Jackson’s Ward’s lunch scene has a little more soul these days.
Veteran restaurateur Herman “Big Herm” Baskerville, who previously owned the Corner Bar and Grill in Carver, last month opened Big Herm’s Kitchen, hoping to fetch customers looking for a southern food fix on their lunch breaks.
“I live in Mechanicsville, but the city of Richmond has always embraced me,” Baskerville said. “I’ve been looking around for a storefront for a couple of years, and when this came up it seemed perfect.”
Big Herm’s has taken over 315 N. Second St., recently occupied by Nate’s Taco Truck Stop, which closed late last year after a two-year run.
Baskerville’s takeout and delivery lunch spot is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
Things have been picking up for Big Herm as the word has gotten out in the neighborhood that a familiar face is back in town.
“We’re doing about as well as we expected to be doing, and it’s starting to get better,” he said. “People are starting to realize that we used to own Corner Bar and Grill, and I’m hoping they are starting to make a positive correlation between our old spot and the new one. I hope people see it as a place you can get home-style foods in a timely fashion.”
Baskerville said he shut down Corner Bar and Grill in 2008 when the economy took a turn.
“We were having some lease issues, and it was about that time that the economy started to go south,” he said. “It was a rough time, so we decided to shift focus to just catering.”
Big Herm’s is serving dishes such as fried shrimp, chicken fingers and catfish baskets served with slaw. You can also find blackened chicken and pulled chicken barbecue sandwiches. Most items are between $6 and $8. The sides — collard greens, macaroni and cheese, cornbread and mashed sweet potatoes, to name a few — run about $2 each.
What you won’t find on Big Herm’s menu is a lot of fancy descriptions. For example, the burger is described this way: “Classic! Served simply with lettuce, tomato and mayo.”
“People could take the same food we have on our menu and add a whole lot of adjectives to make it sound better,” Baskerville said. “The blackened chicken sandwich at another place might be Dave’s Mama’s Special Blackened Chicken Sandwich or something like that, make it sound like more than it actually is. We’re pretty straightforward, pretty basic.”
To remake the former taco shop, Baskerville invested about $20,000 in the space, adding more refrigeration and cooking equipment.
Michael Ng, who owns Thai Corner a few buildings down on the corner of Second and Marshall and runs the popular Thai Cabin food carts downtown, owns Big Herm’s storefront. Ng said he was looking for another food operation to go in the space as part of his plan to get more restaurants in the area.
“Restaurants are what I know,” Ng said. “I have a background in managing in food courts, so I had an idea to make this strip of Second Street into kind of a food court. I also have a storefront that’s a barbershop on this street. We’ll see how that does. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll put another restaurant there.”
Ng said Nate’s Taco Truck Stop didn’t shut down because of sales. He let owner Nate Gutierrez out of his lease so the longtime taco slinger could focus on raising his newborn child. Gutierrez now is a chef at Don’t Look Back in Carytown, which opened in March.
For Baskerville, the goal is to open another full-service restaurant, but not for a while.
“Now just isn’t the right time,” he said. “My wife, Michelle, and I have a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old, and we just don’t have the time to run a full restaurant.”
But he added: “Eventually.”