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Weekly Food News: One taco bar opens, another closes, an oyster bar for Willow Lawn, and more

This week, one taco bar closes in the Fan, another opens in Forest Hill, an oyster bar opens at Willow Lawn, and Jack Brown’s tries a new concept in Shockoe Bottom.

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All the news that’s fit to eat

Saltbox Oyster Co. opens its doors at Willow Lawn – Saltbox Oyster Co. has made its debut at Willow Lawn. The new venture headed by Matthew Tlusty (of Julep’s, The White Anchovie, Arcadia, etc.) is housed in the former Family Meal location and features eight varieties of oysters, small plates, and more. Karri Peifer with the RTD has the full scoop.

Carolina Ale House in Short Pump is closed – Beer-heavy sports bar chain Carolina Ale House has closed its only location in Virginia, located at West Broad Village in Short Pump. The move happened at the close of business Sunday evening, and while the move was sudden, staff are being “supported” and offered jobs at other locations, although that would mean a move outside of the state. Here’s what we know.

Boka Tako Bar is “klosed” – Boka Tako Bar on Robinson Street in the Fan closed its doors last night, giving staff and customers almost no notice. The move comes after the building was sold to an unnamed buyer who’s reportedly planning a mysterious fast-casual concept in the space. The news came mid-evening last night and the place went a little wild. I can neither confirm nor deny that staff was seen dancing on the bar, pouring shots of liquor straight into customers’ mouths (no, I’m not making this up – and yes, I was sent the video – I’m not sharing it). They may later regret this “last hoorah” though, as it’s now being reported the new owner is offering jobs to some of the current restaurant staff. More here.

Don’t Look Back’s new Forest Hill location now open – As one taco joint closes, another opens. Don’t Look Back’s new Forest Hill Avenue outpost is now open, and all you South Richmonders can get your paws on some of the best tacos in town. Just give them some time to get up to speed. They’re running with limited hours and menu items, currently. Get the scoop.

Jack Brown’s moves into the Bottom with a new concept – The owners of Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint are making their mark on Shockoe Bottom with a slightly different concept than their burger bar at Libbie & Grove. Billy Jack’s Shack, which opens on December 3rd, will feature burgers and ‘dogs, along with some higher-end fare. Eileen Mellon with Richmond Magazine has more.

This week’s restaurant reviews

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Food News: A “last last call” for Comfort, 24 hours in “Hell” with Gordan Ramsay, and #rvadine regulars

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The week in food

If you didn’t get a chance to get into Comfort before the restaurant officially closed for business, you’ll have one more chance this weekend. The restaurant will reopen Saturday night for a “last last call” party. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Stop in at 6:00 PM until everything’s gone – and that includes food, booze (even rare bourbons apparently), and some of the restaurant’s memorabilia. It’s your last chance to enjoy the iconic restaurant. Yes, really this time. More here.

What happens when Gordan Ramsay shows up at your restaurant dressed as an old church lady at your restaurant? You spend the next 24 hours in the kitchen filming a TV show, as one local restaurant owner found out. Shane Roberts-Thomas, the owner of Southern Kitchen in Jackson Ward, was recently featured on Ramsay’s TV show “24 Hours To Hell And Back” which airs on FOX. Ramsay typically disguises himself when he shows up at restaurants who have agreed to participate in the show. She was contacted in advance about the possibility of a TV show filming there, but she didn’t know which one she’d be on – or if it would happen. She spent the next day (yes, non-stop) filming. Karri Peifer with the RTD has a great interview with Roberts-Thomas in advance of the episode, which airs Friday night at 9:00 PM. Check it out here.

A new chicken wing joint is coming to the Fan. The Cocky Rooster, at 2523 W. Main Street across from 3 Monkeys, won’t just be another restaurant with wings, but rather one that focuses on them, with other offerings. The joint will supposedly be open until 3:00 AM on the weekends, competing with nearby Benny Ventano’s Pizza that caters to the late-night, post-bar (read: hammered) crowd. Richmond BizSense has all the details here.

HogsHead Café, a popular and delicious barbecue and comfort food joint in the West End (one that I discovered by accident about six months ago), is moving to a bigger location. They’ll take over the space formerly occupied by Havana ’59’s West End outpost before it closed. I always like to see locally-owned West End restaurants, which are increasingly fewer and farther between, succeeding amongst the bevy of chains. More here.

