Sierra Grille proffers sizzling, savory southwestern cuisine made quick to order, forgoing canned and frozen foods and MSG for fresh fixings such as skinless chicken breast, lean steaks, fresh grilled fish, and primo produce. Peruse the menu and opt for a mexican pizza, piling a chosen meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato atop a crispy flour tortilla that spent a semester studying abroad in Italy (grilled chicken, $6.69; charbroiled steak, $7.29; shrimp, $7.29). The grilled-steak-and-crumbled-gorgonzola salad shuns carbs ($7.99), and the chicken fajita-burrita wraps up grilled fowl, guacamole, peppers, onions, and pico de gallo salsa into a flavorful yet functional paperweight ($6.39). Personal-size platters quell voracious individual cravings with steak, salmon, shrimp, or sea scallops sidekicked by rice, seasoned beans, and a small salad ($8.29).
And if I don't recognize him? I will. 'Course I will. And if I don't? I won't. Boy changes more every time I see him. He'll call to me, maybe. "Dad!" he'll say. And I'll stare at the stranger, shake my head. Not my son, I'll say.
No, you won't—you’ll smile.
He’ll ask how the fish have been bitin’, the big dope. I’ll tell him, Like mad. He’ll toss them big words at me. Tell me ‘bout this book he read by some such ‘n such fella who’s got letters after his name. Where's your beard? I'll ask like always, and he'll blush, blame it on the girl. "Likes me clean-shaven."
Boy's beard looked just like mine.
A coin of silver moonlight drops through the tin roof of my tiny ship's cabin as I peel off my gut-stained bib, slip on some trousers that don't stink of striped bass. A couple tugs with a plastic black comb make little sense of my hair, all grey and stiff with saltwater. It's gon' have to be good 'nuff for this place, I think. The Old House, said his voice. I pictured the boy at age 5 racing through the backyard with grass-smudged knees; his feet stomping up the staircase whose steps creaked till the day we sold the place.
It’s Peruvian food, he said. What's wrong with a coupla filets caught by your old man?
Shuffling along the shoreline, I gaze across the Long Island Sound and 'member me and the boy some years ago, laughing with our lines cast, his dim grey eyes reflecting some wriggling bluefish as his mama snapped the photo I can't bear to take down, all yellow from filthy fingers and the passage of time. But Selleck Street looms and I shake it off, the place's simple sign coming into sight beside the boy's pristine Chevy.
I sit in front of a plate of fried fish and shrimp in a rich, creamy sauce, and I'm glad to have something to stare at beside the boy.
"They make their own sauce," he says.
"I catch my own fish."
"Where's your beard?"
So I start to. I cut slowly, chew slowly; keep my eyes cast downward. The only sound is the squeak of the fork tines and the knife on the plate.
"I graduate next week."
"I know." I can’t let him know it, but the fish tastes real good. Tastes like a Smithtown Bay fish.
"And then we're moving, Linda and I. To London."
I was trawling through Smithtown Bay yesterday. I stop eating and stare at the fish.
"I don't know when I'm coming home again, Dad.”
I lean down real close to my place and squint.
“Dad, you have to talk to me.”
"I b’lieve I caught this," I say.
I can feel his dim grey eyes all up in the top'a my skull, burrowing holes.
"May've you could've caught it with me, had you any sense in yer head."
I regret it the moment I say it, but my eyes don' leave this empty plate.
Long after the boy's gone I look up into the opposite booth, still thinkin' I'll see him there sittin' there, this stranger that usedta be my son. But he ain't there. And I summon the server over, order 'nother serving of the fish I prolly caught.
It's delicious, this dish with the sauce they make and the fish I prolly caught. It's delicious and them and me should both be proud.
It's important, I think, to have something you can be proud of.
Cooking has always been a fact of life for Wilson, Marcelo, and Jose Rodriguez. Two decades ago, the three brothers opened their first restaurant together in their home country of Ecuador. Wilson and Marcelo continued to run the place while Jose traveled to their grandfather's homeland of Spain and received some formal culinary training. Jose's studies eventually brought him to Connecticut, where his brothers joined him and started the next chapter in their partnership by founding Cafe Madrid Wine and Tapas Bar.
At Cafe Madrid, the Rodriguez brothers draw inspiration from culinary traditions throughout the Mediterranean. That being said, Spanish and Latin influences are the strongest by far. Sharable tapas are a highlight here, and they include everything from beef empanadas to platters of imported meats and cheeses. The restaurant's international inspirations are more apparent in entrées such as the Italian-style ossobuco and the French-style cassoulet.
A rustic vibe characterizes Cafe Madrid's dining room, thanks to the earthenware floor tiles, wrought iron chandelier, and rich wood accents. There's even a wall made from reclaimed pieces of wine cases, which effectively splits the main room into two seating sections. Latin-inspired ceramics, paintings, and Lite-Brite boxes further add to the restaurant's distinctive character.
Cuisine Type: Home-style Italian cuisine
Most popular offering: Fresh pasta, veal, beef, poultry, and seafood
Delivery / Take-out Available: Yes
Alcohol: Full bar
Number of Tables: 11–25
Outdoor Seating: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Pro Tip: Enjoy homemade fresh pasta. Experience wines [that come in] different sizes. Fall in love [with] the decor.
In your own words, how would you describe your menu?
Fresh, genuine, original, authentic Italian with a touch of American-Italian flair. Southern Italian cuisine with a strong nod to Northern Italian. Our ingredients are quality. We don't cut corners.
Are there any dishes on the menu you consider to be a hidden gem—not necessarily the most popular, but surprisingly delicious?
Italian dry-cured and imported DOP cheeses, eggplant rollatina, seafood guazzetto, cuttlefish tagliolini, CAB strip steak, and all our homemade desserts.
With a white-picket fence around its perimeter and an American Flag waving from its bay windows, Boulevard 18 Bistro & Wine Bar might look like a great place to raise a family. But instead of embodying the American Dream, this 1860s Georgian landmark holds a little piece of Paris inside. Chef and co-owner David Raymer transports palates across the Atlantic by pairing more than 80 French wines with traditional entrees. And, much like in a Parisian bistro's kitchen, the focus here is on the craft. Chef Raymer creates country pâté and cures gravlax in house, and even stuffs his own sausages with flavors such as merguez or boudin blanc. The result: French classics with a modern twist, such as grilled mustard-seed-crusted leg of lamb with ratatouille or a duck confit salad.
An antique map of Paris covers the wall of the dining room so that guests never forget where the flavors they're tasting came from. But it also helps tie the room together. The map's curving, cobblestone avenues guide eyes toward the scarlet booths and hardwood accents. Boulevard 18 Bistro & Wine Bar also offers a seasonal dining patio with views of the village fire station where Chef Raymer buys the flames to fill the fire pit.