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 • Food & Drink  • TasteBudz Plus –May 24, 2018

TasteBudz Plus –May 24, 2018

Do I have cool restaurant news this week? Let me check. Yes!  I really do. So, let’s start with a couple of brand new restaurant openings. Actually, it’s more like three new restaurants. Read on and you’ll figure it out.

READY FOR SOME PBR: “Folks may call us PBR,” says Chris Staples, director of marketing and hospitality for the EAT Restaurant Group. “But our name,” he continues, “is Pizza and Beer of Richmond.” PBR (I’ll be one who calls it that) opens today, (May 24) at 4 p.m.It’s located at 2553 W. Cary St. And, let me tell you, this is gonna be one cool fan dining spot. Think Shakey’s Pizza Parlor with a modern day twist. Two things that Richmonders have come to expect in the slew of new casual dining places are craft beers and fun (and games). PBR offers both.

As for the pizza, Chris says the restaurant “Is all about the pizza.” He tells me that their mainly American-style Neapolitan pizzas will be cooked in a Marra Forni oven. For the uninitiated, which included me until this week. Marra Forni is an American- made Italian-style pizza oven that can cook (at up to 1000 degrees) a pizza in 90 seconds.

As for the beer, PBR will be offering 48 on tap. About 30 will be Virginia beers and about half of those will be brewed right here in Richmond. Fun and games are also a part of the experience. Chris says the patio, which offers bocci ball and corn hole, is the largest in the fan. The oven gets fired up, the beer begins to flow and the fun gets underway at 4 p.m. this afternoon.

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MEET ME ON THE PATIO: One of the city’s first Thai restaurants and one of the city’s most beautiful patios are both located at 103 W. Cary Street. My first taste of Thai was years ago, when the place was known as Beauregards (which closed in 2015). Well, the restaurant has just reopened under new management and the folks that now run the place are wisely (I think) calling the restaurant The Patio Thai Restaurant. I spoke with their manager, Tin Tin, this week. She tells me that the restaurant offers delicious Thai cuisine, adding that her favorite dish is the crispy duck. If you’ve never enjoyed a meal on the patio, which is more a secluded garden, then you need to visit soon. Pick a pleasant evening and dine under the stars.

WHERE THERE’S SMOHK, THERE’S FARE: The fare I’m talking about is fantastic barbecue at Smohk, located at 3112 W. Leigh St. in Scott’s Addition. I stopped by there yesterday for a little take-home. The food coming out of the kitchen in this little hideaway never fails to impress me. I love BBQ, but I’m also of the opinion that there are very few BBQ joints that will blow me away. Smohk does….blow me away, that is. Maybe it’s partly because I’m partial to the little guys, and Smohk is indeed a tiny spot tucked away in a little parking lot off Leigh Street. Just follow your nose. The aroma of hickory-smoked barbecue will lead the way. My only minor

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complaint about Smohk was that there was hardly any room to sit down and enjoy my barbecue and who wants to wait when that delicious smell is wafting through the room. Well, when I was there yesterday, co-owner Roby Williams showed me what they had done with the place. They’ve taken what was perhaps a storage area and turned it into a full-fledged restaurant. It’s still small, but there’s plenty of room for 25 to 30 to sit right down and enjoy some of the best BBQ in the state. Everything that I’ve had there is exceptional, especially when you top it with some of Roby’s own Smoky Apple BBQ sauce. Wow. Delicious. They cater, too.

WELL, SHUT MY MOUF: Maybe I impress easily, but I was also blown away by the coolness of Boka Taco Bar (304 N. Robinson). I’ve enjoyed Boka Tacos from their trucks on many occasions, but I had never been to the bar until this week. I spoke with Christina Harris, who’s pretty cool, herself. Christina is the manager there. I guess since it’s called a bar, I should have figured that maybe they served a little something something, but I thought it was a bar as in a dairy bar or a candy bar, maybe. They’ve got a full-fledged bar with cocktails, beer and wine, and a great happy hour, too. Happy Hour specials run from 3 to 7 p.m. daily, but 5 to 6 p.m. is Happiest Hour. During that sixty minute period, you can enjoy their margarita for two bucks.

