There are those markets in Richmond that stock beautifully packaged goods, boast fresh produce and offer warm service. I’m talking about places like Little House Green Grocery, Harvest Grocery and Union Market, each make neighborhoods feel cozy and enchanted (read more about my thoughts on them here). Then, there are the others that somehow remain in business that are far past questionable – a mafia front? Hidden brothel in the back?
Because I’m a big fan of experience, I voyaged to some of the city’s most questionable neighborhood markets and have documented each visit.
I’ll start with Fine Foods. This is where it started. When friends were raving about their shockingly abundant beer selection and sketchy feel they urged me to test it out for myself (and write about it). After dinner at Perly’s, my girlfriend and made the quick drive to Oregon Hill. There is was, a large brick building on Idlewood with old wrought ironwork outside its entrance. Inside, my mind was blown. The musty smell, the bare shelves, disheveled items and the random out-of-date artifacts (hello, 1992 Gillette ‘Sensor’ razor cartridge) gave the ambiance of a post-apolocyptic movie set.
We set our sight on finding this acclaimed beer selection and there it was, nestled in a corner surrounded by coolers we discovered one of the best selection of craft brews comparable to Strawberry Street Market. We grabbed a 6 pack and headed to venture. Aisle by aisle, the randomness of items was mesmerizing and would put any OCDer into an acute panic. From any array of sugar-fied faux juice to the most chaotic assortment of 1990 Holiday greeting cards.
As we headed toward the checkout, the line of folks was growing – most clung to their good craft beer or waited patiently to get their wine-flavored Black & Mild at the counter. Although it looks like a tornado ripped through the place and everything edible looked absolutely questionable, there’s something perfectly peculiar at Fine Food. No matter how crappy, it’s a neighborhood store … that sells great beer. And that’s about it.