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Deadbolt: Carnival-Style Eats, Distinctive Drinks To Go With Your Skeleton Key Adventure

At Deadbolt Spirits & Fare, the restaurant adjacent to the new Skeleton Key escape room in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square, it’s all about fun, nostalgia and whimsy.

The escape room and restaurant opened in July on Raymond Road. As guests visit for the adventure games, which use “light, sound, video and interactivity to transport participants into new worlds,” they’re stopping by Deadbolt for carnival-style eats and distinctive drinks. Think big pretzels with cheese sauce, gourmet hot dogs and ice cream sandwiches adorned with sprinkles.

“We’re taking you back to your childhood — an upscale, adult version of your childhood,” says executive chef Chanteun Thanh.

“It appeals to both children and adults,” says Michelle Frea, Skeleton Key’s director of product management. “You want the nostalgia of the carnival [theme] and it’s fun and good food…it can be decadent, but not take itself too seriously.”

FEATURED/NOTEWORTHY DISHES: Deadbolt’s snacks and small plates ($3 to $13) feature “carnival popcorn” in a Cracker Jack-style preparation with caramel, roasted peanuts and bacon; housemade salt and vinegar chips with rotating dip; poutine with braised beef or pork and Gruyere cheese sauce; fried pickles; and wings in flavors like Korean gochujang, whiskey maple and peanut butter and jelly.

Several brave eaters have tackled the Waiver Wings challenge: a plate of 8 wings coated in Thanh’s scorching Carolina reaper-based hot sauce. Two guests have completed the challenge to date, earning free wings for a year.

Burgers ($11 to $14) include the Millennial, with fried egg, guacamole and Gruyere, and the Skeleton Key, with bacon, cheese sauce and a towering pile of onion rings. A veggie version works in a cheese-stuffed portobello mushroom and chipotle aioli.

Gourmet dogs ($10 to $12) range from the “Brooklyn" with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard to the bacon-wrapped San Diego with fried chiles and Southern Seoul with toppings of braised short rib, onion rings and cheese sauce.

Bowls ($11 to $14) with greens and a quinoa-rice blend in Philly cheesesteak, Caesar, Cobb and Southwest varieties will move more toward a classic-salad preparation, Thanh says. Street tacos ($10 for a trio) with Southwest chicken, carnitas, barbacoa, shrimp tempura and vegetables are popular, as is a shish kebab plate ($11) with marinated chicken, pita, hummus, coleslaw and grilled vegetables.

Sweets play into the fanciful theme, with a red-velvet funnel cake, a pretzel with Nutella-hot chocolate sauce and a s’mores milkshake with toasted marshmallow. Thanh says he’d like to try a take on Hostess hand pies, updating cherry and apple flavors with liqueurs or cider. He’s also experimented with crepes, with fillings like horchata cream and cherry rhubarb sauce.

THE BAR: Deadbolt’s eclectic cocktails are crafted with housemade syrups, cordials and shrubs, says bar manager Matt Johnson.

Signature drinks play on the restaurant’s theme, like the top-selling Fortune Teller (vodka, creme de violette, hibiscus-lavender syrup and lemon) and the Dia de los Muertos, with reposado tequila, Ancho Reyes spicy liqueur, blueberry-agave syrup and lemon with a float of sparkling rosé.

Johnson is bringing some fall seasonal creations aboard, including a pumpkin pie martini with vodka, Licor 43, velvet falernum, spiced pumpkin syrup and Angostura bitters, and a take on mulled wine with cabernet sauvignon, spiced dark chocolate syrup, Lillet Blanc and averna amaro.

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Deadbolt also features timeless classics (Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Negroni, Aviation) and a selection of wines, bottled beer and cider and rotating local craft beers. Cocktails are $8 to $14.

Happy hour, available daily from 4 to 6 p.m. and Thursday from 4 p.m. to close, offers specials on wings, tacos and other snacks and $4 select bottles, $5 well drinks, draft beers and house wines, and $8 select cocktails.

LOCATION AND HOURS: Deadbolt Spirits & Fare, at 61 Raymond Road in West Hartford, is open Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. 860-461-1474, deadboltrestaurant.com.

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