By Nora Bollinger
Stepping through Pasture‘s wooden double doors feels like stepping into a posh locale on the west coast. The design is minimal. The movement is green. And the wait staff is tattooed. There is an air that this place is “before the trend.”
Pasture opened its doors in September 2011, branding itself as a southern dining experience. To head chef and owner Jason Alley, “southern” meant family and sharing, so he created a menu full of small, snackable plates, and an interior where diners can graze, just as the restaurant’s name and bovine logo suggest.
Restaurant-goers have the option to mingle at the watering hole (the bar) or float to one of the bare, light wood and iron rod tables. Benches are nailed to the wall close together, insisting on conversation between strangers, while squat booths made by local Richmond craftsman Tom Brickman run down the center of the space. Elementary school-style chairs (circa days-before-plastic-everything) fill in the spaces where booths and benches do not suffice. Some are paint-dipped in either spring grass or seafoam green to reflect the shy color palette picked from a vintage school map of Virginia on the back wall.
Piggybacking on Alley’s idea of a community dining space, the minimal aesthetic also begs for conscious consumption. Although the ceilings are over 20 feet tall and the space is vast, every piece serves a purpose. For instance, dark slats of repurposed wood from a Hopewell building stretch across the wall behind the bar. The slats double as a piece of the earth-friendly décor as well as built-in drawers for bartenders to stash glasses. On the ceiling, white acoustic baffles made of post-consumer recycled bottle glass and installed by Acoustical Solutions muffle sound and emphasize the geometric floor pattern. And shadow boxes suspended on the wall beneath the open kitchen hold a surprisingly select number of plates and silverware — just what is needed.
Visit Pasture on the off-hour and its minimal aesthetic is overtly apparent. It is slightly bare, yes —maybe even a little bit cold with its mostly-white walls and chic design. But wait a few hours for the dinner bell to ring and the diners to mosey in. Pasture is a welcoming grazing ground.