Gaudiness goes the distance this weekend, with inveterate chef and marketer Patrick Harris unveiling a rig wrapped in flames — the vinyl, photographic kind — at the Maymont Easter picnic March 30. Followers know Harris for his Boka Tako truck fleet, which makes Twitter-fueled stops around town selling fusion tacos. Now Harris has added Grate Pizza, a 1983 step van notable for its eye-catching exterior and changing menu of gourmet fusion pizzas. "It's in line with our food," Harris says of the vehicular visibility. "We've never been afraid to say hey, we have something exciting here."
During the introductory phase, pies will adjust to customer preference, sized between 8 and 10 inches and priced between $6 and $14. Harris wants feedback from buyers about topping combinations, and will start with a limited menu sometimes including fennel rib-eye, duck confit, tuna tartar and braised lamb, along with more standard versions such as marinated mozzarella, tomatoes and Thai basil, and a three-pork, six-cheese number. Find Grate around town and occasionally parked with the taco truck during weekday lunchtime at Ninth and East Cary streets. gratepizza.com.
Now open: Jorge's Cantina in the Fan. Fajitas, tacos and a familiar repertoire of Mexican dishes, along with a full bar, have turned the former Fanhouse at 2526 Floyd Ave. into a very different vision. Owners Jake Crocker and Hayden Fisher teamed with Jose Garcia of the Mexico Restaurant family to create a fanciful and spicy retelling of American history, with a presidential, mustachioed namesake crossing the James. Lunch, dinner and bar daily. 539-3335.
Going out: Feathernesters, a tea room at 6118 Lakeside Ave., is closing the food service part of the business April 28; the home décor shop remains open. Details at feathernesters.com.
New at Secco: Traditional wine lists are out and chalkboards are in at Carytown's popular grapes and small-plates spot, Secco Wine Bar. The change allows more flexibility in wine service and a continually rotating series of options. 2933 W. Cary St. 355-1375. seccowinebar.com.
Eat for a cause: The four links in the Eat Restaurant Partners group are offering menu items to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Richmond; when ordered through May 3, each dish generates $2 for the cause. Osaka Sushi and Steak: spicy tuna with wild salmon and avocado; Wild Ginger: blue orchid martini; Blue Goat: pizza with goat sausage and mozzarella; Fat Dragon: Buddha's backhand cocktail by Steve McKenna. See each restaurant's Facebook page for details on the promotion and a national voting campaign.
Carena's Jamaican Grille: Jerk chicken, angus burger, ribs, oxtails and island specialties in modern cafe with patio; Lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. daily. 7102 Midlothian Turnpike in the Spring Rock Green Shopping Center. 422-5375.
Pearl Raw Bar: New establishment in the former DeLux, with seafood, sandwiches, sliders, salads and spirits; bar with booths and sunroom in back. Lunch and dinner daily, weekend brunch. 2229 W. Main St. 353-2424. pearlrva.com.
Wild Greens & Pig: Sandwich shop features heritage pork barbecue, soups, chips and desserts in a casual setting. Chef Alfredo Macias and owner Lisa Granger focus on local and organic ingredients. Weekdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. 9033 Quioccasin Road. 750-1350.
Homemades by Suzanne: Southern fare at the John Marshall Hotel, 101 N. Fifth St. downtown. Weekday luncheon is $9.85 and includes beverage; hours are 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 775-2323.
As if the jerk chicken, oxtails and conch fritters weren't enough, there are new items on the menu at Carena's Jamaican Grille, which reopened last week. Jerk angus burger, rum-glazed baby back ribs, grilled salmon in coconut sauce and island flavors inaugurate the second edition of the South Side business.
Carena Ives, whose Jamaica House remains an institution in the Fan, weathered a wild ride to get to this point. She opened the Grille with her then-partner, chef Jimmy Sneed, eventually bought him out, then learned that developers wanted to tear the building down. It turned into a pile of rubble, but Ives was willing to wait for a replacement and opened a food truck on the site. Six months later, the café is reinvented with a strikingly new look and larger size. A few familiar touches remain: Murals painted by Happy the Artist, a Sneed restaurant trademark, are back, as well as the spicy dishes and long-stewed meats that made Ives a local favorite in the first place.
