At Baja Bean Co., the famously full deck is gone and a new brick patio with pergola is going in. General manager Jeff Allums says the work is expected to be complete by St. Patrick's Day, and that the business just posted its best year yet during an 11-year run at 1520 W. Main St. Meanwhile, Baja's owners are also renovating the former Mulligan's at 1323 W. Main and hoping for a May opening.
Skewed food: Chefs Greg Comstock and Lauren Jurk are about to open the first half of their Fan District-based food business later this month. The Naked Onion is their commissary-style prep kitchen at 2118 W. Cary St., the former Ingrid's Bakery, and will serve soups and sandwiches for takeout. Meanwhile, a food truck they're developing, Skewtopia, will go mobile with "delicious and memorable creations" in new American, from-scratch style the pair learned in culinary school and cooking stints here and in Las Vegas. 972-3339.
Carytown revival: Not quite secret in Carytown is a new project from Hamooda Shami, whose business interests include New York Deli and Don't Look Back. He's about to announce Portrait House, a casual dining and drinking spot in the former BlowToad space at 2907 W. Cary St. — all three businesses are in the same block. Plans for new décor and menu are under way, Shami says, with an opening expected in late March.
Coming to Midlothian: Veranda Ristorante at 1358 Sycamore Square has familiar owners, Nuccio Giambanco (Osteria la Giara, Nuccio's) and Salvatore Conigliaro (Sensi). Both are passionate about pasta and classic Italian foods, and are launching "not a pizzeria," Conigliaro says, "but gourmet Italian is what we're aiming for," with veal, chicken, seafood and individual pizzas in a dining room that's "simple and very relaxed, with no dress code, so come as you are." A full bar, patio dining, and a dozen tables are being readied with a hoped-for opening in late February. 893-3063.
Love bites: Once again local chefs are pulling out all the familiar flavors of romance for Valentine's Day dinners — the aphrodisiacs (oysters, champagne, chocolate), the red (steaks, rare tuna, lobster) and the expensive (some fixed price meals cost more than $100 a person). Just as a bouquet of red roses may triple in price every mid-February, so do the tariffs that help keep some restaurateurs afloat. Reservations are advised.
Food lines: If your love of food compels you to write a poem, Ellwood Thompson's wants to read it. Chocolates and flowers are the prize for its love poem contest, and entries are due by Feb. 11. See details at ellwoodthompsons.com.
Midweek attraction: Little Venice introduces a three-course dinner on Wednesday evenings priced at $25 per person, with beverage, tax and tip extra. Reserve at 741-6022. 10482 Ridgefield Parkway. littlevenicerichmond.com.
Sweet support: Tricycle Gardens is sponsoring a fundraiser for Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary in Floyd County on Feb. 23, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The $40 fee includes lunch; environmentalist Gunther Hauk will discuss solutions to the declining honeybee population. See more details at tricyclegardens.org, as well as updates on the group's farm produce stand in Church Hill and other community projects.
Closed: Recent restaurant closings include Maximo's in Shockoe Bottom, Racine in the Fan, and Emilio's in Midlothian.
Dutch & Co.: Intimate retro dining room in Church Hill serves meaty entrees, cocktails and more from chefs Caleb Shriver and Philip Perrow. Dinner Monday through Saturday, 5-10 p.m. at 400 N. 27th St. 643-8824.
Casa del Barco: Tequilas and wide range of Mexican fare in renovated factory beside Canal Walk. Dinner and bar nightly, lunch Monday through Saturday, Sunday brunch. 320 S. 12th St. 775-2628. casadelbarco.com.
Boo's Brown Bag: American menu of deli sandwiches, burgers, vegan options and breakfast, lunch and late-night for take-out and delivery. 1201 W. Main St. 358-2667. boosbrownbag.com.
Urban Farmhouse: Second location of natural foods coffeehouse with sandwiches, salads, soups. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. 13872 Coalfield Commons Place, Midlothian. 378-3366. theurbanfarmhouse.net.
Saison: Cozy Jackson Ward gastro-pub with craft beer, seasonal menu and service expertise. Nightly except Mondays. 23 W. Marshall St. 269-3689. saisonrva.com.
Rappahannock: Fresh oysters, raw bar, appetizers to seasonal entrees, full bar from owners of Rappahannock River Oysters. Lunch Tuesday-Friday, dinner and bar nightly, Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. 320 E. Grace St. 545-0565. rroysters.com.
A2: Cozy spot for Asian fusion food, bento dog and cocktails in chic, minimalist lounge. Weekday lunch, dinner and bar nightly except Sunday. 1112 E. Main St. 344-3220. a2restaurant.com.