On Monday, Oct. 8, a sign in front of Thirty 5 Bar & Grille, the former Reuben's Deli, declared: "We are open (finally!)."
Owner Brian Hersh couldn't have been happier as he buzzed around the newly-renovated space, checking to make sure everything was running smoothly with the restaurant's entree into West Hartford Center's world of dinner and the late night bar scene.
When a fire at the rear of the 35a LaSalle Rd. space in the early morning hours of July 10 caused fairly extensive damage to the premises, Hersh was just weeks away from the planned Aug. 1 transformation of Reuben's into Thirty 5.
"We had to put in all new duct work, lighting, ceiling – it's all new," said Hersh, who received a loan from Connecticut's Small Business Express (EXP) program that was being used to convert the business. Reuben's had closed for renovation in June.
"This will be a real food place," said Hersh. Although the breakfast and lunch menus will be pretty much the same as when the space was Reuben's Deli, he has hired a new chef and dinner and late night offerings are completely new.
"West Hartford has a pretty booming night time business, and we weren't getting any of that," Hersh said of his decision to expand the business. All three meal periods have a "different vibe," he said.
From the brand new menu, Hersh highlighted Steak and Cheese Eggrolls, Chicken Rollatini, grilled salmon, and skirt steak as some likely soon-to-be-favorites of dinner customers. One of the restaurant's managers recommended the Panko Bocconcini Mozzarella (on the "Bites" section of the dinner menu), the Chickpea Burger, and the Pistachio & Goat Cheese Salad.
The new "bucket list" of late night items also includes the eggrolls and panko mozzarella, as well as wings, hummus, stone-fried flatbreads, and both regular and sweet potato fries.
The bar, which has 14 seats – and two TV's – as well as a counter facing LaSalle Road, offers a wide selection of specialty drinks. There are several varieties of martinis – including a "Chocolate-covered Pretzel" – as well as mojitos, "LaSalle Lemonade," and the "Reuben's Mimosa."
There are also more than a dozen beers on tap, and many more available in bottles. "About half of our draft beers are from Connecticut," Hersh said.
The local emphasis extends to other offerings as well. Hersh said he's getting his bread from Elmwood Pastry Shop, bagels from Goldberg's, and meats from Hall's Market. "I'm also trying to use local produce," he said.
"I want to support the community. They've been good to me; I want to be good to them," said Hersh.
Thirty 5 Bar & Grille has specials on various days and nights, including 99-cent breakfasts of scrambled eggs and home fries, a $35 Prix Fix dinner for two on Mondays, and $2 Connecticut Draft Beer Night on Wednesdays featuring a representative from a local microbrewery.
Hersh doesn't yet have any plans for a grand opening. Although word-of-mouth was the only way he had announced his opening, at least half the tables were occupied at 6 p.m. on Monday.
"They find us – I'm starting slow," Hersh said. "I'm just so excited to be back open."