Rocketts Landing has finally landed a restaurant. Kevin Healy, owner of the Boathouse at Sunday Park in Brandermill, brings his water-loving instincts and 30 years in the food biz to the neighborhood next year. He'll build out a two-level eatery and bar in a prime riverfront building that once was a power plant for a leg of the Richmond trolley system.
Now the 100-plus-year-old building is home to the harbor master's office, a working boathouse for local crew teams, and by fall 2009 it will be the Boathouse at Rocketts Landing.
He will create a 280-seat business with river views from an upstairs bar and deck, a lower-level dining room with patio, and a tented party space for catered events at the edge of the James. And here's the twist: It's the city's first dockside to-go service for boaters.
The deal goes to Healy after a series of talks with other local operators failed to bear fruit — a Millie's sibling, another Giavos project and Acacia were among potential tenants that dropped out. For Healy, the location has all of the qualities he's looking for: water, demand and on-site residents (the development's populace now numbers in the low hundreds).
“I like creating the community that we have in Brandermill, and I love the idea of helping Rocketts do that,” he says. “It just seems to be a good fit and I'm very comfortable that this can be exciting for both of us.”
Healy will serve the wood-fired pizzas that are a popular staple in Sunday Park, along with seafood, steaks and American fare. His success with the bar crowd in Brandermill is likely to carry over to this new location, particularly as the development matures.
Rocketts, if you haven't toured it, is a bold blend of new and old buildings in what was once a most unlikely setting; its retail and restaurant potential has been untapped until now.
The Spork Club
The Track: After fits and starts with chefs and repairs, the 30-year Carytown classic has returned to dinner service with new chef de cuisine Marsha Hyatt, a culinary teacher with kitchen experience in Louisiana and Vermont. Dishes on her menu reflect a local farm-to-table mission: rosemary biscuits in duck gravy, cabernet-braised short ribs on herb spatzle, gnocchi with wild mushrooms. “New traditional Southern means to me taking those familiar flavors and building on them,” Hyatt says. Andrew Tyson is sous-chef; Jon Pitts is manager. Dinner Tuesdays-Saturdays. 2915 W. Cary St. 359-4781.
Grapevine Restaurants: Still open, busy and promising the city's largest pizza at 22 inches, in combos such as el loco and the spartan. Owners Mitchell Trak and family have added counter service to their location next to the Regal Cinema in Short Pump. They're calling it a Slice of Grapevine, for takeout and delivery; table service continues at both locations daily, 11636 W. Broad St. 364-4000; and 11055 Three Chopt Road. 440-9110. www.richmond-grapevine.com.
The Traks also operate Seafire Grill at 3061 Lauderdale Drive, 360-0900. A new menu has lower prices and daily specials; the redesigned Web site gives details. www.seafiregrill.com.
The Farmhouse at Manakin Road: New holiday menus and acoustic guitar music for Christmas and New Year's eves. Lucas Tuthill is executive chef and partner. Dinner Tuesdays-Saturdays. 1840 Manakin Road. 784-2224. www.thefarmhouseatmanakinrd.com.
Ernie Dettbarn has been wowing Windsor Farms with his salsas for 25 years; now the very-Richmond bond salesman is building his own tomato parachute — Ernie's Epic Foods. He won some amens in a tasting at the Style holiday potluck last week, maybe as much for the face-on-a-fruit labels designed by VCU ad students. “It's the secret spices, the fresh clean taste that's not ketchupy and has no preservatives,” Dettbarn says, sellingly. “The thing is not to talk about it but to taste it.” Find peach and original salsas and jalapeno pepper jelly at the Yellow Umbrella, coming to Joe's Market, and online at www.erniesepicfoods.com.