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Richmond's newest brewpub, Main Street Beer Co., also pays attention to the food.

More Than Noshes

A Fan eatery with ample off-street parking — it's a plan mall-minded city planners might invent. An empty supermarket building adapted to new use — it's a concept to start the tax assessors calculating. A new business that's packing them in — it's enough to bring an owner's fist into affirmative air.

If you haven't been to the Main St. Beer Co., you may be among the last. Carved from the old grocery near the corner of Meadow and Main, most recently a Community Pride, the interior shows no signs of its former use. Now a functioning brewery, it's also serving up some rather good food along with sudsy brews — some made on the premises, others made in breweries owned by the management or other microbreweries.

The tap-room with the adjacent brewery and dining area is noisy with gregarious laughter and talk; the separate nonsmoking restaurant is spacious and quiet enough for easy conversation. This room isn't exactly cozy — it reminds me of restaurants in suburban hotels with its high ceiling and large expanses of plate glass — but tables are at a comfortable distance and the spaciousness absorbs the sound. It's hard to believe it's in the Fan.

As you might expect, Main Street Beer Co. offers some tasting options if you want to compare the brews. What you might not expect is a rather good wine list, which no doubt will be refined and expanded in the future — the owners have just recently acquired a wine business.

On a recent weekend evening we were lucky enough to get immediate seating in the dining room — that's not always the case. Service was pleasant and casual, and although all seats were taken, the kitchen and servers kept things moving.

I expected to find a casual indifference to the food, which is usually the case when the emphasis would seem to be on something else. This is not so at all — no nachos, no burgers and absolutely no mozzarella sticks. While the restaurant menu doesn't stake out new culinary territory, it offers pleasant variations that take the usual into international, sometimes spicy territory. And with entrees below $20, you can drop in on a weeknight for a dinner that doesn't wreck the budget for a month.

Both appetizers ($4.95-$8.50) we tried were winners. A whole roasted red pepper stuffed with artichoke hearts, eggplant, tomatoes and feta cheese is a warm meld of some of my favorite flavors in a handsome presentation. It's enough for two amiable sorts to share; maybe enough for a light supper if you start with a bowl of soup or an appetizer salad ($2.95-$5.95). The Charleston egg roll is a multicultural wrap with greens, shrimp and sausage — probably more Cajun than Charleston, but we won't quibble — it's a delicious invention made sweet with a bit of spicy peach chutney. Another half-dozen starters are almost as intriguing.

There's enough on the present menu of entrees ($9.95-$11.50) to bring me back for another dinner soon. An 8-ounce beef filet was beautifully cooked and with the requisite potatoes (flavored with rosemary) and a dollop and scatter of vegetables — very satisfying. Likewise, a 12-ounce veal rib chop was moist and tender, enhanced only with a wine and shallot reduction. Other choices are pasta with roasted garlic and asparagus, a couple of chicken preparations, other beef steaks and several seafood dishes. Both specials of the day were fish.

If you named the six desserts you most often find in Richmond restaurants, you'd probably have the list here, and the Key lime pie was quite good. After ample, good food, sometimes cups of good coffee bring sufficient closure.

The Fan dining scene is always dynamic. Main St. Beer Co. is an ambitious new addition. Already, ample off-street parking may not be

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