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Greasing the Palms



In the hiring frenzy that always hits the restaurant industry this time of year, there's a new incentive on the table. Garland Taylor is paying signing bonuses to new full-time staffers at his three Home Team Grill locations. Some will get $500, others will get about 1 percent of their annual pay after three months on the job.

While bonuses are nothing new in sports, this is a first in Richmond's food world, and particularly apt for the sports-themed business. Taylor says he has no choice: "Oh my God, I've got to do this -- it's a tough market, especially in the counties. We're advertising, doing signs, online ads, referrals, giving employee incentives — we're hoping this will create a dialogue, because the competition is tremendous."

And while his Fan District restaurant usually has enough help, it's the suburban locations in western Henrico and Powhatan that are harder to staff, he says. Even though other restaurant owners don't like it, "We're trying something different," Taylor says, "and the spirit of it is good."

All of which should make Carey Friedman glad he's already staffed up for the new Grandpa Eddie's Alabama Ribs & BBQ, now serving at 11129 Three Chopt Road. Gone is the quirky funk-factor of the old Goochland location. Now the space is big and bustling, and live blues and bluegrass music on weekends will bring something different to that part of town.

Friedman admits to a little envy about the Buz & Ned's Food Network coverage last spring and the friendly competition between barbecue places. "I've been working to get national press, sending stuff to 'The Daily Show,' 'The Colbert Report,' Food Network and trying to get their attention," Friedman says. "Barbecue is different from regular food. People will drive from all over the place to get it — it's very personal food, and that's why there are so many styles depending on where you're standing and in which state."

Though he spent 11 days in Rio this year, "the restaurant is my living room," Friedman says. "From the moment we opened, we've outdone our predictions. You can't work this hard for something you don't love doing, and this is my passion." A full house on opening night was just the response he was betting on.

Also working out the opening kinks is a new VCU-area café, Ramakin's, at 818 W. Broad St., where Taqueria Loco used to be. Late-nighters will get another downtown breakfast option, as bar manager Maurice Lewis says the spot's killer waffles and Downtown Eggspressway sandwich will be served until 3 a.m. daily. The back patio has live music on weekends. Bartender Walter Livingston calls affordability an attraction: "We've got a laid-back attitude, friendly people, cheap food and cheap booze, but not a cheap atmosphere." 447-5112.



Foodies in Wonderland



How many ways can food enthusiasts indulge their tastes this fall? Consider a weekend at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., where a signature culinary event features elite chefs, speakers, classes, tastings, gifts, cook-offs, receptions and a black-tie gala the weekend of Oct. 25-28. The weekend should highlight the new restaurants and other amenities available since the resort reopened last spring after a $50 million renovation. Food & Wine Magazine co-hosts the event. For details, call (800) 908-0740 or visit www.greenbrier.com/culinary.

Kitchen voyeurs know that one of the best local house tours happens in October, when Joe's Market presents the Grand Kitchen Tour to benefit the Central Virginia Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Seven kitchens from four local design firms will open Oct. 5, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; tickets are $10 per house or $25 for the entire tour ($30 day of event); a catered luncheon by A Sharper Palate is $10. Call 353-5008 or visit www.grandkitchentour.com.

Festive foods and five wines will be served in a benefit for Commonwealth Parenting Center Sept. 28 at KDW Home, 7151 Staples Mill Road. Governor Tim Kaine is honorary chair of the event, which supports the scholarship fund for parenting classes at CPC. Call 545-1272 or visit www.commonwealthparenting.org for details.



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