As if Burlington’s South End Art Hop wasn’t madcap enough, this year it will get an extra shot in the arm. Next Friday night will mark the debut of ArtsRiot’s new café, gallery and performance space in the Pine Street building where Fresh Market used to be.
ArtsRiot owners Felix Wai and PJ McHenry — plus an army of carpenters and others — have been busy for weeks readying the airy space at 400 Pine Street for the opening. At the party, photographs by Jan Reynolds and music from Rough Francis and other bands will share space with steamed buns and dumplings from chef Richard Witting.
After Art Hop, the Chinese-food-focused café will primarily serve weekday lunches, says McHenry, with hours extending into the early evening. “Be on the lookout for exciting food” as the menu evolves in the first few months, he adds.
ArtsRiot Café’s initial menu is dense with dumplings and steamed buns stuffed with the likes of braised pork belly and beef with cabbage, onions, cumin and cilantro. A separate vegetarian menu taps mushrooms, braised seitan, garlic and chives as fillings. Special dishes — such as spiced-beef skewers and a mystery dish listed only in Chinese — round out what McHenry calls “Chinese tapas.” The restaurant will also have daily specials based on the different cuisines of China.
Those could serve as snacks to accompany the beverages flowing behind the 20-foot-long pine-and-steel bar: a half dozen draft beers, a selection of sake and a menu of classic cocktails “with a twist,” such as Negroni and Dark ’n’ Stormy.
Teetotalers can indulge in teas from Burlington’s Dobrá Tea, including oolong, green and red. “They’re very selective about who serves their tea,” McHenry notes, and he and his staff will be trained in proper serving temperatures and procedures.
For coming months, McHenry and Wai plan a roster of food-focused events — such as stints by guest chefs, cook-offs and community dinners — that will match their collective’s genre-busting ethos. Already lined up as a guest chef is Brian Stefan of Southern Smoke.
The original print version of this article was headlined "Dumplings Sans Apathy".