Don't be confused as you drive along Democracy Drive in Reston Town Center. Yes, that's an M&S Grill that has opened almost directly across the street from its older sibling, McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant.
Although the two restaurants have the same parent, and thus a familial resemblance, the siblings have pursued different paths. While McCormick & Schmick's specializes in seafood, M&S Grill is patterned after a classic turn-of-the-20th-century chophouse. M&S Grill is the place for steaks, prime rib, meatloaf and chicken.
The juxtaposition came about after the parent company, McCormick & Schmick Management Group, bought several locations of the Angelo and Maxie's steakhouse chain, including a prime spot on New York City's Avenue of the Americas. The result in Reston is an M&S Grill with the relaxed ambiance of an informal steakhouse, complete with a cigar bar and a spacious outdoor patio.
Little of the decor has changed from the Angelo and Maxie's days. A large bar divides the two main areas of the room, both of which are wrapped in light-colored wood paneling and lighted by large Arts and Crafts-style fixtures. Gone are the whimsical murals, replaced by muted green paint and decorous antique prints. A large, open kitchen overlooks the dining room.
The dinner menu is encyclopedic: a dozen appetizers, a dozen soups and salads and more than three dozen main courses. The lunch menu is just as lengthy and includes sandwiches and salads in addition to the 30 or so other main courses. Most of the items are good, standard American fare -- crab cakes, steaks, meatloaf and even pulled pork barbecue sandwiches -- prepared very well.
Seafood, all grilled, is also on the menu, with individual pedigrees noted. Flying fresh fish in daily is a practice the restaurant shares with its across-the-street sibling.
Although the M&S Grill wine list isn't as extensive as those at most of the big-name steakhouses, there are plenty of moderately priced bottles that nicely complement the offerings, and there is a long list of wines available by the glass.
The preparations allow the fresh ingredients to shine. The crab cake, for example, is all lump crabmeat and no shell, accompanied by a nicely sweet and tart coleslaw and tartar sauce. Fried calamari are lightly battered and almost crunchy on the outside while tender on the inside. Crispy fried shrimp tempura is just that, heaped on a gentle mound of savory avocado and corn relish that is more akin to guacamole than salsa.
Soups are hearty. The house specialty, the M&S steakhouse soup, has a rich, beefy base and a host of fresh vegetables. The French onion soup, served in a white porcelain ramekin, is thick with caramelized onions and flavorful chunks of chewy bread under its crust of melted cheese.
That steakhouse favorite, the shrimp cocktail -- four jumbo shrimp with a piquant cocktail sauce -- rivals any in town.
Meatloaf might seem more like a diner favorite. M&S Grill's lean but moist version is worthy of its place in the long list of steaks, chicken and pork chops.
The steaks, from the 10-ounce top sirloin to the 24-ounce T-bone, carry hefty steakhouse prices, though not as steep as those of some nearby competitors. But here they aren't just a steak on a plate; each is served with potatoes and vegetables.
The six-ounce filet, cooked perfectly to my order of medium rare, was buttery and almost nutty. But the sleeper hit of the menu is the prime top sirloin, 10 ounces of tender but intensely flavored beef that is better than any backyard sirloin you have ever tasted. At $19.90, it's also the least expensive steak cut on the dinner menu.
Desserts, all made at the restaurant, include the usual suspects: creamy cheesecake, peach cobbler, creme brulee, Key lime pie and a wonderfully rich chocolate sundae.
An M&S Grill was supposed to open in Reston nearly five years ago, but the space where it was to be located, in the Plaza America building, was needed for the new headquarters of Cable & Wireless, and the restaurant was paid not to open.
Its recent, belated arrival proves that good things come to those who wait.
M&S Grill, 11901 Democracy Dr., Reston, 703-787-7766. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday. Reservations recommended. Appetizers at lunch, $3.95-$12.95; main courses at lunch, $8.70-$39.95. Appetizers at dinner, $3.95-$12.95; main courses at dinner, $13.90-$39.95. Accessible to people with disabilities.
Do you have a favorite place for barbecue, ribs, brisket or sandwiches? Please contact Nancy Lewis at email@example.com.