Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Short Order

RVA Food News: Flames 231, Baja's Departure + More.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Chief Executive Danny Taormina and Chief Operating Officer Guiseppe Taormina turn up the heat at Flames 231. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Chief Executive Danny Taormina and Chief Operating Officer Guiseppe Taormina turn up the heat at Flames 231.

Wood-fired pizza is a sure-bet specialty that keeps on coming in Richmond, competition be damned. The newest case in point, Flames 231, is named after a train that got trapped in the collapse of the Church Hill tunnel, not far from the smartly restored warehouse where the business opened in mid-September. Flames 231 may have tragic roots, but with Italian wines and a range of pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and even veal panini, the future seems more hopeful for owner Danny Taormina, who also opened Brunetti's Express in Mechanicsville in June. Lunch at Flames 231 is served Monday through Saturday, with dinner and bar nightly. 423 N. 18th St. 977-1300.

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Baja departure: At Baja Bean Co., one of the Fan's busiest patios, the gig is up after 12 years. The landmark corner building is getting a facelift and the space is being marketed to prospective tenants, while Baja the business (with siblings at Station 2 in Richmond and other Bajas in Charlottesville and Staunton) looks at properties near Virginia Commonwealth University to keep the local watering hole open. (More on the "Save Baja" effort in "Punch Drunk," page 42.)

Chef roulette: Philip Denny, the award-winning chef with "foie gras" tattooed on his knuckles, moves from the former Six Burner to another food-lover's destination, Aziza's on Main.

Grits optional: Tastebuds, one of the North Side's intimate go-to spots for seasonal fare, now serves Sunday brunch from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Choices include wild mushroom bread pudding with poached egg; butternut squash, apple and bacon crepe; pork adobo over root-vegetable hash with fried egg; and potato cakes with smoked salmon. Sandwiches, sliders and sides round out the menu, with most items about $10. 4019 MacArthur Ave. 261-6544. tastebudsamericanbistro.com.

Fair to midway: Even if fried Twinkies are yesterday's news, the State Fair of Virginia has food on the brain, and plenty of opportunities to learn to grow and taste it. Producers of peanuts, honey, pumpkins and all sorts of locally grown produce and livestock are showcased Sept. 28 through Oct. 7 at Meadow Event Park in Doswell. statefairva.org.

Supper club: Chef Carly Herring of C'est Le Vin is the test pilot for a new monthly supper club started by Melissa Krumbein, owner of Kitchen Thyme. Local chefs will present menus that give them a chance to stretch. For the first, Sept. 30, Herring presents a four-course, fine-dining brunch with seatings at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The cost is $45, and includes an alcoholic beverage and tax. A cash bar will be open. Reserve with cash only at Kitchen Thyme, 7801 W. Broad St., or C'est Le Vin, 15 N. 17th St.

Full bird: It's a packed house most weekends in Carver's culinary attraction the Magpie — a gratifying response for chef and owners Owen Lane and his bride, Tiffany Gellner, who risked it all to open the place last year. Midweek business includes a chef's tasting menu on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, in four-, five- and six-course versions. See themagpierva.com for promotions that play to moviegoers, restaurant industry folks and those with inquisitive palates.

Adios pollo: Chicken Mania, the fragrant Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken joint, has closed for good — although owners say they may try another venture in Richmond in the coming months. A pizza restaurant plans to move into the building at 7524 Forest Hill Ave.

Hola Selosa: Mrs. Marshall's Carytown Café has a fresh lime-and-gray look and a new name: Selosa, a boutique deli. Not to fear: sandwich maker Wanda's still there, and so are the toothsome BLTs.

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Have a tip about the Richmond restaurant scene? Send it to shortorder@styleweekly.com.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Short Order

RVA Food News: Belmont Food Shop, wild and wooly nights + more.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 4:00 AM

At Belmont Food Shop, the 1920s-era vibe is carried out in furnishings and music; diners can get a three-course meal with wine for $36. - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • At Belmont Food Shop, the 1920s-era vibe is carried out in furnishings and music; diners can get a three-course meal with wine for $36.

