That's the feeling most people have about their "old reliable." It is a feeling I'm sure many folks in the northwest corner of Richmond have about Garland's Way.
"People deserve a place that rises above the predictability of casual dining, without getting caught up in the heavy formality and expense of fine dining," Garland's Way's Web page reads. Being that place bestows a great responsibility upon a restaurant's management and staff. Garland's obviously has established a clientele, so they are making some folks comfortable.
The food generally keeps its feet on the ground. The Creole Oysters ($6.95) were lightly dusted in cornmeal, flash-fried and served in the shell with a mild Creole sauce. Though tiny, they were full of briny flavor and the sauce was a good accompaniment. The Scallops St. Jacques ($15.95) dish was not as casserolelike as I expected, but the garlic, white wine and Parmesan melded together well and complemented the plump scallops. Mashed potatoes were a strange choice for a side, though. Occasionally things lean too far toward the fine dining and the food suffers. The Grilled Angus Mille-feuille ($22.50) was billed as "many layers of grilled portabella, braised spinach and roasted shallots." It was actually a mediocre steak with some of each plopped on top of it. I would have been more than happy with just a steak with marinated mushrooms over it. The menu sends a mixed message with the result of looking confused.
One detractor from Garland's is that the dining room isn't cozy. It's a single vast space broken only by a small wall around the bar area and another in front of the kitchen. This seems to work against the grain of the comfortable, cozy atmosphere to which, judging from the quotation above, Garland's Way aspires. They don't need any wooden kitty silhouettes climbing down from the windowsills, but they need something warmer to tie the dining area together. Though I like the oddity of the huge clock on the wall, it's just such a strange choice to make. Instead of hearing the room mumbling, "Hang around, have some dessert or a cup of coffee," I couldn't stop noticing Father Time up there waving his hands about how long I'd been there.
The staff also needs to balance its act. Our waitress recognized us when we came in a week and a half after our first visit. This was charming. When the expediter brought my girl the fork she needed to eat her entrée, his comment was, "That's what you get for having three courses." Now, I know he was trying to be witty. But don't be chummy until we're chums. Otherwise things were on time and cheerful.
So there you have it. Garland's Way is a good little neighborhood restaurant. It's a "go-to" guy. Though there were some blunders, they were forgivable. So go enjoy yourselves. I'll be in Tennessee at the Mexican buffet, dreaming of the Red Oak and drowning my sorrows in sour cream.
Randall Stamper worked in restaurants in Boston, New Orleans and Indiana for seven years and has filled every job from dish washer to general manager. All his visits are anonymous and paid for by Style.S
Garland's Way ($$$)
11351 Nuckols Road, Glen Allen
Lunch: Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Monday to Thursday 5 p.m. - 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
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