Story and Photos by Daniel M. Walker, Contributing Writer
Successful restaurants need a vision, and a lot of love
The vision for the Drug Store Grill in Brookneal, Va.,
was that of Ricky Pritt. While Ricky has passed away, the love and care of
his dream is now in the hands of his wife, Robin, his son, Josh, and Josh’s
“I remember the first time Dad and I walked into the
old drug store,” says Josh. “The 100-year-old building needed a lot of work.
Dad’s vision was to create a restaurant that would capture the charm of this
old building and give diners a first-class dining experience. My Dad just
wanted a place where people could relax and enjoy themselves.”
After almost two years of reconstruction, the old drug
store — it originally opened its doors in 1913 as the first brick structure
in town — now had a renewed life and purpose, and opened in 2010 as a
Brookneal's old drug store opened
in 1913 as the first brick structure in
town, and re-opened in 2010 as a restaurant.
In 1912, a fire in Brookneal destroyed most of the
wooden frame buildings, so the then-new drug store was built of brick to
last a very long time. To retain the “ole bones” of the historic building,
Ricky and Josh restored the original tin ceiling and greenstone floors mined
in Lynchburg. Upstairs, in what used to be a dentist’s office, the
father-and-son team built a bar for a more relaxed ambience. The Virginia
Downtown Association honored Ricky’s and Josh’s hard work in 2011 with an
Award of Excellence.
“Ricky felt that to attract diners, the menu and
quality of the food had to be special,” continues Robin. “We wanted to offer
traditional high-quality beef and seafood dishes complemented by fresh local
vegetables to keep customers coming back for more.”
While the Grill offers a variety of steaks, its
featured dish is the Smoked Rib-eye. First, this certified Angus beef is
aged for 21 days and then smoked outside over hickory wood for four hours.
The steak is then finished on an inside hickory wood grill for the desired
tasting temperature, and served with smoked au jus. The Pritts serve other
special steaks like the Southwest Sirloin, which is blackened and topped
with jack cheese, and the Whiskey Rib-eye, cooked in whiskey with peppers
and onions. And for the “just-give-me-meat” appetite, selections include an
8-ounce sirloin, 12-ounce rib-eye, and the 20-ounce “big boy” rib-eye, all
served with soup, salad, and one side.
Pritt and his mom, Robin, are owners of the
Drug Store Grill is not just a steak place. It offers
an extended menu of chicken and seafood dishes. For example, Sugar Hill
Chicken, grilled chicken served with barbecue sauce, ham, bacon, and cheddar
cheese; Herb and Bacon Crusted Catfish; Tuna New Orleans, grilled and topped
with creamy Cajun sauce loaded with crawfish, shrimp, mussels, and chorizo
sausage; and Shrimp and Grits. While at the Grill, I noticed another
customer who ordered the Shrimp and Grits, and marveled at the creamy cheese
grits with bacon and andouille sausage, which looked really yummy! I am
already planning my next trip.
With so many choices, it was difficult to make an
entrée selection. I would have liked to try everything, but I took the
reasonable approach and ordered a single entrée, the Smoked Rib-eye. I was
not disappointed. The smoking of the Angus beef really does give this a very
special taste. If you like steak and have never tasted a rib-eye that has
been smoked, it will be worth a trip to Brookneal to try this dish.
Before the steak, I ordered an appetizer of Cajun
Scallops. Robin’s description of the dish sounded like the type of flavor to
set my taste buds for the steak. The scallops were pan-seared and cooked
with chorizo, onions, peppers, garlic and Parmesan cheese. The real danger
of a great “starter” dish is that if it is really tasty, you may be tempted
to have them bring you another and just call it a night. I could have done
that and been a happy camper but would have missed a great steak.
scrumptious salad sets the stage fopr the
Usually, I find out about the restaurants I write about
from emails from Cooperative Living readers, and I did receive several
emails encouraging me to visit the Drug Store Grill. Sometimes
recommendations come from unexpected sources. Recently, I was flying out of
Richmond and was recognized by a couple traveling on vacation. They highly
recommended the Grill’s burgers for lunch and “wings” served in the upstairs
bar. They said they also enjoyed special events and entertainment at the
Drug Store Grill.
Wherever you are, let me know of your favorite
restaurant on the back roads of Virginia. I can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, if you are planning a road trip, call
ahead to confirm operational hours and meal specials. Travel and eat well,
and be of good cheer!