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RVA Food News: Foo Dog preview, ginger beer tastings + more.

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About the Art

The new ramen cafe Foo Dog gives a wink to a former occupant of the Fan District storefront. For years, Joe Seipel, arts dean at Virginia Commonwealth University, had a studio upstairs at 1537 W. Main St., which was Main Art Supply.

Newly painted murals by Abernathy Bland are intended "to keep the tradition of the art theme alive, to honor the fact that this building used to be owned by Joe Seipel," says owner Chris Tsui, whose Eat Restaurant Partners expects to open Foo Dog early next month.

Anime influences include a bar-top collage, and above it, a painted branch whose origami blossoms will change with the seasons. Front signs will feature Chinese zodiac signs, and a neon Foo Dog sign at the corner adds a retro touch.

Foo Dog brings a space-enlarging brightness to the 1920s building. Historic tax credits were used on the project, so reclaimed wood, original windows and exterior details remain in place. Inside, an open plan seats 70, and a side patio — which is heated — seats two dozen.

The menu from chef Ken Leiw blends his native Malaysian influences with street food from Singapore and China. Curly, cokusen-style noodles will be the base for three ramen dishes, all $9. Peppercorn calamari, fried fish tacos, Ken's fried chicken, wasabi tuna, fried tofu and grilled skewers are all in the less-than-$10 range. Equally value-priced are draft beer (mostly $5 a pint), wines and cocktails at about $7. Specially etched glassware mimics the shape of a can, and will be a merchandise memento for the Foo Dog brand.

"There are places where people are fanatical about ramen," partner Ren Mefford says, and Foo Dog rides the trend here just as other noodle-focused businesses are gaining a footing and another is coming to the neighborhood.

"We've always wanted to be in the Fan," Tsui says of the group's search for the right spot. With Foo Dog adding a fifth holding for the group, the search for what's next is underway.

Foo Dog will serve Tuesday through Sunday nights from 4, with lunch hours coming later. Small parking lots at side and back have eight spots and the business is compliant with disabilities laws. Chris Staples is general manager. 342-1800. foodogrva.com.

Closed for now: A notice is posted on the door at Gibson's Grill, adjacent to the National theater downtown. It advises that nothing should be removed from the premises — an indicator of problems at the cafe. It's been closed for about three weeks, and staffers at the National say management is searching for a new operator for the food-service segment of the business. A call to a co-owner hasn't been returned. Some local restaurant owners say they've been approached about taking over Gibson's Grill, which is at 700 E. Broad St. across from the federal courthouse.

Coming next week: Previews of the about-to-reopen Carena's Jamaican Grille, and Dash, the new dining option from the owners of Toast and Estilo, Jessica and Josh Bufford. They've taken over where Cous Cous and the Well once were, in the Chesterfield apartment building at 900 W. Franklin St. Watch for details of these openings in next week's issue.

Sunday suppers: A new series of fixed-price, family-style suppers is running at the Pig & Pearl on Sundays through mid-May. The menu changes weekly with fried chicken, bacon meatloaf or short rib pot pie among the entrees, and sides are included. Tariff is $60 for a group of four guests, with add-ons for $12 each. Reservations, for dine-in between 6-9 p.m., and take-out from 5-6 p.m., are required by Friday each week. 2053 W. Broad St. 447-2016. thepigandpearl.com.

A week of tastings: A new product, Crabbie's alcoholic ginger beer, is being poured in free tastings across town through March 29. One event pairs the beverage with a specialty hamburger at Burger Bach on March 27. Details at facebook.com/crabbiesUSA/events.

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