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In With the New

North Siders were a bit surprised when the casual, seafood-centric LA Grill closed suddenly last year, then became a short-lived Italian joint, Mento's, for only a few weeks before going dark. Now the place, at 5516 Lakeside Ave., has another identity, New India, and new owners, cousins Santokh and Malkiat Singh.

It's still a no-frills setting, but early raves for the food might indicate a level of stability in the food-conscious neighborhood. "We just want to let people know that we are here," Santokh says, "and that we have clay oven and tandoori dishes and many vegetarian items." They serve a lunch buffet daily as well as dinner, 5-9 p.m. 266-1170.

In Mechanicsville, another transformation has at least one Style Weekly reader raving about the shepherd's pie and beef stew at Dublin's, an Irish pub in the old Mechanicsville Shopping Center. The place has a long, beer-soaked history as a less-than-fabulous watering hole, but new owners have upgraded the atmosphere, added darts and pool, and brought to the area a welcome a new gathering place with traditional flavors.

Also east of downtown, The Vine has opened. It's a salsa club at 6233 Mechanicsville Turnpike and promises the city's first authentic salsa experience. 539-8720.

Once Upon a Vine South opened last month in the Stratford Hills Shopping Center. Brothers Tomy and Ben Harris join Bob Kocher in the venture, which builds on the long-established buzz of the North Side location on MacArthur Avenue. The new shop has a boast-worthy inventory that's especially needed south of the river. "We have the largest beer box in Richmond with 14 doors," Ben Harris says, "and a huge selection of international beers and Virginia wines." The shop also sells deli meats, savories and sweets, specialty glassware and seasonal brews. Emily Casey brings her beer-buying expertise from the mothership store to the new location, which is open daily. 864-9463.

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