Chain restaurants are like parking spaces: They're plentiful but not always the best. This isn't the case with Bonefish Grill, a prime spot in a competitive lot.
Bonefish is lively and popular but not overwhelming. The clientele was a notable mix of couples young and old, along with groups of various sizes. Families with young children were not well-represented, but it was a Saturday night.
The menu, as expected, features an array of seafood, and it was difficult to make a choice. I'd heard about the Bang Bang shrimp ($10.90). Crispy fried shrimp is coated with a creamy Sriracha and chili sauce so there is a distinct spice element, but a good one that makes the taste buds go pop-pop. The dish arrived at our table with sets of chopsticks for a clever way of eating the appetizer.
In addition to the regular menu, which we stuck with, several specials on starters, entrees, desserts, cocktails and wines are available. I did consider the cobia (a mild, flaky white fish) special, though. Most alluring about it was the grilled pineapple and sauce of house-made vanilla rum butter served with it.
Instead, our two entrees combined different elements: one a surf and turf, the other grilled scallops and tail-on-shrimp. The 6-ounce sirloin steak and crab cake combo ($20.90) displayed the kitchen staff's attention to detail. My request for medium rare was honored in a way that many steakhouses can't or don't meet. The pink center and seared exterior was a carnivore's dream come true. For an extra $7, an upgrade to filet mignon is offered. The sirloin may be a poor person's steak, but its preparation here demonstrated that impression is not always well founded.
The crab cake was all crab. It fell apart as soon as the fork tines touched it, making it evident this was not a breadcrumb patty with bits of crabmeat. These were chunky pieces with no evidence of fillers. The only negative was that the remoulade dip on the side was cold. The contrast with the warm crab cake was jarring.
The Georges Banks scallops and shrimp ($20.20) bore picture-worthy grill marks. The scallops were half the thickness of what I'm used to seeing, but it didn't affect the taste.
Most entrees come with a choice of two sides. These include garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach, green beans, rice and potatoes au gratin. A few "premium" sides also can be had for an upcharge, such as applewood bacon macaroni and cheese ($4.50) and sweet potato mash ($1.50), among others. The mac and cheese was practically a meal in itself. Creamy and full of bacon, this was a far cry from the blue-box version fed to a lot of kids.
The house-made desserts include macadamia nut brownie, coconut cream pie, creme brulee and key lime pie ($7.20). The pie was tangy and sweet. The thick graham cracker/ground pecan crust was the perfect foil. Unfortunately, the abundance of whipped cream almost overpowered any flavor subtleties. Almost.
Service was attentive, and the restaurant owner even stopped by our table to check that all was well. We assumed he was the manager, but he politely set the record straight. It was a nice touch. It's rare even in non-chain restaurants to have the owner visit with the diners, unless a personal relationship is already in place. At Bonefish, it felt like the beginning of one.