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New Richmond restaurants open amid pandemic: 'I want to feed people'

Posted at 5:00 PM, Nov 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-23 18:06:21-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A handful of new eateries are opening in Richmond this week despite rising coronavirus cases and increased restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chef Mike Ledesma opened Instabowl at 2601 West Cary Street on Monday.

The Perch-owner in Scott’s Addition had a different vision for the space where Acacia was formerly located.

“I was going to have a beautiful restaurant, but now it’s going to be beautiful food come out of it,” Ledesma said.

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He wouldn’t share his original plans for the space, but opened up about a new concept strictly aimed at offering unique dining options during a pandemic.

Chef Ledesma swapped fine dining for fast takeout.

He doesn’t offer any sit-down dining - indoors nor outdoors - but a healthy and quick meal to-go.

“I’m trying to change the model since the restaurant model is not working right now. So, this is an experiment,” he explained. “In a pandemic, this is the safest way to keep my team safe and you getting good food, great food.”

His Pacific Island-inspired dishes, like Curry in a Hurry and Pika Pika Poke, are all served in compostable bowls.

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Ledesma describes his model as an “incubator kitchen” or venture capital in the smallest form.

Next month, he planned to allow his employees to spearhead their own restaurant concept from the West Cary Street location.

A love for everything sweet spurred a lifelong obsession for one VCU-alum and her dream of opening her own ice cream shop.

Rabia Kamara is putting finishing touches on Ruby Scoops Ice Cream and Sweets located at 120 West Brookland Park Boulevard.

Ruby is Rabia’s nickname since childhood. She joked that she’s always had the worst sweet tooth in her family.

Rabia.jpg

She had planned to open her dream business last Fall, but the pandemic happened.

Kamara and her business partner, Emmett Wright, were given the green light to open on the city’s Northside this month. They met at a dairy industry panel last year.

“My entire life this is the only thing I’ve seen myself doing,” she stated. “I want to feed people, I want to bring them happiness.”

The Black, female, and queer-owned shop is serving up small batch ice cream, sorbet, and baked goods.

Kamara raised tens of thousands of dollars over social media to fund her business.

The business partners plan to serve customers on Saturday, November 28. They’ll be open Fridays through Sunday for the rest of the year with COVID-19 on their minds.

Only a few customers are allowed inside at the same time and everything will be served in to-go containers.

“Our hope is to be apart of this neighborhood for as long as you possibly can — if I’m lucky forever,” Kamara said.

Meanwhile, Jason Alley, a noted Richmond chef and restaurateur, will now serve as the voice of Richmond restaurants navigating in a COVID-19 world.

“We want to get some help to people really before the winter sets in,” Alley said.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney hired Alley as a provisional policy adviser to make sure the needs of Richmond restaurants were heard at City Hall.

Alley said three projects are in the works to help provide funding and help for restaurateurs navigating this crisis.

“They just need help to stay open until hopefully Spring when things go back down again or when people can start to eat outside again,” he explained.

Alley's job is funded by the city's CARES Act money.

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