“It’s the same crowd every week,” said Kay Bentley, as her husband, John, and son, Chris, nodded and laughed. “They come back every Friday.”
“We have a great bunch of customers who are very loyal,” John said. “They’ve been coming for years. But one of them went to that new steakhouse out in Evans and when he came back, they just gave him the hardest time — made him sit by himself for a little while. The bartender asked him, ‘Are you new in town?’”
But whether their kids grew up with yours, or you’re new in town, the members of this family affair will greet you with equal warmth and a basket of fresh-baked bread.
The Bentleys opened The Snug in 1992, painted the exterior and sanded and varnished all of the wood interior surfaces themselves. They added on to the restaurant with The Cubhouse, which served mainly fish and fowl.
The Cubhouse has since transformed into a reservation-only banquet hall, but, for 15 years, the Bentley family has prospered. John and Kay’s four sons — Birk, 40; Chris, 38; Alex, 24; and Colin, 22 — have all grown up in the restaurant. They’ve all stayed close to Mom and Dad, working in what has become the family business.
“When you come in, she’s likely to seat you,” said Chris, gesturing to his mom. “I’ll cook your steak.”
“And I might bus your table,” John chimed in.
Birk works in the kitchen with Chris, and Alex and Colin run The Cubhouse. You might even see one of Chris’ two children taking plates back to the kitchen, although you’re more likely to see the two stealing brownies from the back.
And yet, somehow, they all manage to stay off each others’ nerves.
“If we were all out front managing, it might be different. But we all do our own things,” John said. “We know our jobs.”
They don’t take vacations until they can close down for a week or so, because there wouldn’t be enough cooks. About their only employees are a part-time banquet chef and the wait staff.
So for 15 years, almost non-stop, they’ve been serving up some of the finest original recipes in town. Admittedly, the menu has changed over time, reflecting the shifting of culture and of customers’ palates. The selection has narrowed, focusing on their tried-and-true bestsellers: big, beautiful hunks of juicy meat. But there’s still something for everyone: salads, seafood and pasta, for example. The food is good, and there is plenty of it, as they like to say.
“My favorite is the Black and Blue,” John said. “When we first started, we sold maybe two a week. Now we can’t cook enough of them.”
The dish is a hand-cut-to-order, aged Angus beef filet topped with blue cheese crumbles and a blueberry and port wine sauce made from blueberries, spices and quality port. It sounds different, because it is. But it’s also an addictive blend of sweet and savory punctuated by the tang of the blue cheese and the richness of fortified wine.
But they’ve also had customers wait patiently through a two-hour wait for their cheeseburgers. Granted, it was on Valentine’s Day, where a two-hour wait is expected. But the patrons left, pleased, with a promise to return.
The Bentleys chalk that kind of patience up not just to what you can see and feel — the service, the atmosphere, the presentation of the food — but also to what customers will probably never see.
Everything is made in the restaurant: bread, soups, salad dressings, sauces, vegetables and their popular mashed potatoes. Their blue cheese bacon butter and feisty feta sauce are often attempted but never duplicated by residents at home.
Give up, people. It’s never going to be the same because John, Birk or Chris cut every steak to order on a cutting board from the giant slabs of beef stuffed into The Snug’s walk-in cooler. Nothing is pre-cut. They don’t even wrap the bacon around a customer’s filet until the order comes back to them.
And then there’s the equipment. They gush over their Thermal Engineering Corporation super-fancy high-tech grill like car enthusiasts spout off engine specs. There are big words like “infrared” that describe the technology behind it, but the effects are basically that this grill cooks cleaner, chars less, never burns, casts out demons and juliennes fries! Or, at least, three out of five of those options. Perhaps a more exclusive model comes with a priest and a potato peeler.
“It doesn’t matter, because we never burn anything anyway,” John laughs, with pride. It’s satisfaction that’s well deserved. The Bentleys have seen the Davis Road area explode with corporate competition. They’ve also weathered traffic-diverting road expansions, market changes and raising four boys. It’s enough to drive a family crazy, but it drove the Bentleys closer.
Now the road construction is complete, and the movie theater is just around the corner. Stop by sometime. There’s a crowd of regulars waiting to welcome you.
The Snug Tavern & Grill
240 Davis Road
Mon.-Thur., 4:30-9:30 p.m.
Fri.-Sat., 4:30-10 p.m.