Some new restaurants make a big old noise to let you know they’re coming (see below for Exhibit A, Chick-fil-A). Others just quietly appear like a night-blooming flower. Though it’s been right under everybody’s nose, the former Garden of Sheba space on E. Market Street hasn’t generated much talk as it changed hands over the past several months. Once it reopened as Bohème on October 28, though, Restaurantarama suddenly started fielding questions about the spot. So we headed over to take a look and meet owners Clive Papayanis and Tom Fussell.
The whole thing started as a “front” for a catering business, the two say half-seriously. They’d run Paragon Catering for six years from a kitchen in Fry’s Spring Beach Club until new health codes forced them to look for a new space this summer. The roomy Sheba spot fit the bill, but higher rent demanded higher revenue. And voilà: Bohème.
If this is a front, it’s an elaborate one. An enormous mahogany bar with a brass footrail and a mirrored back-bar anchors the room; the look is all white linen and Art Nouveau. “I want you to think of old New Orleans, circa 1890,” says Fussell. “Or Toulouse-Lautrec hanging out in the bistro,” adds Papayanis. (In homage to that Parisian painter, Restaurantarama will have the absinthe, s’il vous plaît.)
The menu (just dinner) fits the scene, with entrées like braised chop of veal and duck breast en croûte. “The cooking I know how to do is French,” says Papayanis, adding that his half-Greek, half-WASP, all-Lynchburg upbringing also taught him how to use what’s in season—hence the mushrooms, collard greens and root veggies that accompany that veal.
Interestingly, the two say that their out-of-the-way, off-the-Mall location at Market and Seventh streets will be an asset as they compete with a zillion other Downtown restaurants. “The Mall is over-trafficked,” says Fussell. He says their culinary reputation won’t hurt either. “People know about us; people have been anticipating us opening a restaurant for a long time.”
…EIGHT, NINE, TEN!
Breaking news: The new and unbelievably New York-like sushi palace Ten has opened above the Blue Light Grill. We’ve been there and will tell you all about it next week.
EL POLLO LOCO
As promised, a brief exposition of the grand-opening events planned by chicken-sandwich behemoth Chick-fil-A for their new store next to Lowe’s on 29N: It involves 5,200 free chicken sandwiches. To be more exact: Be one of the first 100 people in line when the place opens at 6am on November 9, and you will receive a free sandwich (actually, an entire combo meal) every week for a year. Further details: Chick-fil-A says that poultry enthusiasts, including some from out of state, will be in said line 24 hours in advance. There is nothing we can say to make this funnier than it already is. So there you have it.
In the latest chapter of the “formerly-Sylvia’s Pizza” saga, the Corner location of that slice shop—which started calling itself Bambina’s earlier this year—has closed. (Its Downtown branch is now Vita Nova.) And it won’t be serving pizza anymore, under any name. What it will do, as Pacino’s Deli & Catering, is join the Corner lunch scene with Italian subs and salads.
Mind you, we’re talking subs masterminded by a guy—Jimmy George is his name—who grew up in New Jersey and has run Italian delis for 25 years. “If you’ve ever been to a New Jersey/New York deli where the owners add their own personality to it, that’s what my dad’s good at,” says George’s son and partner Chris.
Restaurantarama is all for a touch of the Northeast around here, especially in the form of Italian food and deli owners with personality. We know Pacino’s, which should be open when you read this, will deliver lunch; we’ll see if they deliver on the atmosphere, too.
Got some restaurant scoop? Send your tips to email@example.com or call 817-2749, Ext. 48.