Along the way to opening a restaurant, chef Mike Yavorsky lost a business partner, spent two years wrangling with the city over parking and zoning, and crept along with a boxed-lunch business until he was allowed to serve seated guests. Now he's at the stove of Belmont Food Shop, a five-table speak-easy in a Museum District storefront that opened Sept. 7.

The 1920s building has vintage fixtures and furnishings from Chicago and elsewhere. "We tried to create a place that could have existed on Belmont" in that era, Yavorsky says, "with the same feel and back-to-basics approach." The speak-easy serves new American cuisine in a casual format with a handful of entrees and appetizers on a chalkboard menu, along with wine, beer and cocktails at a small bar.

Goat-cheese ravioli, baked rockfish with eggplant, a crab and avocado appetizer in red pepper sauce and short ribs with spoon bread are the most-ordered dishes so far. Pricing is $8 for appetizers, $20 for entrees and $6 for desserts; diners can choose one of each for $28 and add $8 for short pours of three accompanying wines. "It's a way to try different foods with wine pairings that is a very good deal for $36," Yavorsky says. "Because we're small we say, 'Let's push ourselves a little more.'" That's why Yavorsky makes his own cola and other items for the 22-seat business. Catering for the office lunch crowd keeps the kitchen busy in the off-hours and has sustained the long-delayed start.

Belmont Food Shop serves dinner nightly beginning at 5 p.m. 27 N. Belmont Ave. 358-7467. www.belmontfoodshop.com.

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Wild and woolly: Five chefs, five courses, five wines, and one organizing ingredient — lamb from southern Virginia's Border Spring Farms — give diners a different night out Sept. 25. It's On the Lamb, a dinner featuring Jason Alley (Comfort, Pasture), Joe Sparatta (Heritage), Tucker Yoder (Clifton Inn in Charlottesville), Ian Boden and Tim Bereika (Secco Wine Bar.) For $85 per person, plus tax and tip, the chefs promise to dazzle. The dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. at 2933 W. Cary St. Reserve via email at info@seccowinebar.com.

Fantasy island: Now that chef Todd Manley has assembled a kitchen staff and menu at Eat Oregon Hill, he's off to another big adventure while running his three local restaurants from afar. He's just become an owner and partner at the Beach Side Café in St. Croix, an open-air dining spot next to Sand Castle on the Beach, a boutique hotel in Frederiksted. Manley says it's an opportunity he couldn't refuse. His revamped cafe opens in mid-October, with the beach-loving Manley at the helm and other chefs turning the slightest shade of green.

Road trip: Just in time for the Urbanna Oyster Festival (Nov. 2-3), a new restaurant, Ostra Urbanna, is open. The raw bar and grill has a full menu of steaks, sandwiches and desserts as well as shellfish and other seafood. 250 Virginia St., Urbanna. www.ostraurbanna.com.

Sign of the times: Even the Livewire Lemonade couldn't save Bill's Barbecue, which tried adding cocktails at a few locations to boost business over the past 18 months. On Sunday, the local chain ended its 82-year run by closing the last three of its stores.

More from Chez: New Thursday dinner hours at downtown's Chez Foushee mean room to stretch menu muscles, have some fun and offer Thursday and Friday happy hours, says owner Andrew Hardie. 203 N. Foushee St. 648-3225. www.chezfoushee.com.

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NOW SERVING

Texas de Brazil: Meat-lovers' festival open nightly in new location. Short Pump Town Center. 750-2003. www.texasdebrazil.com.

Richmond on Broad: Breakfast and lunch cafe inside University of Richmond downtown building; flatbread sandwiches, barbecue, soups, salads, seasonal and healthy items. Weekdays 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. 626 E. Broad St. 955-4014. www.richmondonbroad.com.

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Have a tip about the Richmond restaurant scene? Send it to shortorder@styleweekly.com.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Short Order

RVA Food News: Pescado's sea change, Striped Bass Ale + more.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 11, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Lead cook Matthew Guhl, chef Trevor Knotts and sous chef Sean McGee hold on to a new identity at the former Pescados China Street, which transforms into Eat this week. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Lead cook Matthew Guhl, chef Trevor Knotts and sous chef Sean McGee hold on to a new identity at the former Pescados China Street, which transforms into Eat this week.

