Now that it's called the Well, all traces of Morocco are gone from the former Cous Cous. What remains is a "completely accessible, affordable restaurant and bar," co-owner Alex Copeland says, with "good drafts, good wine service, and where people can get a sandwich and fries for $10 and leave stuffed."
Chef Jacob Goff is serving a format called new rustic cuisine, with items as diverse as a smoked-trout-and-pickle plate, a tempeh Reuben or a burger, with entrees topping out at $14 for pan-seared flounder.
An aesthetic change-up gives the space a larger bar, more booths, a rustic, recycled wood motif and artwork from Chris Milk Hulburt. A jukebox and sofa in the alcove add some coziness to the historic apartment building. The 48-seat redesign represents a collective effort to change identities, Copeland says; former partner John Yamashita of Sticky Rice no longer is associated. The Well opens daily except Sunday at 900 W. Franklin St. 358-9355.
Chef rotation: Ryan Baldwin has left Accanto in the West End after about a year in business; co-owner Peppino Mastromano is taking over and has a new menu with Italian and comfort-food dishes, serving dinner Monday-Saturday at 10478 Ridgefield Parkway. Chef Matthew Tlusty has moved to a consulting role at Arcadia at 1700 E. Main St. Moving to head chef is chef Nicolai Creatore (Millie's, Boathouse, Balliceaux); chef Jen Mindell left Avalon recently to return to her Rooster Cart vegan food truck business.
Canal water: As if the F.W. Sullivan's empire hasn't grown fast enough, co-owner Jake Crocker says a new location in the former BlackFinn Saloon at 1001 Haxall Point in the Troutman Sanders building is set to open by early July. "I was impressed by how little it needed," Crocker says of the fully equipped space, which shuttered last year, leaving liquor bottles on the shelves. "Opportunity keeps knocking. We're not sitting on a tremendous amount of personal resources," Crocker says of the partnership with lawyer Hayden Fisher and others, "but more opportunities keep finding their way to us." Crocker still tends bar a couple of nights a week, saying: "Nobody's getting rich on this. We've sacrificed to continue this long term."
So far the partners have opened five businesses in the past four years, with Jorge's Cantina recently unveiled in the Fan and the Sullivan's theme continuing at the new canal-side spot. It will have free parking, patio space, and 7,300 square feet of booths, bar and party rooms. It will open for lunch, dinner and bar hours daily.
Readers of a recent Crocker rant on reddit.com wondered if the owner was having a public meltdown in fighting online haters. "I'm definitely feeling it," he says of the stress, "but I love the conversations you have in this business, and want us to be the social centers of the community. Richmond is in the midst of a revolution right now, and we're very excited we can be a part of it."
Thai tasting: To celebrate its 20th year in business, Beauregard's Thai Room presents a menu tasting May 29, 6-8 p.m., with meat-based or vegetarian options. A $10 reservation gets three dinner and two dessert samples; cocktail specials will be additional. Reserve at 644-2328. The Thai Room's patio is among the city's most appealing. 103 E. Cary St. thairoom.com.
Downtown destination: In a menu departure worth noting, the new lineup of boxed lunches at Citizen downtown gets into flavors not usually found on the chicken salad circuit. Options include butternut squash with curry cashew butter on focaccia, beef brisket with carrot daikon salad, and sides such as blanched citrus beets and celery root slaw. Chef Greg Johnson's weekday breakfast and lunch spot in the Mutual Building also has a Moroccan turkey meatball sandwich, scrambled egg sliders, and soups with house-made crackers, among other temptations in the tiny space. Expect some witty banter at the counter and a full view of the kitchen at 909 E. Main St. on the lower level. On nice days, the cafe's terrace level dining is a prized escape for downtown workers. 780-9038. citizenrva.com.
New food court: Look for the West End Foodie Court at All Saints Episcopal Church, 8787 River Road near Parham, on the fourth Wednesday of each month, 5:30-8:30 p.m. through September.
Go veg: Next month the Richmond Vegetarian Festival returns for its 11th annual event, June 15, from noon-6 p.m. in the azalea gardens at Bryan Park. You can find details about this popular, community-focused gathering at veggiefest.org.
Coming: Southern Railway Taphouse is about to open at 111 Virginia St. in Shockoe Slip.
Closed: Major Willy Mayo's at 115 S. 15th St. closed last week. It replaced Stool Pigeons, which closed last year, and went through some name changes along the way.
Eat up: Broad Appetit, one of the city's most significant food events, is June 2, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. downtown. See broadappetit.com for details.
Now serving: Mellow Mushroom, a national chain, is open daily for pizzas, sandwiches and beer. A mod cafe in the former Plan 9 Records space in Carytown at 3012 W. Cary St. 370-8210. mellowmushroom.com.
Not quite open: Sugar Shack Donuts announces its grand opening party June 8 at 1001 N. Lombardy St. Delays in city permits have stalled the business, which was to have opened weeks — or months — ago.
Start-ups are nothing new to chefs Ian Kelley and Casey Ward. They ran a restaurant together (Old City Bar), launched a line of microbrews (Kelvin Brewing Co.) years before the current beer craze, and this week they're opening Sugar Shack Donuts, the first in a planned series of shops.
The rustic wood-detailed business at 1001 N. Lombardy St. is across from Maggie L. Walker Governor's School, where Kelley coaches girls' soccer. Students there are getting a specialty doughnut, a 2-foot-long braided tiger tail "that two or three people could eat together," Kelley says.
