Short Order 

Mind-reading and fair trade coffee.

click to enlarge food41_taza_300.jpg

Morning Roast

It's as if the folks at taZa (which means cup in Spanish) were reading their future customers' minds. They're selling the food-cult favorites: fresh-roasted Blanchard's coffee, Cupertino's bagels, mango, coconut and guava pastries delivered fresh from La Sabrosita Bakery, and offering car-side service to accommodate the traveling java jones. Oh, and there are handcrafted Venezuelan chocolates and s'mores from Kelly Walker, seasonal ice creams in exotic fruit flavors from La Michoacana, and the homespun coziness of a small, neighborhood independent.

TaZa Coffee n CrA"me opened upstairs at 5047 Forest Hill Ave. last week with a red-wall redo to match the gleaming roaster that finishes fair-trade organic beans for the downstairs Blanchard's. TaZa owners Ben Spencer and Don Costello have installed computer and bar tables, soft seating and a children's corner, with local art and a message board coming soon to the walls. Eventually, meeting space in an adjacent conference room will be available for groups and businesses, manager John Cherenzia says. TaZa serves from 6:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 233-8646.

Coming to the Fan: The brick-walled corner cafe that was, in backward order, Plaza Mexico, Cirrus and Dogwood Grille, is about to become Mainstream. Owner Michael Farley introduces the business at 1731 W. Main St. as an affordable American eatery that will open daily for lunch and dinner and weekend brunch — as soon as the paperwork's done. It's the former Long Islander's first restaurant venture after a manufacturing career, so he's walking the tightrope of cautious optimism up a steep city-bureaucracy curve.

Farley and company will serve seafood, steaks, sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads “with no theme,” he says, no fusion, only a target price of less than $14.95 for food that can attract students and neighbors to the 80-seat space with bar. Hiring is in progress, and in a sign of the times a robust 62 applicants have answered Farley's ad on Craigslist for a chef in the just-scrubbed Mainstream kitchen.

Meat as Play: Comfort Restaurant helps Belmont Butchery celebrate its fourth anniversary with a 50-seat, fixed price dinner Oct. 18. Expect unclichAcd meats, Tanya Cauthen says about the menu, which is still coming together and will be posted online. Cauthen's fresh off a judging stint in San Francisco for the Good Food Awards, where she evaluated charcuterie with eminent colleagues tasting 80-some entries. Watch for a “Primal Cuts” book-release party Oct. 12, a break-down-the-pig demo and tasting class at Sur La Table on Nov. 4, and other celebrations featuring Cauthen and company.

Changed: Near Virginia Commonwealth University, in the former Taste of the Far East location, is the new cafe Thai Top Ten at 911 1/2 W. Grace St. 254-8195. Closed Sundays.

Closed: The sports bar Stool Pigeons has ended its run after three years on 15th Street in Shockoe Bottom. Its next-door neighbor, Fish Bowl Bistro, opened last month in the former Relish space.


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