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The Best Around

Five Richmond restaurants that glow

In preparation for this issue we pored over past awards issues of several publications, spent hours on the Internet and interviewed numerous foodies, chefs and staff members. Then we started critiquing. We did not consider prices. In our opinion, a good meal is a good meal no matter how much or how little it costs. In the end, we chose five restaurants that provided truly superior dinner experiences.

The following restaurants were the best we had the pleasure of visiting. These honorees are honest, focused and excellent restaurants. Here’s why.

The Food

Great food is that which resonates in the nature of its ingredients, a few flavors in tight harmony. Several Richmond chefs we spoke to concurred that the most important aspect of creating a terrific meal is to use the finest ingredients available. It seems simple, but many restaurateurs balk at the costs involved.

Ed Vasaio, chef/owner of Mamma ’Zu, explains that he gets products from suppliers all over Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Most of his recipes draw on a few ingredients and offer simple, intense flavors.

Ted Doll, owner of Zeus Gallery, describes his approach as “bringing the right ingredients to the right people” — which means a lot of organic produce and constant market monitoring. The focus is on freshness.

Limani offers the most extensive menu of fish in the city and lets it speak for itself. The fillets are cut to order, seasoned with just a little salt, pepper and oregano, and grilled over a wood fire. This allows each fish’s unique texture and flavor to blossom. Chef Matthew Tlusty is a fish fanatic and his understanding of it and respect for its subtleties are obvious.

At Croaker’s Spot you experience “the soul of seafood in the soul of the city.” The food is not fancy or expensive. It’s just good. Owner Kevin Anderson said they simply “make sure there’s love in each plate that goes out.” You can taste it in their soulful seafood cooking.

Lemaire has been offering exquisite cuisine for more than a century. Chef Walter Bundy exercises plenty of creativity, but doesn’t lose sight of the integrity of the fish, fowl, beef, etc. that is at the center of each dish.

These five restaurants offer excellent ingredients expertly prepared. But that is just the first step.

The Service

This is where many restaurants fail. Finding and retaining effective and dependable wait staff is terribly difficult. It’s hard to quantify what makes good service because it means something different to each diner. For our purposes, staff needed to be accessible, know their menu, get the orders right and be pleasant and helpful when asked questions. A good waitron gauges each table, each set of guests, and plays them the way they want to be played.

The staff at Croaker’s Spot really shines. Owner Anderson describes them as a crew of old friends and family members who grew up together. They work together well, clowning when it’s slow and knuckling down when they get hit. Their camaraderie bleeds over into the room. Best of all, they smile.

At Limani, “We banked everything on service,” Chef Tlusty asserts. His staff spent hours tasting and talking about fish as well as studying hundreds of pages of text the chef provided them. There are 48 points that must be covered with every table in Limani, Tlusty explains, ranging from the simple greeting to the explanation of how water temperatures and diet affect the taste of customer’s selections. The staff’s smooth and engaging manners mask this process.

The crew at Mamma ’Zu has a reputation for being exasperating. On our visits, they convey the spirit of the restaurant, laid-back and loose, but they have never left us hanging. They know their menu, work well together and take care of business.

At Zeus, owner Doll understands how important “the art of hiring” is. He allows his staff to do a lot of the interviewing so that personalities will gel and he provides them with benefits. This is nearly unheard of in a small, independent restaurant. But it pays off. His staff is crisp, pleasant and they stick around: One waitress has been there for seven years.

The staff at Lemaire handles the “tag team” waiting better than any other staff in Richmond. The servers don’t fall over themselves or their guests, but they stay on top of things. Their service is professional but not stuffy. That’s a hard line to walk.

Intention and Expectation

Every restaurant is trying to do something. If you’re going to have a good time, you’ve got to realize what it is and how you fit in as a diner. The restaurant must focus on the diner and the diner must trust the restaurant. A great restaurant shouldn’t be a spectacle or an exhibition of anything other than you enjoying your dinner.

The two obvious winners in this category are Limani and Lemaire. There is little confusion about exactly what they are doing. Dinner at Limani is an education in the subtleties of fish if you open yourself up to it. There’s a reason you don’t see salmon and tuna on the menu. It’s because you’ve had it. Chef Tlusty is pushing himself and his diners toward a deeper understanding and appreciation of fish by offering exotics like Escolar and St. Pierre, complementary wines and a well-trained staff.

