The LX Group is bringing two new restaurant concepts to Richmond with more on the horizon.

Kunal Shah and Neal Patel of the Richmond-based LX Group are two of many entrepreneurs shifting their business model after two years of challenges during the pandemic.

“A lot of what went into the business model in 2021 was how do we stay floating and make sure we’re here on the other side?” says Patel. “Now we really want to shift our model and incorporate partnerships to focus on food.” LX Group currently owns Kabana Rooftop, Switch Pop-Up Bar, Nama on Broad, Belle & James and Sonora Cantina & Rooftop in Richmond, but changes are coming.

Sonora Rooftop to become Juan’s Cantina and Rooftop

Sonora Rooftop & Sports Bar opened at 11 W. Broad St. in the Arts District right before COVID-19, not only making it hard to build a reputation, but excluding it from many of the government loans and grants other restaurants secured. As Shah and Patel were considering what to do with the restaurant, they met Juan Carillo who owns four Juan’s Mexican Café locations in Hampton, where the LX Group also operates Monroe Rooftop. Carillo was looking to enter the Richmond market, so they decided to bring him in as a co-owner.

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“He makes this incredible authentic food and he loves cocktails—he’s a big tequila guy,” Patel says. “He’s really into quality ingredients and building food experiences—we’re into the other side of the experience.”

They decided to turn Sonora into Juan’s Rooftop and Cantina, opening in early April. The restaurant is being redecorated with bright colors and murals to create an artsy urban vibe. The new menu will focus on quality ingredients, but also creating dining experiences. There will be tableside guacamole with traditional and gourmet add-ins, tomahawk steaks cooked tableside for tacos, smoked cocktails, a ceviche bar, and even sushi. “Since we already had a lot of raw fish on the menu, we started playing with a Japanese feel too,” Carillo says. There will even be a Mexican take on ramen with shredded beef and fresh cilantro. Of course, there will also be frozen drinks and lots of margaritas.

There will also be simple traditional dishes like tacos for guests looking for a quick lunch. Sunday brunch will feature chilaquiles, Mexican egg dishes, pancakes and French toast with chile-anejo tequila infused maple syrup. Juan’s Mexican Café imports its own Café Azteca coffee brand from Chiapas, Mexico, and traditional roasts plus cinnamon and cacao-infused varieties will also be served with a tableside experience.

A new chef for Nama on Broad

“Nama is my and Kunal’s project from the heart,” Patel says. “We’re Indian and we wanted to bring and Indian restaurant to the city. We did that, then COVID-19 hit.” While Nama, located near Sonora at 15 W. Broad St., stayed open, they lost a lot of the core staff. As they were looking to amp back up, they started talking with Kalyan Dabbiru, another restaurateur who lives in Richmond but owns a restaurant in Peoria, Ill. “He already loved Nama and knew what we were about,” Patel says. They brought Dabbiru in to oversee a menu overhaul. The name and swanky décor will remain, but the menu is shifting incorporate more classic Indian dishes and some Indo-Chinese. There will be new curry pots and fish dishes straight from the tandoor. The restaurant remains open as the food transitions.

The upstairs at Nama is also being outfitted with a new bar and elegant gold and teal decor to become the Peacock Room, A regular dining room that can also handle parties of 50 to 75 for private events.

Switch Pop-Up (13 W. Broad St.) is also getting a new menu from Dabbiru that will incorporate some Indian food, but also pizza, salads and appetizers. Look for a new theme upstairs coming in spring.

Kabana gets a makeover, Belle & James gets a new concept

Dabbiru is also taking over the kitchen at Kabana Rooftop on the 20th floor of Hilton’s Hampton Inn and Suites and Homewood Suites in downtown Richmond (700 E. Main St.), which is currently under renovation to reopen in late April or early May. Patel won’t spill much about the new décor, but says to get ready for a fresh look and feel. There will be pergolas and more outdoor elements, shifting the atmosphere to feel more like a restaurant with a lounge and occasional live music than a nightclub. The menu will be internationally inspired with Asian influences.

Downstairs, Belle & James is being converted into a Richmond location of Casta’s Cuban Rum Bar. The original Casta’s is located in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C. and is owned by Versus, a DC-based entertainment lifestyle company LX Group has a longstanding relationship with. The atmosphere will showcase a vibrant Cuban vibe to match the Cuban food and cocktail selection: “We thought it would be a really nice fit for people who live here or are visiting,” Patel says.

Last but not least, LX Group is also working on a yet-to-be named music venue to open in the downtown area with state-of-the-art sound and lighting to accommodate up to 450 people. This passion project of co-owner Kunal Shaw is set to open in the fall. All this is in the works as Monroe Rooftop in Hampton reopens at the end of this month with a cocktail lounge and pool.

Megan Marconyak has been enthusiastically devouring every fresh flavor she can find and capturing it in writing for over 15 years. Drool along with her dining adventures and send her your #RVADine tips on Instagram @MeganMarcoStyle.