Richmond Chef Embraces Bay Conservation with New Restaurant

One of Alewife’s impressive fish dishes, earning it a spot on GQ’ s Top 20 New Restaurants list.

A well-known Richmond chef is gaining national acclaim with his newest restaurant, Alewife, by using fish that other local food spots pass over.

Lee Gregory, a James Beard-nominated chef, has incorporated a number of conservation efforts at Alewife, in the city’s Church Hill neighborhood. And creating dishes around abundant fish like mackerel and bluefish is just one of them.

Gregory says those fish are caught in Virginia waters, but usually shipped up north. He says the fish were “a harder sell in the past,” but they just need the right customer and the right dish.

“We SHOULD be eating it!” he exclaims, pointing out that these underrepresented fish are also more cost-effective, and their abundance means overfishing isn’t a concern as it is with rockfish, for example.

Gregory’s restaurant, which opened last September, also gives 25 cents from every entree to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Alewife even practices conservation with its cocktails. No plastic straws are served, of course, but most drink mixes are made ahead of time and chilled, to avoid unnecessary “ice waste,” all of the ice that’s usually dumped into the sink of a bar.

The drinks and food alike have attracted the attention of GQ Magazine, which named Alewife one of the Top 20 New Restaurants in America for 2019. GQ’s Brett Martin describes Gregory’s “ clean, honest dishes from that magical sector where the waters of the mid-Atlantic swirl and merge with those of the South.”

“It’s a really cool thing to be included,” Gregory says of the GQ list, since he’s in the company of big-time spots in big cities.

But in his Richmond locale, Gregory wants to stay true to the Bay and the Mid-Atlantic. He tells Bay Bulletin his wife is from Tidewater, Virginia, and the Bay continues to grow closer to his heart, so he wants to protect it.

“This is just the way I was taught to take care of things,” he says.

To see Alewife’s menu , click here.

-Meg Walburn Viviano