Sugar Shack's business plan has been coming together for a couple of years, and almost got a Carytown location until Dixie Donuts landed there. Now, in the Carver neighborhood space, it will offer a couple dozen flavors, some gluten-free options, house-roasted coffee, Boylan sodas and eventually specialty cheesecakes and other items.
Recent taste trials of Guinness bagels and vegan soy chai doughnuts reminded the chefs — who have fine-dining backgrounds from here to Colorado — that they love experimenting with flavors and want to offer Richmond something different. "We're just trying to have a little fun with it," Kelley says, "and offer unique, off-the-wall things." Their motto — handmade, hand-cut, hand-dipped — indicates the level of daily involvement, starting with a 3:30 a.m. baking time. A late-night take-out window and patio seating are planned.
Ward, who studied chemistry, says they're "food nerds who thrive on pressure situations. It's been a long time coming, but I think Richmond is ready for this — we've been hearing a lot of clamoring." Sugar Shack is open weekdays from 6 a.m., weekends from 8 a.m. 278-5900.
Green Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant: Family-run business with healthy focus. Spring rolls, pot stickers, pho, salads, meatless entrees with Asian flavors. Lunch Tuesday-Sunday, dinner Tuesday-Saturday. 8900 W. Broad St. 527-2268. greenleafva.com.
Rye guy: TJ's Restaurant in the Jefferson Hotel presents a charity beer dinner May 17 to benefit the Whole Planet Foundation. Guest host Greg Self from Whole Foods and TJ's chef Patrick Ehemann will pair seasonal cuisine with five rye beers. The meal starts with a dirty martini salad, includes quail and venison, and costs $55 per person. Reservations are required, 649-4672.
Fan brunch: Metro Grill is now serving Saturday brunch with a hearty menu of egg dishes, shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy. 301 N. Robinson St. 353-4453. metrogrillrichmond.com.
That tantalizing smoke wafting over western Henrico County signals that Paul Hubbard is back on home turf, bringing what he’s learned in the past 10 years to his solo project, Deep Run Roadhouse. The place opened six weeks ago at 12379 Gayton Road, and it’s becoming an obsession among fans of Hubbard’s cooking, honed most recently as founding co-owner of Alamo BBQ in Church Hill.
Kitchen stints at Richmond standouts Franco’s, Sensi, Chez Max and Tarrant’s Cafe also give Hubbard a working knowledge of the business and a philosophy that’s straightforward: “Don’t put your ego on a plate” and “You’re not smarter than the food you cook.” But mainly, he says, “I want to cook for the 99 percent [not elitist eaters] and give them the same attention to detail” as fine dining.
Hubbard’s barbecue, Tex Mex and Southern comfort foods are all made from scratch. Texas caviar, jalapeño mac and cheese, cowboy beans and collards will remind Alamo lovers of that outpost’s favorite sides. Bison burgers, tacos, blackened or fried fish of the day, train-wreck burritos and fresh pies augment a ribs, chops and barbecue lineup; the beef brisket is Hubbard’s personal favorite. With sandwiches priced from $5-$7 and combo platters starting at $10, the counter-service business is filled with manly eaters at lunchtime and families at dinner. Weekends “are all out mayhem,” Hubbard says, with business surpassing early goals.
An ABC application is in progress and the business may expand into adjacent space to allow for parties, a lounge and overflow seating. Back in the neighborhood where he grew up, Hubbard says “it’s been a constant high-school reunion” for Godwin alums, and a solid homecoming for the barbecue king. 750-6301. deeprunroadhouse.com.
In the house: Dogs of a dozen breeds get the vanity treatment at a five-week-old business, Unleashed Gourmet Hot Dogs, at 515 N. Harrison St. Besides offering signature hot dogs as wide-ranging as the poodle (chicken sausage, capers and onion lecho) and Pekingese (stir fried vegetables with hoisin), owner Galina Vaytser and crew make their own chicken and lamb sausage, and stuffed dinner rolls in chicken and cabbage versions, a pair for $2. They make corn muffins and the Italian bread used for hot dog buns as well as side salads and desserts. The 15-seat spot has an ABC application in progress. Discounts to cops and military personnel, delivery to the neighborhood coming soon and a dedicated staff of dog lovers gives this place some personality at a combo meal price of less than $6. 213-0827. unleashedhotdog.com.
Last leg: A sorrowful ending in Westover Hills reminds diners how rough the food business can be. Fried chicken and other Southern foods at Dixie Chicken won raves from neighbors but couldn’t catch enough momentum to sustain the business. Fans mourned the takeout spot’s finale both online and off last week.
Ten years in: Julep’s New Southern Cuisine marks its 10th anniversary with an all-out feast from chef Randall Doetzer, paired with Barboursville wines on May 20. The five-course dinner moves from fish to wild boar with a surprise vintage and other prime pairings. Seating is at 6 p.m., and the $125.10 per person fee includes all. Reservations are required at 377-3968. Julep’s is in Shockoe Bottom at 1719-21 E. Franklin St. in one of the city’s oldest buildings, and Amy Cabaniss is the owner. juleps.net.
Swarming for shawarma: The Lebanese Food Festival is among the city’s tastiest traditions, and organizers expect some 20,000 guests this year. They come for kebabs, falafel, pastries and more traditional dishes May 17-19 on the grounds of St. Anthony’s Maronite Catholic Church at 4611 Sadler Road in Short Pump. Details and directions at stanthonymaronitechurch.org.