There is something to be said about friends who not only have a personal bond, but also a shared professional pedigree.
That's the case for two well-known area restaurateurs, Mark Resnisky and Butch Tougas, who have pooled their friendship and their restaurant expertise to open a new place in the Farmington Valley: The Local Grill in Avon.
"We wanted to do something together and then this space became available," says Resnisky about the handsome restaurant space in Avon's Riverdale Farms complex at 152 Simsbury Road (Route 10.) "We were not looking to open a high-end, special-occasion-only restaurant, but rather something people would come to at the spur of the moment, anytime, a laid-back local place that was not a pizza or Chinese restaurant.
"Not everyone in the valley is looking for upscale when it comes to dining. We think we have brought both a comfortable setting, good food and filled a niche here that was not filled before."
Resnisky, of West Hartford's former The Back Porch and Manchester's Shea's American Bar & Grill; and Tougas, who ran the restaurant at Indian Hill Country Club for many years, are not only delivering that "kick back and relax" neighborhood vibe, but also offering an ambitious menu that, in true gastropub style, is worthy of any top-shelf eatery.
Starters are generous and creative with such choices as a corn and crab cake with grilled native corn mixed with lump crabmeat and jalapenos and cheese; or the chips and dip, house-made potato chips served with a crock of caramelized onion and pancetta dip. House-made soups such as cream of potato and caramelized leek are made from scratch each day, and seafood starters include tuna Carpaccio with balsamic and wasabi reduction and smoked trout quesadillas layers with native corn salsa and pepper jack cheese.
Tougas who is doing the heavy lifting as executive chef has kept the entree choices manageable and interesting by limiting the number on the menu, and opting to change up the choices each month depending on what diners like. This month, choices include wild mushroom ravioli with caramelized onion cream, grilled chicken over mango couscous and topped with avocado and raspberry chutney, and grilled pork chops laced with apricot and fresh mint glaze.
There are traditional choices with a Tougas/Resnisky spin such as the "Local's Philly," a steak sandwich with sliced steak, caramelized onion and brie on foccaccia bread served warm and flatbread topped with pancetta, fresh spinach and sliced tomatoes. Tougas has also tapped some of his favorite recipes including the Meatloaf Benedict, a house-made meatloaf grilled and topped with a poached egg and served with a side of bacon aioli. The eggplant pillows stuffed with Portuguese sausage, spinach and cheeses and served over plum tomatoes are a treat Tougas used to make for his kids when they were growing up.
"We kind of brainstorm together," said Tougas about the menu that he and Resnisky powwow over regularly. "We want to keep it fresh and seasonal so we review things often."
There are happy-hour specials in the comfortable and spacious bar area that boasts brick walls stenciled with the ZIP codes of the valley towns of Avon, Canton, Farmington and Simsbury and Weatogue. The dining room is a sweet yellow with hardwood floors and columns painted with blackboard paint so the special array of fairly priced beers, wines and menu specials can be easily advertised. The dining room seats 75 and the bar area another 40. Plans are to open the patio for dining when warm weather returns.
Starters range from $5.95 to $10.95 while entrees range from $9.95 to $19.95. Currently The Local Grill serves dinner from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The bar opens at 4 p.m. Lunch service is planned for the future. Information: 860-404-5810 or The Local Grill at facebook.com
>>Grants, 977 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, will hold a Connecticut beer dinner Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. The five-course dinner, featuring braised veal, sweet potato ravioli and native apple upside down cake, will include beers from City Steam Brewery, Thomas Hooker Brewery, Penny Weize, BackEast and Cambridge House. Cost is $65 a person plus tax and tip. Information: 860-236-1930
>>Enjoy farm fresh chocolate milk, fresh apple cider and homemade ice cream as part of The Farmer's Cow "Walktober Farm Tours." On Oct. 5 head to the "Much More Than Moss Tour" and ice cream social at Cushman Farms in Franklin from 1 to 3 p.m. The day will include hay rides, tours of the fields and barns and the milking facility. On Oct. 14 Graywall Farms will celebrate Columbus Day with a "Cows and Fields," an event that includes a farm tour. On Oct. 20, Fort Hill Farms in Thompson will host "Over the Hill and through the Woods," a guided tour beginning at 1p.m. that will include a walk along Maple Grove Lane Way that features a view of three states.
All tours are free. The Farmers Cow is a group of six Connecticut, family-owned dairy farms that produce fresh, local milk and milk products. Information: The FarmersCow.com
>>The Grist Mill, 51 E. Main St., Avon, with Super Cellars Wine and Liquors, will hold a "Feel the Pink" Ladies Night on Oct. 8 to support October Cancer Awareness Month. Ticket are $23 a person for the social from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Drinks, wines and appetizers will be served. In addition, those wearing pink will receive a 10 percent discount on their dinner bill. That discount will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Fund. Information: 860-676-8855.
>>The Hungry Tiger, 120 Charter Oak St., Manchester, is now serving Sunday breakfast from11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Menu includes three egg omelets, blueberry and apple walnut pancakes, hash browns and old fashioned Bloody Mary's information: 860-649-1195 and http://www.thehungrytiger.com.
>>On Oct. 3, Spotlight Theatres/Front Street Bistro will host a showing of "The Beer Hunter" at 6 p.m. and a beer tasting and buffet at 7 p.m. The documentary is about beer writer Michael Jackson. The beer tasting will feature choices from breweries including Blue Point, Two Roads, Goose Island and Hooker Plus as well as new fall and winter beers. Tickets are $30. Information: 860-422-7711.
>>La Petite France, 967 Farmington Ave. West Hartford, now hosts a "Bring Your Own Wine" dinner the third Thursday of each month. Information: 860-231-9255.
>>New London and the Downtown New London Association will host the Connecticut Kansas City Barbeque Society Championship on Sept. 29 at New London Waterfront Park. Myron Mixon from the reality show BBQ Pitmasters on Destination America will be among the competitors who will cook off in four categories beginning at noon. Local restaurants and the fire department will also be serving barbeque at the event. There will also be live entertainment. Information: neffproductions.com