Lunch and dinner are served from 11 a.m. daily, and patio dining is available. 7102 Midlothian Turnpike in the Spring Rock Green Shopping Center. 422-5375.
VIP on the lamb: New Zealand's ambassador to the United States, Mike Moore, visited Richmond for an agricultural conference March 7, stopping for lunch at Burger Bach, 10 N. Thompson St. The Carytown business imports New Zealand beef, cheese and beer and pays tribute to the beach and forest bachelor pads favored by Kiwis for getaways. "I love the design," Moore said of the metal-and-wood décor, ordering a lamb burger that he called "delicious, not over-seasoned like lamb often is."
The historian and former prime minister was joined by Burger Bach owner Michael Ripp and new partner Dan Brantingham, who discussed expansion of the franchise. Next up is a Bach in West Broad Village and after that, perhaps Atlanta. "You guys are doing more for New Zealand than I am," Moore joked, promising to try his country's Moa beer and urging Americans to come visit.
Now serving: The Wild Greens & Pig sandwich shop features heritage pork barbecue, soups, chips and desserts in a casual setting near Regency Square. Chef Alfredo Macias and owner Lisa Granger focus on local and organic ingredients. Weekdays 11 a.m.-2 p.m. 9033 Quioccasin Road. 750-1350.
Chefs and farmers invited: As part of next week's TEDxRVA event, Richmond-based MeadWestvaco is sponsoring a meeting to discuss packaging of fresh foods. Designers and scientists will brainstorm with members of the city's food community to develop a "modular, sustainable way to transport fresh produce from farmers' markets to homes and restaurants across RVA," organizers say. The session kicks off March 22 at 10 a.m. and asks the public to share ideas on materials, labeling and other functional issues. newsroom.mwv.com.
Haiku Sushi and Lounge: Coming soon to the former Sensi at 2222 E. Cary St. is a new restaurant from Hai Truong (Osaka Sushi & Steak) and Michael Hinerman, which will feature Truong's recipes, an updated interior and food delivery. Expect an opening by April or sooner.
Rare opening: Buckhead's announces brunch for Easter and Mother's Day at 8510 Patterson Ave. 750-2000. buckheads.com.
John Marshall mealtime: Homemades by Suzanne has opened a new location for southern food at the John Marshall Hotel, 101 N. 5th St. downtown. Weekday luncheon is $9.85 and includes beverage; hours are 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Owner Suzanne Wolstenholme also offers prepared Easter dinners to go and small-batch candy Easter eggs by pre-order. 775-2323.
Price conscious: Downtown's vintage beauty Chez Foushee now offers thrifty Thursdays, weekend dinner specials and Sunday brunch with items such as pan-roasted oysters with savory cornbread crust. 203 N. Foushee St. 648-3225. chezfoushee.com.
Lunch at the Goat: Popular Westhampton gastropub The Blue Goat now serves lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; chef Kevin La Civita introduces a spring menu this week. 5710 Grove Ave. 288-8875. bluegoatva.com.
Closed: Cous Cous, a Moroccan style restaurant and bar at 900 W. Franklin St., announced it will close March 30 after a 7-year run.
Because owner Kendra Feather is a VCU Rams fan, Garnett's Cafe again is rolling out sandwiches in tribute to seniors on the basketball team. Her similar effort in 2011 drew a phone call from VCU athletics officials worried about an NCAA bylaw prohibiting the commercial likeness of student athletes. So she switched to a jersey-number format. The No. 30 is chicken breast on a ciabatta roll; the No. 10 is bacon, hard-boiled egg and avocado on wheat, and No. 34 is roast beef with cheddar and chowchow on toasted rye. Fans will know that those numbers correspond with players Troy Daniels, Darius Theus and David Hinton. Garnett's Cafe is at 2001 Park Ave. 367-7909. garnettscafe.com.
Coach Class: It's a good thing chefs Walter Bundy of Lemaire and Glenn Pruden of the University of Richmond are helping, because coaches Shaka Smart and Chris Mooney have agreed to a cook-off after March madness ends.
