When the reboot of Lucky Buddha, Society opens in Shockoe this week, its triple phase shift starts with power lunches and ends with barmaids wearing custom corsets. In-between is dinner in medium to massive portions with moderately priced wines.
After 9 p.m., the American bistro gives way to Society Social Club, redressed with lighting and house lounge music from co-owner and DJ Matt Busch. If the corsets are a distraction, plaid shirts and vests cover the bar males, servers wear black dresses, and cocktails include the Gatsby lemonade with Ketel One, thyme and muddled strawberry. Guests who order VIP treatment are promised full attention, co-owner David Bess says. "The staff is really what makes your establishment," he says, and table hosts will be waiting with drinks upon arrival.
Society is "expanding what is offered downtown," Bess says. "It's definitely going to have a wow factor, where you can walk away having an experience." The interior design by Helen Reed uses purple and metallic tones. Its 125 seats are mostly at banquettes, with 20 at the bar.
Of the menu items from executive chef Justin Cropper and sous chef Ian Merryman, the stunner is a 40-ounce Tomahawk rib-eye with patatas bravas (Spanish potatoes) and cider-braised collards for $49. Other dishes range from $14-$29, with chicken thighs on fontina polenta, tuna with lavender and fennel, sea bass with couscous and squash salad and 12 ounces of pork belly over white cheddar grits. Weekday lunches — mostly deli sandwiches and burgers — come in "huge portions that will be our selling point," says restaurant director Chris Sollom, whose title indicates the group's intention to expand this prototype into other Virginia cities.
Next door at sibling bar Cha Cha's Cantina, a menu switch and redecoration are about to begin, but a name change has been nixed. The Cha Cha's identity locked in after regular visits from Washington Redskins players, who showed up solo and in groups throughout their local stay this month. Bess hopes to see them again next year and was pleased that other customers "didn't bombard them" but were glad to hang nearby.
Society is at 1421 E. Cary St. and opens for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and late-night lounge Wednesday through Saturday. 648-5100. societyrva.com.
Eat this now: Flavor of the week is the smoked bacon chocolate pie with caramel ice cream at Benny's BBQ. The business is celebrating its 20th year and worlking with a neighbor in the Stony Point Shopping Center, Gelati Celesti, for this dessert combo. Benny's owner Richard Cacciotti says moving from Stratford Hills to its new location two years ago took a toll on business, but that his support of local products and people hasn't wavered. "We still have the best all naturally smoked barbecue hand-chopped to order in front of the customers, our delicious homemade sauces, side dishes and desserts and best of all a warm, home-style atmosphere," he says, which includes longtime servers. Cacciotti is attempting to "bring back some fun to Bon Air instead of customers having to go downtown" for a local show, he says. Jazz band Rumble Fest Revival is booked for an Oct. 4 return after a full house at its recent appearance. 3044 Stony Point Road. 320-7447. bennysbbqva.com.
Coming soon: The Pig and Pearl, a "pork-forward" restaurant from Washington-based chef Rich Gunter, is filling the Republic spot at 2053 W. Broad St. Its Facebook page defines the independent concept as "a modern Southern-influenced bistro featuring an oyster bar and a domestic whiskey bar operated by rogue and seasoned veterans passionate about barbecue and excited about the idea of using domestic products." Pig pickings, oyster roasts and fish fries are on the agenda, and hiring is in progress.
From reader OneWayRichmond: "Parkside Cafe was in Reedy Creek (Woodland Heights) not Westover Hills you dingbat."
At Acacia Mid-Town, the "fin de soiree" evening bar food promotion does not include special pricing on beverages. Style's error resulted in some "unfortunate customer service issues," according to a staff member, and is regrettable.
Water Grill has a new name, Water Coastal Kitchen, to resolve a trademark problem with a business in Los Angeles. It's at 3411 W. Cary St. 353-3411. watercoastalkitchen.com.
Decorative Middle Eastern hideaway the Phoenician at 4401 W. Broad St. is closed and will become an Italian restaurant, Al Dente, from the same owner, Naji Kadi. It's expected to open this fall.