Over at Richmond Magazine, Genevelyn Steele has an intriguing interview with bar regulars (we’re talking folks that, in some cases, are at their favorite haunt almost every night) and what keeps bringing them back. We’re running the gamut here from L’Opossum to Home Team Grill. I found this one fascinating. Read it here.

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Food News: Fighting Fish and Canasta’s expands, grocery store love, and a new taqueria in the Fan

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As we settle into February, the Richmond restaurant scene is a bit dimmer without several mainstays among the ever-growing crowd that is the Richmond dining scene. Comfort and Aloi served their last meals since we last talked, and Acacia mid-town closes after service on Saturday evening. But 2020 promises new restaurants, concepts, and ways to push the #rvadine scene to the next level, no doubt.

For their part, Acacia is having a restaurant yard sale of sorts following their closure. Everything from wine and glassware to tables and chairs is up for grabs on Tuesday, February 11th from 3:00 until 6:00 PM. Check out how you can get your hands on a piece of the restaurant’s history here.

In the new restaurant realm, Richmond Restaurant Group’s latest venture, Barrio Taqueria & Tequila, is now open in the former Pearl Raw Bar space. I stopped by last Friday night and checked out their digs. The tacos, available on either flour or corn tortillas, are pretty tasty, especially the carne asada variety. The street corn (served shaved off the cob) and margaritas are both on point, too. This will be a cool hangout in the spring and summer months with the new garage doors installed around the building to allow in fresh air. Check out my photos here, and Karri Peifer has a writeup.

Jackson Ward hole-in-the-wall Fighting Fish is expanding its empire with a second location in Scott’s Addition, Richmond BizSense reports. The restaurant, which offers tasty sushi, sushi burritos, poke bowls, and more will take over the former Elsa Ethiopian restaurant on Arthur Ashe Boulevard near the 7-Eleven. More on the new location here.

Our intrepid southside reporter Richard Hayes has news of Canasta’s Chicken, a Peruvian chicken outlet with an existing location on S. Laburnum Avenue, opening in Stratford Hills. I’ve never been, but he likens the menu to Chicken Fiesta, but more Peruvian leaning than Tex-Mex. Check out his report here.

I’ve said it for years (and our website hits back it up) – Richmonders love their grocery stores. Whole Foods Market opened its new location in the Fan last week, and a crowd that stretched around the block welcomed the grocer with open arms. Style Weekly’s Phaedra Hise opines on something that hadn’t even occurred to me: they may be the first to be able to pick up where Ukrop’s left off in terms of offering a higher quality product and service – where other grocers have failed in the past decade (Martin’s, anyone?). The company even hired a thirty-year Ukrop’s alum to run the store. Read her story here.

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Food News: More January closures, not-so-sweet times at Sugar Shack, and a new Italian joint

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As we enter the third week of the year, the Richmond restaurant scene is hopping – and ever transient. First up, news that Acacia mid-town is closing its doors at the end of the month. The RTD’s Karri Peifer says the restaurant will finish up the month and then a “new venture” will be announced – at a separate location. Meanwhile, the current building has been sold. Much more to come on this front for sure.

Elsewhere on the restaurant closing front, the rumor that Aloi in Scott’s Addition may be closing its digs became reality with the restaurant announcing the impending closure, also at the end of January, on its social channels.

Finally, as you know by now, Comfort is closing at the end of the month. If you enjoyed, as I did, their summer sandwich popup known as The Paulie, you’ll be happy to know it’s making one more return before the restaurant closes down.

In what may already be the most Richmond story of 2020, there’s plenty of drama at Sugar Shack Donuts this week. Earlier this week, a “now leasing” sign appeared perched atop the donut chain’s flagship location on Lombardy Street – with sources saying only that the shop’s lease was up in July. Then came a viral posting from an alleged former employee who claimed 40 employees were laid off and the owner, Ian Kelley, was facing allegations of sexual assault. We haven’t been able to independently verify the claims made in the viral Facebook post, which you can read for yourself here, but things look less than rosy for Sugar Shack right now.

On the openings front, The Angry Mussels, which takes over the former Kitchen on Cary space at 1331 E. Cary Street in Shockoe Slip, is now open and serving up authentic Italian cuisine, including a few menu samples such as linguini with clam sauce, Italian sausage and broccoli, steak saltimbocca, and other traditional dishes. Get more details here.

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