Lemaire is the benchmark of fine dining in Richmond and doesn’t fall into the trap of self-absorption or gaudiness as others in this field do. It is an elegant restaurant without pretense.

Zeus Gallery offers the superior “eclectic bistro” experience: a small room with a smattering of sophistication, a solid wine list, good food and knowledgeable and attentive staff.

Mamma ’Zu operates in the tradition of an osteria, a family-owned and -operated Italian inn, Vasaio explains, where the dining room is basically an extension of the home kitchen. It’s a loose place. It’s not about recipes. It’s about cooking something up.

Croaker’s Spot takes this type of approach too, though a bit more polished. It’s a little bit of mom’s kitchen, a little Harlem Renaissance, and a load of good cheer. More than any of the other restaurants here, it conveys a sense of community and welcoming attitude.

The Glow

This is the most ethereal facet of a restaurant. Call it what you will: a groove, a vibe, a rhythm. The Glow is the synchronization of all of the elements: the staff, the customers, the room, the aroma, the music. It can’t be taught or bought. Some places click, some don’t.

Lemaire certainly has an elegant atmosphere, but it is difficult for a real connection to develop between the customer and staff. Such a “special event” restaurant rarely develops the regular clientele and camaraderie necessary for a glow to develop.

Limani is a bit too chic to settle into. We kept worrying about breaking something. We love the food and the education it provides, but we don’t sense a glow yet.

Zeus Gallery is comfortable and romantic. The chalk menus encourage interaction between the staff and customers. But there’s something missing.

Croaker’s Spot has a burgeoning glow. The look is great, the staff is sweet, and time seems to trickle by. Given time, this place’s glow will grow. Keep an eye on Croaker’s Spot.

… And the Winner Is

And then there is one.

Mamma ’Zu moves with a strange, frenetic grace. It reminds one of those elaborate contraptions where the marble falls in the cup, which slides down a rod pulling a string that trips a lever which releases a spring that pushes another marble down a chute … hundreds of little actions making one thing work.

Mamma ’Zu makes you want to be a regular. It makes you want to go back over and over and eat and laugh and watch it work. In our book, that’s as good as it gets. S


A weekend luxury done right.

The morning is a fragile time of day for many people, but as long as you choose a place for brunch that’s on par with your state of mind, you should do all right. We’ve found that oftentimes, the places featuring white tablecloths and waiters in ties are overpriced and boring. Here are a couple of spots that don’t sacrifice quality for affordability; plus they’re teeming with local color.

— Carrie Nieman

"Come on, move it or lose it!” Not something you expect to hear at brunch, but somehow people don’t mind so much at Millie’s. Each Sunday a crowd congregates outside the funky spot in Church Hill, sipping coffee or bloody marys and awaiting the call. But you’d better be quick or you’ll lose your table.

That would truly be a disaster since more unexpected surprises await you beyond the door. Millie’s takes a different approach to brunch — to everything, really. With its open kitchen behind the ’50s Formica counter, the chalkboard menus and the exceedingly casual waitstaff, Millie’s may not be the place to bring grandma. She might not understand the crab-and-egg enchilada with spicy tomato and lime sour cream sauces, but shame on her. The menu is filled with so many creative choices — such as the soft scrambled eggs with lobster, bacon, tomato and mushrooms on puff pastry with hollandaise — that it’s not uncommon to plan a return trip even before the food’s been ordered. The prices? Very reasonable. If you have seafood in your eggs you’ll pay $10.95 for a dish; otherwise, omelets, sandwiches, eggs benny and other egg concoctions will run you $5.50-$7.25. For quality, cost, execution and atmosphere, Millie’s by far outshines the competition.

But what if you don’t want all that invention? It’s a bleak morning and you just want to sit with the paper, some coffee and two eggs over easy, without all the hassle. Then you want to hit the 821 Cafe near Oregon Hill. The mismatched, retro kitchen tables and counter with swivel stools give the place a fun look. It’s the kind of place you can walk in with bedhead and not have to worry that you’ll be the only one. The menu holds all the basic breakfast staples (for $4 or less) plus some more crafty choices ($4 to $7) like chocolate-chip pancakes, “big fancy grits” with veggies and cheese, and a portabella, brie and spinach omelet. To top it off, you can sleep in; 821 serves breakfast until 3 p.m.

