Side Dish 

Scene Caffeine

The Wagon Pulled Away

Fans of kitsch are lamenting the loss of the old covered wagon parked outside Liberty Valance restaurant at 7017 Forest Hill Ave. It's been demolished, co-owner Shane Mason says. "I didn't like to see it go," he says, "but they had to upgrade the building and make it coordinate, and we had to make some compromises." That meant pulling apart the old Conestoga, which for 30 years set the tone for the restaurant's Wild West theme. Inside, nothing's changed, and business is back to normal after the construction blitz in the neighborhood.

One-Two Italian Punch

Plant Zero is the setting for the third Italian Film and Food Festival Jan. 28. Mamma 'Zu is providing the dishes, and, as The Richmond Moving Image Co-op president Michael Jones says: "Ed Vasaio always surprises us with what he'll serve. He does this out of love for his culture, and for us it is a major source of funding for our other projects." The event usually sells out, and Jones says it's because people love to taste the soups, breads and desserts prepared by Chef Vasaio while they watch hard-to-find Italian films from modern and classic directors. See www.rmicweb.org for details.

Still Vibin'

Not to be forgotten among Richmond's 2005 restaurant openings is the Positive Vibe Café, the groundbreaking business that serves up signature dishes while training those with disabilities to work in the food industry.

Chefs Rob Hamlin and J Frank have been instrumental in developing the Stratford Hills shopping center business with Garth Larcen. Now they're adding an all-natural strip steak to the seafood-heavy menu, keeping the buffalo burgers and live music, and celebrating their first anniversary with food and drink specials this weekend.

The restaurant is about to be named winner of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Virginia Board for People With Disabilities. The mission, Larcen says, is to provide a collaborative experience that puts the focus on good food and service.

Sushi in Petersburg

Petersburg is packing them in at Wabi Sabi, the new fusion restaurant on Bollingbrook Street downtown. An inventive menu of Asian-inspired dishes and sushi is new to the area, and the Lotus Room, a brick-walled listening room by the tavern, is a hot spot for jazz acts and other musicians, attracting a good number of Richmonders along with local residents.

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


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