There is something to be said about friends who not only have a personal bond, but also a shared professional pedigree.
That's the case for two well-known area restaurateurs, Mark Resnisky and Butch Tougas, who have pooled their friendship and their restaurant expertise to open a new place in the Farmington Valley: The Local Grill in Avon.
"We wanted to do something together and then this space became available," says Resnisky about the handsome restaurant space in Avon's Riverdale Farms complex at 152 Simsbury Road (Route 10.) "We were not looking to open a high-end, special-occasion-only restaurant, but rather something people would come to at the spur of the moment, anytime, a laid-back local place that was not a pizza or Chinese restaurant.
"Not everyone in the valley is looking for upscale when it comes to dining. We think we have brought both a comfortable setting, good food and filled a niche here that was not filled before."
Resnisky, of West Hartford's former The Back Porch and Manchester's Shea's American Bar & Grill; and Tougas, who ran the restaurant at Indian Hill Country Club for many years, are not only delivering that "kick back and relax" neighborhood vibe, but also offering an ambitious menu that, in true gastropub style, is worthy of any top-shelf eatery.
Starters are generous and creative with such choices as a corn and crab cake with grilled native corn mixed with lump crabmeat and jalapenos and cheese; or the chips and dip, house-made potato chips served with a crock of caramelized onion and pancetta dip. House-made soups such as cream of potato and caramelized leek are made from scratch each day, and seafood starters include tuna Carpaccio with balsamic and wasabi reduction and smoked trout quesadillas layers with native corn salsa and pepper jack cheese.
Tougas who is doing the heavy lifting as executive chef has kept the entree choices manageable and interesting by limiting the number on the menu, and opting to change up the choices each month depending on what diners like. This month, choices include wild mushroom ravioli with caramelized onion cream, grilled chicken over mango couscous and topped with avocado and raspberry chutney, and grilled pork chops laced with apricot and fresh mint glaze.
There are traditional choices with a Tougas/Resnisky spin such as the "Local's Philly," a steak sandwich with sliced steak, caramelized onion and brie on foccaccia bread served warm and flatbread topped with pancetta, fresh spinach and sliced tomatoes. Tougas has also tapped some of his favorite recipes including the Meatloaf Benedict, a house-made meatloaf grilled and topped with a poached egg and served with a side of bacon aioli. The eggplant pillows stuffed with Portuguese sausage, spinach and cheeses and served over plum tomatoes are a treat Tougas used to make for his kids when they were growing up.
"We kind of brainstorm together," said Tougas about the menu that he and Resnisky powwow over regularly. "We want to keep it fresh and seasonal so we review things often."
There are happy-hour specials in the comfortable and spacious bar area that boasts brick walls stenciled with the ZIP codes of the valley towns of Avon, Canton, Farmington and Simsbury and Weatogue. The dining room is a sweet yellow with hardwood floors and columns painted with blackboard paint so the special array of fairly priced beers, wines and menu specials can be easily advertised. The dining room seats 75 and the bar area another 40. Plans are to open the patio for dining when warm weather returns.
Starters range from $5.95 to $10.95 while entrees range from $9.95 to $19.95. Currently The Local Grill serves dinner from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The bar opens at 4 p.m. Lunch service is planned for the future. Information: 860-404-5810 or The Local Grill at facebook.com
>>Grants, 977 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, will hold a Connecticut beer dinner Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. The five-course dinner, featuring braised veal, sweet potato ravioli and native apple upside down cake, will include beers from City Steam Brewery, Thomas Hooker Brewery, Penny Weize, BackEast and Cambridge House. Cost is $65 a person plus tax and tip. Information: 860-236-1930
>>Enjoy farm fresh chocolate milk, fresh apple cider and homemade ice cream as part of The Farmer's Cow "Walktober Farm Tours." On Oct. 5 head to the "Much More Than Moss Tour" and ice cream social at Cushman Farms in Franklin from 1 to 3 p.m. The day will include hay rides, tours of the fields and barns and the milking facility. On Oct. 14 Graywall Farms will celebrate Columbus Day with a "Cows and Fields," an event that includes a farm tour. On Oct. 20, Fort Hill Farms in Thompson will host "Over the Hill and through the Woods," a guided tour beginning at 1p.m. that will include a walk along Maple Grove Lane Way that features a view of three states.
All tours are free. The Farmers Cow is a group of six Connecticut, family-owned dairy farms that produce fresh, local milk and milk products. Information: The FarmersCow.com
>>The Grist Mill, 51 E. Main St., Avon, with Super Cellars Wine and Liquors, will hold a "Feel the Pink" Ladies Night on Oct. 8 to support October Cancer Awareness Month. Ticket are $23 a person for the social from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Drinks, wines and appetizers will be served. In addition, those wearing pink will receive a 10 percent discount on their dinner bill. That discount will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Fund. Information: 860-676-8855.
>>The Hungry Tiger, 120 Charter Oak St., Manchester, is now serving Sunday breakfast from11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Menu includes three egg omelets, blueberry and apple walnut pancakes, hash browns and old fashioned Bloody Mary's information: 860-649-1195 and http://www.thehungrytiger.com.
