Looking for all the world like the Mexican restaurant that once inhabited the white stucco building on North Side's Brook Road, interior contains a variety of no-frills seating areas connected by a maze of corridors. Arriving at 7:45 p.m. on a Saturday, we found the dining room nearly empty, but un-bussed tables told us that there'd been plenty of business earlier. Our prompt and efficient waiter confirmed that a swarm of patrons had just left. We were seated at a two-top along a wall, beneath some faux greenery in hanging baskets, and we noticed while listening in on a nearby conversation that a number of diners were not Richmonders, but were weary I-95 travelers who'd hopped off the road for a good, hot dinner. There were also families with children and foursomes enjoying a night out. We'd been seated only a matter of minutes when our waiter offered to take our order, but we were still perusing the three pages of possibilities plus specials. He delivered a tray of complimentary crudités with a delicious dill dip for us to crunch on and uncorked a bottle of Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio ($17). We attended to the business of deciding between a wide array of fruits de mer (including eight different fish specials), burgers, steaks, poultry and pasta. True to his name, Bottomless Pitt started off with the Brookside Sampler ($8.95), a dinner plate full of enough seafood to sate the ordinary appetite. Included were three scallops wrapped in bacon, two Clams Casino, two Oysters Rockefeller and a generous clump of lightly fried calamari. All were prepared nicely and were hot when served, and we decided that the sampler would surely make a wonderful light meal. I chose the Escargots … la Brookside ($6.95) special as my appetizer, and, while I was pleased by the portion and the way they were served in mushroom caps, the preparation was slightly under par. The escargots needed more garlic, and the dish in which they were served was charred a little too much time under the broiler, perhaps. [image-1](Stacy Warner / richmond.com)With our dinners we had a choice of fresh garden salad or Greek salad, and we chose the garden variety. The mixed greens were fresh and topped with onion, cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices, and the dressings bleu cheese and honey mustard were creamy. Along with the salads and the baked potato or french fries that came with dinner, our waiter brought us a plate full of breads ranging from corn to nut, another bonus that we welcomed. For my entrée I had one of the fresh fish specials, a half lobster stuffed with imperial crab ($14.95). Unfortunately, it was not as entirely scrumptious as I had hoped. The meat in the lobster tail was a bit dry but still flavorful, but the meat in the claw was extremely dry and diminutive, giving me reason to wonder if this specimen was not fresh as the menu had indicated. The crab was stringy, a hallmark of many days spent in the freezer. B.P was far more impressed by his two backfin crab cakes ($15.95) which, at first glance, looked as if they'd come out of a Mrs. Paul's box. Once he tasted them, though, he could see that they were merely breaded on the outside and sautéed to a gentle crisp, with moist crab inside. He was particularly fond of the mustard sauce served with them. For dessert, we shared a creamy slice of key lime pie ($2.95), moderate in size but tart and tasty. I can see why both Richmonders and tourists flock to Brookside Seafood for the incredible choice of menu items alone, not to mention the reasonable prices (nothing over $20 and most below $15). There aren't too many places in town where you can order two appetizers, two entrees, a bottle of wine and dessert for a grand total of $76 including tip, which they automatically add onto each bill. While you may find the décor to be a bit passé, and you might order the occasional so-so entrée, there is so much from which to choose, and the service is so personable and swift that we found the experience to be pleasant if not cutting
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