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RVA Food News: Canal revival, Sally Bell's national nod + more.

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Canal Revival

Amid a burst of new energy at the Canal Walk downtown, chef Josh Loeb is keeping his head down and expectations high at the reinvigorated Casa del Barco. Loeb has risen through the ranks at some of the West Coast's most acclaimed resorts and restaurants, including the Lodge at Pebble Beach, Calif., Mary Elaine's in Scottsdale, Ariz., Pacific's Edge in Carmel, Calif., and others. He's also worked locally at A Sharper Palate and the Berkeley Hotel.

Loeb is intrigued by the opportunity at Casa to get more Richmond diners down to the location, whose waterfront setting offers a "geographic advantage," he says. "This area is unique and up-and-coming, and the Capital Trail will pass by right in front."

He says his goal is to bring "exceptional Latin cuisine with casual, approachable service, where guests can experience a wide range of flavors and amazing cocktails."

Bar manager Michael Avery, a certified sommelier, has developed a strong following for his tequila expertise.

Across the canal, chef Malcolm Mitchell is about to bring his Mint Gastropub to a new partnership with the F.W. Sullivan's group, owned by Hayden Fisher and Jake Crocker. The businesses will operate side by side at 1001 Haxall Point, with Sully's on the Canal offering a lunch, happy hour and big group atmosphere in a casual setting, and Mint doing a more intimate, upscale dinner and bar service in the evenings.

Mint leaves its location at 2501 W. Main St. in the Fan by midmonth, and is expected to open by March 28 at the Canal Walk. The Mint menu, branding and approach will be the same, Crocker says, with an eye toward duplication in the Fan at a later date.

Perly's returns: Chef Kevin Roberts, co-owner of The Black Sheep in Carver, will reopen downtown landmark Perly's late this spring. The longtime deli at 111 E. Grace St. closed in September and set off a minor uproar among staff and devotees. Roberts is nationally known for his creative cooking. Read more at styleweekly.com.

Charlottesville to RVA: Moving into the Mint space is Continental Divide, well known to Charlottesville customers for its margaritas and its atypical blend of Latin and American flavors. Tuna tostadas and goat cheese tacos stand out for Style Weekly food reviewer Robey Martin.

Also coming east from Charlottesville is Christian's Pizza, a busy mall kitchen that sells pizza by the slice in a multitude of flavors. It's scheduled to open this month in the Village Shopping Center.

Boxed in: Longtime local favorite Sally Bell's Kitchen gets a nod in this month's Saveur magazine in the publication's 100 Favorite Things list. In addition to the takeout location at 708 W. Grace St., Sally Bell's offers a dine-in experience at the Valentine Richmond History Center at 1015 E. Clay St., with new manager Robin Rushing adding a spark of personality, fresh flowers on the tables and a changing line-up of soups, sandwiches and salads in addition to the famous cupcakes. The bright cafe in the history museum garden is open weekdays from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., with terrace dining a best-kept secret. 649-9550. sallybellskitchen.com.

Blind wines: You can learn deductive tasting tips in a short course at Secco Wine Bar this month, with future events promising more training in observing the nuances of the grape. March 11, 6 p.m., $25. Secco also offers cheese and vermouth tastings this month and has new menu options, happy hour specials and other reasons to check it out in Carytown, at 2933 W. Cary St. 353-0670. seccowinebar.com.

Now serving: Sugar Shack Coffee has opened downtown at 1110-B E. Main St. The ├╝ber-popular doughnut shop has a juice and coffee bar along with its specialty baked items, open weekdays 8 a.m.-2 p.m. 225-0700. sugarshackdonuts.com.

Court commissaries: For those planning to attend the Atlantic 10 basketball tournament in Brooklyn, Style Weekly food critic Don Baker, a part-time Brooklyn resident, has food suggestions. Baker offers two dozen suggestions for eating near Barclays Center, as well as the team watering holes for Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond fans in attendance.

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