Restaurants


Hayden Fisher, an attorney at Shaffer & Cabell & partner in real estate development group Prodigy Partnership, commented on an earlier blog post with an update on their progress on the “art-gallery themed restaurant” named Canvas:

Just checking-in to let everyone know that we’re still working on the Canvas design and working with DHR to finalize the plans. We couldn’t get everything put together by December so we decided not to rush things; in order to take our time delivering a truly special space and experience. And we haven’t forgotten about Manchester either, we’ll get there too and return a special diner experience to the area. Thanks for your support and patience.

The pace of development is excruciatingly slow, not just on this project but on most redevelopment efforts.  I first blogged about this in March!

And then there are those tantalizing proposals that seem to get stuck somewhere along the line…

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A new Mexican restaurant opened last week on the corner of Cary and Harvie across from Chop Suey. The restaurant’s located in a great new infill development that’s livening up Cary St. west of Meadow.

Unfortunately, the food at Little Mexico is in need of a little livening up.

According to Ross Catrow, the restaurant is part of the Mexico chain, though their website doesn’t have this location listed. I’ve never eaten at the Mexico chain, so I can’t comment on this branch’s similarities or differences to others.

The chips and salsa came immediately after being seated- as if some hovering worker’s sole job was distributing the standard appetizer. The salsa was reasonably fresh and tasty, with visible cilantro leaves and chunks of onions.

Unfortunately, the rest of the meal was a disappointment.

I ordered a vegetarian combination dinner, very reasonably priced at $7 (I think…) It included a mushroom quesadilla, a potato enchilada, and a chile relleno.

Whatever cheese they used in the quesadilla was pungent- in a bad way (I’m a cheese snob, I admit, and this was not good cheese.) I didn’t finish the quesadilla. The mushrooms were sauteed perfectly and well-seasoned, but completely overwhelmed by the terrible cheese flavor.

The potato enchilada was, according to the menu, made with “potatoes cooked with onions and tomatoes.” On my plate, they tasted like dry and under-seasoned mashed potatoes, with no discernible onion or tomato flavor. The enchilada sauce was decent, but not noteworthy, and not interesting enough to compensate for the lackluster filling. I was hoping for something akin to the glories of the potato taco at Nate’s Taco Truck, but Little Mexico’s version didn’t come close.

Finally, the chile relleno, a dish I find tests the quality of any Mexican restaurant (see my Viva Mexico restaurant review, for an example). Little Mexico’s version was pleasantly spicy and the cheese didn’t taste off like the quesadilla’s. The sauce was a complex mixture of spice with just a hint of sweetness. It was the best dish of the combo platter. But overall, it was still mediocre americanized mexican fare.

So, for those keeping score, the 2 new Mexican restaurants on Cary St. fail to impress with anything other than their location.

**Update: I ate a potato taco from Nate’s today and he told me that Mexico’s potato filling seems to made from powdered mashed potatoes.  This is exactly what Little Mexico’s potato enchilada filling tasted like- powdered mashed potatoes without enough water added.   Nate’s, on the other hand, are made with real shredded potatoes, carrots, onion, spices… Mmmmm.

Please forgive my 2-week absence from blogging- I’ve been in Italy attending a conference.  So my first post since returning is, appropriately enough, about the expansion of an Italian-American Pizza Empire.

7 pizzerias- seven!- are owned by the same family.  I’ve known for a while that Mary Angela’s and Piccola’s were owned by the same folks, but I had no idea that they had 5 other restaurants.  Thanks to Style for pointing this out.

The seven restaurants are:

Mary Angela’s – Carytown (corner of Cary & Freeman)
Piccola’s – Uptown/VCU (corner of Harrison& Main)
Maldini’s – Forest Hill (corner of Forest Hill & Westover Hills Blvd.)
Pronto – Near Libbie & Broad
Pietro’s – Chester
Vinny’s Italian Grill- multiple locations

And the newest addition: Arianna’s Italian Grill & Pizzeria at 700 N. Sheppard St.

Actually, I’m not sure how Vinny’s Italian Grill can be owned by this same family, as it has 17 locations of its own.

According to Style, “an assortment of family members moves among the holdings to ensure that every slice is made with the same recipe, ingredients and Italian DNA that have made each restaurant successful.”

I have to say, these restaurants doesn’t measure up to the pizzas made in wood-burning ovens I just had in Naples, but they’re still some of the best in town.

