Side Dish 

Lounge Out, Buddha InTo get a piece of downtown's lunchtime business, the former Lucky Lounge has a new look, a new menu and a new concept. Lucky Buddha at 1421 E. Cary St. is the latest incarnation of Lucky Lounge, still owned by Michelle Williams and the Richmond Restaurant Group, and now serving lunch on weekdays and dinner every night but Sunday. Noodle bowls and Asian barbecue appetizers made of braised pork belly, as well as crispy tuna rolls and sake martinis, stir up the Asian-American theme.

Meanwhile, work continues on the group's next restaurant in the former Southern Culture space in the Fan. Look for the installation of large windows along Strawberry Street to show off the dramatically altered interior. Williams hopes that opening will happen in early 2007.

Steaming Plate of Comp for Verlander The World Series may be over, but the Justin Verlander burger remains on the menu at Grandpa Eddie's Alabama Ribs & BBQ out in Goochland, the home county of the Detroit Tigers pitcher. Verlander hasn't yet tasted the Angus burger topped with beef brisket and cheddar, but he can count on getting a platter or two when he returns to his home turf for some R&R.

Restaurant owner Carey Friedman, an attorney who switched careers last year to become Goochland's barbecue king, celebrates the café's first anniversary throughout November with $2 weekly specials on beer, wings or the now-legendary peanut-butter pie.

Dancing With the ChefsDave Moore, former owner of Fan French bistro Racine, sold that place and is now executive chef at Franco's Ristorante in the West End, where his work is winning high praise from owner Paulo Randazzo.

Over at Pasta Luna, Chef Clemenza Caserta, formerly of New York City's Tribeca Grill and Nobu, has joined the local family-owned Italian restaurant and created new fall and winter menus for both locations.

Helen's also has a new chef, Shaun Watts, who has added new, moderately priced entrees to the seasonal menu.

Last Call for Suckling Pigs announces its Fall Meat Tasting Nov. 12 from 1 to 6 p.m. Chef Jason Alley of Comfort will prepare a heritage Tamworth suckling pig; chili and other dishes made with the farm's grass-fed beef will be served. 8205 James Madison Highway, Gordonsville. (540) 967-5632.

Now Serving: Pub Grub, Soul Food and Pakistani Fare

Popkin Tavern is open at 123 W. Broad St. The former furniture store keeps its roots in view from logo to décor — as comfy as home but with table and bar service. Wings, sandwiches, hummus, burgers, pizza, sirloin, salads, martinis and classic cocktails. Lunch weekdays, dinner nightly, closed Sundays.

Sandy's Restaurant and Lounge at 2424 North Ave. is open for dinner nightly, seating 48 people in a white-tablecloth setting where "everything is original and a good value," says Chef Jeff Waddell, a longtime corporate executive chef and now a first-time restaurant owner. Chicken and waffles, oxtails, jerk chicken and other down-home dishes are on the menu. 329-7263.

Kabab Grille is one of the rare independent dining spots in Midlothian, serving Halal Pakastani cuisine near Chesterfield Towne Center. Although its Web site promises a culturally decadent atmosphere, the Grille is actually a no-frills diner serving gyros, kababs, samosas, karahi, fresh tandoori naan and vegetarian specials. On weekends the menu adds spicy beef curry, chicken and lamb biryani, halwa puri and other dishes. 1580-B West Koger Center Blvd.

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