by Gene Marrano
Shula’s 347 Grill, located inside the Sheraton Hotel near Hershberger Road, truly has a sporting feel to it: one of the owners is Don Shula, the Hall of Fame football coach who led the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins. “347” refers to the number of lifetime wins for Shula, an NFL player in the 1950’s who later won two Super Bowls with the Dolphins in 1972 and 1973. His Miami team in ’72 remains the only unbeaten team (17-0) in National Football League history.
Shula’s 347 Grill, a 176-seat bistro that opened in December, has replaced the Charades restaurant and lounge after several months of renovations that eliminated a second floor, replacing it with a dark wood finish interior. Replicas of the Vince Lombardi trophy (given to Super Bowl winners), autographed pictures of athletes and entertainment stars – often wishing Shula good luck on his restaurant ventures – are in abundance. There are several restaurant nameplates bearing the Shula moniker, including the higher-end Shula Steak Houses.
Sheraton Roanoke Hotel & Conference Center General Manager Greg Hargrave, who relocated a year ago from California to take the Roanoke position, labels the 347 Grill a mid-level, mid-priced restaurant with a menu that is “priced right [and] not stuffy.” With a hotel clientele that often includes families in town for athletic tournaments, finding the right price points and bill of fare was important added Hargrave, who also worked at Boston area properties for many years.
Business Development Manager Katie Porter said Shula’s 347 has made some inroads among local foodies so far: “we’ve had repeat customers.” Porter said one couple that has traveled as far as Charlottesville to find steaks they enjoy now include Shula’s 347 Grill on their list of favorites. “They are really happy that we’re here.”
Steaks are still a prime focus: the Shula Cut Steaks (priced from $29-33) must meet 10 standards in order to make the grade. Porter said less than 1% of all steaks pass muster, for standards that involve marbling, maturity, flavor, uniformity, appearance, tenderness, etc.
Other favorites include a number of signature martinis, an extensive wine by the glass menu, crab cakes and a barbeque shrimp “signature appetizer,” that includes bacon-wrapped shrimp drizzled in a tangy-sweet sauce. Portions are generous; Porter said that “more often than not the desert [crème brulee, bourbon-chocolate pie, apple cobbler etc.] goes home.”
Several seafood dishes (including pecan crusted salmon) and wild mushroom ravioli, plus an assortment of burgers and other sandwiches help appeal to a variety of palates. Starters include the Chef’s Daily Soup and blackened tenderloin tips. Head chef James Andra has been at the Sheraton property for two years; the sous chef that works under him trained in Florida.
Two private dining rooms that can be reserved for meetings feature, quite appropriately, wall coverings that look and feel like the pigskin on a football. Inspirational quotes from Don Shula affixed to the walls and floors lend a sort of locker room feel, the type of messages he might have tacked up to inspire his Colts and Dolphins squads.
“Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.”
“The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.”
“Sure, luck means a lot in football. Not having a good quarterback is bad luck.”
Six televisions placed throughout the restaurant and bar area are tuned to sporting events. “We always have a game on – or ESPN,” said Hargrave, who enjoys a ginger-sesame salad that can be ordered with sushi-grade ahi tuna or with chicken.
New staff members spend three weeks in training and Hargrave said each wait staff person gets to sample each item on the menu before they hit the floor, so they can offer diners an honest impression on possible choices for dinner or lunch. An outdoor patio dining area will open in the spring.
Hargrave said the decision to turn Charades into Shula’s 347 Grill came down from Sheraton management before he came aboard. “They were looking for a name steak house that would mix with the [Roanoke] community and the hotel itself. We didn’t want to do the steak house that was white cloth – I think that was a little too much for this particular location. We had to have a restaurant that caters to a wide spectrum. Overall [the reception] has been very positive.”
Reservations for Shula’s 347 Grill can be made online at opentable.com or call 366-5220 for more information.