Come-here comestiblesIt took a few attempts to find the right location, but chef Michael Macknight and his wife, Cate, are about to open a new business at the former Indian Fields Tavern. Now called Charles City Tavern, the country farmhouse on Route 5 will reappear with the old charms but a new attitude next month.
The Macknights owned the well-regarded, creative Café Lafayette for four years and looked for other locations after losing their Westhampton lease. Finally, they returned to Indian Fields, where Michael was executive chef when the tavern first opened 20 years ago. He's developing menus that change seasonally, beginning with autumn: braised lamb and veal shanks, pork bellies, venison, rockfish and oysters. Cate, known for her gracious front-of-house demeanor, will oversee the dining room, seating 92 indoors and, in good weather, three dozen more on two screened-in porches. An expanded bar and private rooms will encourage lingering.
The property has been redone over five months -- new paint, flooring, porches, fabrics, fans, a music system and a "fabulous new kitchen with all new equipment," Michael Macknight says of his favorite feature. From it, he'll serve a prix fixe menu during opening week that includes a donation to the Central Virginia Food Bank. On Thanksgiving Day, a four-course prix fixe menu is $36 per person; beverage, tax and gratuity are extra. 9220 John Tyler Memorial Highway, Route 5. 829-5004.
The lovable Victor Srikusalanukul, owner of Sumo San in Shockoe Bottom, has a new project going up in Carytown. It's a two-level restaurant and bar called Moshi Moshi, which is the Japanese telephone greeting that means "hello hello"; the space is being built out now in the former Roly Poly sandwich shop at 3321 W. Cary St.
Antiqued walls and modern bamboo light fixtures give the space an earth-toned warmth that's intimate and contemporary. The menu will be sushi-heavy but with unusual cooked foods and specials. Fish of the day can be served any way a customer wants it raw, seared, steamed, baked, grilled or fried, and the 40-seat dining rooms include a first-floor bar with a wide selection of sakes. "We are taking our time to get it right," Srikusalanukul says; opening may not happen until January but is already being anticipated by followers of his sushi.
In Shockoe Slip, a new restaurant called Granny Wade's ditches the usual urban motifs for a dining room design that recalls Sunday dinner with the relatives. Caterer Ryan Gardner will re-create his grandmother's Appalachian-Southern recipes for chicken and dumplings, green beans with hog jowls, white cornbread, pot pies and cobblers, and he vows to serve them promptly. "It's ridiculous to wait forever for your food in a restaurant," he says. "This will be like eating at home, friendly and not stuffy and quick to serve."
Drinkers will head to a corner shed-style bar with a tin roof, since Grandma didn't allow liquor in the house. Her collection of Moss Rose china, a service for 40, decorates the walls. "I think a lot of people are tired of a sterile environment and want to come home," Gardner says of his deliberately old-fashioned business, set to open next month at 1316 E. Cary St. 257-9880.
Next week, we'll update you on a few more entries in Richmond's inexplicably explosive restaurant scene, including a place meant to capture a brotherhood's heart.