Johnson's Southern Comfort closed last week in Church Hill. Renovation of the building, a former coffeehouse, lasted far longer than the restaurant's run. A new tenant is being sought for the space at 2306 Jefferson Ave.
The setting is a knockout with a soft punch. Estilo, the just-opened South American restaurant in the Village Shopping Center, combines a personal journey and a ripe cuisine, and makes a dramatic entrance into that neighborhood’s dining scene this week. Owners Jessica and Josh Bufford, self-acknowledged theater kids who met while doing the play “Crazy for You,” know how to stage a scene and please people. They’re doing it nightly with Toast, the 1-year-old gastropub a few doors down in the same shopping center.
Estilo is a sophisticated sibling with sparkling light effects, authentic, Latin-American flavors, and a staff that understands hospitality. Jessica Bufford has promoted some of Toast’s top staffers: Bar manager Dominic Prudente moves up to general manager at Estilo, and sous chef Craig Smith moves up and over. His menu presents foods the Buffords savored while traveling recently in Peru, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Street food includes sopes (griddled corn cakes), picadillo (stuffed calamari), chifrijo (pork with salsa and beans) and a dozen more. New Norwegian rotisserie units will spin duck, chicken, pork and beef, with room for vegetables and fish and a changing array of possibilities.
Other dishes include mofungo (mashed plantains with spices and seafood), duck confit pozole, a stew with a signature duck-skin garnish, and quinoa, seafood, salads and seasonal entrees. “We adore this food,” Josh Bufford says, “and we found that the things that were colorful there were the flowers and the food.” They’ll use white plates to show it off, and a beverage list to complement it — including a rarity at the bar, more taps for wine than beer. Bottles are all from the Southern Hemisphere, mostly less than $30, and a cocktail list mixes classics and originals.
A poured-concrete bar is the focal point at the business, which has a roomy, booth-filled interior, side patio, seating for 150 and universal access. Joseph DeLeon was lead carpenter for the project, fresh off work at En Su Boca and Toast, and transformed the previous tenant, Bocca Toscano, into an airy eye-catcher enhanced by mosaics, mirrors and artwork.
Estilo serves dinner nightly and will add lunch hours after Labor Day. “We like being reliable and being open,” Jessica Bufford says of the schedule, hoping to appeal to neighbors, faculty at University of Richmond, and professionals looking for something different. 7021 Three Chopt Road. estilorichmond.com.
Staff up: Brian Munford, owner of now-closed Parkside Café in Westover Hills, is new general manager at Wild Ginger in Chesterfield County. In other Eat Restaurant Partners news, a new restaurant project in the Fan is about to be finalized; details are being kept quiet for now. Chef Frank Norton’s new menu at the Blue Goat brings yet more burgers, sandwiches and pizzas to Westhampton, on a block rife with American food homogeneity. The Goat’s former Euro-influenced chef, Kevin LaCivita, is preparing to open his own space elsewhere.
Closed: Eat by Pescados China Street has closed, and the partnership between owners Todd Manley and Bob Windsor has dissolved, with each focusing on his respective venture at Pescados in Midlothian and Boo’s Brown Bag in the Fan. The Oregon Hill business, one of the city’s emerging seafood hot spots when it opened three years ago, re-branded last year with mixed success. It’s for sale or lease.
Also in transition, the former Peacock’s Pantry is available at 1731 W. Main St. after a series of short-lived occupants. And a new plan is in the works at the former Republic at 2053 W. Broad St., which closed earlier this year.
Sub Rosa update: After some delays, construction has begun at Sub Rosa Wood-fired Bakery in Church Hill, which was damaged by fire earlier this year. Owner Evrim Dogu says the earliest reopening date for the popular new business will be October. Crowd-sourcing and benefits helped the owners and building tenants land on their feet.
It's all systems go at the city's newest pub, Southern Railway Taphouse, opening by mid-August at 111 Virginia St. "Things are going really well," says general manager Roland West, who's opening the taphouse for owners Hani Atallah and Chris Farag, brothers who also own Off the Hookah on the same block.
