June 2006 Cheap EatsOn a Saturday night it seems that all of Fairfax is at this sprawling restaurant with its three-sided bar and bilevel dining room. The lobby's jammed, and the conversational din drowns out the Foo Fighters on the sound system.
The draw? Supersize portions of deftly done American comfort food, a hallmark of the Great American Restaurants chain. You can make a meal of a starter or salad or split an entrée, sometimes three ways. The place may feel factorylike at times--seat 'em, feed 'em, send 'em on their way--but service is chipper and the call-ahead policy a boon for diners who don't like to wait.
Rich lobster bisque, scented with sherry, is the best of the soups. The chopped salad combines crunch with the retro creaminess of buttermilk dressing. Jumbo lump crab cakes are easily shared--skip the fries and go for Parmesan potatoes, really a luscious gratin. Other plates made for twosomes are pecan-crusted trout--the nutty flavor and buttery citrus sauce works well with the mild fish--and the Black Angus rib eye, a meaty hunk infused with hickory smoke and mated with a baked potato loaded with bits of bacon, cheese, and green onion. Fusiony dishes like Tex-Mex egg rolls filled with smoked chicken and jalapeño jack don't work as well, and at times the menu descends into fast-food territory: Chicken tenders?
Save room for dessert. The fudgy flourless chocolate waffle with house-made vanilla ice cream is fabulous.