If it's new restaurants you want, start counting. In fact, get out the spreadsheets: It's going to be one hell of a first quarter, calorically speaking. Richmond will — against all economic odds — get at least a dozen new restaurants by mid-2009, and the trends are toward hearty food, moderate tabs and some past-due hotness downtown.
Here's what to expect:
Pie: Mo Roman blazes a trail downtown along an unbelievably dead stretch of Grace Street. He'll do Italian with pizza in a great corner spot in the Berry-Burk Building across from CenterStage. Work is in progress for a potential late winter opening.
Also looking to expand in that building at Sixth and Grace streets are Ry and Beth Marchant, whose Six Burner Restaurant in the Fan moves into its fifth year. The new, still unnamed project is on a slow burner, but concertgoers and new condo residents should embrace a new reason to linger.
Balliceaux: The former Bogart's in the Fan will wear a major updo when new owners Lainie and Steve Gratz open by early summer. The Lombardy Street place is named after an uninhabited island in the Grenadines. The 100-seat restaurant will merge Third-World references with midcentury modern design for a green build-out that uses solar hot water, salvaged flooring, even decking from the Coney Island Pier. Chef Russell Cook is at work on a menu of casual and artful New American food from mostly local sources.
Bogart's: Slow to open, bands were booked and unbooked as delays piled up, but those who are waiting can look for jazz and such early in the new year at 1903 W. Cary St.
The Belvidere: Gorgeous retrofit for an old downtown building; the perfect combination of woods, windows and booths with a long city bar. Two Cap One execs are bringing this project to life with high standards and a hoped-for winter opening.
The Boathouse at Rocketts Landing: It could be summer or fall for the first restaurant in the neighborhood east of downtown. Wood-fired pizzas, drinks on the deck, river views from two levels and tented event space on the James will juice things up, and owner Kevin Healy is ready to build a successful run in Brandermill with a similar formula.
Coast: Chef and owner Gary York of Enoteca Sogno, the wine bar with rustic Italian fare on West Broad Street, moves forward with this prime spot (formerly Escabar and Du Jour on Grove near Libbie) — but the enclosed patio had to go. Expect an opening in early 2009. This and three new wine bars should help Westhampton return to destination dining.
Croaker's Spot South: Manchester will eat this up: fresh fish and southern sides, major experience and a hot urban sibling. The project in the residential Old Manchester Plaza Building heads toward a winter opening.
Wild Ginger: Asian persuasion from the Osaka sushi empire; expect a sweet and sensuous design and more life for the Midlothian area.
Buz & Ned's: Delays in construction planning for a splashy second location near Bass Pro Shops; decisions about the 6,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art 'cue joint are in progress while the Boulevard location continues to hum.
Momotaro Sushi: Open now just east of Mom's Siam in Carytown; named after an important Japanese fable, this small spot comes with a personable staff and features sake with sushi.
Pescados China Street: It seemed so much easier on paper. Chef and owner Todd Manley could write a book about lessons learned in opening his Oregon Hill fish spot while keeping his festive Midlothian restaurant alive and kicking. Manley is hoping for a March opener and, if the neighborhood agrees, a permit for outdoor dining. His concept is for a ceviche and tapas bar that is truer to form in Spain or the Caribbean, fun, lively and affordable — not the small plates-price gouge that passes for tapas elsewhere.