Short Order 

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Brown Belt

The city's most accomplished barista, legendarily chill Curtis Patton, takes his talents across the hallway now that Triple Crossing Coffee has consolidated its business with partner eatery Relish (see this week's restaurant review) in Shockoe Bottom. The folks at Counter Culture Coffee, based in Durham, N.C., think so much of Patton's talents, they're flying him to Clearwater, Fla., next month to compete in the Southeast Regional Barista Championships. Contestants make four espressos, four cappuccinos and four original specialty drinks during a 15-minute presentation before four judges. They're graded on taste profile, cleanliness, confidence, appearance and other factors, and the winner goes on to a national championship.

And even though Richmond has lots of coffee shops, most use automated espresso machines that require baristas to press a button to create a drink. "Learning how to open up the bean, to make it blossom, is definitely an art form," Patton says. "You have to adjust for temperature, humidity, time of day, to have the grind set right. We're building a community of people in Richmond who didn't know coffee could taste so good."

Patton, who plays electric guitar and lap steel in the Americana band David Shultz and the Skyline, sees some correlation between his work as a barista and a musician: "I pay great attention to details and not overplaying. I like things melodic and subtle, where every note counts. That's also what I try to bring to the coffee world -- to make every step count toward the perfect cup."

Ramping Up Business

A patron complaint and a threatening letter forced some changes at Strawberry Street Café, but things are all smiles there now that a handicapped-accessible entrance and bathroom are complete.

The newly ADA-compliant restaurant is a rarity in the Fan, and co-owner Ron Joseph says the $40,000 investment is worth it. "It's good karma," he says. "We could have fought the issue, but why? There's nothing worse than having an unhappy customer, and we strongly feel this was the right thing to do for all of our customers."

After 31 years in business, the café is well-known for its wide menu and salad bar, as well as for its low-key attitude and moderate prices. College students and faculty get 20 percent discounts Tuesday nights. On Mondays, burgers and quiches are discounted during lunch and dinner hours. 421 N. Strawberry St. Call 353-6860 or visit www.strawberrystreetcafe.com.

Open and Shut

Owners of the former Bambinos Pizza in Carytown have moved a few blocks west and are opening Buon Giornio Pizza any day now. They will also serve sandwiches, paninis and salads along with their classic pies.

In the department of inauspicious restaurant closings, Fu Kim is boarded and abandoned on East Main Street downtown, but its name will live on among those who just loved to say it.

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