Obviously, the star attractions are the tacos. You can choose from Asian specialties, such as Bulgogi Beef or Sambai pork. They also offer grilled chicken and tofu as protein options. Pick your style of taco as well – Asian, Mexican or American. Christina tells me that their braised beef brisket taco is one of her favorites. They also offer a seared tuna taco. That’s going to be my next taco.

THAT’S THE SPIRIT: Richmond’s newest distillery, Virago Spirits, had a little media preview (tasting) of their Four-Port Rum this week at The Jasper, at 3113 W. Cary. I tried the rum in a Manhattan, which was masterfully mixed by one of the best in town, Mattias Hagglund. Mattias, as you know, is co-owner of The Jasper, which is quickly catching on with locals and visitors alike. I spoke with several in the hospitality industry at the tasting and when those in the industry rave about a place you know it has to be good. Among the crowd were several of my favorite local bartenders and they all had nothing but praise for the Four-Port Rum, which was designed by brothers, Barry, Brad and Barton Haneberg, who own Virago. One of the brothers, Barton, I think (they all look alike), told me that the distillery will have its first product on the shelves in the local ABC stores in early July. He also said that the distillery’s cool, new tasting room (located at 1727 Rhoadmiller St.) should be opening to the public in late July or early August. We’ll keep you up to date on that. BTW, Mattias tells me that there’s a very good possibility that The Jasper will soon be offering Virago’s Four-Port Rum.

FRUGAL FOODIE:I was back down at one of my favorite Downtown dining spots, Café Rustika (414 E. Main) this week. This is slightly personal, but I think John Hewitt, who runs this restaurant specializing in German comfort food and schnitzels, along with partner Sam George, is one of the nicest guys in the business. While I was there, John talked me into breaking my diet and enjoying one of my favorite food items, anywhere, their brötchen, a delicious German roll, which Sam’s mother bakes daily in the restaurant. If you want to look like a German linguist, when you order the brötchen, pronounce it “brew’chen.

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John tells me that Café Rustika is now offering brötchen sandwich specials from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Here’s the deal, choose from five specialty sandwiches made with these tasty rolls, get a side dish such as their spätzle or sauerkraut or, my favorite, kartoffelsalat mit speck (potato salad with bacon). This lunch deal is just $8. Whether you’re a longtime fan of German cuisine or just want to check it out, this is a deal you should take advantage of.

A SONG WITH YOUR SUPPER?: Here are our weekend entertainment picks.

Thursday May 24

AW Shucks Country Store – 6 p.m. – Wayne Ruotolo will be performing on this cool little spot’s new covered patio. Who knows maybe Victor Gottlieb will show up.

The Wine Loft – 8 p.m. – Kari Smith. Enjoy one of the area’s loveliest singer/songwriters in the posh surroundings of the Wine Loft.

Friday May 25

Legend Brewing Co. – 8 p.m. – One of my favorite local bands, The Tin Can Fish Band perform.

O’Toole’s – 8 p.m. – They’re baaaaack. You know who. The Taters. They claim “No two shows the same.” I believe that.

Saturday May 26

Rare Olde Times – 8 p.m. – Blues, soul, funk, jazz and more. Enjoy the eclectic sounds of The Dan Schutt Band.

Sunday May 27

Bryan Park Bar & Grill – 10 a.m. – Sean Contreras of Cha Cha’s Cadillac will be doing a solo acoustic gig. Sean is one extremely talented performer.

For even more restaurant news, read Tastebudz in all four of our Richmond Navigator Publications. They’re all available online right here at RichmondNavigator.com.

That’s going to do it for this week.  Go. Eat.

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