How about those mornings you wake up and need something to soothe your hangover, or you have some friends in town and you want to catch a buzz at brunch in a typical Richmond fan joint? Then you’re talking about the Bamboo Cafe. The Bamboo has such a roster of regulars that the restaurant isn’t even listed in the phone book. Known for its tangy bloody marys, the menu also encourages the screwdriver, Cape Cod, poinsettia, mimosa or just straight-up champagne for brunch. If your timing is right, you might be able to nab the back table, where two can sit side by side, slightly elevated, overlooking the row of dark-stained booths in the small slip of a restaurant. The menu covers all the brunch bases with most for under $6: egg sandwiches; subs; burgers; one, two or three eggs any style with bacon, sausage or ham; and most notably, 20 choices of things to stuff in your omelet ($4.95). The Bamboo’s take on eggs benedict, called eggs blackstone, is a signature. It’s two eggs over easy with grilled tomatoes and ham on an English muffin topped with béarnaise ($5.95). The dark interior offers a calm respite from the harsh morning outside. If you don’t want to face the day at all, that’s OK too: Brunch lasts until 4 p.m. so stick around and try a poinsettia. S


Whether it’s speed, money or clients, here’s where to get your needs met.

Street hot dogs are a vice of mine, and on a particular downtown corner there is an anonymous but important hot-dog vendor. The area has lots of foot traffic during lunchtime, so business is brisk under the blue and white umbrella. And while there are any number of hot-dog vendors, this particular one is the only one to offer “curbside service.”

If my timing is on, following the lunch rush I can drive up to her stand, slip into the No-Parking-No-Standing zone, roll down my window and order two dogs with mustard and sauerkraut, and a soda — $3.25. It’s one of the best deals going and one of my favorite lunches: fast, cheap, slightly illegal, not particularly healthy and very tasty.

More so than dinner, lunch people are creatures of habit. Of course there are exceptions, but most of us go to the same three or four places every week. I know because I see the same people at the same three or four places I go to every week.

Occasionally we branch out. But that’s a risk: Will it be any good? Is it expensive? How long will it take? I have a meeting. I have a client. I only have $5. With those factors in mind, here are some of my secret spots for a great lunch. — Patrick Getlein

Got no money but want good food? Try Bombay Express (lunch cart), Corner of 11th & Leigh, downtown.

With MCV out of session for the summer the line at this unassuming green lunch cart is a little shorter than during the rest of the year. But it still runs out of the popular Chicken Makhani (grilled chicken breast in yogurt, tomato sauce) from time to time so if that’s what you’re after it’s best to sneak out early. Aloo Bagan (potatoes and green peas cooked in ginger, onions, cumion, tomatoes) and Aloo Chna (same as Bagan, but with chickpeas) are also excellent. Order the vegetarian combo and get change back from your $5 bill.

Got a small wallet and big hunger? Check out Café Ole, 2 N. 6th St., downtown.

A regular hangout for bicycle messengers, Café Ole typically features a variety of suits and secretaries standing in line or waiting around for the staff to shout out order numbers. Pay attention: Staffers don’t like to yell twice. Helpful instructions on how to eat the giant burrito are required reading for first-timers. Fish tacos on Tuesday and Thursday ($2.37), and super steak burritos every day (at $4.99 it’s the most expensive one). Also taco salads and quesadillas, but nobody in town makes burritos like this. Note to the frugal: Sparkling water is a free refill. Also, the line is long by noon so get there early or wear comfortable shoes.

Looking for a meatball sub? Go to Jo-Jo’s Famous Pizza, 1201 E. Main St., downtown.

I’ve tried every meatball sub in the city (it’s another vice) and Jo-Jo’s has the best. But it mysteriously takes a while to prepare, so if you feel the need it’s best to call ahead. And if you’re like me, put it on your speed dial. They also have excellent calzone and pizza (New York and Sicilian), plus a line to the door every day. There’s not much atmosphere — OK, there’s none. It’s a cafeteria — so it’s either dine and dash or grab it to go. For the best deal get the combo: two slices, fries and a drink for $3.99 ($4.99 for the sub).

Need a burger? Head to Poe’s Pantry and Pub, 2706 E. Main St., Church Hill.

During the day this excellent band venue becomes a working-man’s lunch pub serving up ribs, catfish, barbecue and one of the best chargrilled burgers around: lean ground beef with grilled onions, mushroom, bacon, Swiss and cheddar cheese, plus homemade chips. A bargain at $5.95. Add a beer and you’re in paradise. You might as well call it a day.

