Siblings Leslie and Lindbergh Cox always had a simple arrangement growing up: Leslie cooks the food and Lindbergh eats it.
Now they’re turning that dynamic into a business.
Leslie is launching her first restaurant – Sheep Hill Bistro – in the former Magpie space at 1301 W. Leigh St. in the city’s Carver neighborhood.
The restaurant is targeting a June 15 opening, said Lindbergh. He and business partner Tank Young co-own the establishment.
Leslie said they named the restaurant Sheep Hill Bistro after learning more about Carver and its place in Richmond history – particularly that its original name was Sheep Hill.
“We wanted to pay tribute to the history of this neighborhood,” Lindbergh said. “It was important for us to stay true to the neighborhood.”
Settled in the 1840s
Sheep Hill was settled by Jewish and German immigrants in the 1840s, historical records indicate. It was also home to one of several slaughterhouses in the city, specifically for sheep.
That began to change by the 1900s, as middle-class blacks began inhabiting the neighborhood. It then quickly became an extension of Jackson Ward, which at the time was one of the most thriving black commerce and entertainment centers in America.
The neighborhood shed its original name in the 1940s, when it was rebranded Carver once the Moore Street School was renamed to commemorate prolific African-American scientist George Washington Carver.
“There were a lot of wealthy African-Americans that lived in this neighborhood,” Leslie said. “It was a thriving place.”
Leslie said Sheep Hill Bistro will serve dishes she has prepared for family, friends and private clients.
“I love to cook, and growing up, I loved being in the kitchen with my grandmother,” Leslie said. “Food is supposed to make you feel good, so I want this place to make others feel good.”
The menu will include ‘Lulu’s Beurre Blanc,’ a pan-seared chicken breast with orzo and grilled asparagus, as well as oxtails that are braised in red wine, and served with jasmine rice and Swiss chard.
Lunch items include sandwiches, burger, soup and salad options, along with vegan and vegetarian options, such as its falafel, made with hummus mixed greens, red onions, tomatoes and bell peppers.
Appetizers will include fried oysters, fried barbecue ribs and barbecue shrimp flatbread pizza.
“It’s some of my favorite things to eat and prepare,” Leslie said of the fried barbecue ribs. “I think people are going to love it.”
Desserts will include Sheep Hill Bread Pudding, served with bourbon cream sauce. The restaurant also is applying for an ABC license. Following approval, Sheep Hill Bistro plans to serve beer, wine and craft cocktails.
Sheep Hill Bistro seats about 32 people, Leslie said, and will offer catering services for private parties and corporate events. The restaurant also is exploring third-party delivery services, and is working with VCU’s RamBucks program to provide off-campus dining options for students.
The trio has invested close to $100,000 to get Sheep Hill Bistro off the ground, Lindbergh said, and is looking to hire about seven waiters and bartenders.
It’s money well spent as far as he’s concerned.
“I love my big sister and she is so very good at what she does,” Lindbergh said. “I knew that as soon as she was ready, I was going to be there.”
Establishing Sheep Hill Bistro is the culmination of a career in food Leslie launched after graduating from J. Sargeant Reynolds’ culinary program in 2008.
She landed her first gig as an assistant food production manager at VCU. After leaving the university, she worked stints at Hanover Tavern and the Commonwealth Club, and was the executive chef for the 2020 Experience.
But Leslie wanted more.
“I wanted to do something more for me and my family,” she said.
A fiery sermon at her church, Temple of Judah, was all she needed to hear, propelling her to leave 2020 and begin cooking for events and parties on her own.
“I did a lot of cooking for church events and would cater events at VUU,” Leslie said.
Lindbergh, a former music promoter who now owns and operates Run To Court, a firm that provides clerical and court services to law firms in Virginia, New York and New Jersey, knew his sister could run her own restaurant.
He immediately partnered with her to launch Sheep Hill Bistro, bringing on Young as a third partner.
“I knew that this is what she wanted to do,” Lindbergh said. “And I’m here to support her because that’s what we do … we’re family.”
Sheep Hill Bistro will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday. Breakfast and brunch service is planned for Saturday and possibly Sunday, depending on demand.
“I’m in the second phase of my life,” Leslie said. “I’ve raised my kids and now it’s time to pursue my passion. I’m very thankful for this opportunity.”