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Dinner-dates with Destiny

Coming this month to Shockoe Bottom is a purple-brick rendering of positivity, via former corporate colleagues Jenn Crenshaw and Erin Ooms. Their business, GlobeHopper Coffeehouse & Lounge, will be "transparent," they say, where everything that is cooked, poured or served is in plain view of the customer and designed to be healthy and eco-conscious. "You'll know exactly how we keep our place in order," Crenshaw says -- notable in a town where old buildings sometimes ooze with funk.

They'll serve a minimalist menu of sandwiches and espresso drinks for now; beer, wine and liqueurs will follow, along with a few dinner entrees on weekends. "We want it to be sophisticated and about quality," Crenshaw says. "You'll not get a red-headed slut [cocktail] here, and we're not a Red Bull establishment." Their shop seats 35, and a fenced patio holds a dozen more within sight of new luxury apartment construction at the Dill Building and dense Gen Y demos within walking distance.

"I've always been an actualizer," Ooms says of this venture. "Dream big and go for it. The big goals actually work." Like her determination to save enough money to backpack across the world for a year. Now she's navigating the corner of 21st and E. Main, a former photographic studio whose white walls are muraled and decoupaged and layered with Ooms' worldly black-and-whites above a bohemian/modern mix of furnishings.

The partners don't see the nearby (and for sale) Café Gutenberg as a competitor. "The more draw to this corridor, the better," Crenshaw says. "It's not our intention to take away business but to add an option; our vibe is different."

The gorgeous and beloved Leila Kadi has another restaurant now, though her death last year makes that seem impossible. But there she is, radiant in a framed portrait, center stage in a working tribute called The Phoenician on West Broad Street. It's the brainchild of her brother, Naji Kadi, who with his wife, Beth, converted the second location of their longtime Mexican eatery, La Casita, into this Lebanese fantasy decked out in swoops of fabric, Moroccan lamps and jewel tones befitting a princess.

Leila Kadi ran The Grapeleaf for more than a decade and amassed a legion of followers. After her passing, her brother decided to switch from tacos to falafel, collecting family recipes and returning to more familiar cuisine. "I felt I owed it to her," he says, "and to her customers. It's overwhelming. I have more business than I have ever had. Every dish is exactly how our Mom taught us to cook, with passion."

His fettoosh salad, chicken taouk, and baba ghanouj are popular, along with lamb chops, kebabs and shawarma. Chef William Harik, Paris-trained, grew up working in Richmond's original Phoenicia, located in a building next door, years ago. "The karma here is unbelievable," Kadi says of the connections that have pushed his quest into being. 4401 W. Broad St. 359-5590.

It took just two months for a Shockoe Slip start-up to shut down; this time it's Granny Wade's, caterer Ryan Gardner's interpretation of an old-fashioned dining room with home cooking and family-style service. The whole thing derailed and Gardner blames liquor licensing headaches as part of the problem, though customers complained that plastic "clamshell" containers didn't add to the expected ambience. The location at 1316 E. Cary has a long history of restaurant failures, but neighboring businesses continue to flourish.


Twenty beneficent Richmond chefs, a dozen wineries and 500 guests swooned over each other at the Saturday, Feb. 9, Zest Fest, a Meals on Wheels yearly food classic downtown. The event raised $175,000 for the nonprofit's homebound outreach. It also reminded patrons that these highly recognizable chefs give time on their busiest night of the week to support good causes.

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