Casa del Barco: Reinventing Tradition

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Casa del Barco features more than 120 tequilas and agave-based liquors–by far the largest selection in the area

Renowned for its spectacular waterside views, an award-winning wine list and a delectable menu, dining at The Boathouse is more than just dinner– it’s an experience.

Kevin Healy continues with this concept for his third restaurant, but this time, with a cultural twist.

Opened in January 2013, Casa del Barco (The Boathouse en Español) grew out of a connection between Healy and longtime Boathouse chef Todd Richardson. See Embracing His Heritage– Richmond Magazine

“Todd is of Mexican descent,” Healy said. “A few years ago, I walked into the kitchen (at The Boathouse) and was surprised to find him making tamales.”

“My grandmother taught me how to make them,” Richardson said. “There is an art to making a tamale; it isn’t as easy as you might think. But they’re always worth the effort.”

Authenticity is the flavor at Casa del Barco, from the slow roasted pork empanadas to the rustic interior. And all are served with a dash of modernism and sophistication.

Huevos Rancheros, a popular dish during brunch service at Casa

Huevos Rancheros, a popular dish during brunch service at Casa del Barco

You won’t find pre-made margarita mix behind the bar, either. All of Casa’s margaritas are made to order, using only fresh, local ingredients.  Casa also takes tequila seriously. With over 120 tequilas and agave-based liquors, the selection is unparalleled in the region.  (Give Beverage Director Michael Avery five minutes of your time, and he’ll help you select just the right one–and provide an amazing breadth of knowledge about the selection). See Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Style at Casa Del Barco with an Incredible Tequila Selection and Outdoor FunRichmond.com

“Mexican is trending in all of the major cities,” Healy explained. “But these are not your typical refried beans and rice establishments. There is a growing demand for authentic Mexican cuisine and we wanted to bring it to Richmond.”

Healy notes the similarities between the current Mexican trend and the increasing desire for traditional Italian cuisine in the 1960s.  American travel to Italy surged in 1960, the same year Frommer’s “Europe on $5 a day” became a bestseller. See John Mariani’s How Italian Food Conquered the World

Merchandise for sale, including iPhone covers and flasks, feature sugar skull motifs

Kevin Flores (The Flores Shop) and Helen Reed (HLReed Design) were brought in to give the restaurant a character all its own.  Drawing from his own Mexican heritage, Flores started with a simple sugar skull pattern. These motifs are repeated in every element of Casa’s branding, from the tequila bottle chandelier and sugar skull acoustic panels, to menus and merchandise for sale.

“We wanted to avoid clichés,” said Flores. “The tagline ‘Reinventing Tradition’ is all about transforming what people typically consider to be Mexican.” Read more about Casa del Barco’s design concept here: http://thefloresshop.com/thenews/

Located in the Reynold’s Italiante building facing Richmond’s historic Canal Walk, Casa del Barco is among the first to open for business in this quickly emerging area. Healy has always been a bit of a pioneer. After 25 years at Sunday Park and the success of The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing (Richmond’s first riverfront restaurant), Healy believes great food, impeccable service and spectacular atmosphere will inspire people to make the effort to seek Casa out.  After all, just like Richardson’s tamales, it’s worth it.

VIDEO: How To Make The Perfect Margarita

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About Kelly Vance

Kelly Vance made a career out of meeting interesting people. She heads up VANCE, a boutique PR agency in the heart of Richmond's start-up community.