If there's anyone who understands the value of a fast change-up, it's Todd Manley. He turned an underperforming White Anchovie into Ironfish in the West End, and held steady while Pescados in Midlothian weathered the economy and earned a remodeling during the summer. "We just had a record-breaking month there," Manley says, and things look promising. So it's a calculated risk as Manley reveals a concept and name change at Pescados China Street, an Oregon Hill hotspot that becomes Eat this week.

The new name and menu announce an upscale diner intention, with chefs Trevor Knotts and Sean McGee getting free rein to create. "I'm going to cut these guys loose and let them do their thing," Manley says. That means keeping the fish specials that earned a following, but adding surf and turf burgers, fish and chips salad, inventive desserts and affordable comfort foods dressed up with trendy sauces and stylish presentations. By making the cafe more accessible in price (entrees $10-$15) and menu familiarity, Manley and co-owner Bob Windsor hope to draw more neighbors and students.

A soft opening this week debuts the approach, and happy hour specials combine the best of both worlds. Eat is at 626 China St. 644-3474. eatoregonhill.com.

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Pepicelli's, Not Goliath

To quell for a moment the usual hysteria about new restaurants opening throughout the area, here's a reminder that the mom and pops need love to stay in business. One of the friendliest also claims to sell the best pizza in Hanover County. Whether or not that's true, Pepicelli's in Ashland is serious about ingredients, local pride, sauces made in-house without water, oil, salt or preservatives, and even its photographs. As the menu proclaims: "None of the food products on our menu have been digitally altered or Photoshopped. It's all us. And our food tastes as good as it looks. We guarantee it." Owners Tomas and Lisa Checkosky and family run the business, which is open daily at 208 S. Washington Highway.

Besides 14 specialty pizzas, they serve fried mac and cheese snacks (six for $3.49), subs on rolls or wedges of house-made pizza dough ($8.49), sandwiches named after local figures, seven salads, bread bowl pasta with meatballs ($11) and desserts such as fried cheesecake and apple-streusel pizza. Customers sometimes get a free sample of garlic knots with marinara hot from the kitchen, or a taste of the family-recipe hot sauce. The place is decidedly no-frills but has a small terrace and late-working delivery drivers.

It's the personal touch that separates a small, and striving, business from its corporate competitors, and is a reminder of why some people choose the hospitality industry in the first place. 798-3005. pepicellis.com.

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One for the bay: Devil's Backbone Brewing Co. introduces a new product, Striped Bass Ale, at Conch Republic in Rocketts Landing on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. Proceeds from an informal tasting go to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. How better to support local beer than a riverside drink overlooking the James?

Now serving: Richmond on Broad: Breakfast and lunch cafe inside University of Richmond's downtown building; flatbread sandwiches, barbecue, soups, salads, seasonal and healthy items. Weekdays 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. 626 E. Broad St.

Quiubo Pues Colombian Restaurant: Skirt steak, pork chops, liver and onions, chicken stew, rice and beans and other traditional meals. Lunch and dinner daily. 6346 Midlothian Turnpike. 447-0752.

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Have a tip about the Richmond restaurant scene? Send it to shortorder@styleweekly.com.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Short Order

RVA Food News: New Galley, food comedy, a Cha Cha's revamp + more.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Jeff Killen, center, created a retro-modern interior for Galley, a new restaurant co-owned by chefs Chris DiLauro, left, and Manny Mendez, about to open in Stratford Hills. - ASH DANIEL
  • Ash Daniel
  • Jeff Killen, center, created a retro-modern interior for Galley, a new restaurant co-owned by chefs Chris DiLauro, left, and Manny Mendez, about to open in Stratford Hills.

