life reporter decided to explore what Roux has to offer after hearing a friend—longtime Richmond resident and community volunteer, Larry Fleming—rave about it. Fleming, who lives within walking distance of Roux, has become somewhat of a regular patron since the restaurant swung open its doors.
Fleming and I met up at Roux on a recent weekday morning to start the day out sampling some of the restaurant’s breakfast offerings. Upon walking into the Richmond Food Hall, we were greeted by a light, airy, wide-open space featuring numerous tables and chairs, a sleek, modern décor and free Wi-Fi to boot! More than once we had to remind ourselves that we weren’t in some San Francisco tech hub—that, indeed, this was downtown Richmond.
Roux’s shipping container kitchen was situated along the far side of the space, leaving ample room to move around and about the food hall, which while we were there, filled up with a steady stream of young, urban dwellers—many with their laptops out, typing away while intermittently chatting with one another. The Richmond Food Hall is the first phase of the Richmond Business Hub, a 10,000 square-foot multifaceted space that not only lends itself to dining, but also co-working and socializing as well.
My breakfast companion, Fleming, ordered scrambled eggs, bacon and cheesy grits from Roux’s menu, while I went for the Baked Blueberry Lemon French Toast. Both breakfast selections were attractively presented by the eatery, and after briefly leaving our table, I returned to find my table mate close to finishing his meal—as clear an indication as any that he had thoroughly enjoyed his breakfast.
For my part, my Baked Blueberry Lemon French Toast arrived on a sturdy paper plate with the top layer cut up into bite-sized cubes and the bottom layer unsliced. Overall, the dish was a truly delicious marriage between bread pudding and French toast served with a fresh and flavorful blueberry syrup on the side. At only $5 (not including the tasty sausage patty I had on the side), it proved to be an incredible value.
Adding to the enjoyable experience was the dining/sitting area’s large floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the cityscape outside, inviting the outdoors inside amidst our chic surroundings. This reporter will definitely be returning to Roux, and it’s safe to say my dining companion will as well.
During our breakfast, Fleming—an active community volunteer and former nonprofit executive who once ran the Richmond Improvement Association and served on the Richmond Economic Development Commission—reflected on how the downtown area has changed since he first moved to the city in the early 1970s following his Army service during the Vietnam War.
Fleming recalled when Hilltop Mall opened in 1976, Richmond’s downtown “went from being a thriving downtown to being desolate, with no places to eat, no stores and no reason to be there. The movie theatre, Woolworths and jewelry store all closed.”
Then, according to Fleming, “drugs and derelicts took over, like in any city.” He credits the nonprofit organization, Richmond Main Street—under the leadership of Executive Director Amanda Elliott—with turning things around downtown.
With the arrival of the Richmond Food Hall, and restaurants like Roux and Your Way Pizza, Fleming says he is “flabbergasted by the changes [downtown]. It’s getting better and better; it’s definitely not going the other way.”
Later, Fleming and I slipped a peek at CoBiz Richmond—the two-story co-working, business incubator and community center adjacent to the Richmond Food Hall that is launching in August with funding from a $1 million grant from Chevron’s eQuip Richmond economic revitalization initiative. Upon viewing the equally impressive space, he remarked with a smile, “I never dreamed of this happening downtown.”
So what does Oakland business transplant, Walker, have to say about opening up her restaurant, Roux, in the heart of downtown Richmond? “They have good people here in Richmond; I got here and just loved it…it feels like Oakland used to be.”
Roux is open Monday through Friday for breakfast from 8-11 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The eatery is located inside the Richmond Food Hall, 1503 Macdonald Ave., in Richmond. Call 510.514.6068 or click here for more info.