In need of a sandwich and some Very Richmond atmosphere? Perly’s, 111 E. Grace St., downtown.

In 1997, a grill fire gutted the place while customers were trying to pick up their to-go orders. But this lunchtime landmark came back strong a year later with retro fixtures, bold colors and clean booths. Devoted regulars pack the place — lots of newspaper types — and there is limited ability to handle large groups. But they line ’em up and knock ’em down with ease. Big sandwiches, fun names and fresh ingredients make Perly’s one of the best lunch spots going.

Got a client to entertain? Pomegranate Euro Bistro, 1209 E. Cary St., Shockoe Slip.

Upscale and urbane, Pomegranate brings the glossy pages of gourmet food mags to your lunch plate: composed salads with chilled lobster and asparagus; jicama slaw; compound butter. Though sophisticated and sleek, this Euro bistro welcomes business casual and more (or less), and gentlemen may remove their coats without fear of reprisal. But if you’re out with a client, remember to speak quietly: The tables are very close together and Richmond is still a small town.

Vegetarian? Visit A Moveable Feast, 1318 E. Cary St., Shockoe Slip.

Of course it’s not all vegetarian, thankfully. But if you are a vegetarian, then this teeny-weenie gourmet sandwich shop should be high on your list. Black olive herb cream cheese on pumpernickel; romaine salad with fresh veggies, feta and black olives; pesto, provolone, roasted peppers on sourdough. If you’re a carnivore, try the fine rare roast beef sandwich or the tarragon chicken salad. Most sandwiches are around $5. As narrow as a door, the restaurant still manages to squeeze in a couple of tables. Still, most people get food to go. Box lunches are available with delivery in downtown for only $3 more.

Easily forgotten but unique: Sausalito’s, 213 E. Grace St., downtown

Sausalito’s is easy to overlook (there’s not much else in the neighborhood), but it’s the only place in Richmond serving savory crepes. Big ones. Like the size of big Frisbees, loaded with pretty much anything you could imagine. Grilled onions, black olives, spinach, tomato, feta and mozzarella. Roasted pork and country ham, grilled onions, stewed tomatoes, roasted corn, rice and cheddar cheese. Ham and eggs. Hummus, avocado, parsnips, carrots, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts. We’re hoping the smoked salmon, chive and cheese makes a valiant return, but for the moment it’s been 86’d. Plastic forks and knives keep costs down: from $5 to $6 per crepe. S

Take out

Creative “cooking” for those who don’t cook

Prepared meals are a big business. They ride the line between dining out and taking out. Given how popular these meals are and the dynamic of having someone else cook for you, we thought we should point out some of the better-prepared meals sold in stores around town. — Randall Stamper

The hands-down winner with respect to variety and quality is Ukrop’s Super Markets. For the best of both we suggest the store at the corner of Patterson and Three Chopt Road. Ukrop’s offers a monthly menu of “dinner for two” selections that include stuffed peppers, lemon chicken, meatloaf, lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, turkey tetrazzini … the list goes on and on. Each dinner includes a veggie, starch and, usually, Ukrop’s popular White House rolls. Most cost $9.99 to feed two.

If you’re looking for seafood, check out the Yellow Umbrella at 5600 E. Patterson Ave. In addition to an extensive fresh seafood selection, the Umbrella makes life easy for you with several seafood casseroles such as crab imperial, crab Mornay and crab-and-shrimp casserole. These are available frozen or refrigerated. Be sure to pick up some boiled shrimp for an appetizer.

In the Fan, Strawberry Street Market, 415 N. Strawberry St., offers daily dinner specials. Family favorites like fried chicken, excellent quiche and barbecued ribs are available as well as fresh soups (try the Brunswick Stew) and several salads. Round out the affair with Strawberry’s chichi drinks and munchies. A heck of a lot of good food is packed into this little market.

Main Street offers two excellent stores to visit for lunch or dinner planning. Mainly Pasta, 2227 W. Main, offers wonderful freshly made pastas and all of the accoutrements to fill out your dinner menu. You choose the type of pasta (egg, tomato, spinach, red pepper or garlic and herb) and the style you want. They cut your linguini, spaghetti, angel hair, etc. to order, and you can choose from several sauces. The specialty is the spicy Cardinal sauce but the market also offers white or red clam sauce, spicy scallop and Bolognese, to mention a few. The sausages, meatballs and fancy lasagnas are tasty and affordable. Once you try fresh pasta, you’ll be loath to go back to the box.