Acacia’s closing its Carytown doors and looking for waterfront property, and, according to Style, “it’s not a secret that he’s one of at least three local chefs looking to Rocketts Landing as the next step in destination dining.”

Rocketts is building “a lively riverfront promenade with restaurants and shops right on the James…” according to the development’s website. It would be a great location for Acacia.

Rocketts is a promising project, which plans to mix residential and commercial development to promote a pedestrian-friendly environment.

“[S]tores and offices [will be] strategically intermixed with the neighborhood. People who live and work here will also enjoy conveniences such as dry cleaners, a pharmacy and grocery store all within walking distance.”

If you haven’t been out to the site of Rocketts Landing yet, I highly recommend a visit. They’ve worked an amazing transformation of the old industrial site with a mix of new construction and adaptive reuse of old warehouses. Pictures of their progress are available on their website.

I just hope its not as creepy as some other new urbanist developments. I recently visited “New Town” in Williamsburg which tries to create “a traditional town setting.” There’s Main St., lined with retail and apartments and surrounded by offices and housing. But if you peek behind Main St., there’s acres and acres of parking. It feels like the Truman show, one look behind the facade of the “traditional town” and you see that the “tradition” is purely manufactured. It does nothing to break the impact of our car dependence on town design.

Take a look at the site plan and you’ll see what I mean:

site_plan_big.jpg

Hopefully, Rocketts will be able to avoid this fate as they build.

Here’s their site plan. It doesn’t look as bad as New Town, but there’s still a lot of room for cars (there’s parking decks that are unlabeled on the map as well as the surface lots):

site-plan-rocketts.jpg

At any rate, I wish success to any development that seeks to lessen our dependence on the automobile and I hope Acacia and Rocketts Landing can help each other succeed.

A fire closed Harrison St. Coffee a few weeks ago- but it’s back open for business.  Time to go get a beer-battered tofu sandwich.

Jake Crocker of development group Prodigy Partners stopped by my blog and commented about the progress they’re making on 2 new restaurants- Canvas on E. Broad and Lighthouse Diner on Hull St. in Manchester. I thought his update was news-worthy and deserving of more attention than it’s receiving as a comment on an old post, so I’m posting it here:

We are on schedule to open Canvas on Dec. 1st; we’re currently in the demo stage. The first floor will be a counter order cafe; mainly catering to the lunch crowd. The second floor will feature small art gallery, a couch and arm chair lounge area and a large glass ceiling atrium addition that will service the dinner and bar crowd. The third floor will feature another small art gallery, two private meeting/dining rooms and a rooftop deck that will have a spectacular view of the CNB tower looming overhead. We’re confident that Canvas will eject life back into that area just in time for the opening of the Hilton, Federal Courthouse and Richmond CenterStage. It will do to the city center area what the Tobacco Company did to Shockoe Slip and will give convention center visitors something to talk about when they go home other than the urban decay that currently exists outside the Convention Center’s door.

As for the Lighthouse Diner, we are working on it, but won’t put our full attention into that project until Canvas is up and running. Look for it to open in late 2008/early 2009. Old Manchester will be another Carytown, I encourage more people to set up shop with us down there.

Our group is dedicated to not only purchasing and renovating buildings in downtown Richmond, but to establishing thriving businesses that will accelerate revitalization of those areas.

Thanks,

Jake Crocker
Prodigy Partnership, LLC

Thanks to Jake for keeping us updated.

The 300 block of E. Broad St. will see a new 3-story restaurant opening by the end of the year.

According to the TD, who buried this story in an article about a suburban pharmacy, Prodigy Partners is planning a restaurant to be called Canvas at 306 & 308 E. Broad.

The art gallery-themed restaurant would occupy the two buildings on all three floors. A café would be on the first floor, a restaurant and full bar on the second floor and private dining and meeting rooms on the third floor.

No word on who the chef will be or what style food will be served, but the concept seems intriguing. An “art gallery-themed ” restaurant sounds like they’ll be trying to tie into the art renaissance further west on Broad, which would effectively draw that crowd further east than any other current galleries or restaurants.

Unfortunately the Prodigy Partner’s website Jake Crocker advertised in the comments section of this blog in an earlier post is still not live. So for now we’ll still have to rely on the media to alert us to new developments by this investment group.

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