If there's anyone who understands the value of a fast change-up, it's Todd Manley. He turned an underperforming White Anchovie into Ironfish in the West End, and held steady while Pescados in Midlothian weathered the economy and earned a remodeling during the summer. "We just had a record-breaking month there," Manley says, and things look promising. So it's a calculated risk as Manley reveals a concept and name change at Pescados China Street, an Oregon Hill hotspot that becomes Eat this week.
The new name and menu announce an upscale diner intention, with chefs Trevor Knotts and Sean McGee getting free rein to create. "I'm going to cut these guys loose and let them do their thing," Manley says. That means keeping the fish specials that earned a following, but adding surf and turf burgers, fish and chips salad, inventive desserts and affordable comfort foods dressed up with trendy sauces and stylish presentations. By making the cafe more accessible in price (entrees $10-$15) and menu familiarity, Manley and co-owner Bob Windsor hope to draw more neighbors and students.
A soft opening this week debuts the approach, and happy hour specials combine the best of both worlds. Eat is at 626 China St. 644-3474. eatoregonhill.com.
Pepicelli's, Not Goliath
To quell for a moment the usual hysteria about new restaurants opening throughout the area, here's a reminder that the mom and pops need love to stay in business. One of the friendliest also claims to sell the best pizza in Hanover County. Whether or not that's true, Pepicelli's in Ashland is serious about ingredients, local pride, sauces made in-house without water, oil, salt or preservatives, and even its photographs. As the menu proclaims: "None of the food products on our menu have been digitally altered or Photoshopped. It's all us. And our food tastes as good as it looks. We guarantee it." Owners Tomas and Lisa Checkosky and family run the business, which is open daily at 208 S. Washington Highway.
Besides 14 specialty pizzas, they serve fried mac and cheese snacks (six for $3.49), subs on rolls or wedges of house-made pizza dough ($8.49), sandwiches named after local figures, seven salads, bread bowl pasta with meatballs ($11) and desserts such as fried cheesecake and apple-streusel pizza. Customers sometimes get a free sample of garlic knots with marinara hot from the kitchen, or a taste of the family-recipe hot sauce. The place is decidedly no-frills but has a small terrace and late-working delivery drivers.
It's the personal touch that separates a small, and striving, business from its corporate competitors, and is a reminder of why some people choose the hospitality industry in the first place. 798-3005. pepicellis.com.
One for the bay: Devil's Backbone Brewing Co. introduces a new product, Striped Bass Ale, at Conch Republic in Rocketts Landing on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. Proceeds from an informal tasting go to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. How better to support local beer than a riverside drink overlooking the James?
Now serving: Richmond on Broad: Breakfast and lunch cafe inside University of Richmond's downtown building; flatbread sandwiches, barbecue, soups, salads, seasonal and healthy items. Weekdays 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. 626 E. Broad St.
Quiubo Pues Colombian Restaurant: Skirt steak, pork chops, liver and onions, chicken stew, rice and beans and other traditional meals. Lunch and dinner daily. 6346 Midlothian Turnpike. 447-0752.
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