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Years ago, when Eric Brenner was just another lifer working the line at one of the eateries on the Hill, slinging scampis and toasted ravs for the hoi polloi, he thought to himself: Why can't we do high-end food at a place like this? Later, when he transferred to a country-club kitchen, making marvelous food for the awfully wealthy, he wondered: Why can't my friends go out and eat this good? In January he answered both of his own questions and opened Moxy, the white-hot, blue-toned bistro that's cool but welcoming, hip but substantive, smart and warm and daring. Yet all that we rave about -- dishes like seared duck breast in concord grape reduction, short ribs braised in red wine, pecan-crusted pork chop with apple compote -- was actually built on a dorky-sounding, old-fashioned premise: Give the customer value. There's not one dinner entrée priced over $20, and this past summer, wanting his clientele to become more adventurous oenophiles, Brenner actually lowered his wine prices. He works the line himself and also assigns himself votive-lighting duty come dusk, the better to put him out on the floor nightly, talking up the customers. His embraceable staff follows his cue, and the result is that Moxy runs like a well-oiled, witty and wonderful machine.

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