My dining partner raved about Bonefish Grill, his retired parents' favorite at Del Boca Vista in Florida, but maybe a Saturday night was not the best time to try it for the first time in Marlton NJ. The first hint was the crowded parking lot.
We found a space, walked inside, and were greeted by a trio of lovely hostesses at the podium. “Party of two? There will be a 25 minute wait.” OK, we had already decided we were going to eat here, so 25 minutes won't be too bad.
“Your name, please?” Before my partner could say anything I answered “Muhammad.” Not missing a beat one of them smiled and answered “OK, Muhammad, we'll call you when your table is ready.” She handed us one of those flashing beepers that the chain restaurants use, and said “If you want, you can get started at one of the tables in the bar, and we'll call you when your table is ready. Those tables are on a first come, first served basis.”
We looked. There were several high tables for eight. There was a family of five already sitting at the one nearest us and three empty seats at one end. I asked “You mean we can just sit there with those other people?” “Yes,” she said.
My dining partner and I had wanted to discuss some private stuff at dinner, but what the h---. Lets have a drink and an appetizer. We sat down and said hello to the friendly family. They said they had started out at the bar table, but later decided to just stay there for dinner.
We ordered drinks and my dining partner pointed out some appetizer highlights on the menu. The drinks came, and then one of the hostesses came by and said “Your table is ready, Muhammad.” That was quick! We said goodbye to our table-mate family.
We brought our drinks with us to a small table for two in the main dining room, were greeted by Dan our enthusiastic server, and ordered. First came Bonefish's signature Bam Bam Shrimp and some warm bread with olive oil for dipping. The shrimp are coated with ... something ... and fried. Very odd, but delicious.
Next, filet mignon for my dining partner, and filet and lobster tail for me. I know what you're thinking ... This is a seafood restaurant. Why are you ordering steak? I can't answer. That's just the way things worked out. Everything was excellent and delicious.
The manager stopped by our table to make sure everything was OK. I notice that he did that at every table. My only complaints (darn, I should have told him): #1- This place is very noisy when it is crowded (and the ten women celebrating a birthday at the next table didn't help), and #2- (and it's a very small one) the warm butter for lobster dipping is served in a small bowl that is heated by a tea candle. It tasted OK, but its not clear like I'm used to it being, and the bowl-contraption gets too hot for you to touch it and move it.
Too full for dessert, but we did have some coffee. Its amazing how much quieter the room got as it started to empty out. As we were leaving one of the hostesses said Good night, Muhammad.”
Overall a very good dining experience. I'll come back.
I have one concern: Reading Bonefish Grill's website I find that this is a pretty big national restaurant chain. Some of their locations are in America's heartland. I guess that seafood restaurants are needed in middle-America, but I would worry. They have Sushi-quality tuna on the menu. This is best when eaten fresh, right off the boat. How does it get to places like Colorado, or Iowa, or Kansas, or Nebraska, and how long does it take to get there? I guess I'll just stick with Bonefish on the East coast.
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