click to enlarge Ray Chetti, former owner of popular Shockoe Bottom bar Chetti's, concocts one his famous moister-oyster shooters at the Halligan Bar & Grill in the West End.

Ash Daniel

Ray Chetti, former owner of popular Shockoe Bottom bar Chetti's, concocts one his famous moister-oyster shooters at the Halligan Bar & Grill in the West End.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Short Order

RVA Food News: Chetti's Comeback, Hatch peppers + more.

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Chetti's Comeback

If you were a barhopper in the late '80s and '90s, you might recall the popular Shockoe Bottom hangout Chetti's Cow and Clam Tavern. It was famous for its unassuming, fun atmosphere and for a particular type of shooter — the moister oyster — created by owner Ray Chetti.

The drink was a simple affair: Take a freshly shucked oyster, douse it in a house-made sauce and chase it down with two ounces of beer. "People loved them," Chetti says. "If somebody was on a date, we used to make the guy do one to impress his lady."

Chetti's closed its tavern doors for good in late 2000, but its proprietor remained a fixture across Richmond if you knew where to look. Chetti could be found backing the bar at Joe's Inn and at Morton's the Steakhouse for about 10 years.

He'd fallen out of the bartending scene lately after losing his son to cancer. "It took me a while to deal with that," he says. "I didn't think anyone would hire a 67-year-old bartender, even with the reputation."

But hired he was, and by an old Chetti's regular to boot. Fans can see Chetti at the Halligan Bar & Grill in Short Pump, where he's resurrected the moister-oyster shooter at the restaurant's back bar. The formula is practically unchanged, which Chetti says should be a good thing for people who remember the glory days.

"The owner, Shawn Gregory, hung out at Chetti's and drank the moister oyster," Chetti says. "It's a fun thing and it's not expensive. We're selling it for $4. I believe it was just $3.50 back in the day." Look for Chetti to be shucking and pouring at the back bar Fridays through Sundays. 2451 Old Brick Road, Glen Allen. 364-2707. thehalliganbar.com.

Summer Shakeup: Cary Street's Little Mexico has announced a new summer menu. In addition to taco and margarita specials throughout the week, it's experimenting with a few items that may migrate over to the year-round menu. Some standouts include:

• Fresh mango guacamole with jalapeños.

• Tequila-braised short rib empanadas with sweet plantains, chipotle sauce and cilantro crema.

• Blackened mahi mahi tacos with pickled cabbage, roasted tomato and guajillo salsa.

• The hibiscus margarita featuring tequila, fresh lime juice and agua de Jamaica served on the rocks.

Little Mexico, 1328 W. Cary St. 525-4216. littlemexicova.com.

Hatching a plan: Astute watchers may recall food wayfarer Anthony Bourdain heaping praise on the Pepper Pot, a small, spicy restaurant in Hatch, N.M. The area is known for the Hatch Valley, which has the perfect combination of soil conditions to grow Hatch chili peppers, much sought out for their mellow heat and buttery flesh when roasted.

The peppers are somewhat rare at grocers in Virginia, though imitators pop up from time to time. You'll have your chance to snag some of genuine article at area Krogers starting in August, when the grocer plays host to outdoor Hatch chili roasting events.

Look for demonstrations on cooking, handling and storing peppers, alongside specialty prepared foods. The events kick off at the Carytown Kroger on Aug. 15, 16 and 17, move to Kroger Short Pump on Aug. 22, 23 and 24, and finish up at the Staples Mill Kroger on Sept. 5, 6 and 7. Pro tip from Hatch chili evangelists: Buy in bulk because they won't be back for awhile.

Flexing mussels: Roosevelt chef Lee Gregory will compete in the 2014 Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans on Aug. 2. He'll be one of 19 chefs at the event, which promotes sustainable fishing practices. Judges include the James Beard Foundation's Kris Moon, the Culinary Institute of America's Brian West and Barbara Mathias, publisher of Food Arts magazine. Want a reminder of Gregory's seafood prowess? Two standouts at the Roosevelt are scallops with roasted cauliflower, apples and picked raisins in a curry sauce, and catfish in a shell bean and bacon succotash with hominy and a red pepper broth. The Roosevelt, 623 N. 25th St. 658-1935. rooseveltrva.com.

New brew lookout: Center of the Universe Brewing's RVAle is floating around town. It's a small batch Belgian-style that the brewer describes as a "light-bodied beer bursting with citrus and spice." It's the product of the Ashland brewery's Wort Share Competition, which began in February. If you'd like to snag a bottle, check your beer nerd buddy's refrigerator, or contact Center of the Universe. 11293 Air Park Road, Ashland. 368-0299. cotubrewing.com.

Now selling: Tickets for Fire, Flour and Fork, "Richmond's first four-day gathering for the food curious." Featuring 75 events, such as curated menus, an urban state fair and foodie lectures. Highlights include a bevy of famous national chefs: Charleston's Sean Brock, New York's Sarah Simmons and Milwaukee's Justin Carlisle. Hardywood also will play host to the Festival of Hungry Ghosts on Halloween featuring a dine around of Richmond food celebrities. Ticket prices vary by event. Oct. 30 through Nov. 2. fireflourandfork.com.

Early bird tickets also are available for the Richmond Folk Festival's Folk Feast. The lineup has nearly doubled from last year, including emissaries from the Roosevelt, Carena's Jamaican Grill, Lemaire and Metzger Bar and Butchery. Sixteen restaurants will be represented in all. Tickets cost $75 through Aug. 15. The feast is Oct. 7. richmondfolkfestival.org/folkfeast.

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