6210 Backlick Rd., Springfield
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; bar open until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Prices: Soup $2.50, sandwiches and entrees $5.95 to $12.95.
Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express. Nonsmoking section available.
Built to resemble a turn-of-the-century warehouse, this six-month-old restaurant gives a performance as solid as it looks: good food, prompt service, pleasant atmosphere and moderate prices.
Mikes American Grill is the newest effort of the Fairfax-based corporation Great American Restaurants, which has developed, among others in the area, the Carlyle Grand Cafe and Artie's. Like these predecessors, Mikes' decor reflects a sizable investment of money and creativity, and to good effect.
The warehouse motif of the two-story brick interior -- exposed ductwork, thick beams, hardwood floors -- is softened by hanging plants, graceful antique chandeliers and the warm glow from gas-lit candle sconces. The effect is especially appealing at night. A glass-sided elevator affords the rider an aerial view of the open kitchen and the ground-floor dining areas. Another open kitchen upstairs serves the larger, multilevel second floor.
The simple, streamlined menu -- there are virtually no appetizers -- features grilled items with a smattering of salads, sandwiches and pastas. The dishes listed as starters are mostly side orders, such as the sensational seasoned fries, the fresh tasting and finely chopped coleslaw and, a rare miss, overly sweetened baked beans.
On a recent visit, the soup was a wonderful homestyle beef barley with vegetables, nicely seasoned and served piping hot.
The warm "ozzie rolls" are a corporate trademark and come seven to a basket for $1. Similar to fried doughnut holes, they are delicious with honey rather than the poppyseed butter that would be better without salt.
If you insist on an appetizer, some of the generous entrees can be easily divided among three to four diners -- for example, the meaty and succulent chicken fingers ($7.95) or the fresh herb-flecked linguine with garlic shrimp in a gloriously creamy tomato sauce ($8.75).
Although the delmonico steak rolled in kosher salt is a good choice, I preferred the grilled pepper steak ($12.75) flavored with a terrific marinade of red wine, pepper and soy sauce.
Also superb was the moist rotisserie-grilled half chicken infused throughout with rosemary and lemon.
A hefty, eight-ounce hickory-grilled burger was juicy and pleasantly smoky, although a little too well-done. Another sandwich, a classic club, had decent ingredients, but was not distinctive. Better was the Monterey salad -- chunks of lightly batter-fried chicken on a bed of romaine with avocado, crumbled bacon and egg.
There are two fairly good desserts: a super-rich chocolate mousse cake in a butterscotch brownie crust, and a hot wedge of apple pie with a crunchy topping of pecans served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The wine list is short, American and mostly less than $20, with seven wines available by the glass.
The service staff is young, friendly and usually accommodating, although when we shared a pasta entree it meant dividing it ourselves.
There are modest plans to expand the menu, especially the lunch and light fare possibilities, by the end of February. Without any changes, however, Mikes is already a winner with enough urban pizazz for young singles, casual comfort for families, and a modern, mainstream menu for business lunches.