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Stairway to Carytown

Randy O'Dell, probably the most experienced and popular bartender in the city (Border, Starlite, Southern Culture, Avalon, The Hill Café, Acappella and a bunch of others on his resume), is putting the final touches on his first ownership venture. Mezzanine, at 3433 W. Cary St., is set to open in a month or so. Chef Todd Johnson and Patrick Stamper are partners in the business, which will feature a two-level dining room (hence the name) a raw bar and a chalkboard menu of seasonal dinner entrees. They'll use locally and regionally raised meats, seafood and produce, mostly organic, and "We want the emphasis to be on the food," O'Dell says, at least until 10 p.m., when the bar scene takes over.

The booths, the bar, the bar back and tables were made by fine custom woodworker Josh Kayer, who's also turning out some imaginative pieces for Stronghill Dining Company, still coming together in Scott's Addition with O'Dell's former Border colleague Cole Bucholz at the helm.

Mezzanine's intimate upper level, with about 30 seats, will get its own curator for art when Kirsten Gray of Eric Schindler Gallery selects pieces to display. "Randy has an excellent eye for artwork," Gray says, "and he wants the level of artwork in the restaurant to be that of a collector's." She'll bring the gallery's strong stable of artists into rotation there.

O'Dell says he's gratified that the work, from electrical to painting, is being carried out by friends from around the city who share his vision and enthusiasm. "It will be a restaurant first, and then a place where you'd end up at the end of the night, a relaxing place to grab a drink."



Tasting Notes

Julep's New Southern Cuisine: Celebrating its fifth anniversary with a Barboursville Vineyards Octagon VIII edition release wine dinner, May 22, 6 p.m. Chef Eric Cohen presents five courses, from shrimp to duck and beef, with wine pairings in the historic building's romantic dining rooms. Reservations required, $100 per person plus tax and gratuity. 1721 E. Franklin St. Call 377-3968 or visit www.juleps.net.

Sushi O comes to Midlothian this summer, another in the family of Osaka Sushi & Steak, but with a different menu and style. The new 60-seat bistro will be a sleek twist on the Asian theme, with outdoor seating in the Alverser Drive shopping center next to Bookbinder's Grill. A chef from Singapore will run the kitchen, and familiar face Stephanie Hagen, formerly of Café Gutenberg, will manage. Look for an opening in July, with more expansion plans coming to other parts of town. Osaka opened its Short Pump location in late 2001 and its River Road location in 2005.

Tarrantino's is the inevitable name for the newest facet of popular downtown café Tarrant's -- its back end is now a pizza parlor, serving a variety of pies, subs, sandwiches and more, for take-out or dine-in. The café's recent addition brought a bigger kitchen and more seating to a classic downtown location. 1 W. Broad St. 225-0035.

The County Seat in Powhatan, surely the county's busiest restaurant, serving some 600 meals a day, is trying out a new dinner menu, says chef Joe Downes. Look for a range of appetizers and a dozen entrees, from smothered chicken and fried shrimp to steaks and lighter fare. The fourth-generation business is a local landmark for live bluegrass music, homemade pies and friendly, familiar service. 3883 Old Buckingham Road. Call 598-5000 or visit www.thecountyseat.com.



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