European Market at 2002 1/2 W. Main St. is a one-stop destination. Daily specials include a variety of meals with a Continental flare. An excellent selection of cheeses, pates, cornichons and wines also makes the market a perfect place to plan a picnic. S

Late Nights

Eat late, eat long

Simple late-night munchies are nothing compared to how your stomach feels when you are tanked at 2 a.m. It’s really amazing how six or seven drinks over a few hours can make you feel like you haven’t eaten for weeks. At these moments, the time it takes for a diner waitress to deliver your cheese fries can seem like the longest 20 minutes of your life. Condiments start looking good and you begin to question humanity. It’s comforting to know you have a few options.

— Wayne Melton

Aladdin Express Restaurant

801 W. Broad St.

The place to go when you just want to blanket that belly fire as quickly as possible. Many pick the quick items like pitas stuffed with falafel and babaganouj, but this Mediterranean pizza joint has a large menu and none of the selections will keep you up too late. Refresh yourself in the decent bathrooms and lounge in the comfy though oddly decorated waiting area. There are also booths in case you absolutely must scarf down your food the minute you get it. Open ’til 2 a.m. weekday nights, and 3 a.m. on weekends.

4th Street Cafe

4th and Main streets

Leisurely late-night meal or soul-crushing wait? Depending on your mood, the legendarily slow service at 4th Street can make it seem like a calm place to chill with friends after the bars close, or a torture chamber designed to keep the sweet relief of omelets and onion rings just out of reach. Maybe that’s why the cafe keeps all those tantalizing packets of jelly on the table. Open 24 hours, although this place is known to shut down for an hour or two without warning.

3rd Street Diner

3rd and Main streets

Similar to 4th Street, this diner has a little more pep in its step and usually attracts a rowdier after-hours crowd. The decent-sized menu offers all the usual diner suspects — meatloaf, ham and eggs, spaghetti, etc. Vegetarians appreciate the large menu of sides, a make-your-own-meal list of nonmeat items. Also open 24 hours a day but also known to sometimes shut down in the wee morning.

Sidewalk Cafe

2101 W. Main St.

Sidewalk offers its full menu until last call most nights. Usually the inebriated don’t think of food until after the last call drink is pried from their drunken death grip, so most will still be toasting Jagermeisters while the cook is cleaning off the grill. But Sidewalk can often be the savior of the Fan, the difference between a toasty club sandwich with fries and a dusty can of pinto beans from your cupboard. And even if you’re a teetotaler, is there anyplace else in the Fan to get a hot meal at 1:30 a.m. on a Monday night?

Village Cafe

Harrison and Grace streets

More often the aftermath hangout for morning hangover relief, the Village can also provide a quick refresher during a timeout from bar hopping. The large menu should satisfy just about everyone, and the food is served until 12:45 a.m. every night. Go for the black-bean quesadilla if you want to split something cheap. It’s huge. S


The best of the city’s smaller wine lists

We are well aware of the effort, diligence and dollars that are put into the impressive wine lists at Buckhead’s, Lemaire, the Melting Pot or Berkeley Hotel, but this year we’ve looked a little harder for the best smaller list out there.

The first criterion for the award is that the wines complement the foods and show consideration for an establishment’s menu. There should be some well-known producers as well as interesting finds. The wines by the glass should pair up and be adventurous. Most important it should be a list that keeps your attention through several visits. It should be an exciting companion to an excellent menu. — Layne Witherell

This year’s Smaller Wine List standout is Europa, at 1409 E. Cary St. in Shockoe Slip. Europa is European in flavor and specializes in tapas, the “small plates” of Spanish cuisine.

The restaurant features a choice of 17 of these very elegant morsels with eight table wines by the glass, as well as six sherries. The variety of by-the-glass selections matches up well with the large diversity the tapas have to offer. The list itself is loaded with European wines, covering more than 30 regional appellations, from Provence to well-known and little-known Spanish wines. No fewer than seven regions of Italy are represented.

