Richmond’s food scene continues to sizzle. As we heard from several local chefs at our second annual Kitchen Confidential event in November, food trucks, online reviews and increased market saturation have changed the landscape for diners and restaurateurs alike. Get caught up below on some of the biggest food-related stories of the year.
Ron Morse opened Postbellum in the former Mulligan’s Sports Bar space, and he gave the patio at Baja Bean a facelift. Jason Alley announced plans to open a second Pasture in Charlottesville. Jake Crocker launched Jorge’s Cantina in the Fan and another F.W. Sullivan’s on the ground floor of the Troutman Sanders building near the canal. Crocker also helped organize the inaugural Flavors of the Fan, in which Fan restaurants donated 10 percent of the sales of selected dishes to the Fan Free Clinic. Crocker said he plans to put the event on again in 2014.
Raul Cantu opened a second Nacho Mama’s on North Boulevard inside the Clarion Hotel and plans to open a tiki bar at the new spot in 2014. Chris Tsui and his EAT Restaurant Partners acquired the former Main Art & Frame shop, and Tsui said he’s shooting for an opening in April or May. Kevin LaCivita, formerly executive chef at the EAT Restaurant Partners’ Blue Goat, announced plans to resurrect his former Shockoe Slip restaurant, Pomegranate, in the old Moshi Moshi spot in Carytown.
On a somber note, Michael Ripp passed away in November just after opening a second Burger Bach location in Short Pump.
Skillagalee closed after 40 years of business, and the property was bought by Nobility Investments. Perly’s closed after 50 years and is up for sale. Zeus Gallery Café hit the market as well, but it remains open for business.
Cornet Hospitality filed for bankruptcy in late 2012 and by March was locked out of half of its 12 restaurants. The six restaurants included three local Hooters, the West End Topeka’s Steakhouse, a Hooters in Roanoke and one in Pennsylvania. The Topeka’s Steakhouse went up for sale in April and is still on the market. The Hooters at 2401 W. Hundred Road reopened in May with Hooters of America at the helm.
Today Hooters of America owns the Hooters at 7912 W. Broad St. and the one at 1211 Huguenot Road in Midlothian. The Topeka’s Steakhouse in Midlothian is closed, and the property is available to be leased. The Topeka’s Steakhouse in Charlottesville closed in June, and Shadwells Restaurant opened there in July, said Shadwells executive manager and co-owner Matt Kossin.
Dunkin’ Donuts got into an eight-month legal battle with the owners of some of its shops in the region. Dunkin’ Donuts in February sued the owners of 10 of its Central Virginia locations, including seven across the Richmond area and three in Fredericksburg. The owners of the locations had allegedly fallen behind on rent fees. In April, the owners of the locations asked that the case be tossed out and made counterclaims alleging breached agreements and a breach of good faith.
Four Dunkin’ Donuts were closed in September and remained closed when the two parties reached a settlement that month. The lawsuit was dismissed in October. Charlottesville resident Andy Rod in November bought the franchise rights to the four closed Dunkin’ Donuts shops and reopened them in December.
Meanwhile, another national doughnut company decided to increase its Richmond presence: Krispy Kreme is building its second area shop at Stonebridge Shopping Center on Midlothian Turnpike.
For those who like their doughnuts a little more on the homegrown side, Sugar Shack opened in June at 1001 N. Lombardy St. Demand was so high that the startup had to close for three days to re-stock and recover, one of several adjustments that would be made. Owner Ian Kelley said he plans to open another location in 2014.
The Republic Restaurant & Bar fell after several maneuvers to prolong its life. In February, a judge dismissed the Republic’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, and eventually the Virginia Department of Taxation locked the restaurant because of failure to pay taxes. The Republic managed to reopen in March but closed again in April due to what owner Tony Hawkins called an electrical issue. The Republic’s landlord, Mathew Appelget, issued the restaurant a “pay or quit” notice, stating that the restaurant and Hawkins had to pay the rent owed immediately or vacate the building. In July, Hawkins agreed to vacate the property, and Mathew Appelget and Season Malan Appelget in November opened the Pig & Pearl.
Food trucks were in high gear in 2013. RVA Street Foodies, a network of Richmond food truck operators, launched in April and in June expanded their food truck court model. The Meatball Company, Gelati Celesti and Popping Mealies each entered the food truck fray.
Some food trucks owners shifted gears and launched brick-and-mortar restaurants. Joshua Estes, owner of the Estes BarB’Que food truck, launched a restaurant of the same name in Jackson Ward, Bako Tako Truck owner Patrick Harris launched Boka Kantina across from Regency Mall, and the owners of the Chupacabra food truck, Jason Williams and Chris Mullenix, launched the Lair at 17 W. Main St. RVA Vegan food truck owner Ed Edge in November opened Café Verde in Shockoe Bottom.
Although Estes BarB’Que closed in November, it still operates its truck and catering service, and Estes is looking to reopen in a new location. Boka Kantina remains open, as does the Lair.
The frozen yogurt scene added some toppings and lost a few. Sweet Frog opened its 300th location and moved its headquarters to the Winchester Building on the Midlothian Turnpike. The doors were temporarily locked at the Yapple Yogurt in Carytown before the shop reopened within days, and a Northern Virginia couple made plans to add a Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt franchise to Richmond. A Twister’z Premium Frozen Yogurt closed, as did two Crave Frozen Yogurt spots.
Urban Farmhouse owner Kathleen Richardson expects to open an Urban Farmhouse in Church Hill at the end of 2013. She also signed a lease for a fourth Richmond area Urban Farmhouse in Scott’s Addition, which she expects will open in the spring.
And after being denied the necessary permits to stay open an hour later and serve beer and wine, Captain Buzzy’s Beanery owner Bob Buffington sued four neighbors, the Church Hill Association and two local businesses. The lawsuit alleged that the Church Hill Association supported Buffington’s request until several residents “hijacked” the association.