But the businesses are entirely different, West says — "and this is no nightclub at all, it's work-force-focused. I hope that everybody around here gets off work, comes here for drinks and food and winds it down from there — a mellow and fun place hitting a different market" than the club scene at Hookah.
The taphouse will have 40 craft brews on draft and "food we're comfortable with, done in different ways," West says. Chef Ed Blase is experimenting with cheese-stuffed, fried meatballs as appetizers and a range of beer-compatible burgers and bar bites.
The long building, formerly Southern Railway Deli, has new walls to separate spaces into two bars with a mix of booths, high-top tables and garage-door windows opening to a spacious patio above the Canal Walk. The business will open at 3 p.m. daily with weekend brunch. In a few months, a late-night express cafe at one end of the building will open, selling pizza and snacks to the post-club crowd.
For now, the taphouse staff is hired, the draft systems are in, permits are nearly complete, and West sees plenty of curious bystanders and worker bees watching while the paper comes off the windows at 14th and Canal. srtaphouse.com.
Taste testing: Some companies do golf outings or rope courses for team building, and some compete over food and how best to present it. For the staff at catering company Mosaic Edibles, a training conference last week started with a sandwich throw down and moved to restaurant-concept wars. Teams came up with pitches for new projects — a food festival, a benefit bash, a wine dinner and a brew pub among them — and presented them to the group, bosses and judges in "Shark Tank" fashion. At least one will become a reality when Hardware, a new restaurant in downtown Charleston, S.C., opens next year. Others concepts are under consideration.
And in a departure from its usual format, Mosaic now operates an express cafe at the Colonial Shooting Academy, 6020 W. Broad St., with grab-and-go items and coffee served daily from 9 a.m. Its restaurant, in the River Road Shopping Center, has sister businesses in Suffolk and Charleston. The company plans to move into new quarters at the C.P. Dean building on Cutshaw Avenue later this month, with plans to expand its nationally honored catering operation — hence the search for team talent.
Burnt offering: A flickering candle on the restaurant table is a nice touch, but here it comes at a price. As Secco Wine Bar, owner Julia Battaglini discovered and tweeted last week that burning candles requires a $40 yearly permit from the city fire marshal — leaving owners to deal with yet another levy, this time on lumens and loveliness.
Craft on draft: Expect no less than an event every day during August, which is craft beer month and an excellent excuse for local businesses to dream up promotions. Find a list of tap takeovers, beer dinners, concerts and food truck events online at rvabeermeister.com on the calendar page.
Brew Gastropub with local foods focus, burgers and appetizers to seasonal specials, craft beer, refined setting with patio. Lunch, dinner and bar hours Monday through Saturday, and brunch Sunday. At 6525 Centralia Road in the Chesterfield Meadows Shopping Center. 454-0605. brewgastropub.com.
Mint Gastropub Chef Malcolm Mitchell presents eclectic comfort food, spicy wings, short ribs, chops, fish and chips. Dinner and bar nightly, weekend brunch. 2501 W. Main St. 359-9690. mintrichmond.com.
En Su Boca Taqueria with chef Eric Stangerone's California take on Mexican street food, burritos, nachos, churros and cervezas. Open nightly. 1001 N. Boulevard.
The Daily Kitchen & Bar Natural foods, gluten-free and vegan options, wide menu of California cuisine in modern setting. Full bar, patio, dinner nightly with expanded hours coming. 2934 W. Cary St. 342-8990. thedailykitchenandbar.com.
The Viceroy Rustic contemporary food, appetizers and sandwiches, seasonal entrees and desserts with creative twists from chef Ryan Baldwin. Craft beer, full bar. Lunch weekdays and dinner nightly, weekend brunch starts in August. 600 N. Sheppard St. 342-7696. viceroyrichmond.com.
304 Pizza Bar New name for new business, formerly Michael's Pies and Pints, calzones, burgers, pies and drafts. Lunch, dinner and bar daily. 304 N. Robinson St. 355-3867.
The Blue Goat Relaunched Westhampton favorite reopens this week with chef Frank Norton and a classic American menu, steaks and burgers, bar and patio. 5710 Grove Ave. 288-8875. Bluegoatva.com.