Thoroughbreds Grill and Brewing opened in Leesburg a year ago with the emphasis on brewing. Walk through the front door and the first thing you see are giant vats behind glass panels.
The large group of investors that owns Thoroughbreds brought in Dean Lake, formerly of Old Dominion Brewing Co. in Ashburn, to be the brewmaster. Lake creates a fine list of beers that changes seasonally.
But Thoroughbreds isn't all about beer. There is also very good food, created with care by chef Jeff Rodger, formerly of the Rail Stop Restaurant in The Plains.
The red-brick office building that holds Thoroughbreds doesn't reek of history, as many of Leesburg's major eateries do. There is a pleasant patio with a view of the traffic on nearby Route 7, a dimly lighted bar area with sports games on overhead television sets, and a nicely appointed, multilevel dining room that is just a little too bright for fine dining.
The decor is based on thoroughbred horses, specifically jockey-signed photographs of Kentucky Derby winners and prints and paintings of horse races. Each of the generously sized booths is adorned with its own photograph. These are the coziest seats in the room; the tables and chairs are more cafeteria-style.
Thoroughbreds serves pub fare: steaks and meat loaf, large sandwiches and burgers. It's hard to find a light entree, even on a hot summer day. That doesn't mean the food isn't good, just that it's hearty.
Thoroughbreds serves throughout the afternoon, unlike many local restaurants that close between lunch and dinner. Local businessmen drop by for late lunches and afternoon business meetings in the dining room, where it is easy to carry on a conversation without having to shout.
One of the menu's best features is the daily soup special, which usually is based on local produce. A corn bisque tasted like liquid corn on the cob.
"Cajun Popcorn" -- deep-fried crawfish tails -- is crisp and just a little piquant without being greasy. Mini crab cakes, six to an order, are more than enough for a meal. No jumbo lump crabmeat here, but no bits of shell, either.
Salads are one option for those looking for lighter fare. The house salad, a mixture of spring lettuces, apples, candied pecans and crumbled blue cheese, is bright and fresh tasting. An entree steak salad combines hearts of Romaine lettuce, flinty goat cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes and fingerling potatoes with the best tenderloin tips I have been served in months.
The dinner menu focuses on the same hearty fare, with steaks as a specialty. My tenderloin was almost nutty tasting, the way a good tenderloin should be, and my guest's New York strip was juicy and tender with a great beef taste. The accompanying fries were steakhouse perfect, but the baked potato tasted as if it had been cooked hours before and was gummy and much too firm.
Thoroughbreds has a small wine list, a good complement to the food it serves. But the best pairings involve the beers. My guest pronounced the Pilsener a great partner for his steak.
Desserts are large and all are made in house. The key lime pie is a textbook example, puckery tart and creamy smooth. The icing on the strawberry mascarpone cake was rich and wonderful, but the cake itself had little flavor and just a thin layer of strawberry filling.
My favorite dessert is the homemade root beer float, at least for the root beer. By comparison, the ice cream (which Thoroughbreds doesn't make) was icy and almost flavorless.
There are other things to love about Thoroughbreds, such as lobster nights on Sundays and Mondays, and a fixed-price Sunday brunch that includes an appetizer and a main course for $14.95 and offers interesting dishes such as grilled salmon and biscuits and bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes).
Despite its rather sterile office-building ambience, Thoroughbreds delivers the kind of well-prepared comfort food that those homey-sounding chains just brag about.
Thoroughbreds Grill and Brewing 50 Catoctin Cir. NE, Leesburg, 703-777-5785. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays,11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. Appetizers at lunch, $4 to $8; entrees at lunch, $8 to $12; appetizers at dinner, $4 to $9, entrees at dinner, $8 to $24. Accessible to those who are handicapped.
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