T-Bones Great American Eatery recently rolled-out a new menu, one that took more than three years to create. Twenty-two new items join some old favorites, and the menu itself has an upgraded look to fit the restaurant’s style as T-Bones celebrates its 25th anniversary.
The creation of a new menu “is a long, fun process,” chef Nicole Barreira said. “We look at what’s selling and what we think will sell. We look at some of the top sellers and think about how we can make them better.”
One example of old made new is the popular appetizer sampler. Instead of a combination of four appetizer selections, it now has five. Still included are the boneless Buffalo tenders, fried mozzarella, and bacon cheddar fries, plus two new items — the signature onion rings (just moved to the appetizer menu) and the new Buffalo chicken spring rolls. A twist on both traditional Buffalo chicken wings and Asian spring rolls, Buffalo chicken spring rolls are made with wonton rolls stuffed with grilled Buffalo chicken, bleu cheese crumbles, shredded carrots, celery and tangy Buffalo sauce, rolled in cornflake crumbs and fried crisp.
Ideas for new menu items come from many sources — Barreira, owner Tom Boucher and his partners, managers, the serving staff and customers. For example, the Buffalo chicken spring rolls idea came from a customer e-mail. Other dishes made a trial run on the specials menu, and all new prospective items are demonstrated for the owners and staff to try first before they hit the big time. “I have a chef mindset. I like unique flavors that some of the guests might not like,” Barreira said.
Boucher said of Barreira, “She has a tough job. It’s a lot like being an artist. Some people like an artist’s work and some don’t. She comes at this process with the world as her palette. We have to make sure what she creates works within the limits of our operation.”
Boucher said his favorite new menu addition is the Asian Fusion Salad. Its blend of romaine lettuce, cabbage, shredded carrot, slivered almonds and crunchy chow mien noodles is topped with strips of crispy citrus-honey glazed chicken.
Barreira’s favorite on the new menu is the roasted veggie pizza: “My mom called and said, ‘I saw the veggie pizza on the specials board. Can you put it on the menu?’” The pizza, topped with a cream sauce, baby spinach, artichoke hearts, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese and grape tomatoes, is made with a flavorful multi-grain crust to entice people who don’t normally eat pizza crust. “If people don’t eat the crust on a pizza, it’s because it’s boring and has no flavor,” she said.
The “Bouch”etta Bread was inspired by Boucher, who loves bruschetta. To add a twist to this traditional Italian favorite, Barreira brushed grilled sourdough bread with olive oil and topped it with slices of mozzarella, oven-roasted grape tomatoes, and fresh basil. The dish is baked until warm and topped with cracked black pepper and sea salt.
Long-time T-Bones fans shouldn’t worry; their favorite dishes are still available. Those include the baked line-caught haddock fillet, made with lemon, white wine and butter and topped with garlic crumbs, and the C.B.C. sandwich, made with boneless chicken, that’s breaded and deep-fried and then topped with melted cheddar cheese and bacon strips.
Boucher, who started as the Bedford restaurant’s manager 20 year ago, said, “When you open the restaurant’s doors, it’s like inviting someone into your home. But everything has to be perfect.” Then he added, “I think the common theme is value. There is so much value in all our restaurants, from the way you are treated when you walk in to the food and the prices on the menu. It’s the value of the whole experience, not just the check.”
Barreira said, “If you think about the reasons people go out to dinner, be it a family night out, or a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary, you get to be a part of people’s happy experiences and do something to make it better.”