Jim O'Toole recently opened a new restaurant, Paysanne, a French-American restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Jimmy Sneed's The Frog and the Redneck. So how is it? "It's awesome, that's all you need to know," O'Toole jokes over the phone from his new place.

O'Toole, also a part owner of Acacia in Carytown, did some renovations before he opened, but let's start by saying that the old decor, full of bright lights and paintings by Happy, could hardly have been made worse.

O'Toole started by emphasizing the wood in the place. He installed deep, private booths diners can get lost in, hung enormous fabrics from ceiling to floor to create spaces and got rid of the neon and the mirrors on the columns. All the Happy murals are gone too.

In restaurant terms, he 86ed the cheese.

And the food? "We're like a French-American brasserie," O'Toole says. That means the restaurant is in a class above a cafe but below a bistro. "It's good food but not a stuffy atmosphere," he says, because of course paysanne is French for peasant.

But look sharp when you walk through the door. "When you walk in you feel like you're in the best place in town," O'Toole says. "You feel like you want to stay all night. It's pretty classy." 1421 E. Cary St. 343-3900.

Event watch: Listening to Black 47 and watching burly guys throwing poles and rocks can give you the munchies, so head to a vendor at the Highland Games and Celtic Festival for one or more of the following. The event will offer haggis, Scotch eggs, fish 'n' chips, plus many others. There will also be a vendor called Outback Jack's Australian Roadkill Cafe. That should be interesting, and you can wash it down with some Scottish soda, Saturday and Sunday at the Richmond Raceway Complex.


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