Bonefish Grill

Categories: Casual, Chain, Eat-in, Seafood
Comments: No Comments
Published on: September 11, 2010

Wall Street’s RecommendationHold/Neutral

The Executive Summary:  An above-average national seafood chain edges out the competition with its understated décor, good food quality and (at least in my experience) superior service.  It’s food will not stand head-to-head with a ‘real’ seafood joint a la the Clam Bar or John’s Atlantic (I’ll review those in coming months) which is why I personally would not go back again, but if you want a more sophisticated family-friendly chain or you’re a local teen looking to do better than Red Lobster for a hot date without breaking the bank on a classier boutique joint, this should do it.

The Full Report:  Arrived at the restaurant and found it floating amidst the parking spaces in the Fayetteville Towne Center (with its Siamese twin, Red Robin), just screaming ‘plain vanilla chain’ which is a shame.   They appear to have made a concerted effort to add a bit of class and ambiance to set it apart from competing seafood franchises like Red Lobster or Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., the latter of which is not in CNY at this time though I assure you is as kitschy as the name implies.

There are several comfortable ‘Pier 1’ style chairs & tables outside the revolving door entrance, the latter of which has fish for handles if I recall though considering the interior is wholly tasteful, I’ll forgive them for that tacky touch…at least there wasn’t a Big Mouth Billy Bass in the vestibule singing Bobby McFerrin…

The interior was darkened without being excessive and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the flickering candles on every table were actually the faux, battery powered kind.  This is stellar considering my daughter spent most of the meal fiddling with it.  I failed to take note of any specific décor, though I don’t recall there being too much crap all over the walls as is typical of these chains.

While we were quickly seated by a cordial maître d’ and a sling & high chair immediately brought out for the kiddies, I was eventually forced to flag down one of the wait staff as we’d completed a healthy discussion and selected our entire meal choices without having been approached by anyone.  However, once we got our drink order in the service was top notch from there forward.

I failed to grab the receipt with the waiter’s name on it, so I can’t relay that on here…he’s the only one in the place that resembles Jesse from AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad.’  He was attentive and conversational without being artificial or scripted; we had a good chat about whiskey cocktails which ultimately led to my purchasing a second drink, something I don’t typically do.  The first was a whiskey sour on the rocks with blended scotch & no garnish, a personal favorite, while the second was bourbon & ginger ale that I’d not had before.  He pitched it well and I was a buyer, though I can’t say that I’m now a fan as he was.

Food came timely and in proper succession, beginning with a crab & corn chowder for me and coconut shrimp for the table after an earlier bowl of warm Italian bread and pesto olive oil to dip.  The shrimp was typical chain fare and was indistinguishable from the Red Lobster iteration of that dish save that this one was not as cloying sweet.  The wife didn’t care for the sauce (she’s actually a fan of Red Lobster’s candy-like pina colada dipping sauce) though I preferred it given a presumably lower high fructose corn syrup content.  Corn chowder was tasty, a little on the salty side as far too many soups out there are and low on the crab content.  Note: the website states “generous lump crab,” so I must have gotten a dud.

Plates were promptly disposed of and meals followed closely thereafter, all piping hot and well presented (though nothing to write home about).  I had the jumbo sea scallops and shrimp off their namesake wood-fired grill with chimichurri sauce, sided with grilled asparagus and a ‘chef’s choice’ nightly side of corn & edamame succotash.  The way the latter was presented added some degree of classiness to the joint, given that finer restaurants often have a complimentary amuse-bouche or the like.  I daresay in the case of Bonefish, though, it’s just a convenient way to dispose of excess produce each night.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, slightly translucent in the center and caramelized on the surface though the shrimp were a bit firm and overdone for my tastes.  Portion to price (for all the menu items) is in the Red Lobster ball park, by the way.  The sauce consisted of a half-ounce glass ramekin in the center of the plate for dipping; it was not added to the protein prior to grilling as I had (mistakenly) thought it would be.  The vegetables were vegetables, though cooked correctly.

Other meals at the table included a sautéed PEI mussel appetizer with tomatoes & garlic that smelled promising and was well received, though I did not try it being unimpressed with mussels in general.  My daughter’s child menu chicken fingers and French fries were tasty, the latter too salty as is typical.  My wife ate while I tended to my infant son, so I did not get to sample hers (a 6 oz. grilled sirloin with mashed potatoes and the corn succotash) though it was cooked as instructed and she enjoyed the meal.

We opted out of a digestif or dessert as the kids informed us they were ready to go (via screaming & crying); I dropped the Amex and the gift cards to settle the $79 bill which covered two apps, two entrees, two well cocktails, several soft drinks and the child’s meal.  I tipped about 22% on the original balance (before the gift card deduction) for the superior service and hit the road.


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