Bonefish Grill has introduced itself to Connecticut with a bang – or rather, two. The national seafood restaurant chain, with locations in 32 states, has landed in South Windsor, bringing with it its popular signature appetizer: Bang Bang Shrimp.
The shrimp is dredged in flour and fried until crispy, then tossed with a spicy cream sauce, said managing partner Buzz Karnbach. And on Bang Wednesdays, the sought-after dish, normally $10, sells for $5 all night. That night of the week is becoming "very, very busy," Karnbach said.
Bonefish Grill is part of the Bloomin' Brands Inc. restaurant group, which also owns Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill (with a location in Manchester) and Fleming's Steakhouse and Wine Bar (with a restaurant in West Hartford.)
The restaurant, described as "polished casual," opened at the Promenade Shoppes at Evergreen Walk at the end of March, one of 10 to 12 planned for New England in the next three years, Karnbach said.
While new to the region – Bonefish's first New England restaurant opened in Cranston, R.I. earlier this year – Karnbach said there's been a significant amount of name recognition among local diners. "A lot of people know the brand. They vacation in Florida, or have homes in the South," he said. "Word of mouth has been excellent."
Bonefish's menu is naturally heavy on selections from the sea, with 11 of its 13 starters ($7.90 to $17.30) featuring tuna, mussels, calamari, shrimp, scallops or crab. "Hand-helds" ($10.30 to $17.90) include blackened Cajun-style fish tacos, a filet of fish sandwich and a lobster roll, along with an "American-style" Kobe beef burger.
Fish ($15.90 to $28.50) is prepared on a wood-burning grill, served with a choice of four signature sauces: mango salsa, chimichurri, pan-Asian or lemon butter. The fish selections rotate based on seasonality and availability, with Chilean sea bass and Atlantic salmon among the big sellers. Entrees are served with a seasonal vegetable and a choice of one side, including garlic-whipped potatoes, lemon quinoa with edamame and potatoes au gratin.
Other seafood dishes ($15.30 to $18.90) include pecan-Parmesan crusted baked trout, cod imperial and "Diablo" shrimp fettuccine in a garlic cream sauce. For those looking beyond fish, the grill also produces chicken dishes, boneless pork chops, filet mignon and sirloin.
In South Windsor, "the fish comes in fresh [from Boston] and we cut it here in the restaurant," Karnbach said. The extra effort is part of the chain's dedication to fresh, from-scratch preparation, he said. "We're into quality products, quality food. That's paramount to us." Bonefish's website describes its commitment to responsible fishing practices, including a partnership with Ocean Trust, an ocean conservation foundation.
The Evergreen Walk location sets itself apart from the chain with a few New England-centric offerings, Karnbach said. South Windsor and its Cranston counterpart are among the only two Bonefish restaurants to serve raw oysters on the half shell. "We found that was more conducive to the New England market," he explained.
The lobster roll on a brioche bun and New England clam chowder are two more Northeast-specific menu items, and the fish and chips dish uses fresh cod instead of tilapia, which is served at the rest of the restaurants.
The bar also presents more local flavor, by way of the beer list: South Windsor serves brews from Two Roads Brewing Company out of Stratford and Thomas Hooker Brewery, from nearby Bloomfield. Martinis are crafted with fresh-squeezed juices, and wines are selected to complement the menu.
Happy hour brings in a weeknight bar crowd Sunday through Thursday from 4 to 6:30 p.m., with four specialty cocktails and four small plates priced at $5 and $6. The snacks include Bang Bang Tacos, containing the renowned spicy shrimp, and fresh ceviche with bay scallops, shrimp, fish and avocado.
Sunday brunch is another busy affair, Karnbach said, with a la carte entrees including crème brulee French toast, a variety of omelets and frittatas and specialties like imperial sea bass, stuffed with shrimp, scallops and lump crab meat.
Bonefish has been "very well-received" in the community, Karnbach said, reporting long waits and encouraging guests to call for reservations. The restaurant seats about 200 in the dining room and bar, with another 30 on the outdoor patio and a private room accommodating up to 50.
A second Bonefish location in Connecticut is due to open Aug. 19 at 2903 Berlin Turnpike in Newington.
>>Bonefish Grill is at 400 Evergreen Way in South Windsor. It's open Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Saturday, noon to 11:30 p.m. Information: 860-648-0096 and bonefishgrill.com.
>>Taste of Hartford, the city's popular biannual dining promotion runs through Aug. 4. More than 30 restaurants will offer special fixed-price multi-course menus for $20.13. Information and menus: tastehartford.com.
>>Sliders Grill and Bar has opened its fifth location, at 176 Newington Road in West Hartford. The restaurant is open until 12:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Information: 860-233-9000 and slidersgrillbar.com.
>>Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill will open at the Promenade Shoppes at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor this fall. The Colorado-based chain serves fresh fast-casual Mediterranean fare: kabobs, shwarma, falafel, hummus, salads and soups. Information: eatgarbanzo.com.
>>Max's Oyster Bar, 964 Farmington Ave., West Hartford; and Max Fish, 110 Glastonbury Blvd., Glastonbury, offer lobster specials through the month of July. For $25.95, get your choice of twin lobsters with French fries and cole slaw or a New England lobster boil with mussels, steamers, corn, potatoes and sausage. Reservations: 860-236-6299 and maxsoysterbar.com; 860.652.3474 and maxfishct.com.
>>Republic, 39 Jerome Avenue, Bloomfield, hosts a whiskey, cigar and BBQ dinner July 25 at 7:30 p.m. with The Wise Old Dog, Hudson Whiskey and Brescome Barton, Inc. Cost is $70 plus tax and gratuity. Reservations and information: Information: 860-216-5852 and republicct.com.
>>Haight-Brown Vineyards, 29 Chestnut Hill Road, Litchfield, hosts a winemaker dinner July 27 at 7 p.m. The five-course dinner will feature cuisine by chef Amy Hatch with wine pairings by Haight-Brown's winemaker, Lukas Van Loggerenberg. Cost is $80; reservations with a credit card are required. Information: 860-567-4045 and haightvineyards.com.
>>The Connecticut Wine Festival will be held July 27 and 28 at the Goshen Fairgrounds, from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Twelve Connecticut wineries will exhibit their wines for tasting and purchase. Admission is $30 at the event, including a commemorative wine glass, tote bag and specialty food samples. Tickets are $10 for designated drivers and guests under 21. Information: ctwine.com/wine-festival.