Smith worked as a server at Buckhead's long enough to get some pointers on front-of-house finesse. He has stepped into his new role at the taco palace with hopes of turning it into a San Diego-style taqueria with a very long weekend shift, Fridays from 10 a.m. until Sundays at 9 p.m.
Who will come out for burritos at 5 a.m.? Maybe anyone who's sick of Waffle House and 3rd Street Diner.
Biggest local restaurant dilemma: how to steer customers away from the chain-feeding operations at the malls and into the smaller places that are mostly chef-owned or family-run.
There's probably no local dining spot that hasn't been stung by the competition of Short Pump and Stony Point. But local restaurateurs are hanging in and rolling out a slate of new places this fall. Here's what's opening soon:
Sensi, from the owners of Franco's Ristorante, will aim to "allure the senses" in a big way at 2222 E. Cary St. in Tobacco Row. Opening scheduled for the second week in September.
Jacqueomo's. New Orleans flavor with vivid decor and live music some nights; opening in early September at 101 N. 18th St. in Shockoe Bottom.
Cha Cha's Cantina, with queso flamedos and pulled pork tacos, at 1419 E. Cary St. in Shockoe Slip; will open daily starting Sept. 15.
Havana '59. Hoped-for opening next week on the anniversary of Gaston; with revamped Cuban favorites in an atmospheric spot facing Shockoe Bottom's Farmers' Market.
Mom's Siam moves into grander quarters one block east to the former Christopher's bar spot at Colonial and Cary in Carytown next month.
Ginger. Dim-sum hip hits Carytown, opening this fall with a wide-ranging Asian menu and an emphasis on small plates.
Table 9, the revamped Park and Meadow spot in the Fan that Kuba Kuba cook George Tarasovic has been readying for months while juggling other restaurant jobs, will open in late fall.
Escabar, with a raw bar, new cuisine and martinis in the former Du Jour near Libbie and Grove, is now "unrecognizable," says owner Paul Leveque. Check out the changes starting in mid-September.
Enoteca Sogno, 2043 W. Broad St. in the Museum District, will offer a wine bar with European cuisine, French and Italian cheeses, and a wide selection of vintages. Opening the first week of September or sooner.
Maldini's, from the owners of Piccola near VCU, will be bringing popular pizza and Italian to Westover Hills. Opening the first week in September, across from O'Toole's on Forest Hill.
Wabi-Sabi, Petersburg's new sushi/steak/fusion club, with live music, gallery and an artfully restored building at 29 Bollingbrook St. downtown, opens in mid-October. www.eatwabisabi.com.
Another half-dozen places are scheduled to open in the Fan and downtown before the winter holidays. Watch this space for details. Deveron Timberlake
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