Side Dish 

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A New Spot to Relish

Constant construction from Rocketts Landing and Tobacco Row to new condo projects along the Canal Walk means a residential customer base is growing downtown, and new businesses are positioning themselves to capture the market.

The latest case in point is Relish, a prepared-foods cafe working in tandem with Triple Crossing Coffee, both in the same building at 101 S. 15 St. — nestled between Stool Pigeons and Buffalo Wild Wings — but offering a markedly different vibe.

Fans of the former Grace Place restaurant and the deli at Ellwood Thompson's Natural Market will recognize key staff and personnel at both Relish and Triple Crossing. Michael King, known for his vegetarian cuisine and a who's who of past clients (Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, John Denver, Michael Stipe and others), is co-owner of the new venture with developer Margaret Freund. He's re-creating many of the popular items at Grace Place, such as the lemon tahini dressing, vegetarian burger and carrot cake.

The space has a modern, Zen-industrial look and features attentive service and freshly prepared foods — an ample salad bar, pizzas, paninis, wraps and burgers, smoothies, soups and hot fare to eat in or take out. Lunch business is running ahead of expectations since Relish's soft opening two weeks ago. Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. 648-2233.

Zeus Shake-up and New Bistro

Karsen's is the name of a still-under-construction restaurant coming later this year to Carytown. The buzz of the local food scene is that three longtime Zeus Gallery Café employees left en masse to start the new venture.

Chef Mac McCrowell and wait staff Jeanne Strong and Laura Foster, who ended their decade-long tenure at Zeus earlier this month, hope to open their eclectic American grill at 3411 W. Cary St. by summer. With seating for 110 diners on two levels and a patio in front, it is a first venture for all three partners.

Their departure came as a surprise to Zeus owner Ted Doll. "I wish them the absolute best," he says. "This is the first turnover I ever had, and they were a big part of our business."

Doll says he's hired Dan Williamson, a chef at Millie's, to work part-time in his kitchen and tweak the menu. "We're taking our cuisine to a slightly higher level," Doll says, "using strong classical techniques that are more prep-intensive but will burst with flavor, similar to what Veritas is doing in New York."

Business continues to boom at the recently expanded Zeus, and the partners at Karsen's hope to achieve the same status at their new bistro. "Mac is the most consistent chef I've ever come across," Strong says of her colleague, who will run the Karsen's kitchen. "He's very talented and creative, and also has a calm personality that is very helpful when things get hectic."

Far-Out Food Tasting

Powhatan's culinary highlight of the year has all the makings of a special Valentine's date with a philanthropic twist. "A Taste of Powhatan" is set for Feb. 11 from 4 to 7 p.m. at historic Norwood Estate on Route 711.

Hosted by Becky Lillywhite of Becky's Tea Cafe and Jo Pendergraph of Manakintowne Specialty Growers, the event benefits the Performing Arts Foundation of Powhatan and will feature student violin performances, a silent auction and tastings of gourmet fare from many of the city's top chefs. Tickets are $125 per person. For details, see www.artsofpowhatan.org, or call 598-5553. S

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