With a group of eight ordering an assortment of tapas, for example, don’t be afraid to take a wine tour of the world. A cold bottle of Laxas Albarino, 1999 ($28) — a delightful new-wave Spanish white — is a great way to start. Follow it with Charles Haute Cote de Beaune, 1998 ($32), a silky pinot noir from Burgundy. With the meatier tapas compare the Lamole Chianti Classico Reserva, 1997 ($30) with the Seghesio “Home Ranch” Zinfandel, 1999 ($38). For an average of $8 a glass you have had some of the great wines of the world. The best thing with a list of this quality is the care with which it has been crafted and evolved over time.

Other small lists of great quality include Millie’s, 2603 E. Main St. When you are there try the Boizell Rose Champagne, half bottle ($27) with the nectarine-braised salmon. Acacia, 3325 W. Cary St., features a salmon with key lime and curried ginger sauce that is perfect with the Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2000 ($22). Acacia’s is a good, eclectic list. Avenue 805, 805 N. Davis Ave., has a solid list, strong in California wines. Bacchus at the corner of Main and Meadow offers lots of value both by the glass and bottle.

There were lots of really fine small wine lists out there, and this was an extremely close contest. S

The Grub Quotient

You may never be tempted but we’ll keep searching.

It’s odd fun writing Style’s Grub column, this bastard cousin of the food review. Pretension is not in the equation here, and it’s strangely comforting to know, at least in the context of this column, hell will freeze over before I wind up at a place like Amici. Instead, this is a routine adventure into the uncharted culinary territory of this city, where it’s as easy to get food poisoning as it is checking “eat a baloney burger” off your life list.

In the last few months, fodder for Grub has included everything from salted plum juice to imported Soviet-bloc salami, banounounous (a Jamaican fruit drink) to lamb served in a bag. We’ve met a horseradish junkie, searched out a goat-meat farm, and even as I write this, we’re chasing down the fabled 68-cent hot pickle, available to prisoners at the commissary at the Richmond Jail.

In fact, that little 68-cent pickle might encapsulate everything I search for in the essential Grub experience: Cheap eats, inmates and hot pickles? Boom: all the elements are there.

With that in mind, I find it must be something of a feat contending for this “Best of Grub” designation. A restaurant, for instance, staffed with eccentric nut cases but with prices through the roof will never get a vote for a Grub winner. On the other, some lifeless codger selling $1 pies out of the trunk of his Delta ’88 also has little chance at victory. Our favorites elicit all the senses: adventure, mega-affordability, absurd amounts of character in both the people and their food creations. Even if you choose not to follow our lead we’ll be here offering at least a vicarious taste of life on the culinary edge.

— Dave McCormack

Triangle Takeout,1000 N. 25th St.

The granddaddy of sketchy takeout joints, this tiny wedge of a food stand at 25th and P streets serves one inexpensive conversation piece after another. The Pork Steak combo, the Triangle Burger (a hamburger with grilled onions and fried baloney on top), or one of the best cheese steaks in town can each be had for around four bucks. Owners Mi-Suk and Roha Park are a dream to meet, making for an experience that greatly softens the edge of this otherwise rough little block.

Runners Up

In the “You gotta see this” category: The European Deli, 9026 W. Broad St.

Ukrainian native Tatiana Nikolayeva runs this little haven in a strip mall in the far West End. Eastern blocers will immediately recognize their beloved sprats and “Monastic Kvass,” while the rest of us could kill hours in here just wondering what half the stuff tastes like.

In the “Who are those guys anyway?” category: The watermelon guys, Grace and 18th streets

They’re out there every season, sidling their semihaulers up to both curbs and hawking melons for mere pocket change. The dark sister of Shockoe Bottom’s Farmer’s Market, this is the perfect place to drop that lump of dimes burning a hole in your pocket.

In the “Did he say horseradish?” category: Paul Sunday, the Horseradish Man.

The guy makes vats of the stuff just for kicks, growing and shredding his own backyard crop, then hawking the stuff from an Igloo cooler at the Shriners annual spring fund-raiser. A rare and delicious find, and well worth the winter wait.

In the “Art and Pho lovers” category: Pho-Tay-Do, 6328 Rigsby Road.

Move over, Ed Trask, there’s a new muralist in town. Owner Chan Doan has painted nearly every square inch of the walls of his pho shack with scenes of scantily clad babes, foreign landscapes and even a giant Elvis breaking bad with a pair of chopsticks. English is barely spoken here, but the prices say it all. S

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