Foodie: Valerie Vanderpool of Zest

This “twisted sister” raises a glass to cocktails with the opening of new bar Twist.

In the mid-1980s, if you had asked Richmond native Valerie Vanderpool if she could picture her future self preparing to add about 90 seats to her (already large) SoBro restaurant, she might have emphatically shaken her head. She probably did that a lot, actually. Following long shifts expediting burgers and such at Dalts Classic American Grill, Vanderpool moonlighted as the lead singer in the ’80s rock band Squeezeplay—all of this after dropping out of Ball State’s musical-theater program.

Knowing her background helps make sense of the Zest experience. The theatrics start with the sherbet-hued ZEST!-branded awning outside and continue with the offerings. Cutely titled sections (“Pick Your Poison” and “Super Happy Endings”) and hashtags earnestly guide you through the 14-page menu. “I have a hard time corralling myself, because I get excited,” says Vanderpool.

That boundless enthusiasm will come in handy as she debuts her cocktail-bar project, Twist Lounge, this month. “It’ll be Zest’s sexy sister next door,” Vanderpool says. “A little Parisian, a little Vegas-y without being cheesy.” Look for low-slung seating, dark hues, sparkly accents, and a cocktail menu with proprietary juice blends and sweet and savory herbs. Vanderpool says to expect a few surprising design elements. Something tells us she wouldn’t have it any other way.


(1) Twisted Sistaz Popcorn: “It’s a special collaboration with my sweet friends from Just Pop In. Lots of flavor layers and so addictive.”

(2) Pinterest: “I know, I know … I should get back to work, but I just can’t help myself!”

(3) Her dogs, Cherry Pie and Chopper: “Every time I arrive home, they act like they’ve hit the doggie jackpot.”

(4) Ambre Blends: “I have my own special mix that turns people into stalkers.”

Vanderpool photo by Tony Valainis

This article appeared in the April 2013 issue.