Recently reviewed 

Cafe Bella and Paragon Pharmacy

Other than the artichoke pie ($14), an inventive layering of roasted red peppers, goat cheese, spinach and herbed ricotta in a homemade pastry crust, our entrees failed to inspire. The braised lamb shank over white beans was cooked to exhaustion, and the roasted half duck ($16) was crispy, rubbery and accompanied with cinnamoned carrots instead of the advertised fennel (a selling point). An equally disappointing array of desserts ($3-$5) closed out our meal.

Still, some of the side dishes promise a brighter future. If the management will allow the chef latitude to move in a direction well known to him — that is, New Orleans-inspired Cajun — and 86 the potato salad, Cafe Bella should have potential.

— Gideon K. Pollach and Patrick Getlein

1223 Bellevue Ave.


Monday - Saturday dinner 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; bar munchies Friday Saturday from 10 p.m.-11 p.m., bar open until 11:30 p.m.

Paragon Pharmacy ($)

Weathered dark edges ring the spacious room and furnishings, and customers can sidle up to tall wooden swivel stools with finish-worn patches. You can see history ooze from every crack in the scuffed floor tiles.

Quietude prevails, and like the food, provides a satisfying alternative to the "dazzle me" attitude of many contemporary eateries. Conversations among a few regulars, the whir of antique ceiling fans and refrigerators, and the occasional sizzle of the grill provide the only background noise.

The menu — a short list of about 10 simple cold or grilled items, mostly sandwiches — hangs on the wall behind the counter. Prices range from a $1 hot dog to a $3.25 club sandwich. The portion sizes and quality hark back to the ideals of the era immortalized in the décor. You'll get your money's worth.

I sampled the chicken salad on white toast ($1.95) and discovered chunks of tender white and dark chicken coated in rich mayonnaise, topped with fresh lettuce and tomato, and piled generously between two slices of warm white toast.

Paragon Pharmacy is one of Richmond's hidden treasures. If you don't slow down and take a close look, you could miss it. But when you find it, you'll never forget it.- Sarah Gregory801 W. Cary St.

644-3651 or 643-3797

Lunch: Monday - Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.


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