New and Improved
It's as seasonal as lamb and mint on the menu — spring inspires a building frenzy in the restaurant world. This season more than a dozen new cafes and bistros are opening around Richmond, with more on the way by early summer. Here's a first round of highlights:
The Mill on MacArthur: North Side may become the destination-dining neighborhood with two new projects coming together to supplement the current lineup. Enoteca Sogno is coming soon to Bellevue Avenue. The Mill on MacArthur, set to open in late March, brings together experienced co-owners Amy Foxworthy (former manager of Star-Lite), Josh Carlton and Chip Zimmerman (owners of Mojo's). They're redecorating the former Dos Amigos spot at 4023 MacArthur Ave. with higher ceilings, a smoother space and a menu geared toward families, vegetarians and meat eaters. “It's not necessarily comfort food,” Foxworthy says, “but food we're comfortable making and serving to our families.” It will operate daily from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., with a few two-tops under the awning and an intimate dining room inside. Wine and beer will be served and potentially delivered with food orders. Look for the North Side thin-crust pizza with roasted eggplant and tomatoes, baby spinach and mushrooms; the Key West pizza has conch and capers. Follow progress online including a sample menu at themillrva.com.
Station 2: From the Baja Bean group, a former firehouse at 2016 E. Main St. is being converted into a burger-focused restaurant. Owner Ron Morse says it might be May before completion, but a 100-seat dining room and bar, and a patio for another three dozen patrons, is in the works. Historic wood and brick details and a concrete floor remain to meet the tax-credit standards, and a bar and kitchen are being added.
Twelve taps will include an all-day $2 draft and a handful of local beers and wines. Morse says the menu ranges from a $3 burger to larger patties with unusual toppings, such as the Elvis, with peanut butter, bacon and grilled bananas for $8.95. Beef comes from a Lexington supplier. “We're trying to open a place for people to come to often,” he says, “with salads, appetizers, and a lot of value for the money.” Ryan Koontz and Jeb White will manage the business.
The Mansion: Since previewing the Hippodrome Theater last month, owner and developer Ron Stallings says he's keeping quiet about details of the new restaurant next to it at 526 N. Second St. The historic space is under renovation, Stallings says, and he's “shooting for a spring opening” — the usual delays notwithstanding.
Ettamae's Cafe: Also in that block, the quaint, two-story cafe with seasonal comfort food and neighborly service is about to unveil dinner hours once its permits are in place. Details and menu changes are coming soon. Ettamaescafe.com.
Franklin Inn: Now serving in the former Corner Cafe space at 800 N. Cleveland St., this spiffed-up new neighborhood spot beckons with a smart overhaul of dAccor and menu. The name and classic American menu reflect an intentional return to the cafe's roots as the Franklin Inn in the 1930s. Lunch and dinner are offered from 11 a.m. daily. 358-5590.
Next week: I'll have details on more new entries into the Richmond restaurant vortex, which shows no signs of dormancy.