Side Dish 

Beer and martinis, abrupt closings and quiet openings

PAY UP: Main Street's newest nightspot, The Martini Kitchen & Bubble Bar, is packing them in and serving up more than 85 versions of martinis and a snappy list of appetizers, tapas, seafood and Angus beef. But not everyone's singing the place's praises. Some ex-employees of the operation's former location at the Hotel John Marshall are disgruntled because the place closed down abruptly last year and they were left hanging, and they claim paychecks are still owed.

Martini Kitchen operator Rod Bennett says that was then, this is now: "Basically, we were evicted," he says of the closing. "We offered the staff different positions at Brandermill [where he and his wife, Elizabeth, moved their business]. Anyway, we're more consultants and concept owners of the Martini Kitchen."

The new restaurant, the former Main Street Beer Co., is owned by Edgar Rosales. Real-estate firm Thalhimer/Cushman & Wakefield owns the building.

Of the Martini Kitchen & Bubble Bar concept, Rod Bennett says he hopes to sell the franchise to other markets as well: "It has sophistication, class and attention to detail, the best-quality food we can find, and a staff that is well-trained." And a handful of detractors who've gone on to other restaurant work here and out of town.

NEW AT VCU: Coming in a couple of weeks is a vegetarian-friendly eatery in the College Station section on West Grace Street. Eastern Buffet will serve Chinese, American and Japanese items in its two dining rooms, replacing the former Tokyo Teriyaki.

Up the block at 946 W. Grace, Bake & Roll is open, serving baked cheese flatbread sandwiches, tabbouleh salad and other lunch fare daily. Marwan Kadi owns this 10-seat eatery as well as the Grapeleaf Restaurant in the Village Shopping Center and provides the fresh falafel and hummus daily for the spot's signature sandwiches.

GONE MISSING: Folks at The Crazy Greek aren't the only ones wondering where their neighbors from Sal Federico's have gone. The popular Italian dining room has been closed for more than a month, and word is the owners are on an extended vacation. The restaurant's legion of regulars has dispersed, some of them still craving their weekly saltimbocca.

FONDUE MEMORIES: The clock turns back a decade when The Melting Pot celebrates its anniversary Sept. 28. Prices will drop about 25 percent for the evening to reflect those on the menu 10 years ago, when the restaurant began. The Gayton Crossing-based establishment also will display its recent renovations and its excellence award from Wine Spectator magazine.

DISPLACED PIG: Rick Perrin's team won a barbecue championship title in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, but Perrin has closed his well-known Powhatan restaurant Perrin's Bar-Be-Que anyway, another victim of the difficult hours and unpredictable sales in the food business. Perrin will continue to cater, serving his winning beef ribs, pulled pork and other specialties. — Deveron Timberlake

Have a tip about the Richmond restaurant scene? Send it to sidedish@styleweekly.com

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