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2021: A busy year for the RVA restaurant scene!

Post originally appeared on RichmondBizSense.com

It’s hard to remember a more highly-anticipated spring for diners than that of 2021, as the warmer weather coincided with wider COVID-19 vaccine access and a return to dining rooms all over the Richmond region.

Heaps of restaurant news followed: New concepts were announced, local restaurant groups expanded their footprints, and plenty of old restaurant spaces were given new life.

Richmond restaurant news in 2021
Derek Cha, left, and Mike Kim launched Hangry Joe’s Hot Chicken in May, with the first location of the chicken sandwich joint opening in Ashland. (BizSense file photos)

Expansions

Tazza Kitchen’s Susan and John Davenport looked west for their latest concept, Conejo Cocina Mexicana, which is set to open in the forthcoming Westhampton Commons development. Brett Diehl of The Cocky Rooster also went westward, signing a lease in GreenGate to bring Short Pump a version of his Fan-born chicken spot.

Enrico “Jo Jo” Armetta is the owner of Jo Jo’s Famous Pizza.

Others looked south, such as Enrico Armetta, who made the leap to add a Midlothian location of his longtime downtown pizzeria Jo Jo’s Famous Pizza. Brad Barzoloski also went to Chesterfield for a location of his Capitol Waffle Shop in the Shops at the Arboretum.

EAT Restaurant Partners continued to expand into Richmond’s surrounding counties in 2021, opening a second PBR location (this time in Hanover County) as well as preparing to open a Wong’s Tacos restaurant in the Winterfield Crossing mixed-use development in Midlothian.

Ice cream chain Gelati Celesti kicked off plans to expand its Short Pump outpost and dished out a second Virginia Beach location in November.

Pop-ups and food trucks going permanent

 Pop-ups — temporary concepts often operated within another restaurant on limited days of the week — saw a spike in popularity over the last year, and a few did well enough to land brick-and-mortar spots in 2021.

Among them was Buttermilk and Honey, a takeout-friendly fried chicken concept Lillie Pearl owners Kimberly Love-Lindsey and Mike Lindsey started last year and took full-time in Short Pump. The married couple also became the new operators of Pop’s Market downtown.

The owners of the Jasper in Carytown occasionally turned their bar into a summertime noodle bar dubbed Slurp, and this fall they signed a lease to give the concept a full-time home in Union Hill.

JewFro, an African-Jewish fusion concept by the owners of Soul Taco, opened a permanent location in Shockoe Bottom this year after its original launch as a pop-up restaurant.

Soul Taco’s owners decided to make their Jewish and African fusion concept JewFro a permanent fixture of the local restaurant scene, opening in Shockoe Bottom after the concept had a run as a pop-up earlier in 2021.

A handful of food trucks also went the brick-and-mortar route.

Two operators found the Shops at Wellesley to be a perfect place to drop anchor. It started over the summer when John Vest found a brick-and-mortar space for his Redemption BBQ, then a few months later Thai Won On set up shop next door.

In the Fan, Westray Paul is turning his ice cream truck into an ice cream shop at 214 N. Lombardy St.

The pandemic also accelerated the arrival of ghost kitchens, the delivery-only spots where restaurateurs can set up shop without having a front door for customers to come through.

ChefSuite is working to open a kitchen on West Broad near Staples Mill, while a bit further east on Broad Street, Cloud Kitchens, run by a former Uber CEO, bought some space adjacent to The Hofheimer building.

New chains and concepts

Some local restaurant industry veterans kicked off new concepts in 2021.

Sweetfrog founder Derek Cha got in on the hot chicken sandwich craze in May when he opened his first Hangry Joe’s Hot Chicken in Ashland. Cha also kicked off expansion of the concept in 2021, opening in Fairfax with plans for locations to open in Short Pump and near Regency in early 2022.

Sedona Taphouse owner Dennis Barbaro announced plans for a new concept called Napa Kitchen and Wine, which is slated to open in early 2022.

Garland Taylor opened Caribbean-inspired taco restaurant Sloop John B at Regency in November.

The year saw the opening of Sloop John B, a Caribbean-style taco restaurant by Garland Taylor that joined the Regency mall amid its revitalization effort in November.

Chains large and small from out of town also touched down in Richmond last year, including three taquerias.

Austin-based Torchy’s Tacos signed a lease in Carytown and is eyeing a 2022 opening, as is North Carolina’s Cabo Fish Taco in Scott’s Addition. Staunton-based Chicano Boy Taco opened in Midlothian in the fall.

From left, Philly Vegan owners Ratha Chhay, Samuel Veney and Celicia Hartridge, and Veney’s sister Tee.

pair of Philly cheesesteak restaurants debuted over the summer with Philly Vegan opening in Manchester and Str8 Out of Philly in Jackson Ward.

After his experience with Burgerim went south and led to a legal battle, local restaurateur Joey McCullough became a franchisee of California-based Fatburger.

Natalie Moore is the owner of Ruff Canine Club, which will be the first dog park-bar in the Richmond region when it opens near Scott’s Addition.

Natalie Moore is the owner of Ruff Canine Club, which will be the first dog park-bar in the Richmond region when it opens near Scott’s Addition.

Over near The Diamond, Natalie Moore opened a wholly new-to-Richmond concept in Ruff Canine Club, the region’s first dog park bar.

