There are days when I don't want fancy food, I just want really good food, a cozy booth to sit in and a friendly server to make it all happen. On those days, and others, I'd choose the Grille, a seven-month-old restaurant in Purcellville's Main Street Station.
Owner John Hoyer had dreamed for years of opening just such a place, where American classics would form the nucleus of the menu. He sold three Subway locations -- in Ashburn, Leesburg and Purcellville -- to pay for his dream, which opened April 14.
Don't be put off by its location in a shopping center. This is no fast-food place. It's a smartly appointed space, with a large bar and an art-filled dining room. Deep, upholstered booths ring the dining area, and elegant Queen Anne-style chairs flank the tables in the center of the room. There is also a smaller dining room that can be used for private parties.
The atmosphere is lively, but you can carry on a conversation without shouting or straining to hear. Even more rare: The servers are enthusiastic, energetic and attentive. They also are eager to seek out information about the menu items (the good, crusty rolls are from a grocery wholesaler) and even give directions to nearby Hill High Orchard, which supplies the Grille's apple pie. There is also a well-chosen wine list, and more than a dozen selections are available by the glass.
Many of the menu offerings are standards, such as fried calamari and filet mignon, but are still attentively prepared under chef Jorge Valenzuela. Simple dishes are often the most difficult to prepare well. It's been a long time since I've had a pork chop as savory and juicy as that at the Grille, or such a good Caesar salad, including an anchovy, especially one that cost only $3.
Start with that calamari, crisp and light and served with both garlic mayonnaise (aioli) and marinara sauce. Or try the chicken quesadilla, brimming with melted cheese and slivers of chicken and served with guacamole, shredded cheese, pico de gallo and sour cream. I loved the jalapeno slices on top, but beware if you don't like fiery accents.
Soups change daily, and there is usually a bowl of chili available. The version here is more soup-like, with a tomato base and kidney beans, and it's served with a dollop of sour cream and a scattering of shredded cheese.
Among the main dishes, order anything with the onion crisps or order these slender onion rings by themselves. They are that good. The filet mignon, perfectly cooked to medium as we had requested, comes with onion crisps, as does the pork chop. The chop, a hefty loin cut that is amazingly succulent in this era of ultra-lean pork, is complemented by sauteed apples.
The Grille's specialties exhibit a New Orleans influence -- with dishes such as penne pasta with chicken tenderloins, andouille sausage and shrimp -- and Italian tendencies, such as the chicken piccata, served over angel-hair pasta with a spoonful of marinara sauce.
My favorite dish was steak and eggs, patterned after eggs Benedict. Petite filets and poached eggs top two English muffin halves; a very good bearnaise sauce replaces the usual hollandaise. The combination made a wonderful early dinner dish on a crisp fall Saturday.
The Dutch apple pie, served with cinnamon ice cream, is enticing, but the bananas Foster bread pudding is more so. It's the Grille's signature dessert and is not to be missed.
The Grille at Main Street Station, 1020 E. Main St., Purcellville, 540-338-2550. Appetizers, $3-$9.50; main dishes, $9-$30. Hours: Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Monday, 4-10 p.m.; bar open until midnight daily. Wheelchair accessible.
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