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The Hill City House: New restaurant offers upscale dining with a Caribbean flair

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    The Calypso Shrimp is seasoned with garlic, fresh herbs and shallots, and topped with lemon zest and capers.

Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 1:00 pm | Updated: 9:20 am, Thu Feb 6, 2014.

After a complete renovation of nearly the entire first floor of the former Timberlake Road eatery Vinny’s, Donna Reichard opened her new restaurant there last month.

She fittingly named it The Hill City House and fashioned the spacious establishment with simple yet elegant décor.   

Guests arrive through a large set of double doors before entering the foyer, which boasts slate vinyl tile and leads straight into the main dining room, where soft, white walls and wood plank flooring give the space a contemporary feel. Reichard plans to continue furnishing it with framed, historical photographs of Lynchburg and have a mural, depicting the bustling atmosphere of Main Street in the late-1800s, painted on one of its arches.

A separate lounge area is big enough to entertain roughly 45 people. The ceiling has taupe-colored decorative tile, and there are three flat-screen TVs, a long granite bar and espresso brown cabinets that showcase the variety of available spirits.

Patrons also can choose to sit outside and dine on the covered patio.

It's precisely the atmosphere Reichard envisioned.

"I thought what better than to give people a place where they can go have a decent dinner, and it feels more upscale or finer dining," she says. "But it's actually a polished casual with a metropolitan twist, so they don't have to get too dressed up."

A tour of the open kitchen is likely to include a peek at pastry chef Hannah Bragg, who spends her time whipping up homemade desserts that range from a sultry chocolate lava cake to the Floridian classic key lime pie to New Orleans favorite bananas foster.

The dinner menu offers a selection of steaks, seafood and daily pasta features, while lunch items consist of sandwiches, salads and one popular house specialty: the jerk chicken quesadilla.

Jamaican-born executive chef Glenton Goodwill — who has more than 30 years of professional culinary experience from places like The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich., The Homestead in Hot Springs,  Sweet Briar College and the Boonsboro Country Club — specializes in French-Caribbean cuisine. The ingredients he uses often represent the flavors that are unique to his homeland, which assist him in adding a distinct twist on a mix of mostly traditional American fare.

"We also have a Rasta pasta that we created especially for this restaurant," Goodwill says. "It's shrimp and crayfish in a cream sauce with a Cajun seasoning. The Rastafarians back home, they eat a lot of fruit, so you'll find mangos and papaya in it. We'll kind of sauté that on top of the pasta. It's a little bit spicy."

Reichard, who’s worked for Areva’s business development and global sales department for the last 25 years, came up with the idea for the eatery's theme after talking with coworkers about what they'd like to see in Lynchburg.

"We have a lot of transplants from other areas, because that's where we get our engineers at Areva," she says. "And I wanted to give them a little something different. I grew up where I had fried chicken, meat loaf and that type of stuff. I've lived here all my life. But I don't think Lynchburg truly needs another meat loaf and mashed potato place."

The building has housed a few Italian restaurants over the years and includes a lower level that previous owners used as a banquet hall; Reichard anticipates opening the space for private events in the coming weeks.

For now, she and Goodwill are focused on catering to their growing clientele.

"We know they like our steak," Goodwill says. "There's no question about it. But we're still learning the market as we go along. We just have to keep listening to our customers, whatever they tell us."

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