A La Carte
Lime Bar & Grill: 'American With An Italian Flair'
The Southwest Burger contains pulled pork, cole slaw and cheddar cheese at the Lime Bar & Grill in Avon. (STEPHEN DUNN, firstname.lastname@example.org / March 13, 2012)
Owner Marc Reitze has a background in retail management, but learned the restaurant business from his in-laws, who own George's Pizza in the Unionville section of Farmington. He and his brother-in-law also opened the affiliated Olive Bar. (The "lime" in the new spot's name is also in homage to a drink garnish, Reitze says.)
After Bosc closed, Reitze noticed the empty property and started thinking about what the area needed. As a town resident and married father of two, he and his wife would go to West Hartford for dinner on rare nights out. They'd want to stay out for another drink, but options closer to home always closed up early, he says.
"We wanted something later-night…something this area was lacking. I've felt for a long time there's been a void in this area…for something as a bar concept with a casual feel to it."
And so he created it. He began renovating the space in August, and Lime opened in late November, bringing together the bar, eatery and lounge space. The menu, which he describes as "American with an Italian flair," is designed to work with the small kitchen.
"I have a lot of Italian items that I always wanted to have on my menu, without being a pizza place," he says. "We're trying to balance it — walk the fine line between being a bar/burger joint."
The food is familiar: jalapeno poppers, wings, nachos, salads, burgers, sandwiches. But Reitze points out that the kitchen is doing everything fresh. Fried mozzarella is hand-cut, as are the French fries and eggplant fries. The "bocce balls" – fried dough balls stuffed with sausage, peppers and ricotta and served with Reitze's own marinara recipe – are quickly becoming a signature starter, he says. They're inspired by a favorite dish of his from John's Pizza in Times Square.
Pulled pork is another highlight at Lime. It's slow-cooked in the oven for six hours "and the rest is a secret," Reitze says. The pork is served several ways: as a classic sandwich, atop nachos or a salad, mixed into macaroni and cheese and even crowns a specialty Southwest burger, with cheddar and cole slaw. Other creative burgers include the Italian-influenced Abruzzi (with fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, onions and pesto), and the Vegas (topped with grilled shrimp, lettuce and hot chili spread.)
Among the most popular entrees are the 8-ounce grilled flatiron steak (with crispy potatoes, romesco, spinach and citrus aioli,) fish n'chips and a few pasta dishes, including penne alla vodka with a choice of chicken, shrimp or mussels. Entrée-sized salads are also big sellers, like the Heublein with baby spinach, tomatoes, dried cranberries, toasted almonds, goat cheese and raspberry vinaigrette
Weekly specials, like cod and shrimp cakes, feature the kitchen's skill and creativity. The staff is led by Colin Mercuri, formerly of Max Restaurant Group, and Jose Pagan. Reitze's thrilled with the kitchen's ability.
"They've surpassed what I even thought they could do, which is fantastic," he said.
The bar is a focus, with dozens of signature libations: flavored martinis and margaritas, mixed drinks, specialty champagne cocktails, affordably priced wines and beers both draft and bottled.
The Berry Melonita, with tequila, melon liqueur, lime juice and fresh mint, is popular, says Reitze. And a made-to-order "samba sangria," with raspberry vodka, Merlot, black currant juice, fresh berries and sparkling wine, will be featured this summer — perfect for the 55-seat outdoor patio. (Happy hour, weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m., is a big draw, with drink specials and discounted appetizers.)
So far, Reitze he's been happy with the feedback. Guests are starting to realize the Lime isn't just your average sports bar, he said.
"I think when people come here, they think it's just burgers, just bar food… I think the word is starting to get out that the food is more exceptional than they think it's going to be."
>>Lime Bar & Grill is at 136 Simsbury Road in Avon (Building No. 14.) It's open Sunday through Thursday, noon to 1 a.m.; and Friday and Saturday, noon to 2 a.m. Information: 860-674-1700 and limebarct.com.
>>New Haven Restaurant Week runs April 15 through 20, with 34 restaurants offering multi-course prix-fixe menus ($18 for lunch and $32 for dinner.) Menus will be posted at connecticutrestaurantweek.com.
>>MOOYAH Burger opens Thursday, March 29 at 772 N. Main Street (Bishops Corner) in West Hartford. This is the second Connecticut location for the "better-burger" joint, which first opened in Hartford's Old State House Square food court last summer. MOOYAH is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Informaton: 860-206-4283 and mooyah.com.