The ever-changing Richmond restaurant scene served up another busy year in 2016, notably marked by a stream of out-of-town players moving into the market and local brands expanding in and out of the area.
New-to-the-market restaurant brands from Canada to Washington, D.C. fanned their way to high-traffic locales across metro Richmond during the year.
Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirits set up shop on the site of a former Chili’s at the entrance of the Short Pump Town Center at 11720 W. Broad St. The 7,000-square-foot restaurant was the D.C.-based company’s first establishment in the region.
Cava Grill, a fast-casual Mediterranean eatery, soon after announced plans to open two locations in the area: near VCU at 810 E. Grace St., and in the former Applebee’s Bar & Grill location near Short Pump Town Center at 11780 W. Broad St.
Maryland-based Mezeh, another fast-casual Mediterranean spot recently opened its first metro Richmond location at 11716 W. Broad St.
Skrimp Shack, which operates five locations in Hampton Roads, is set to fill about 2,000 square feet in a Mechanicsville shopping center at 6493 Mechanicsville Turnpike.
Richmond got its first Jamba Juice in 2016, thanks to a pair of franchisees opening a store in the Corner at Short Pump retail center at 11807 W. Broad St.
Kung Fu Tea, a bubble tea chain from New York, is welcoming its first customers at its first Richmond location at 946 W. Grace St. near VCU by early 2017. A doctor from Fredericksburg is behind that venture.
Florida-based Metro Diner is now serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner at its first Virginia outpost at 11525 W. Broad St. in Short Pump. The company also plans to open a second location at 5625 W. Broad St. in the Libbie Place Shopping Center by the second quarter of 2017, and is eyeing 10 to 15 other spots across Central Virginia over the next four to five years.
At least two international restaurant chains also began to make their way into the local market.
Canada-based Freshii, which serves bowls, burritos and wraps in a build-your-own style like Chipotle, is opening two locations in the area: one in Willow Lawn and the other inside a VCU building in the Fan.
Korea-based quick-serve chicken restaurant Bb.q Premium Chicken is preparing to roost its first Richmond-area restaurant in 2,400 square feet at 900 W. Franklin St.
Meanwhile its Korean rival BonChon recently opened its third restaurant in the region at the Hanover Square Shopping Center at 7380 Bell Creek Road in Mechanicsville. BonChon operates metro Richmond locations in Midlothian and Western Henrico, with plans to add additional spots in 2017.
Continuing on expansion, a handful of local eateries had their eyes set on the regional and statewide growth.
Sweet Teas, a Shockoe Bottom eatery specializing in southern cuisines, just opened-up a new location in Hampton and operates another restaurant in Norfolk.
And Rappahannock Oyster Co., which established its first restaurant downtown at 320 E. Grace St., is set to join the tenant lineup in the Waterside District – a planned $30 million entertainment complex along the banks of the Elizabeth River in downtown Norfolk.
Chris Tsui and his locally based EAT Restaurant Partners are working on a couple of projects while maintaining an impressive portfolio of eateries in the area. The former Blue Goat in Westhampton is set to become Beijing on Grove, while Tsui’s newest eatery in the new GreenGate development – Red Salt Chophouse – is beginning to take shape in Short Pump.
Tsui will be joined in GreenGate by Richmond Restaurant Group, which plans to open West Coast Provisions and Daily Kitchen & Bar locations in the 75-acre mixed-use development.
Short Pump wasn’t the only hot spot for restaurant growth this year.
Scott’s Addition caught the eye of local food purveyors in 2016 as restaurants are beginning to complement the popular neighborhood’s bevy of breweries.
Local restaurant brand Tazza Kitchen has preliminary plans to occupy about 3,800 square feet in the 106,000-square-foot building at 1500 Roseneath Road near Scott’s Addition’s western boundary.
In the center of the neighborhood, ZZQ, a barbecue venture run by local architects Chris Fultz and Alex Graf, has plans in the works for a new restaurant to be constructed from scratch at 3201 W. Moore St.
And the Dog Wagon Carry-Out, the first brick-and-mortar offshoot of Stout’s Dog Wagon food truck, opened for business earlier this month at 2930-C W. Broad St. in the Gather co-working building along the southern edge of the neighborhood.
Lastly, the industry lost two veteran, well-known operators this year with the deaths of Ted Santarella, the founder of Tarrant’s Café, Tarrant’s West and Max’s on Broad; and Scott Elias Sr., who opened Boychik’s as one of the first full-service restaurants in Innsbrook.
Both men’s legacies and restaurants live on in the hands of their families.