Although I enjoy the food offerings around campus and think we should do our best to support them, I’m not inaccurate in saying there are just not that many options to choose from near UConn. So when I get the chance to try a restaurant that’s new to me, I can’t help but feel more excitement than probably necessary. Last Thursday night – hence my hiatus from writing last week, sorry fellow foodies – I was fortunate enough to dine at the Fenton River Grill in Mansfield, named after the river that runs through the town. The new American restaurant has a comfortable but classy atmosphere, making it a versatile option for date night or a celebratory meal. Although its food and drink options, along with an ambiance that could swing casual, seem to make the Fenton a solid dining option for students who want to venture a bit outside the radius of campus, I will be honest – the restaurant is a bit pricey. However, the quality of the ingredients, the attention given to the menu, and its specials and drinks make the Fenton River Grill worth the splurge.
Restaurants that have daily specials always catch my eye because when I eat out, I want to try something unique to that place or for the time of year. Fortunately, the Fenton has daily lunch and dinner specials with beer on tap, drinks, small plates and entrees offered every day. When I visited, the entree specials were buffalo chicken mac and cheese, blackened swordfish, a quinoa dish and a fourth one I can’t recall. The drink specials were a pumpkin pie margarita and a Mexican mule.
Half of our party attempted to order the swordfish dish ($32) with basmati rice and mango salsa, but unfortunately, they only had enough for one meal. So, I ordered my backup option off of the regular dinner menu, the Faroe Island salmon. The dish is made with tomatoes, olives – I ordered it without olives – capers, white wine, garlic butter, parmesan polenta and broccoli rabe for $28. The salmon was succulent, flaky and juicy, although I wish it and the parmesan had a tad bit more seasoning. The garlic butter, capers and tomatoes made for a savory side that wasn’t too heavy.
Once swordfish was off of the table, I had been torn between ordering the salmon and the braised short rib dish ($29) made with Hosmer root beer, whipped potatoes and julienned vegetables, which a few members of our party ordered. However, I usually go for the beef options at restaurants – because we rarely eat it at home – and I had been craving salmon for weeks, I don’t regret my decision. It just means I’ll have another reason to visit again!
Our party ordered the crispy Brussels sprouts with tamari lime dressing ($10) and pork and kimchi dumplings with Asian slaw and sriracha lime aioli ($12). Similar to the polenta and salmon, I wish the Brussels sprouts had a bit more salt, although I enjoyed the balsamic glaze and the dressing. The pork and kimchi dumplings were definitely yummy, but I feel like for $2 a dumpling, they were overpriced. Another appetizer on the menu that caught my eye were the Irish nachos ($14), house potato chips dressed up like traditional nachos.
I was pleasantly surprised by the size and diversity of the drink menu, which had multiple options I wanted to try: a spicy tamarind mule ($11) with Smirnoff spicy tamarind vodka, Hosmer’s ginger beer and fresh squeezed lime juice; the gin basil smash ($10) with Bombay Sapphire, freshly squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup and fresh basil served on the rocks; and the ginger sol ($11) with Tito’s vodka, canton ginger liqueur, fresh squeezed lemon juice and ginger simple syrup. As you can tell, refreshing and spice are two flavor profiles common among these options. My friend had made a similar gin drink recently, so I opted for the mule. It was perfectly balanced: the ginger and tamarind offered a strong but not overpowering spice, while the lime and ginger were refreshing and masked the sting of the vodka. The cocktails all ranged $9 to $11, which isn’t bad, since other places charge upwards of $12 for cocktails. The cocktail I tried was probably one of the best I’ve ever had.
Although the Fenton River Grill is a bit pricey, I would say it’s worth your money if there’s something on the menu you want to try – and I suspect there probably is. If you want to try it out but not break the bank, try visiting during lunch for less expensive options!