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Manakin Grill; Star-lite Dining and Lounge

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Manakin Grill's menu is divided into "small plates" (appetizers that could be minimeals), salads (field greens, Caesar, spinach or Cobb), sandwiches (burger, BBQ, grilled chicken, etc.), "large plates" (entrees) and sides. Plus, there are specials (lobster tail, New York strip) and a children's menu with the basics.

For starters, we decided to share a small plate of Carolina crab cakes with Cajun rémoulade ($8.75) and a field-greens salad served with candied walnuts and Vidalia onion vinaigrette ($4.95).

When our entrees arrived and our10-ounce filet mignon ($20.95) — requested to be cooked medium— was rather well-done (i.e., charred), our waitress readily returned it to the kitchen without batting an eye. Meanwhile, I happily savored my shrimp picatta ($16.25): a dozen medium-sized shrimp accompanied by capers and diced tomatoes on a bed of linguine, all with an absolutely heavenly lemon cream sauce.

Despite a misstep or two, Manakin Grill is surely on the right track with a nice, balanced menu and excellent service to boot. — Carter Braxton

Manakin Grill
12912 Plaza Drive
Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11
a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday Brunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Limited menu between 3 and 5 p.m.

Star-lite Dining and Lounge's fare is essentially good bar food with a few nice surprises and a few disappointments. An order of crostini ($5.95) turned out to be slices of dubious French bread thoroughly soaked and soggy with tomato sauce and topped with melted mozzarella. Pan-fried pot-stickers ($5.95) (steamed and then fried Asian dumplings) were stuffed with a savory mix of ground pork and served with intensely spicy Chinese soy dipping sauce and a milder honey mustard sauce.

We also ordered the sautéed veggie sub ($5.95), which stands out because its vegetables are sautéed in garlic and wine before being baked in a roll with tomato and cheese. It's a nice touch that adds a distinctive flavor. The chicken Star-Lite ($9.95) also turned out to be a pretty neat dish. A sautéed boneless chicken breast is topped with spinach, smoked ham, roasted red peppers, onions and Gorgonzola cheese and flashed under the broiler. With all those flavors and textures, it's a dish that will hold your interest for a quite a while. — B. Ifan Rhys

Star-lite Dining and Lounge
Main and Robinson streets
Lunch and dinner daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

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