Friday, March 13, 2009

Hazard Grille, Enfield, CT March 2009

Food: A-
Service: A-

Joanne and Amy write:

In the middle of an overdeveloped area of strip malls and chain restaurants in Enfield, next door to the Olive Garden, in a building that used to house a Red Lobster, on Hazard Ave, is an independently owned restaurant called the Hazard Grille. Being independently owned is enough of a draw to get me to try it; put it close to home, and I’m bound to become a regular, especially if the service is good. And it is. That being said, I do stop in fairly regularly for a burger, or a salad, or happy hour. Yet in all the times I’ve been, I’ve never ordered a dinner entrée, so that was the plan. Meet Amy for happy hour, start with that menu, and move on to dinner.

We arrived at 4, just as their Happy Hour—which includes drink specials and specially priced appetizers—began. Neither Amy nor I cared enough for the 4 dollar wine offering, so we ordered a very reasonably priced bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon instead. To start our food fest, we ordered mussels and Edna’s bread.

The pound or so of P.E.I. mussels came steaming hot in a garlicky white wine and lemon sauce, garnished with leeks. The mussels were plump and tasty, and begged to be dipped into the sauce, which I did with every one. The Edna’s bread, which my mother remembers from The Log Cabin in Holyoke, MA (apparently, the owners met working there as teenagers), is a must-order in my opinion. The crusty loaf has at its center a layer of creamy bleu cheese and is topped with a sprinkling of parmesan that crisps when it bakes. It’s buttery, cheesy, soft and crunchy, and way better than any garlic bread I’ve ever had.

Though not a regular, per se, I have been to the Hazard Grille on a couple of occasions, and like Joanne, have yet to try an entrée. Part of the reason is that the Happy Hour offering of half-price appetizers from 4 to 6 p.m. is too good to pass up, and I’m often full after a couple of those. That said, I’m somewhat put off by the entrees as they seem a bit too fussy, like the chefs are trying to do too much with each dish. Take for example the Flat Iron Steak entrée. It’s described as “teriyaki marinated steak served over garlic mashed potatoes with a horseradish Dijon sauce and topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms.” It gives me a headache to think of all those flavors on one plate. So, while I wanted something else after our appetizers, I ended up simply ordering the French Onion Soup. It was a delicious and satisfying crock of caramelized onions served in a rich, beefy stock and topped with the traditional crouton and not-so-traditional but yummy nonetheless Havarti cheese.

I ended up ordering my standby burger, served on a bulkie roll with lettuce and tomato and a side of crispy fries. As always, it was juicy and flavorful, but too big to eat after the mussels and "garlic" bread—especially since we wanted to leave room for dessert. But nothing grabbed us from the dessert menu (here again, a little too much going on, e.g., Devil’s Food Red Velvet cake – which is it?) so Amy trusted me to order bartender Kara’s specialty espresso martinis. They rock. It’s hard to find a martini anywhere for 8 dollars these days; this one is worth every penny. Vanilla vodka, Kahlua, crème de cacao, shaken with a shot of espresso make this martini a perfect end to a meal, and a perfect reason to come back again.

Well, that, the consistently good service, and the fact that we still haven’t tried any entrées.

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