"Sorry, we're sold out of sweet potato tarts today." These are not the words you want to hear upon entering that Grace Street relic, Sally Belle's Kitchen. On my walk this morning, I'd come up with this brilliant idea for how to enjoy this balmy day, so my friend and I were there to score a couple of boxed lunches and take them down to the river to enjoy on a sunny rock. Yes, we were indulging in a bit of spring fever fun, but we were powerless to resist it.
Sally Belle's is so classically Richmond; where else can you get a boxed lunch with corned beef spread? Cream cheese and nut? But I wanted a sandwich that was made on their own roll, so that let out tuna, turkey and a host of others.It was really no contest, I wanted a boxed lunch that would represent the kind of lunches Richmonders have been eating at the river for decades, so I got the Smithfield Ham on a S.B. roll, potato salad (probably the sweetest I've ever had), half a deviled egg, a cheese wafer with a walnut half atop it and a traditional inverted cupcake of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.
With the food neatly arranged in the white Sally Belle box, the ancient woman behind the counter asked if we wanted our boxes taped or tied. Are you kidding? We didn't come to Sally Belle's for no stinkin' tape! Get out your string and tie those boxes up, ma'am, just like they've been tied up since the roaring twenties. It was too quaint for words.
The parking lot for Belle isle was surprisingly full when we arrived, making it clear that we weren't the only ones with spring fever. My friend grabbed the boxes and I had my straw hat and we had everything we needed. Heading over to the island, we passed joggers, bikers, a lot of dog walkers and even a guy telling the girl with him, "I am a dickweed." We admired his honesty even if she didn't.
The water was over five feet and rushing madly, which made for an almost ocean-like soundtrack. With the bright blue sky completely cloudless, all we needed was a sunny rock on which to spread out. We found one and tucked into our Southern repasts (he had a tuna salad sandwich on bread with macaroni salad and, by the way, tasted his cupcake before his sandwich, in case anyone wants to know), starting with eating the sweet pickle slice off of our salads; it's rva protocol to do so
There were what looked like hundreds of white birds perched on the rocks on the other side, doing exactly what we were doing: enjoying the sun and maybe some food while admiring the view. It would have made a beautiful photograph with their whiteness contrasted against the very blue water and sky.
Afterwards we walked the island, reading all the historic marker signs, admiring the structures that still stand and talking about all the things that had happened on the island before our time. My friend called it "nerding out together." I challenged him to tell me how we could have better enjoyed a beautiful Monday in March.
He was smart enough to acknowledge that I had nailed it.