While covering the Trans Am event at Virginia International Raceway, Saturday's schedule provided a little free time. So, I took the opportunity to explore Danville, Virginia.
Danville is steeped in American history. From early white settlements to the Civil War and on to the Civil Rights Movement. It enjoyed growth during the tobacco "boom" and was home to Dan River Mills, a company formed by a merger with Riverside Cotton Mills in 1909.
When you walk around the area now designate Riverwalk your immediately struck by a sense of history. An area that thrived when America and American industry was in full force. I would imagine people thought it would never end.
It's hard not to walk around wondering how it all went wrong. It's a museum in disrepair. You also wonder, why do we do this? You see the power of the river… you think about great thinkers harnessing the power, making things and creating jobs. And of course, the tobacco… big business and big profits. It was all right here.
The highlight of the day was discovering Riverwalk and seeing local businesses reinvesting and turning their attention back to the river. A boardwalk and pathway runs 8.5 miles along the waterfront, highlighting historical spots and old bridges along the way. New businesses are opening and memorial-style town squares are being constructed. There's a wonderful sense of hope.
The "find" of my afternoon was the Golden Leaf Bistro on Craighead St. Located in the heart of the Tobacco Warehouse district, the Golden Leaf is a beautiful example of repurposing old architecture. The interior made good use of the exposed brick and featured natural finished wood with lots of light spilling through the tall windows.
The menu was a nice eclectic mix of American dishes… steak, seafood and a few pastas. My salad was fresh and large. The rolls were warm, served with sweetened (maybe cinnamon) butter. I had the Bronzed Scottish Salmon garnished with creamy 'Smashed Potato' and caramelized onions. I was not disappointed. While they haven't installed an espresso machine yet, the brewed coffee was fresh and hearty.
The service and entire staff were absolutely delightful. Everyone seemed very excited to be participating in the new venture and to be part of the area's revitalization.
I would enjoy this restaurant no matter where it was located. The fact that it is in an area where we race is a bonus. Often we find ourselves left to the standard franchise fare that dots the landscape from coast-to-coast. So finding this just a 20 minute drive from VIR was definitely a treat.
Golden Leaf Bistro
215 Craghead Street
Danville, Virginia 24541
Phone: (434) 791-3191
Fax: (434) 791-3464
Here is a gallery from the day. All images shot with Leica M9 Digital Rangefinder with a Leica Summicron 35mm f/2 lens. Processed using Apple Aperture software.