A dinner at Bonefish Grill could start off with a bang — inside your mouth.
If you order the Tampa, Florida-based chain's signature appetizer, Bang Bang Shrimp, that's the sensation you could get from the creamy, spicy sauce that covers the small, curly shellfish.
Bill Kadow, managing partner of at Middletown's Chapel Hill Plaza, would not reveal the secret recipe behind the spicy sauce. It's one of the company's best-kept secrets that has proven popular with customers since the restaurant opened in early November, according to Kadow.
On Wednesdays, Bang Bang Shrimp for $5 all day as a mid-week special. The promotion, offered in the company's restaurants nationwide, has proven popular locally as well, Kadow said.
Despite its seafood moniker, however, the restaurant also offers grilled chicken, beef, and pork dishes with vegetables on the side or garnishing the main entree. Most are cooked over a wood-fired grill. Other entrees are sauteed or baked, according to the menu.
Business has been brisk to date and as the holiday season approaches, Kadow expects that he and his staff of 95 employees will be seeing more "anglers" — the company term for customers.
Restaurant employees hail from all over the area, according to Kadow, who moved from Tampa to Sea Bright for his latest management job. Most, though, reside in parts of or Red Bank, with some coming from as far away as Freehold, he added.
"I wanted to hire locally," said Kadow, a Pennsylvania native who previously managed other Bonefish Grill locations in Florida.
One difference he has noticed between customer tastes in Middletown as opposed to Florida is the amount of soup he sells during a given day. The restaurant's signature soup is corn chowder with lump crabmeat.
"We sell a lot more soup up here," Kadow said. "In Florida, I would make one batch of soup and it would last the whole day. Here, I sell more."
Side order vegetables, such as the spaghetti squash now sold with many of the entrees, are rotated by season, according to Amanda Nicholson, a spokeswoman from the chain's Tampa office who was visting Middletown this week.
The vegetables and side dishes paired with entrees often depend upon local tastes and where certain items are grown according to Kadow and Nicholson.
All of the seafood sold is delivered fresh daily to every Bonefish Grill restaurant, Kadow pointed out.
Upon entering the restaurant's revolving door, one's eye is drawn to the liquor cabinet that takes up most of the restaurant's back wall. Servers will often suggest pairings with red and white wines, Kadow said.
Bonefish Grill also offers draft beer and well-known bottled beers in its bar and separate dining area. A Winter White Cosmopolitan is presently its signature cocktail for the holidays.
Non-alcoholic drinks such as sodas, coffee and tea are served as well. Desserts include a chocolate cream brulee, key lime pie, and coconut custard pie.
A gluten-free menu is also available for those needing to avoid wheat and pasta.
Though the restaurant carries a Red Bank mailing address, it is physically located at 447 Highway 35 just north of Chapel Hill Road. Its hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 4 to 10:30 p.m., Friday from 4 to 11:30 p.m., Saturday from 3 to 11:30 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 10 p.m. The telephone number is 732-530-4284.
Bonefish Grill's parent company is OSI Restaurant Partners, LLC. Its sibling restaurants are Carrabba's Italian Grill and Outback Steakhouse, which also have locations on Route 35 in Middletown.