The Tuckahoe Shopping Center in Henrico County enjoys a solid reputation for offering its neighbors superior screwdrivers — of the hardware variety — subs and Slurpees. And it’s time to add another S to the lineup. Shore Dog Cafe is a refreshing addition to dining options in this quiet suburb, and it’s likely to lure city dwellers to head west.
Owners Gibbs and Sharon Moody opened Shore Dog in 2015 as a casual spot for breakfast, lunch and afterschool treats such as ice cream and cookies. Named after the family dog, early visitors responded favorably to its welcoming vibe — a cozy, family-friendly spot. The decor and local artwork instantly transplants you to a favorite beach vacation spot. Shore Dog improved its game by adding dinner hours in the fall.
On a recent weekend evening, I make reservations, and upon arrival, I’m taken to my table with no delay. I stopped in for lunch a few days earlier, and the changes made to set the scene for supper are quickly apparent — softer light, cloth napkins and pleasant, familiar music.
Our server is prompt with menus, and after ordering entrees, my dining companion and I enjoy a bottle of wine with a basket of warm bread accompanied by honey-cinnamon butter. It’s just enough to whet our appetites without filling our hungry stomachs.
I start with shrimp, white cheddar grits and green sauce ($9), and my companion selects the Caesar salad ($12). Both meet high expectations — and the homemade croutons on the salad are an example of how, as a daytime bakery and coffee shop, Shore Dog shines.
Vacillating between the seared Chesapeake day-boat scallops ($24) and roasted lump crab cakes ($21), the server tips me toward the latter. Two appropriately-sized crab cakes — not too big, not too small — seasoned with charred lemon, and a basil and red pepper emulsion are excellent, and my partner enjoys his rare — cooked to perfection — petite beef medallions (market price) that are seasoned with pungent rosemary, thyme and blue cheese butter.
Although there’s very little room left for dessert, we forge ahead and devour a specialty cake ($5) that’s not always available, we’re told. The melt-in-your-mouth chocolate and sea salt caramel decadence, along with two cups of piping hot Lamplighter Roasting Co. coffee, are a fitting finish. On another visit, we order a brownie topped with whipped cream and chocolate sauce ($4). Although the coffee is served immediately, it grows cold as we wait 15 minutes for the brownie to arrive. There’s no offer to refill our cups.
Another night, we share the spinach and mandarin orange salad ($12). The apple wood smoked bacon is crisp and complemented by its mushrooms and vinaigrette. Keep in mind — these salads are sized for sharing and can be turned into entrees with the addition of protein.
While not a vegetarian, I find the lone such offering on the menu intriguing. Vareniki ($14) is described as a raviolilike Russian dumpling. Here, it’s made from Bombolini pasta and stuffed with mozzarella and tomato, and then sautéed until brown in butter with sage and spinach. The combination of a slightly crisp shell that oozes with moist flavor makes me forget all about meat-laden dishes. And when the chicken Provençal ($17) arrives, it’s enough to merit a doggie bag.
As someone who enjoys cooking, I expect several things when I eat out. I need a relaxing atmosphere, a place quiet enough to talk, along with — of course — good food and prices. As far as service goes, Shore Dog has room to grow, since this aspect of the place doesn’t quite match the high marks of its food achieves. On two out of three visits, items took too long to reach the table — puzzling since the place was far from capacity — and reservations were inexpertly handled. Still, the spot fills a void in this Henrico County neighborhood, where evening dining is scarce. The dinner program is off to a solid start. S
Shore Dog Cafe
Mondays-Tuesdays 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wednesdays-Saturdays 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sundays 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
435-B N. Ridge Road