Thursday, November 15, 2007
The Sheridan Livery offers delicious food at reasonable prices
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The Sheridan Livery Inn in Lexington
Creme brulee at Sheridan Livery Inn in Lexington
Photos by Dolores Kostelni | Special to The Roanoke Times
- Sheridan Livery Inn
- 35 N. Main St., Lexington
- Menu: American eclectic with popular global influences
- Prices: Lunch: $3.50 to $11.50; Dinner: $3.50 to $33
- Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday
- Soda products: Pepsi
- Alcohol? Full bar
- Plastic? All major credit cards accepted
- Smoking? Only on the outside patio
- Takeout? Yes
- Delivery? No
- Reservations? Yes
- Patio seating? Yes
- Wireless Internet? Yes
- Kids menu? Yes
- Vegetarian selections? Will prepare special entrees to order
- Live music? No
- Catering? Yes
- Banquet space? Yes
- Call: (540) 464-1887
- Fax: (540) 464-1817
- Net: sheridanliveryinn.com
What’s a livery?
A stable where carriages for hire were kept and horses were boarded and fed for a fee.
When Ugo Benincasa and his wife, Gina, opened the Sheridan Livery Inn in 1997, their restaurant on Main Street raised the bar for local dining establishments, besides adding to the growing reputation of downtown Lexington as a food destination. Benincasa had sold his highly successful Italian restaurant, Il Palazzo , located across the street, where he achieved recognition as a foremost chef, before devoting himself to running the newly renovated Sheridan Livery restaurant and inn.
Now, 10 years later, Benincasa’s son Frankie and his wife, Meredith, carry on the family legacy as the new owners of this revered place in the historic district, which dates to the late 1800s when it served as a livery, then emerged reborn as a steam laundry, followed by a makeover into a mini-mall of shops.
A quietly bubbling fountain and a wall relief of a coach and four painted by local artist R. J. Ogren, form the artistic focal points of the spacious dining room, which accommodates booths along the outer perimeters and free-standing tables in the center, as well as in an elevated lounge area.
Even with a full house, the noise level is civilized; servers patiently answer questions about the menu and are reliable sources of food information.
During the off-gardening season, you can see the flats of sprouting basil that Frankie Benincasa and his wife nurture in the bright sun flooding the breezeway, which connects to the outside patio. This sight tells me a real chef who cares about freshness is doing the cooking.
This modern American menu lists dishes infused with popular global influences.
Start with the crispy fried tomatoes lightly adorned with a buttermilk lime dressing or the utterly delicious house-made spring rolls filled with fresh vegetables and served with caramelized pineapple. Steamed mussels snap your taste buds to attention with their spicy chipotle saffron broth, while the quesadilla, stuffed with grilled chicken breast, tomatoes, black beans, scallions, banana peppers and cheddar cheese, is enough to be a meal in itself. During the week, I’m partial to a lunch of Southern grilled shrimp served with corn relish over a fried grit cake with squiggles of ancho chili cream.
Salads and soups
It’s impossible to not order a salad here — they’re nicely done, especially the namesake Sheridan beckoning with a pile of wild baby greens, julienne vegetables, cucumbers and tomatoes. My husband enjoys the Caesar made with plenty of crisp romaine, shaved Parmesan, rosemary croutons and a choice of grilled chicken breast, shrimp or salmon for an additional $4 over the regular $6.50. My favorite salad has to be the seafood salad ($11.50), a tangle of shrimp, salmon and blackened scallops with tomatoes, pepperoncini, fresh mozzarella and red onions on a bed of fresh greens.
Three soups — including the du jour, a French onion topped with crostini and mozzarella and the creamy Chesapeake Bay she-crab hinting of sherry — are perfect preludes to any of the eight sandwiches or a dinner entree.
Sandwiches are serious affairs, constructed of first-rate ingredients and neat enough to fit most mouths. I love the crab cake sandwich on the delicious bishop roll, the Reuben on rye, as well as the great chicken salad resting on a large leaf of green lettuce with a croissant on the side.
Dinner entrees, all served with a salad, range in price from $18 for a succulent pork chop dressed with fig and port sauce and accompanied with the larger size Sardinian couscous and seasonal vegetables to $33 for the Trio, a kingly meal of filet mignon, three crab-filled shrimp and broiled lobster tail, plus vegetable accompaniments. Lovers of lamb will rhapsodize over the herb and garlic marinated version here, while pan-seared salmon sauced with a dill-butter combination doesn’t come any better than this.For dinner, I have a difficult time deciding between the paella, a mix of shrimp, mussels, scallops, chicken and Italian sausage over saffron rice, and the outstanding chicken piccata, correctly pan fried with a lemon caper beurre blanc sauce.
Some days, Frankie runs specials, and these are really specials, such as the homemade fettuccine al burro (butter sauce) and sauteed scallops, which I go all out for because I trust his culinary skills. This simple dish was spectacular.
All of the several desserts are house-made, and I vouch for each one. But most especially the ricotta and strawberry tart, a 3-inch bit of sweet magnificence baked in golden brown, flaky pastry. I also like the miniature apple crostata or date creme brulee after Sunday brunch.
The well-chosen bottles on the brief, diverse wine list come from the United States, New Zealand, Greece, Portugal, South Africa, Chile, Italy, Spain and France. Wines by the glass embrace whites ($5.25 to $6.50) from Rockbridge Vineyards, California, Italy and Portugal to reds ($5.25 to $7.50) from Virginia, California and Italy. Two of the sparkling wines include a Spanish Cava Freixenet ($26 a bottle), an Italian Nino Franco “Rustico” Prosecco ($35) and a French Perrier-Jouet champagne ($68).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Frankie Benincasa’s modernized menu at Sheridan Livery offers current renditions of the favorite classics and provides consistently delicious food at reasonable prices. High-quality, seasonal ingredients and an amiable atmosphere make this place one of my favorites.