Photo by David Hungate.
SoRo Chill & Grille
SoRo Chill & Grille has quickly established a strong niche based on a lively bar area and good Cajun fare.
You know that little Tudor village on Franklin Road with Provisions and The Library in it? There’s an up-and-coming restaurant there that’s well on its way to becoming a bright spot on the Roanoke restaurant scene. SoRo Chill & Grille (SoRo being a portmanteau of “South Roanoke”) has been open for a few months but has quickly attracted a strong clientele.
On the up-side of casual, this place blends an impressive menu of Southern-inspired and eclectic items with a hospitable and inviting bar that creates a credible local-pub feel echoing the Tudor-revival exterior.
The entrance leads immediately into the bar area (bigger by half than the snug dining room) which features a long, L-shaped table instead of a number of smaller tables. This presumably allows a few more seats in the cozy room and has the added benefit of giving the space a more intimate and friendly feel.
On a recent Saturday night, a number of fans lined the wings of the table watching football, eating and drinking, and otherwise putting the area to good use. It had the feel of a man-cave owned by a man with a fair bit of money. At first blush, this bar seems to be establishing itself as a local watering hole.
But on to the dining room. Our appetizer of New Orleans BBQ shrimp came swimming in a dish of a brothy Creole sauce, spicy and tasty but not quite thick enough to work with from across the table. The dish was accompanied by sliced French bread rounds for dipping, but it was hard to maneuver.
More to our liking were the Ribs, Wings & Rings, poetic on the menu and on the plate. It’s not easy to make tasty onion rings without getting them too greasy, and SoRo hits the bull’s-eye here. Buffalo wings (designated “Jazzy” on the menu) were serviceable, but unremarkable. The real standout here was the mini-rack of four ribs: Glazed in a thick sauce, they were everything ribs should be – smoky, tangy, sweet, and spicy, and so very tender. Give me a second…
Our main courses revealed a few growing pains that are to be expected in such a new restaurant. The kitchen ran out of the 8-ounce filet fairly early in the evening, and the roasted red mashed potatoes served under the Cajun sirloin were too starchy and overcooked. However, the sirloin itself – liberally seasoned and topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms – was quite tender and flavorful, and more than made amends.
Moreover, the shrimp and grits was a real winner. Shrimp tossed with grilled peppers and onions and perched high atop a mound of creamy grits with copious amounts of cheddar. Our server said SoRo was already known for this item, and rightfully so.
There may be a kink or two still to work out, but SoRo delivers some exceptional food in a warm and inviting atmosphere. Stake out a spot at the bar table, gather some friends around, and enjoy the hospitality. You do the chillin’, they’ll take care of the grillin’.
3117 Franklin Rd., 982-7676