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Weekly Food News: More pizza concepts, “Delicious District,” Hot Chick, and authentic Mexican guisos in Midlothian

This week, a look at two new pizza concepts in an increasingly crowded field around town, a new restaurant initiative in the Museum District, Hot Chick in the Bottom, and authentic Mexican in Midlothian.

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Fire & Hops fires up in former Stuzzi space – A new pizza restaurant has fired up in the former Stuzzi space in the Museum District. Fire & Hops recently opened its doors at 1 N. Belmont Avenue. When the RTD’s Karri Peifer asked owner Joe Conigliaro about his concerns with so many pizza concepts springing up in town recently, he was undeterred, stating simply, “We’ve been doing it for 27 years. Maybe we’re not for everyone, but we’re going for quality over quantity.” Read on here.

Belmont Pizza taking a slice out of the Bottom – The owners of Belmont Pizza (arguably the best pizza in Richmond – tell me I’m wrong) are also undeterred by all the other pizza joints in Richmond, upping the ante with a new restaurant in Shockoe Bottom. Victor Guevara and business partner Sal Nuara will open Carmela’s in the former Halligan Bar & Grill space on 17th Street. Expect everything to be made in house. The RTD has a preview here.

Hot Chick: A Fried Chicken Joint makes its debut – The latest concept from the folks at EAT Restaurant Partners opened its doors recently (and just so happens to be adjacent to the new Carmela’s space). Hot Chick: A Fried Chicken Joint, is serving up fried chicken, chicken sandwiches, chicken wings, chicken and waffles, mac and cheese chicken bowls, and more in the space that formerly housed River City Diner. Check it out here.

Museum District highlighting restaurants, supporting RPS through new initiative – The Museum District Association is aiming to spotlight its numerous restaurants and, at the same time, support Richmond Public Schools by way of the Meals Tax with a new initiative called “Delicious District.” The program encourages residents and visitors alike to support locally-owned restaurants in the neighborhood, featured on a map and downloadable passport. Those who dine at 15 area joints by the fall will be entered into a drawing for $500 worth of restaurant gift cards. More here.

Go eat at Abuelita’s on Midlothian – If you love true, authentic Mexican food, our own Richard Hayes has a recommendation to pass along in Midlothian. Abuelita’s, at 6400 Midlothian Turnpike, isn’t your typical Tex-Mex fare you see everywhere in Richmond – it’s the real deal, he says. “You’re not going to find your typical Americanized taco, nacho fare. Instead, owners Karina Benavides and Everardo Fonseca serve up Mexican stews called guisos. Don’t be put off by the fast-food chain looking building, this place is anything but chain style Mexican.” Read his review here.

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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Weekly Food News

Food News: Top-tier pho and ramen coming soon, the current state of #rvadine, a Taste of Richmond, and a rooftop juice bar

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The week in food

It’s almost go-time for the new Pho 95 Hi Ky Mi Gia concept at Willow Lawn, and I’m excited because I love nothing more than a delicious bowl of hot pho this time of year, and this place is dangerously close to my day job. Eileen Mellon at Richmond Magazine says married couple and co-owners Christine and Steven Phan have quite a following on the pho circuit. Here’s a little more about them and when you can expect the restaurant to officially open.

Speaking of hot bowls of awesome, a popular DC ramen joint is heading to Richmond for one night only. Toki Underground will pop up at Carytown cocktail bar The Jasper on Sunday, March 1st at 5:00 PM. Tickets are $16 per person and you can be guaranteed they’ll sell out. Karri Peifer has the absolutely delicious-looking menu over on Richmond.com for your viewing pleasure.

Speaking of special events and the RTD, they’ll host their Taste of Richmond event at the Hilton Richmond Hotel & Spa in Short Pump on May 3rd. This year’s featured restaurants include Mama J’s, Mantu, Dover Hall, the Salty Pig, Hobnob, La Vita E’Bella Ristorante Italiano, Fall Line Kitchen & Bar, Natalie’s Taste of Lebanon, Texas de Brazil, and more. An all-access pass to enjoy unlimited samples is $75, and there’s a discount code available here.

Over at Richmond Magazine, Piet Jones has an excellent snapshot of the current moment in Richmond’s dining scene evolution through interviews with industry veterans including An Bui, Kelli Lemon, Michelle Jones, and others who have been instrumental in the #rvadine scene’s meteoric rise.

There’s a new kind of rooftop bar coming to the Fan. No, this one won’t be overflowing with spirits a la Scott’s Addition, but rather, a rooftop juice bar. The Pit and the Peel is moving their VCU location a block from where they currently are, having recently purchased a building at 1210 W. Main Street. This seems like a really cool idea and – if they’re investing just south of a million on a full renovation, clearly the VCU location is doing quite well. More here.

The Big Kitchen, Tazza Kitchen’s gourmet to go, Brew Thru-style concept in Scott’s Addition closed months ago, so seeing that the closure just now made the news over at BizSense surprised me, but then again maybe I was the only one who went there almost weekly. Picking up dinner to go there was tasty, convenient, and dare I say fun – all the convenience of a fast-food drive-thru with far superior food and service by Tazza. That said, most times I picked up, my order was the lone bag sitting on the shelf of the glass door refrigerators in the covered bay. So I wasn’t totally surprised, albeit definitely disappointed, when they closed. All that said, looks like the owners are brewing up a new restaurant concept for the space. Mike Platania at Richmond BizSense has more.

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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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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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