101 Crafthouse in Midlothian, VA
Serving up beer, pizzas, and passion
Food and travel writer Steve Cook takes us to 101 Crafthouse/USA Growler in Midlothian, Virginia, where the emphasis is on helping the customer find a beer that tickles their fancy, to go with the pizza and other homemade bar food options
While I didn’t want to pry too much, I got the impression that Dana Bennett was less than enthusiastic when her husband, Andrew, suggested that they open a restaurant. But open it they did, right about the time the big P (pandemic, I mean) hit.
Now, even with years of experience in the industry, it’s, no doubt, been a struggle for restaurant owners and virtually everyone else who works in the business over the past nearly two-and-a-half years.
So, you can imagine what it would be like to just be getting into the business right before COVID became such a dirty word. Continue to imagine what it would be like if your franchisor notified you shortly after you opened that the company was going bankrupt. What would you do?
The Bennetts forged ahead and, although Dana had plenty of concerns initially, she came on board to head up the day-to-day operations due to the ensuant staffing crisis.
While not remaining unsympathetic to the Bennett’s plight, I have to say, perhaps somewhat selfishly, that I’m very glad she is managing operations at 101 Crafthouse/USA Growler (12646 Stone Village Way) in Midlothian, right next door to the Wegmans on Midlothian Turnpike.
I paid my first visit this week, and while the food is very good and while most craft beer enthusiasts would be very happy with 65 taps offering a diverse selection of mainly local beers, the thing that impressed me most was Dana’s passion for craft beers. It’s a passion that she has cultivated, especially since taking over the operations at the restaurant.
When it comes to passion, the thing I appreciate most about Dana and Taylor Herrell, the bartender on duty during my visit, is that they want you, the guest, to develop your own passions and to discover your favorite beers. Here’s the thing they understand that makes this place so wonderful. In order to get to know a beer, you can’t shake hands with it, you need to smell it and taste it. The folks at 101 Crafthouse are generous with their samples. And they never make you feel rushed or intimidated.
“I don’t want you to order a beer simply because I suggested it,” Dana says. “I want you to discover it for yourself and order it because you really like it.”
I like that philosophy. Even on a crowded evening, Dana and Taylor both took time to talk beer and, yes, to allow me to do some samplings.
Dana says that she had to get to know beer. It’s a learning process, she says, admitting that there have been some beers she has selected for one of the 101 taps (hence the name) that didn’t move very quickly. “Those beers end up on our three dollar ‘kick the keg’ list,” she says, referring to the slow-moving beers, which are discounted at the bar.
Bites to wash down the beer at 101 Crafthouse
Dana says that in the early days of the business, the Growler USA concept was perhaps given the greatest emphasis and many visitors thought the place was just for growler refills. Now, obviously, you go in simply to refill your growler, but if your stomach is also growling, you may want to check out the menu. The Bennetts put as much emphasis on the food as they do the beer.
“Much of our food is homemade,” Dana says. “We make our pizza dough and our own marinara sauce, and our beer pretzels, too. And we serve hand-pattied hamburgers.”
I sampled a couple of items, including a delicious sausage and mushroom pizza. One native New Yorker told me that he felt very much at home with the pizzas being put out at the 101 Crafthouse. I can agree. I definitely found the pizza crust to be very reminiscent of what I’ve enjoyed in the Big Apple, especially at my favorite pizza place in Brooklyn.
I hear a lot of good things about those burgers, too, as well as the wings. But you’ll have to try them and let me know. I’ll definitely be going back. I’m very ready to sample a few more drafts. As I mentioned, right now there are about 65 beers and ciders on tap, but with a name like 101 Crafthouse, you can figure out the ultimate goal.
The restaurant does have its rotating weekly Happy Hour, which includes $5 off growlers on Sunday, along with a $14.99 specialty pizza special. The burger entrée is only six bucks on Monday, and on Wednesday, you can enjoy $2 off your wine. Kids eat for half off on kids’ meals on Wednesday and “Thirsty Thursday” offers $3 off on beer and wine.
I’d go for the food and the beer, but I’d go back because of the exceptionally friendly service and the passion. Dana says, “We want a ‘Cheers’ sort of place where everybody knows your name.” I don’t really care if they know my name as long as they let me sample the beer.
101 Crafthouse/USA Growler
12646 Stone Village Way, Midlothian
Steve Cook has lived in the Richmond area for most of his life, working as a writer and editor and in marketing and radio. He loves to keep abreast of the local restaurant scene and researches the subject voraciously. “I used to think I was a foodie,” he says, “but then I realized I just like to eat a lot.” He once co-hosted a local Richmond restaurant radio program with BOOMER editor Annie Tobey. Steve completed his first novel in 2017 and says he hopes to read another one this year.