During lunch service last week, Bill Foster couldn’t seem to stay in the kitchen — he was out front at his new project, Ejay Rin, seeing who the customers were, what they thought and what they were ordering. It was a mixed bag in the Manchester noodle bar, a red and black retooling of the former Savor Café and a pet concept for chefs Foster and co-owner Andy Howell. Their clientele shifted from office workers to neighbors, students, a well-jeweled woman, romancers and food bloggers on a weekday shortly after they opened; nights were just starting to get busy with a hipster and artist crowd.
Ejay Rin’s menu is small and serviceable, with a longer wine and beer list and a flexible arrangement of wood bar, tables and patio. The walls shine with giant crustacean sculptures made from recycled food containers; the room’s bones suit the straightforwardness of the menu. Plum vinegar drink at $2.50 can wash down steamed buns (pulled pork and kimchi; mushroom and apple; Korean fried chicken with slaw and sausage; pork belly with pickled cucumber and radish), all $8. Warm brothy ramen bowls hold pork, mushrooms, poached eggs or pickled shrimp; rice bowls with pork belly or vegetables are $10.
It’s a comfort-food formula that Foster hopes to stimulate with an increasingly fizzy flavor profile as guests want to get spicier — a new walk-in unit will allow him to age ingredients for more complex tastes. Then, because this is Richmond, the chefs counter with a deconstructed Snickers bar for dessert, or the lifted-from-Chang-playbook panna cotta and rice pudding. Foster cooks days; Howell nights. The latter’s disinterest in sake keeps those options limited to two; better the blond Belgian Bockor Omer beer ($7.50) or a glass of sparkling wine ($6-$9) to pair with the tuna sashimi ($9) or shellfish on seaweed salad.
Lunch, dinner and bar Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m. 201 W. Seventh St. in the Corrugated Box Building. 745-6488. ejayrin.com.
Dixie Again After a nine-month absence or thereabouts, the Dixie Restaurant is up and running, “a lunch counter where a construction worker sits next to a judge,” says co-owner Frannie Rawlings, a 20-year Petersburg resident who reopened the landmark diner there with her husband, Charlie. “We’ve been overwhelmed and overjoyed with the response we’ve gotten,” she says. “It’s like a homecoming for a lot of people.” Longtimers will know the names of the kitchen and service teams, and the food’s familiar — “a hot breakfast or a ham sandwich, nothing fancy,” Frannie says. The big seller is a $1.65 Dixie dog with chili sauce created there in the ’40s. Meatloaf or chicken and dumplings specials, scratch-made pimento cheese, coleslaw, potato and chicken salads — all are traditional Southern recipes served in a refurbished, 65-seat, circa-1939 space. The patio holds 16 and is the one thing that lasted from the cafe’s most recent incarnation as a karaoke bar. Now it’s closer in intent to the original, and the last old-time link in that city’s diverse food scene. Open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. 250 N. Sycamore St. 732-7425.
Stella’s: Greek cuisine in casual neighborhood newcomer, family tables, longtime Richmond chef Stella Dikos, family-run. Beer and wine. Monday through Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 5-10 p.m., brunch hours coming in September. 1012 Lafayette St. 358-2011. stellasrichmond.com.
The Magpie: Urban gastro-pub with game, fish, pasta, specials. Select wines, beers, cocktails in charming Carver corner cafe. Chef Owen Lane, top service. Dinner and drinks Tuesday through Saturday, 4-11 p.m. 1301 W. Leigh St. 269-0023. themagpierva.com.
The Roosevelt: Casual reincarnation of Church Hill beauty with seafood, meats, desserts, adventurous and familiar foods, chef Lee Gregory, expert service, full bar, local wines. Dinner and drinks Tuesday-Saturday. 623 N. 25th St. 658-1935. rooseveltrva.com.
The Blue Goat: Relaxed Euro-inspired dining, charcuterie, paté, seafood, nose-to-tail cooking; cocktails, patio in new Westhampton landmark from chef Kevin LaCivita. Dinner and bar Monday-Saturday. 5710 Grove Ave. 288-8875. bluegoatva.com.
M Bistro & Wine Bar: French-meets-Southern cuisine from chef Michael Hall; breakfast to dinner specialties; seafood and sides; lamb burgers for lunch; wines and gourmet items, house-baked breads and pastries, coffee. Summer hours: Tuesday-Friday 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 652-2300. mbistro-rocketts.com.
Selba: Health-aware casual dining with garden room, separate smoking lounge, piano, full bar. Seasonal, local foods and wines. Dinner and bar Tuesday-Sunday, weekend brunch. Closed Mondays. 2416 W. Cary St. 358-2229. selbarichmond.com.
Benny’s BBQ: Ribs, brisket, burgers, salads, onion rings, platters and Southern sides. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. Full bar, friendly service. 3044 Stony Point Road. 320-7447. bennysbbqonline.com.
Citizen: Chef-prepared weekday breakfast and lunch sandwiches, soups, salads, house-made sauces and dressings, meat and veg options. Small lower-level space in the Mutual Building. 909 E. Main St. 804-780-9038.