Old spaces, new faces

A common theme of 2021 was new restaurants taking over spaces that were vacated in recent years. Here’s a list:

New restaurantFormer tenantLocation
Ariana KabobFarouk’s House of India3033 W. Cary St., Carytown
Got DumplingsDeep Run Roadhouse309 N. Laurel St., VCU
CocodriloCaturra on Grove5811 Grove Ave., West End
Cobra BurgerDutch & Co.400 N. 27th St., Church Hill
Pinky’sUrban Farmhouse3015 Norfolk St., Scott’s Addition
Go BirdDunkin’6801 Forest Hill Ave., Forest Hill
Chewy’s BagelsJean-Jacques Bakery3138 W. Cary St., Carytown
Henley on GraceThe Red Door314 E. Grace St., Monroe Ward
MPM (Mom’s Siam, Pik Nik, My Noodle & Bar)Carolina Ale House11275 W. Broad St., Short Pump
BigWife’s Mac ‘n CheeseGrowlers To Go1017 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd., Scott’s Addition
Island Shrimp Co.Conch Republic11 Orleans St., Rocketts Landing
Phase 27Bistro 2727 W. Broad St., Monroe Ward
Saheb Indian BistroPescado13126 Midlothian Turnpike, Midlothian

Booze news

Relative to years past, 2021 was a quiet one for beer and craft beverage news, with only one new brewery opening in the area: Holy Mackerel in Prince George. The new year is looking to be busier, with at least four new breweries planned to open in 2022.

Triple Crossing Beer opened its taproom at Winterfield Crossing in December, Norfolk-based Benchtop Brewing Co. is working on its Manchester taproom, brewery/meadery/winery Three Leg Run is in the works in Chester, and work is underway on Trapezium Brewing Co.’s Church Hill location.

Coffee moves

The year in coffee saw some local shops add new spots around town.

Ironclad Coffee Roasters signed a lease in western Henrico in November for its second location, which is slated to open in early 2022. In the spring, Blanchard’s Coffee opened a new location, taking over the former Lamplighter Coffee Roasters spot on Morris Street.

Another coffee crew, Little Bean Coffee Co., announced plans for a sister ice cream shop in Mechanicsville, which opened in the summer.

And Starbucks made a noteworthy addition to the local coffee landscape in 2021 with a new takeout-only spot in the Fan that opened in September.

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Virtual Restaurant? What’s That?!

Story appeared on 6News Richmond.

RICHMOND, Va. — To say Daquan and Nicole Woodberry have a lot of irons in the fire would be an understatement. The chef and entrepreneur power couple hopes to transform the way Richmond orders food with both the LoCo food delivery app and virtual restaurants.

“A virtual restaurant is essentially a restaurant within a restaurant. It thrives and operates solely off of delivery platforms,” Dequan, who goes by Chef DQ, explained. “So if you go on any of the delivery apps such as [his app] LoCo, Uber Eats, GrubHub and DoorDash. And you’re like, hey, I want fried chicken sandwiches, and you’re scrolling down and you’ll see [his new brand] Absurd Bird pop up. Well, you’ll be able to order. And that food will be made at [his restaurant] RVA Cafe and it’ll be delivered to you and you may or may not know is coming from RVA Cafe. So the big thing here is a lot of bigger chains and a lot of bigger corporations are getting into this. Maybe people have heard of Hootie’s Burger Bar, that’s a virtual restaurant from Hooters. But you walk into Hooters and they’re going to look at you like you’re crazy If you come ask them for a Hootie’s burger. They’re like, we don’t know what that is, the servers are sometimes unaware. So this is how the world is changing. And it was happening way before COVID. But you know, being honest, COVID accelerated that process pretty much five times over.”

Interview with Daquan and Nicole Woodberry on “Eat It, Virginia! with Scott and Robey”

Daquan, who served in the Marines, said he learned his work ethic from his father Maurice and was inspired to follow his dreams by his wife Nicole.

“When I say she saved my entire life she did. I was in a really dark space. I had just come out of the Marine Corps. I was actually injured. So I’m more than thankful, that God spared life on that end and I’m still able to function because I have friends that can’t,” Daquan said. “She really refreshed my life. She really came and poured life back into me and kind of encouraged me to go and find what I love to do. So that’s actually what led me to be a chef. She said do what you love. And, you know, she supported me the whole entire way.”

Several years and businesses later, Daquan admits it’s more than support.

“Now she’s the real boss of the whole business,” he said. “I just sit here and look pretty. She does everything else.”

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Wine Not? New wine bar opens in Monroe Ward

Post originally appeared on RichmondBizSense.com.

In Monroe Ward, a new wine bar has picked up where a longtime diner left off.

Henley on Grace opened last week at 314 E. Grace St. It replaces The Red Door, which had occupied the space for over four decades.

Some of Henley on Grace’s staff. (Mike Platania photos)

The wine bar is the latest restaurant from William Wright, who formerly owned another neighborhood staple, Bistro 27, prior to its closing last year.

Wright leased the 1,500-square-foot Henley space  earlier this year from Red Door’s owners, who continue to own the building.

After a round of renovations, the space is now equipped with a full bar, cocktail menu and over 100 types of wine. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner and brunch on weekends.

Henley’s dinner menu includes dishes like Ahi tuna with mushroom and Thai noodles, seared duck breast, and handmade pasta with seafood. Its lunch menu is heavy on salads and sandwiches like its Asian shrimp po’ boy and forager’s salad. Entrees range from about $20 to $31, and lunch options are from $10 to $15.

The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday. Wright said he’s got a staff of about 12, some of whom used to work for him at Bistro 27.

Check out their offerings at https://henleyongrace.com.

Over on West Broad Street, Raysean Edwards is preparing to open a small plate-focused restaurant in Bistro 27’s old space.