For many diners, atmosphere is right up there with food and service as a reason to eat out. One of Richmond's busiest atmosphere-makers is Jeff Killian, a designer and carpenter getting noticed for his work at Stella's and the Continental. His newest project is Galley, a casual neighborhood bar and diner owned by Chris DiLauro and Manny Mendez in the former Stratford Grill space at 2805 Hathaway Road.

Killian has installed booths and tables, a decorative metal wall near the window, and an updated but familiar-feeling interior in the once smoke-stained, 50-plus-year-old space. "He's done an absolutely fantastic job," DiLauro says of Killian's finesse, and "he does the whole thing, from design to the build out, really well."

No opening date is set, although artwork is up, the menu is in final-tweak stage, and the bar is poised to get its taps once permits are in place. Both owners are still busy with their first-born businesses — DiLauro cooking soft shells, veal and rockfish at 13-year-old Bacchus, and Mendez at the stove at 14-year-old Kuba Kuba, both in the Fan. As for the South Side's Galley, "we're coming right along," DiLauro says, unfazed by the rash of new restaurants in Richmond. "I think it's great," he says, because competition raises the standard for everyone.

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Comic messengers

In the rarified world of food comedy, two locals are making their mark in video — and perhaps hoping for a springboard to stardom. Karri Peifer, editor at Richmond.com, has taken her self-deprecating act to Amuse and other venues and is part of a state tourism video on local attractions. "Food is naturally fun, and it's ripe for skewering," she says, and "I like taking my ignorance and harnessing it for other people's amusement." A cooking competition video series with local chefs debuts on the site this month, although "it needs to be understood that I can't boil water," Peifer says.

Also making the rounds is Matt Brehony, who works the front of house at Secco Wine Bar and in his spare time makes comedy shorts with Mondial Creative Labs. Send-ups of a Guy Fieri-like television host and a desperate sub-shop owner are drawing attention to Brehony's blog, lifeinsandwichform.wordpress.com.

When he isn't dreaming up comic sketches, Brehony, who worked "the high-end, super-trendy NYC restaurant scene" for mega-owner Jeffrey Chodorow for a few years, has plans for his own place. He's securing financing for a small American pub to be called Knotty Pine, with a rustic-chic interior and an extensive beer list. "Nothing high-concept," he says, "but hopefully hitting all the marks."

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Plastic donuts: Because the city won't allow a larger sign at Dixie Donuts, a string of inflatable pink pastries wafting in the breeze is the newest visibility ploy for this Carytown shop. Open Tuesday-Sunday at 2901 W. Cary St. 359-1119.

Southwestern style: David Bess at Cha Cha's Cantina announces a new chef, Wesley Julian Hill, a new menu and a refurbished interior at the Shockoe watering hole. Look for migas (eggs scrambled with tortilla strips), chilaquiles (tortilla strips simmered in salsa, with eggs and cheese), bison Benedict, rellenos, cowboy mess and other brunch specialties Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. New art, tile floors and patio awnings brighten the 6-year-old business at 1419 E. Cary St. 726-6296. chachascantina.com.

China calling: Chef Ellie Basch, who reviews restaurants for Style and writes the column An Educated Guest for Style Weekly's monthly Belle magazine, has won a scholarship to study Chinese cuisine next month. The Barbara Tropp Memorial Internship offers professionals a cultural exchange and kitchen time with Beijing chefs. Basch praises WCR Richmond, a branch of Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, for offering culinary opportunities such as this one.

Gig is up: Richmond's summer of food-television notoriety is over, with no top prizes but some decent exposure. Chef Gordon Ramsay fired "Hell's Kitchen" competitor Clemenza Caserta after Italian night, giving the Stuzzi co-owner fifth place and a memorable turn as an oft-bleeped and sweat-soaked competitor whom Ramsay loved to bait. Chef Malcolm Mitchell didn't get his own series on "The Next Food Network Star," but got lifelong advice from mentor Bobby Flay; he still hopes to open a restaurant here. And the Black Sheep's battleship CSS Virginia didn't claim the title of Adam Richman's best sandwich in America but gained more affection for the business, which is a film and television crew favorite.

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Have a tip about the Richmond restaurant scene? Send it to shortorder@styleweekly.com.

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