Press 626 cropped up in a location that was rumored to not harbor a restaurant after the Winehouse moved to Colley Avenue and has since closed shop. I had spoken with some locals that had visited Press, but this was my first social call to the place. Laine and I decided it was time.
The layout of the restaurant has not changed much since it was the Winehouse. New paint colors and some new furniture, but the same front space with little tables, same bar, a slightly larger table in one corner and then a side room that seemed suited for parties or a very large table setting. I arrived and had to park around the corner because Press' building has a very small parking lot (think extra, extra small, so you may have to walk, which is good for you anyway). We sat at the bar since Laine's friend joined us and a two-top was not going to cut it. I arrived at 12:20pm (this will be sigificant later in the review) and hopped in a bar seat to review the menu.
I had looked online and was pretty certain I would order 'The Best Grilled Cheese - EVER' on sourdough. A piece of advice, the online menu says pickles come on the sandwich, but the actual menu does not indicate this important tidbit of information. I like pickles, but not on grilled cheese, so I requested the sandwich sans pickles. You can also add bacon for a buck or a slice of tomato for fifty cents. All of the pressed sandwiches come with a side or mesclun greens and because I already decided I would order dessert, I stuck with the salad. For a small fee, you can have a cup of soup or home fries instead of the greens. Not to compare everyone o No Frill, but the sourdough could have used a little more butter in the grilling process. Its a grilled cheese, so why go light on anything. The mixture of Swiss, Vermont cheddar and goat cheese was extremely tasty but the goat cheese gave it that added pizazz. I love goat cheese, so I may be partial.
For the finale, I ordered the apple cinnamon bread pudding. The taste was excellent but it was not hot when it arrived. Warm would even be pushing it for a temperature rating. I was in such a hurry I did not make a fuss, but I would have asked them to reheat it had it been during an extended meal. This leads me to my malcontent temperament over the experience. Service took FOREVER. Remember, I arrived at 12:20pm? The waiter did not bring our food until a few minutes before 1pm. It took him a good while to take our order, but on top of that, the lag between ordering and receiving seemed interminable. I looked at my watch five times and I do not typically do it more than once during lunch, and only because I am typically on a time constraint, as many people are for that meal. I was very agitated that the food took as long as it did. These are sandwiches, not bouillabaisse. Put some heat on in the kitchen. I had to eat pretty quickly and would have enjoyed being able to appreciate my food a little more.
With the time predicament, I rate the overall experience in the middle. Unfortunately, the wait killed my mood at the end. The food was tasty (just heat that bread pudding up until it is steaming hot) and the atmosphere is pleasant, so if Press can remember they are serving a lot of folks that have to get there and get in and out in under an hour and back to wherever they need to go, they will rise on my rating scale. The grilled cheese was around $8. Of course, you can make this a lot cheaper, but in the scheme of sandwich prices, that is not too bad. The bread pudding was $7 and for dessert that is the going rate. I will definitely have dinner at Press and they do have Sunday brunch, and I need a new brunch scene in a pretty serious way. I am wearing out the few that I like.
Try it out and let Laine and I know what you think.
I have been wanting to try this place. A wino at heart, every time I drive past Press 626 I say to myself, "I've have GOT TO try this place", then I promptly forget. I was excited to head out there on Friday with one of my work buddies in tow. We snagged the last spot in their lot (sorry Alex!) and headed inside. We have perused the menu online and already decided on what to order. Every restaurant should have a website if for this reason only...to put the menu online! It tickled me that both Alex and I wanted the Grilled Cheese, fitting for a chilly late fall day.
Seated at the bar, directly next to the coffee station, felt surprisingly cozy. Being on the short side, I am not usually a sit at the bar gal more for comfort than anything else. I no longer drink coffee, but was severely tempted because the aroma's coming from the various flavors they were preparing in the French Press smelled delicious! They offer organic French pressed coffee and teas by request for a meager $2.95. Watch out Starschmucks! I checked out the wine menu longingly. I was not familiar with most of it, but noted that it had a nice variety of countries and grapes represented. I have been enjoying Argentinian wines lately and saw a few I would have liked to try, were I note returning to work.
Whenever a restaurant uses terminology like "THE BEST EVER" on the menu, it feels like a challenge to me. Especially for something like grilled cheese, of which there can be infinite varieties. Being a smart-alec on occasion (occasion = a lot) I had to ask the waiter if it was really the best every. He said yes, but after a slight pause. AH HA! The tone was set. My work buddy waffled between the Cubano and Monster and finally settled on the Monster, a rib steak sandwich with caramelized onions, tomatoes, cilantro, Swiss cheese and chipotle aioli. We both added Tomato soup as our side.
The Tomato soup was disappointing. I can't say it wasn't good, it just wasn't what I expected. It tasted like marinara sauce, was similar in texture and had the tomato seeds in it. Just not my style. The sandwiches were both good. My view of the grilled cheese is rather pedestrian, so any grilled cheese that doesn't at least contain American cheese will never rate as "The Best", but this one was pretty darn good. Alex was right about the goat cheese. The texture added an extra kick to the other cheeses, like ricotta does in lasagna.
The atmosphere in Press 626 is very relaxed, and I suppose that is why the kitchen service is on the sluggish side. The servers seemed to be bustling and my drink glass stayed full. Housed in an old Ghent building it was a little chilly inside the restaurant, so lukewarm food quickly turned cold. Single paned, glass windows with no storm coverings will not keep out the winter chill and drafts will abound. 'Tis the season.
Overall, I enjoyed Press 626 and look forward to returning again in the near future when I will be able to take my time and enjoy more of their menu offerings.
Press 626 is located in Ghent at
626 West Olney Road, Norfolk, VA 23507.
Hours are Monday-Friday 11:00AM-11:00PM