>>On Oct. 3, Spotlight Theatres/Front Street Bistro will host a showing of "The Beer Hunter" at 6 p.m. and a beer tasting and buffet at 7 p.m. The documentary is about beer writer Michael Jackson. The beer tasting will feature choices from breweries including Blue Point, Two Roads, Goose Island and Hooker Plus as well as new fall and winter beers. Tickets are $30. Information: 860-422-7711.
>>La Petite France, 967 Farmington Ave. West Hartford, now hosts a "Bring Your Own Wine" dinner the third Thursday of each month. Information: 860-231-9255.
>>New London and the Downtown New London Association will host the Connecticut Kansas City Barbeque Society Championship on Sept. 29 at New London Waterfront Park. Myron Mixon from the reality show BBQ Pitmasters on Destination America will be among the competitors who will cook off in four categories beginning at noon. Local restaurants and the fire department will also be serving barbeque at the event. There will also be live entertainment. Information: neffproductions.com
>>Mark your calendars. Oct. 14 to 20 is Connecticut Restaurant Week with more than 100 restaurants around the state offering $20.13 and $30.13 fixed-price specials. Every day that week, the association will give away a $50 gift certificate, redeemable at more than 120 restaurants across Connecticut, to the winner of its Connecticut Restaurant Week 2013 photo contest. Participants are asked to eat out at one of the participating restaurants during the week, snap a photo of the food they are having there, and email it to email@example.com, and share it on the association's Facebook page or use #ctrestaurantweek2013 on Instagram. The deadline is 11 p.m. each night during Restaurant Week. Daily winners will be announced on Facebook and Instagram the following morning by 10 a.m. Information: ctrestaurant.org.
>>The Town That Cares Fund and Camp Courant have been chosen as the charities benefiting from the 1st Annual WeHa Whiskey Festival, Oct. 26, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the West Hartford Town Hall Auditorium. The event is sponsored by Chivas Regal, Dewar's, Hartford Advocate, Hartford Magazine, Knob Creek, Maximum Beverage, Radio 104.1 FM, and The Glenlivet.
The trade show-style event will feature up to 30 tables and 150 items for tasting, including various brands of whiskey, bourbon and scotch. Patrons will receive a glass embossed with the sponsors' logos to use for tasting and as a keepsake. They will also receive gift bags and other giveaways. Radio 104.1 FM (WMRQ), a locally owned station, will broadcast live at the festival. Hors d'oeuvres stations will provide refreshments to complement the variety of spirits being sampled. Tickets are $79.99 per person in advance, and $99.99 at the door. Information: 860-761-2541.
>>The Griswold Inn, 36 Main St., Essex, will hold its 3rd annual Autumn Wine Tasting Tuesday on Oct. 8 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. New world wines will be featured at the tasting that will also include a selection of light hors d'oeuvres. The walk-around tasting is $15 a person and includes tastings of 16 different wines. Information: 860-767-1776.
>>The Mill at 2T, 2 Tunxis Road, Tariffville, is sponsoring a trip on Oct. 6 to the Jonathan Edwards Winery. The day includes breakfast at the restaurant and a bus trip to the North Stonington winery for its annual Harvest Festival that includes food vendors, grape stomping, arts and crafts and two bands. The day includes lunch provided by the restaurant and snacks and wine on the bus trip. Cost is $115 per person, cash only on the day of the event. Information: 860-658-7890.
>>Francesco's, 318 Franklin Ave., Hartford, will hold a wine dinner on Oct. 2 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Wines from Piedmont Italy will be featured. Presenter will be Mike Petrizzo. The four-course dinner is $100 a person and also includes an after dinner port and cigar. Information: 860-296-3024.
>>The 4th annual Connecticut Cheese & Wine Festival will be Oct. 19 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Hopkins Vineyard, New Preston. The event features local artisan made foods and wines including cheeses, boutique wines, breads, jams and jellies, relishes, coffee and honey. A tasting menu with suggested paired wines and live music will also be featured. Tickets are $20 purchased online at artisanmade-ne.com or hopkinsvineyard.com and $23 at the gate the day of the festival. Information: 203-273-5821.
>>Good Life Grill in Granby will host a "Fall into Wine" five-course paired wine dinner on Sept. 28 beginning at 7 p.m. the five-course dinner will include a presentation by Brescome Barton. Tickets are $35 plus tax and tip. Information: 860-844-1060.
>>Baci Grill and Liquor World will present their annual Fall Wine Fest on Oct. 4 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Featuring more than 16 wines from many of the world's most celebrated producers, the evening also includes multiple dining stations to complement the wine selections. The price is $40 per person, which includes sales tax and gratuity. The menu includes hors d'oeuvres and entrees including roasted eggplant, red pepper stuffed chicken and herb pork. Baci Grill is at 134 Berlin Road (Route 372) in Cromwell. Information: 860-613-2224 or bacigrill.com.