A bartender places three plates in front of a couple beside me — tapas of beef tenderloin with monje cheese and espagnole sauce, veal meatballs simmered in white wine with chorizo sauce, and a dish of grilled octopus with cucumbers and radishes.
"It's picture perfect," the woman says, before digging in.
To the left, a man who lives nearby has returned for the second time this week, only a few days into the soft opening of Torero Tapas Bar and Grill. He recommends the cheesecake.
In the former Europa space in Shockoe Bottom, Torero makes a trio on this block of Cary Street for owners David Bess and Matt Busch, who also own Society American Bistro and Cha Cha's Cantina.
Aside from two openings that add a larger feel along a wall that separates dining spaces, the physical layout resembles Europa. But there's a change in décor, fixtures, a refresh. Downstairs, Ibiza Lounge is less dark than its predecessor but still intimate, with a magenta glow, new furniture and portraits of female matadors — and a crowd limited to people 25 and older.
Signature cocktails from Bar Manager Josh Kadrich include a young buck — ginger beer, hibiscus flower infusion and cider — and the witty gin fizz, which is topped off by Strangeways Brewing's Albino Monkey.
Or shoot for a kicker from the dragon breath, made of "fire and fantasy," Kadrich says — or more specifically, Crown Royal, St. Germain and Cointreau — and arrives smoking. The mesquite air wafting from the glass brings campfire memories, appropriate considering Kadrich's Eagle Scout status.
Prepare to wait 35 minutes for authentic paella, Busch says. And bartenders are still tinkering with the sangria recipe. But it will come in a variety of ways, including tableside service. Dinner runs 5-10 p.m. 1409 E. Cary St., 643-0911. facebook.com/ToreroRVATapas.
— Jason Roop and Colby Rogers
Brahms and Bourbon
If you're looking to unwind after work, you have a new option with the classics and cocktails of the Richmond Symphony's Summer at CenterStage concert series. For $20, concertgoers can enjoy the complete sonatas of German composer Johannes Brahms, among other works, Thursdays through Aug. 28. Admission comes with a drink ticket, so if you're looking to step up from your typical post-work dive bar, consider this: You don't even have to wear a tie. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. at the Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond CenterStage. 600 E. Grace St, #400. richmondsymphony.com.
Did you know that July 23 is National Hot Dog Day? Word has it that Gov. Terry McAuliffe is working on a proclamation for this, the most sacred of all American holidays. In honor of the event, the crowd-pleasing Joey's Hotdogs in Innsbrook is throwing a celebration with live music, prizes and an appearance by newly minted Republican congressional candidate David Brat. Naturally, Brat will be cooking up some brats for hungry customers. If you relish a good sausage fest, mark your calendars now. 4028 Cox Road, Suite H, Glen Allen. joeyshotdogs.com.
If you've ever gotten a mighty hunger for doughnuts while on your beach trip, you might have stopped by Duck Donuts in North Carolina's Outer Banks. With four in that area — Duck, Corolla, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk — and one in Williamsburg, the out-of-town doughnut competitor brings its sixth location to Willow Lawn. All the accoutrements are in attendance: glazed, lemon icing, maple icing and more. Plus, you can buy them by the bucket.
Restaurateur and chef Malcolm Mitchell is bringing his Mint Gastropub to a renovated space in Petersburg, with a projected opening of August. In February, Mitchell announced that the restaurant would move from West Main Street in the Fan to F.W. Sullivan's on the Canal Walk. But the idea was scrapped with that restaurant's re-branding as Haxall Point in May. 16 W. Old St., Petersburg.
Southern Season, the market, cooking school and restaurant from North and South Carolina brings a third location to the Richmond area's increasingly crowded grocery scene, featuring Southern-inspired food, specialty coffee and other gourmet items. The grand opening is July 31, and its Southerly Restaurant is hiring for such positions as a full-time sous chef and a front-of-house manager. Watch this space for developments. 4901 Seasons Mill St., 292-3446.