Despite the drizzle, a group of older Indian men smoke cigars on lounge chairs outside. Carrying on in Hindi, they don’t seem to mind that the temperature is dropping. Shivering, I power-walk to the door. Inside, a group of much younger Indian guys are laughing over a couple bottles of Victory Golden Monkey. On the wall hangs a painting of a fish whose head is melting into the canvas; it’s not a Dali, but it could be.
Where the hell are we?
“Welcome to Bonefish Grill!” the server says cheerily. “Have you dined with us before?”
I haven’t. But if there are this many of my people eating here, I’m willing to give it a shot. Not that Indians are the ultimate arbiters of good food—but we do like us some spice. And we tend to steer clear of restaurants that under-season everything, opting instead to indiscriminately smother dishes in a heavy cream sauce and then labeling them their signature “savory selections.” That’s typically what happens at chain restaurants, am I right? That’s why we city slickers generally try to avoid the nationally branded dining experiences that dot America’s suburbs. Nonetheless: Sometimes, ’burbs happen, and whether it’s because we’re visiting family or just because we’ve got an irresistible craving for budget-minded crab cakes and ice cream sundaes, it’s better to know where we can turn for a meal that’s reliably good.
Bonefish Grill makes the grade. The environmentally conscious Florida-based seafood restaurant specializing in fresh, wood-grilled fish just opened its sixth location around the outside of Philly’s circumference: Willow Grove, Langhorne, Marlton, Deptford, Newtown Square and now Montgomeryville. Here’s what’s worth trying:
Bang Bang Shrimp: The restaurant’s most popular starter is a giant bowl of spicy, lightly breaded shrimp. It is served atop a completely unnecessary bed of lettuce, and it is addictive.
Crab cakes: When they’re so delicate that they fall apart, you know there aren’t any weird fillers. Added bonus and pleasant surprise: They were spicy.
Seared ahi tuna tacos: Seared tuna is something I always crave, and these tacos can stand up next to anything I’ve eaten in the city—at a third of the price.
The sides: Perfectly steamed veggies are an option here, unlike at many chains that prefer sending out greens drenched in butter—which completely dumbfounds me and eliminates the whole reason to eat veggies in the first place. Also: Quinoa! It’s served cold with lemon, bell pepper and fresh edamame.
The desserts: Ice cream sundaes are the best because they satisfy two sweet-tooth categories (yes, they are separate in my book): chocolate and ice cream. This one—a flourless macadamia nut brownie with a huge scoop of vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce drizzled over top—did not disappoint. The peanut butter and jelly bread pudding was on special, and it was perhaps the most inventive riff on the classic sandwich I’ve ever tried. If you see it on offering, order it; I had to remind my husband to breathe while he was eating it.
The beer list: It’s impressive: Victory, Ommegang, Rogue, Brooklyn. There’s even a separate list for sharing, which is a great idea because, like wine drinkers, there are plenty of people out there who want to pop open a big-ass bottle of beer and enjoy the experience of drinking and enjoying it together. And hey, when a national restaurant chain turns out to be craft-beer-savvy, it gives us hope that America’s days of “Umm, we have Bud and Bud Light” may finally be numbered.
27 Airport Square, North Wales, Pa. 215.361.2932. bonefishgrill.com
Dinner with Luke Palladino