The restaurant at the corner of the Post Road and North Pine Creek Road certainly is a barometer for the trends in dining out in Fairfield. Walt Miller has reopened the restaurant with a new name, The Shack Hometown Grill, and has created a concept to reflect the new economy and lifestyle of the community.
Formerly, the Beach Café, The Shack's new concept which Miller created with his general manager and partner David Cervero, welcomes patrons, especially families looking for a comfortable, informal restaurant with menu favorites set at an affordable price point.
During an interview last Saturday afternoon, Cervero sat in a booth in The Shack's game room discussing the changes in the interior décor, floor plan, menu and special events that already are drawing crowds to the restaurant.
"It's a fun, family restaurant for Fairfield," said Cervero, noting that among the Shack's special features is Kids Movie Nite on Thursdays and Fridays. He explained that The Shack's upstairs room for private parties is set aside for Kids Movie Nite, when Disney movies are shown for children ages 3 to 10. For $8.95 children select their meal from the Kids Menu and then enjoy popcorn, ice cream and a movie, all supervised by staff while the parents enjoy their dinner downstairs. Kids' movies begin at 6 p.m. with continuous showings to accommodate families coming after the 6 p.m. start.
"We have a lot of neighborhood couples coming in," said Cervero, emphasizing how the new concept is attracting local people. He said he has noticed couples making plans to dine together while their children are together upstairs attending the movie
"It's almost like a parents night out, but the kids think it's a `Kids Night Out,'" he said.
In addition to the movie night for kids, the Shack offers other special events such as Taco Tuesday with $2 tacos all day along with drink specials. Wednesday is ladies and 80s night with $4 Cosmos and 80s music; Thursday is Karaoke Night; and Saturday night beginning at 9:30 p.m., the Shack offers live music.
The Shack's new concept begins with the interior décor and floor plan. Owners preserved the front corner dining room to accommodate patrons who enjoy a more traditional dining room. The oval-shaped bar is still the focal point of the main room with large TV screens and a variety of seating for patrons who enjoy the more lively bar atmosphere. The third room is the game room, a concept new to the restaurant. Here, a pool table takes center stage and is complemented with a variety of games, including darts.
However, Cervero touts the menu as the drawing card for the new concept. He emphasized that in planning the Shack he and Miller kept hearing from customers well familiar with the building's culinary history, that the Shack had to offer nachos, the mainstay of the bar menu when the building's owner and restaurateur Tommy Febbraio ran Sidetracks. Cervero said that Tommy agreed to share his famous nacho recipe and even went into the kitchen to instruct the chef and staff in how to make the popular bar favorite. Sidetrack's nachos is a favorite among the restaurant's Get You Goin' offerings.
Another favorite menu selection is the Vermont Cheese Board, which offers a selection of Cabot Private Stock Cheddar, along with Granny Smith apples, Sopressata and crackers.The Shack burger menu is extensive and features the Angus beef burger, which is hand-pressed and cooked to order with a selection of mushrooms, bacon, Guacamole, sautéed onions, cheese and even a fried egg. Other burger selections include the turkey burger, Ally's veggie burger, BBQ burgers and bistro-style sliders which are mini Angus burgers with lettuce, tomato and sweet pickles. Also, the menu includes the fork and knife burger, which is a full pound of ground Angus of two patties layered with Cheddar Cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato.
Cervero said another menu favorite is the Cubano, which offers roast pork, smoked ham, Swiss cheese and sweet pickles with a vidalia onion and jalapeno mayo.
In addition to Sidetrack's nachos, the Shack also sends a shout out to past history with its offering of the Breakaway Caesar Salad. This is the chilled Romaine lettuce with garlic croutons and Breakaway's famous dressing.
In the near future, the Shack will add "The Thanksgiving" sandwich to its menu. The Thanksgiving sandwich was also a favorite with patrons of Breakaway.
"We want to listen to the customers," Cervero said.
The menu also includes big daddy's burrito, country line baby back ribs, roaring fork fried chicken, fish fry, backyard New York strip and a grilled salmon. Desserts include the popular chocolate chip cookie pie, the restaurant's signature dessert, which is the creation of Miller's wife, Ariel.
In addition to the regular lunch menu, the Shack offers a Sunday brunch menu with popular favorites, including French toast, eggs benedict, salmon frittata, Greek yogurt with granola, among others.
Reflecting upon the Shack's concept, Cervero said, "We want to do a lot for the 30- to 50-year-old crowd."
He wants people to come to the restaurant and feel as if they are eating in their own home. Also, he noted, the menu's variety and price range should appeal to the local business community, where, he said, people can come in and eat lunch "for under $10 and be out in 30 minutes." Also, he said, the Shack is a place where fathers and sons can come in and watch a ballgame together.
In addition to dining in and hosting private parties in the party room, the Shack offers catering services.
Miller, who owned The Beach Café before he changed the name and its concept, is also owner of the Sundown Saloon, Thataway Cafe and the Beach House in Greenwich and Old Greenwich.
Cervero, former general manager of the Ash Creek Saloon in Black Rock, attended Fairfield University before transferring and graduating from the University of Vermont. A native of Vermont, he has a lot of relatives living in Fairfield. He stressed the goal with the restaurant is to make it a community-oriented dining facility with a focus on supporting the community's charitable endeavors.
The Shack is open daily with lunch beginning at 11 a.m. and dinner served on weekdays until 10 p.m. and weekends until 11 p.m., along with extended bar hours. For more information, call 203-254-3606 or visit www.TheShack