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Never has North Side looked so good from a culinary perspective.

The stalwarts remain, like Dot's Back Inn (doing fine under new ownership) and music-happy Shenanigans, the new Tastebuds dine-in section and the magnetic Stir Crazy coffee shop. Bella Arte adds its rather stream-of-consciousness flavor; Zed Café offers healthy fare to the neighborhood; tearooms at Feathernesters and Lewis Ginter are charming counterpoints to the robust carnivore scene, notably Roy's Big Burger; and there's still more to come.

Neighbors are anticipating the opening of Northside Grille in a former hardware store at 215-217 Bellevue Ave. later this spring. Construction is well under way, and some familiar faces are running the show.

Sisters Shanan Chambers and Teresa Delmendo are opening the new venture; Delmendo is a social worker whose bartending experience at Melito's and City Limit, among other places, gives her a solid following. Chambers worked tables at Sidewalk Café, where she worked with cook Bill Fritts, who will now run the Northside Grille kitchen.

The space will have 120 seats and a patio, with a custom-built bar and booths by local craftsman Craig Mattoon and the hands-on attention of John Delmendo, fresh out of retirement to assist his daughters in bringing the 1920s-era building up to standard. "It was just four walls and a cement floor when we got it," Chambers says, "and the patio was waist-high in weeds and trash."

All that's changing so that the restaurant can offer a family-friendly menu of salads, sandwiches, daily specials, burgers, pastas and especially the fish tacos that Chambers has come to love from her trips to Costa Rica. The famous hummus plate appetizer that has been a Sidewalk staple for years will also follow.

But there's no rivalry between Johnny Giavos, Sidewalk's owner, and this group. He and wife, Katrina, are godparents to Chambers' children, Katherine and Dean, and are set to open their own North Side eatery, Kitchen 64, any day now. It will bring the neighborhood one more much-anticipated place for brunch, lunch and dinner with the family.



Plan to attend the Asian Food Festival April 28 from noon until 6 p.m. It's not so much about the food, though there will be plenty of Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes to sample. What's most important to organizers — the Richmond Vietnamese Association — is that money is raised to help with the medical expenses of Tammy Nguyen, a local child who was badly burned in a house fire and continues to work toward recovery. Spokesman Dao Huynh-Vuong hopes the event will raise more than $50,000.

The festival will be held on the lawn of Heavens and Earth Café, the city's first Cambodian restaurant, at 6311 Rigsby Road near Horsepen. Two or three tents will have children's activities and foods. "The Richmond Vietnamese community wants to do something because we've been embraced by philanthropy here, and now we want to do this for someone who needs the help," Huynh-Vuong says. See you there. S

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