The Red Oak Café in Centerville beckons to city and country folk alike with its diverse menu and reasonable prices. 

Go West, Diner

There are many reasons to venture out West Broad Street to the hamlet of Centerville. There are the nicely groomed minilinks at Bogey's Sports Park, and rows of bright shiny horse trailers at Virginia Truck & Trailer, a harbinger of equestrian country to follow. But as if these destinations weren't enough, there's the , located right on Rt. 250. Patronized by neighbors — which by country standards includes everyone from Short Pump and Manakin to Crozier and Oilville — and visitors from the city, the Red Oak does a brisk business nearly every night of the week. Regulars hang out at the bar or meet friends for drinks, and patrons of all ages return weekly for dinners that range from burgers to gourmet preparations.

On a recent Thursday evening, while watching the sun set over Goochland like a big red balloon leaking helium, we cruised west to the Red Oak. We were seated promptly in a wooden booth in the main dining area, and our waiter quickly took drink orders. Within minutes, we were happily sipping a glass of house red, nibbling on dinner rolls served with sweet cream butter and decompressing from a busy day.

[image-1](Stacy Warner / richmond.com)Making selections from the menu was a difficult task, given the number of delicious-sounding items, but, being hungry, we managed. First up: an appetizer of smoked rainbow trout ($6.95) that, if served with soup or a house salad, would have made a wonderful light dinner. Mesquite-smoked and served chilled with chopped tomatoes and onions, capers and horseradish sauce, plus crackers, it was an absolutely perfect summer start to a meal.

Bottomless Pitt enjoyed a small spinach salad ($3.25) with fresh baby-spinach leaves, country ham, egg, mushrooms, tomato, onion and croutons before his entrée arrived. And what an awesome entrée it was — six extra-large scallops on a bed of angel-hair pasta, all prepared with bacon, onion, garlic and sherry ($16.95). B.P. assessed that the pasta was not al dente, but not overcooked either, the scallops were perfectly tender and the flavor was extraordinary. Based on my few bites, I've decided that sherry is the great underutilized ingredient of the culinary world.

Though I nearly chose the shrimp fettucine, veered closely toward the baby-back ribs and narrowly escaped a 10-ounce filet mignon, I ultimately chose the other white meat ($12.95). Four- or 5-inch-thick slices of marinated pork tenderloin were slathered in a flavorful Dijon mustard and fresh tarragon sauce. Pink in the middle — a mode of grilling that some pork eaters eschew — these slices were perfection for me. And the mashed potatoes, and sautéed zucchini, squash and onion medley were the perfect complement.

[image-2](Stacy Warner / richmond.com)While we were approaching the cutoff point rapidly, we still managed to surrender to dessert. The Kentucky Derby Pie we chose was a rich, gooey, sweet finish to a great meal. Chocolate chips were melted and oozing, and the coffee ice cream on top was drizzled with fudge sauce. We fairly hobbled out of there, full to the brim and savoring the various flavors we'd sampled.

I like the Red Oak for its range and reasonableness. You can get a club sandwich or a Cajun fried oyster po' boy or a fancy burger for less than $7. Or, from the entrée list, you can order duck Dijon or a grilled salmon filet or a New York strip, all under $20. And there are some who visit the Red Oak just for the "world famous" crab-dip appetizer. The wine list is good and the desserts are homemade. The ceiling fans, mantelpiece with old books leaning against memorabilia, original artwork hanging throughout and friendly service all make this a nice respite from a harried day in the

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