Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

Winning Formula

The Short Pump Grill is slick with just enough homemade touches.

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Co-owners Stevan Parry and Kevin Kaczmarek have designed their own place to fill a void between fine dining and the nearby T.G.I. Friday's and similar chains. The average check at the grill is $28 at dinner and $12 at lunch.

The décor is ersatz art deco. The restaurant seats 150 in three sections — a main dining room with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, a smaller windowless room adorned with Edward Hopper prints, and a spacious bar with a stone wall and two television sets placed to not interfere with dining-room patrons. Now that spring has arrived, there are tables outside as well.

If two recent visits are any indication, by the time the new mall opens nearby in the fall, the grill, which is located in a free-standing building east of the new theater complex, will have established a customer base loyal enough to fend off competition from Maggiano's Little Italy and any other eateries that open at the mall proper.

I began dinner with a generous portion of sesame-encrusted, seared tuna ($8) that comes with two sauces, wasabi — the Japanese version of horseradish, and Sriracha — a brand of garlicky chile pepper. Make sure water is handy, as either one of those sauces will clear your nostrils and together are guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes.

Less adventurous souls won't be disappointed with the homemade potato chips, sliced for dipping in a gorgonzola sauce ($5).

Among the steaks — and the Short Pump Grill at its heart is a steakhouse — the 16-ounce rib-eye ($24) differentiates itself from the ordinary because it is marinated for a full day in a Hawaiian tropical sauce of pineapples and soy. The result adds a sweet touch on a top-notch piece of meat.

Other meat-lover offerings are two sizes of New York strips, a filet, a pork chop in an apple cider reduction, baby-back ribs with a dry "whiskey" rub and meatloaf.

The seafood entrees include salmon, crab cake, shrimp and tuna. My wife, Nancy, selected the pan-seared sea scallops ($21), five juicy ones topped with shredded leeks, enhanced by a ginger citrus sauce and decorated with a sprig of watercress.

The dinner menu also offers lemon-grilled chicken ($14) and penne pasta with sweet and spicy sausage ($13).

The grill is family friendly, offering four sandwiches at night, including meatloaf, a half-pound burger and teriyaki chicken (each $7.50) and a grilled shrimp BLT ($11).

A side order that is popular with, but not restricted to, children, is the homemade macaroni and white American cheese ($3), which definitely was not truck-stop fare.

At lunch, Nancy's bite-sized chopped salad ($4) included chunks of fresh corn, scrapped from the cob and apple-wood-smoked bacon, topped with a house dressing of cayenne buttermilk.

The chicken in my chicken Oscar ($13) had been pounded or sliced thin enough to look like a white fish, and was topped with a generous portion of backfin crab meat and julienne bacon, topped with Hollandaise sauce.

Desserts are $5. We shared a stack of mini-sized chocolate waffles, interspersed with scoops of locally made Bev's vanilla ice cream.

I found two minor problems, one of which could easily be resolved. When most dinner entrees are in the mid- to high-$20s, linen table cloths would seem more appropriate than Formica.

The other problem comes with the location. Despite the chic décor, there's no deluding yourself into imagining you are in SoHo, or even Shockoe Slip, when the view out the windows is of a 7-Eleven, a drive-in bank and a gas station. The cure for that, however, is eating after the sun goes down. S



Don Baker has been reviewing restaurants since he retired as Richmond bureau chief for The Washington Post in '99. He has worked as a waiter and maitre-d' and has a dining Web site, diningpro.com. He last reviewed restaurants for Style in the late '80s.



Short Pump Grill ($$$$)

11430 W. Broad St.

364-1004

Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.

Dinner Monday-Thursday 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 4:30 p.m.-11 p.m. and Sunday 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m.

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