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The Best Chefs of the Year: Brenner Pass


The focus is on the Alps at Brenner Pass in Richmond, Va. From tartiflette with bacon and Delice du Jura to shoestring fries with fondue and cornichons to a gratin that’s gooey with Gruyère, almost every dish on the menu adds cheese to the mix.  

That’s with good reason, says Joshua Franklin, who leads the restaurant’s cheese program: “The Alps have some of the best cheeses on the planet, so we get a lot of goodness to play with.” Cheese lovers, you need to make this a pit stop on your next trip down South. Here’s why: 

Spinach and Ricotta Agnoletti

Lots of options. 

Choose cheese as part of small plates, pastas, or family-style dishes, or take your pick from a dozen different wedges. “Cheese is so ingrained in day-to-day eating in these European countries,” says Franklin—the menu reflects that.  

It’s true to its roots. 

At Brenner Pass, expect to find exclusively French, Swiss, and Italian cheeses. “If something special comes along that has a fun story and is from the Alps, we’ll find a way to get in on the cart or the menu,” Franklin says. 

They form strong regional relationships. 

The team works directly with nearby producers like Esmont-based Caromont Farms and collaborates with local entrepreneurs: “Maggie Bradshaw [of the Richmond pop-up Truckle Cheesemongers] makes the drive to Ripe Specialty in D.C. for us and herself. Without [her], we wouldn’t be able to get some of the better cheeses we have in the case.” 

Brenner Pass chef and owner Brittanny Anderson (left) and executive pastry chef and owner Olivia Wilson.

There’s fondue.

Try it the classic way—paired with house-made sourdough bread, fingerling potatoes, cornichons, and speck—or get irreverent with a fondue-topped burger. 

 And there’s more next door. 

For European eats earlier in the day, head to the adjoining space Chairlift. Find pastries, sandwiches, and locally roasted coffee, plus a cut-to-order counter that offers up American classics and fun Spanish wheels alongside those Alpine charmers. Once a month, the space fills up for a can’t-miss Raclette Night.  

Bettina Makalintal

Bettina Makalintal is culture's former editorial assistant. With a background in the food industry and as a bike mechanic, she can often be found biking in search of new donut shops.

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