He's calling the business “the fountain,” but Billy Fallen is actually running a bright new cafe, Aziza's, which opened last week in Shockoe Bottom. It connects to the McGuire Park Pharmacy and its original fountain lunch counter, and is very much a family affair. His uncle Baltimore Gibrall runs the pharmacy, and Fallen's mother, Rusty, is cooking. The restaurant pays homage to his grandmother, Aziza, a longtime restaurant owner whose Henrico Inn specialized in Lebanese home cooking.
Things are updated to appeal to a broad downtown customer base of vegans and carnivores. Lunch includes grilled sandwiches, salads and labor-intensive Lebanese dishes such as koosa (squash stuffed with beef, rice, cinnamon and mint, stewed in tomatoes), grape leaf rolls in meat or vegetarian versions, spinach and meat pies. Tabbouleh, pickled turnips and hummus give Mediterranean flavor, but the south is represented too, with chicken and potato salads and ham sandwiches. Rusty Fallen's cream puffs have their own cult following, and the deli case has cakes, to-go prepared foods and seasonal specials.
Though Fallen is best-known locally for creating Billy Bread, he won't be serving those loaves at Aziza's. Fresh breads and buns come from the Flour Garden, and produce is locally grown. The 33-seat space was a diesel machine shop until Fallen and cousins gutted and revived it during the past six months. “I wanted to give it a '40s feeling,” Fallen says of the room's tin ceiling, wood wainscoting and brick walls, “with something to appeal to everyone.”
Aziza's serves lunch weekdays, and will add weekend brunch when its ABC license comes. 2110 E. Main St. 344-1523.
FORKS IN THE ROAD
Rivers Ridge: Now serving at 403B Ridge Road. We'll have details next week about this new, relaxed, fine-dining spot in the former Graffiti Grille. 288-0633.
Dining Room at the Berkeley Hotel: Executive chef Matthew Tlusty and J Frank present a five-course dinner to celebrate the hotel's anniversary on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. A tantalizing fall menu ends with cardamom-orange ice cream and a dessert sampler; $75 per person. Wine pairings from White Hall Vineyards in Crozet to mark wine month in Virginia. Reservations required. 1200 E. Cary St. 780-1300. www.berkeleyhotel.com.
Savor: The mod Manchester cafAc now has its ABC license and sells a food-friendly list of beers and wines on- and off-premises. Chefs Ellie Basch and Austin Deaghlan are known for building their menu around fresh ingredients they regularly scout on the local farmers' circuit. Breakfast, lunch and dinner to go served Monday-Friday; brunch Saturday. 201 W. Seventh St. in the Corrugated Box Building. 527-2867. www.savorcompany.com.
Legend Brewing Company: Oktoberfest menu continues all month with Bavarian sauerbraten, bratwurst strudel, chicken schnitzel and other Germanic dishes. The seasonal lager's a hit; the deck is one of the city's best. Lunch and dinner daily, some live music. 321 W. Seventh St. 232-3446. www.legendbrewing.com.
Commercial Taphouse: Celebrating 15 wild years with Jim Dickerson and James Talley, now offering beer list number 670 in a weekly switch-up of quality brews, fine burgers and pub grub. Anniversary event Oct. 16 with live music, photo display, beer specials. Lunch Tuesday-Friday, dinner daily. Live music Sundays. 111 N. Robinson St. 359-6544.
Saigon River: New Vietnamese restaurant in the 'burbs, family-owned, tasteful. Wide menu of crepes, noodles, broken rice, vegetables and seafood; also smoothies and Vietnamese subs. Lunch and dinner daily. 11001 Midlothian Turnpike. 379-2747.
Bagel Czar: Open at 929 W. Grace St., this business replaces Nanci Raygun and a long string of clubs and bars that packed the house if not the block. New owner Missy Wernstrom brings music back to the venue starting at the end of this month, along with dinner service and beer and wine.
“I would like this place to be separate personalities day and night,” she says. The cafAc serves sandwiches, bagels, soups, salads, house-made cream cheeses and natural meats; it's open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, and is closed Sundays for now.
Even though the project opened months later than planned because of construction delays, the city wasn't a factor, Wernstrom says: “I have absolutely no bad words to say about the city. I love City Hall. I had nothing but a positive experience working with them.” 355-0064. www.bagelczar.com.
Aurora Bakery with from-scratch classic recipes; quiche, pastries, cookies, coffees. Restaurant opens Oct. 20 for lunch and dinner. Daily. 401 E. Grace St. 644-5380. $
Q Barbeque Award-winning barbecue and sides in new business from a longtime pitmaster and caterer. Lunch and dinner daily, eat in or take-out. 2077 Wal-Mart Way, Midlothian. 897-9007. NS $
Stronghill Dining Company Modern Southern cooking in a relaxed, creative atmosphere; lounge. Dinner nightly. 1200 N. Boulevard. 359-0202. $$ NS www.stronghillrestaurant.com
Aziza's New 33-seat retro-style luncheon cafAc with Lebanese and classic Southern fare; fresh local ingredients and breads; pastries. Vegan, vegetarian and carnivore deli options. Lunch weekdays 11 — 6. 2110 E. Main St. 344-1523. NS
Rivers Ridge Pastas, seafood, steaks and chops in former Graffiti Grille, now updated for casual fine dining. Wines by the glass, Monday night football specials at the bar. Dinner Mon. — Sat., weekday lunch and Sunday brunch coming soon. 403 B N. Ridge Road. 288-0633. NS $$