They'll meet April 25 on the basketball court at Benedictine College Preparatory for the benefit — and wagers are flying about each guy's culinary skills. Is there anyone who doesn't know that Smart coaches basketball for Virginia Commonwealth University and Mooney for the University of Richmond?
The event is the brainchild of Garth Larcen and the Positive Vibe Cafe, supporting its training mission and giving fans a chance to see who has the better culinary chops. Tickets are $100 and include food and beverages; they're on sale at positivevibecafe.com or at the cafe, 2825 Hathaway Road. 560-9622.
Now serving: Riad Moroccan Grill is open at 8902 W. Broad St. in the former Pasta Luna space; its airy interior features a bar, lounge and dining rooms. Chef Majdouline Gil prepares authentic tagines and kebabs in the $8-$13 range; sandwiches, appetizers and salads are less than $6. Weekday lunch buffet, children's menu, patio. Lunch and dinner daily. 270-0081. riadva.com.
Closed: Bonvenu at 2915 W. Cary St. announced its demise on Facebook last week after a two-year run.
Hot on the heels of the 9,000-strong turnout at the Virginia Wine Expo, it's Love by the Glass month in Virginia. In a statewide tourism promotion, hundreds of restaurants and wine retailers are offering incentives to sample the increasingly robust vine scene.
Among the 300 businesses featured is Richmond's the Roosevelt, the first to offer an all-Virginia wine list. Other local participating restaurants include Amour Wine Bistro, Garnett's, Ipanema Café, Julep's, Lemaire, Melting Pot, Mint, Olio Bistro, Rappahannock, Ruth's Chris, the Boathouse at Rocketts Landing and Boathouse at Sunday Park, the Dining Room at the Berkeley Hotel, two Urban Farmhouse locations and the Wine Loft. See details at virginiawine.org.
Plan ahead: Chefs Paul Elbling, Sean Murphy, John Maher and Joseph Andreoli are the headliners of the fifth annual RVA French Food Festival on April 20 from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. The benefit for the Little Sisters of the Poor includes tastings of French dishes, wine and beer, a Mardi Gras-style parade, live jazz, a Parisian-themed marketplace, games and family activities. 1503 Michaels Road, $2 suggested donation. Rvafrenchfoodfestival.com, 288-6245.
Here's the pitch: Wannabe authors in the food world have a shot to get signed this month. A culinary agency, the Lisa Ekus Group, is looking for writers for a March Madness tournament. Contestants pitch their best culinary nonfiction ideas in food, health, wellness or cooking, by tweeting @sallyekus with #signmesal from March 11-13. Finalists are picked for playoffs and compete for a contract. You can find rules at lisaekus.com.
Pearl Raw Bar: Seafood, snacks and cocktails at the redesigned former DeLux. Patio room and private party space upstairs. Open nightly. 2229 W. Main St. 353-2424. richmondrestaurantgroup.com.
The Naked Onion: Takeout counter for sandwiches, soups and other gourmet fare. Chef-owned, open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 2118 W. Cary St. 972-3339.
Veranda Ristorante: Italian classics in remodeled Midlothian bistro with patio; pastas and signature pizzas in casual setting from longtime restaurateurs. Lunch and dinner daily. 1358 Sycamore Square. 893-3063.
The Savory Grain: Cozy upscale draft house, 24 craft beers, wines, farm-to-table, changing menu from chef Sean Murphy. Dinner and bar nightly except Mondays. 2043 W. Broad St. 592-4000.
Dutch & Co.: Intimate, retro dining room in Church Hill serves meaty entrees and cocktails from chefs Caleb Shriver and Philip Perrow. Dinner Monday through Saturday, 5-10 p.m. at 400 N. 27th St. 643-8824.
Casa del Barco: Tequilas and wide range of Mexican fare in renovated factory beside the Canal Walk. Dinner and bar nightly, lunch Monday-Saturday, Sunday brunch. 320 S. 12th St. 775-2628. casadelbarco.com.
SubRosa Wood Fired Bakery: Artisan breads, coffee and pastry in cozy storefront. Tuesday-Sunday. 620 N. 25th St. 788-7672. subrosabakery.com.