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With Swingers on the scene, the Bottom gets a dose of grown-up food that's sure to satisfy.

Swing Time

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Venturing into Shockoe Bottom always leaves me feeling a little old. With its proliferation of bars catering to twenty- and thirtysomethings, the Bottom has never cried out for my business, and I bet I'm not alone among my comrades-in-age. So, bracing for the discomforting feeling of being the only over-the-hill gang member in a sea of youth and beauty, I dragged along two collegians home on break to Swingers on 18th Street.

I'm sure the owners were nowhere as glad as I that the restaurant was quiet and virtually empty, save for staff and what most certainly were barstool regulars.

Once upon a time, Swingers was just like any other bar in the Bottom. But an overhaul has refocused its attention to food and service, both of which garnered high scores on our visit. A full menu, from appetizers to desserts, represented enough variety for many tastes, and we thought the prices were reasonable. Until the plates started coming. Then we realized that the prices were better than reasonable, as portions are as generous as the food is good.

Our request for nachos to start was doomed from the outset. After what seemed to be lengthy anticipation, our warm and hospitable waitress came to tell us that the food purveyor had delivered the nacho chips to another restaurant, so she was just going to hoof it over and get the chips. Patience, please. Several minutes later she returned with a disappointed look. The nachos were not going to happen. We quickly upgraded to broiled shrimp ($7.50) and buffalo wings ($6.25). Since the menu said fries could be either sweet potatoes or good ol' Idaho — all hand-cut — we asked to try the sweet fries.

First came the wings, a mound of large, meaty ones, glazed in a tart, sweet sauce. Just as they were disappearing, a plateful of large, succulent shrimp, swimming in garlic and butter, made its arrival on a bed of wilted greens. As the forks flew, our waiters returned with a plateful of handsome, fresh-cut Idahos. No luck on the sweet potatoes, but we were far from disappointed. Not only were the fries delicious, they were offered as a gift, since they weren't what we wanted.

We were finishing off the last of the shrimp when our waitress appeared again. "If you wanted the filet," she explained to the one who ordered it, "it'll take some time, because he has to cut it. I can give you New York strip without having to wait." Fine. We weren't sure why the surf and turf ($18.95) the other one had ordered was on the way. But strip would be fine. This actually balanced out the disappointment quotient, because the crab legs that were to have come with the surf and turf were also nonexistent, forcing us to the other surf choice, which was shrimp.

When our entrees arrived, no one was disappointed. The chef had taken the time to dress the strip ($13.95) with bacon and garlic caper sauce, the same way the filet would've come. And the 8-ounce strip that came with the surf, which was cooked with the same deft touch as the appetizer had been, was equally delicious.

Of the three entrees, my jambalaya pasta was the only one that came as the menu promised. In fact, it was even better than the menu said. This giant plate of pasta in a spicy sauce was generously studded with cherrystone clams, shrimp, mussels, calamari and chunks of lively chorizo. We went home with boxes of food that we were too full to eat.

But we're never too full for dessert. Our waitress wasn't optimistic that there was any mud pie left, but tiramisu was definitely in our immediate future. When the desserts arrived, the sought-after mud pie was there. The presentation was professional, and the taste was homemade. Who could ask for more?

Although nothing went as planned, we were delighted at every turn. We'd had more food than we could eat, and we wanted to eat much more than we could. Swingers turned out to be a meal for all

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