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Side Dish

Local food news, events and whispers.

You know your restaurant is closing when customers walk out with the menus and dishes. Over at The Greek Circus last week, long-timers bought the paintings off the walls and gave gyro-fueled goodbyes to the second-generation family business at Staples Mill and Glenside, shutting down after 29 years.

Late this month, it opens with a retooled image, a new name and new Innsbrook digs. Owner Augustus Kefalas says The Circus Mediterranean Grill will focus on Greek and Italian specialties such as feta-stuffed calamari, seafood, lamb, kabobs and signature pizzas.

Kefalas gutted a former crab-house at 4040 Cox Road in the Shoppes at Innsbrook and redesigned it with an open kitchen, coral and olive colors, and a subtle circus-themed décor; the 225-seat room will open to a bar and outdoor dining area.

Kefalas' father, Steve, ran the original Circus for two decades and will bake bread at the new place; he is, his son says, still very much the patriarch of the operation.

At Short Pump, franchise fever has hit hard, particularly for several local career-changers. Two colleagues left Capital One last year — voluntarily, they emphasize — to start San Francisco Oven at 11645 W. Broad St. Steven Dillard and Vince Lamantia opened the country's seventh store in the chain and serve pizzas, calzones, chicken dishes and sandwiches for lunch and dinner daily. (A Style reader sent us an unsolicited rave for the place's crab and pesto take-and-bake pizza.)

They're not the only corporate exiles to go franchise at The Promenade Shops. Kim Fisher, a Richmonder who used to work in architecture and engineering, is about to unveil a Daily Grind coffeehouse and café at 11655 W. Broad St., near Plow & Hearth.

Following a soft opening this week, the cherry- and granite-fitted eatery will operate daily from breakfast till evening with light fare, espresso drinks, house-baked scones and muffins, salads, paninis and gelato.

The Winchester-based chain has 30 locations statewide with another 23 coming to the mid-Atlantic this year, and most using the new Richmond template for café setup.

Baja Fresh, a 300-restaurant chain, also opens in Short Pump this month. The Mexican grill features fresh ingredients and made-to-order Southwestern cooking, and the local operation is recruiting bilingual employees for its new location here. The California-born café is now backed by the Wendy's International corporate merchandising and training machine, which enthralls some diners and deters others. Either way, bottom-liners are taking note of the franchise explosion around Short Pump, as are workers looking to get benefits with their kitchen jobs. — Deveron Timberlake

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