Eating at Sneekers is a tasty pleasure
It was almost a decade ago when I last wrote about Sneekers Café, and it wasn’t a food review, it was a business story.
Sure, I mentioned the food and how what had started as a bar had morphed into a restaurant in a bar, but it wasn’t a serious critique of the food. On a recent visit, it was all about sampling as much as we could and conveying the taste, flavor profiles, and presentation of the dishes served and rating the service and ambience of the place.
People often say they envy a food reviewer, but it is a job that involves serious work and responsibility. But on this visit to Sneekers, it was a tasty pleasure. Everything we ordered was delicious, arrived piping hot, flavorful, and in a hefty portion.
It was a rainy Saturday, and we arrived before 5 p.m., starting with cocktails and appetizers. Don’t be fooled by the exterior of Sneekers, located in strip mall with outdoor seating in the parking lot. The interior is warm and inviting, a big barroom with ample seating at high-tops, tables, and around the cavernous bar. We took a table.
We got our drinks and some starters — Buffalo wings ($8.99), calamari with peppers ($9.99), onion rings ($3.99), and, at the suggestion of our awesome waitress, the Sneekers Gorg Garlic Bread ($6.50). Yes, we threw all carb caution to the wind and agreed to indulge; it was, after all, a rainy Saturday.
The garlic bread was, as someone in our group opined, “to die for.” I wouldn’t go that far, but it was sinfully delicious, buttery, cheesy, perfectly toasted, and artfully arranged in a formation that would give anyone who ever played with Lincoln Logs pause to remember the good old days.
The wings were hot both flavor-wise and temperature-wise. Like a good Buffalo wing, they had clearly been swimming in a vinegar-based cayenne pepper and butter bath and were flawlessly cooked — tender and moist inside and crisp on the exterior.
Regular readers know I travel with “the calamari snob,” and he gave high praise to the Sneekers calamari, which is served with a side of marinara sauce. All too often, calamari is leathery because it is overcooked, but this was pretty near perfect: golden brown exterior crust and the squid firm, not gummy, and moist and sweet.
The onion rings get a high-five, too, a generous portion served hot with a horseradish sauce.
We were stuffed, so we ordered a second round of drinks and sat for a while to digest before ordering entrees. It gave us time to look around and see what other people were getting and what was going on. Sneekers is a very busy place. Almost every seat at the bar was taken, and so were most of the dining room tables. Every few minutes, someone else was stopping in to pick up takeout.
The owners are Rhonda Dempsey and Annie Porte, and I know from a decade ago when I wrote the business story that one of them is always in the house. They’ve owned the place since 1984, and they take incredibly good care of their customers.
Porte was working the night we visited, and if I hadn’t known she was an owner, I would have thought she was a hired hand. She bussed tables, filled glasses, and stopped to chat with diners. At a nearby table, a woman had tipped her martini glass, losing a bit but not all of it, and Porte, seeing what happened, went to the bar, spoke to the bartender, and returned with a shaker of the customer’s beverage and topped off her glass. Where the heck else would they do that?
The other thing about Sneekers — it attracts a mixed crowd. There were a lot of senior citizens there, but also young people and what looked like folks who had come from the gym, the office, or taking a break while running errands. Everyone was welcomed.
The superstar of our next course was the Surf N’ Turf Burger ($19.99), which was on the specials menu. Wow! Honestly, this burger was over the top. A flame-grilled Angus burger topped with sauteed lobster, crispy bacon, and white cheddar on toasted rustic bread with greens, garlic parmesan pub fries and a lobster sherry dipping sauce.
What a deal! There was a lot of claw and knuckle lobster meat and several slices of bacon and the burger with the cheese and who knew — but there were battered, deep-fried dill pickle chips, too. The bread was delicious, but we couldn’t eat it all, and we only tasted the pub fries, which were scrumptious, too. We focused on the burger, cooked just the way we ordered it, and the mound of lobster and bacon. To steal a line from the self-proclaimed mayor of Flavor Town, Guy Fieri, the dish was “the bomb.” In fact, Fieri should come and try it.
Also a top contender was the Fish a Ma Jig ($9.99). This sandwich was grilled white bread with American cheese, fried haddock, and coleslaw. Incredible how something so simple could be so good. No wonder Sneekers is so busy. And the sandwich came with a big pile of fries.
Finally, we veered towards the more serious entrees and ordered the Wicked Chicken Pasta ($15.99). There were chunks of seasoned chicken tossed with rigatoni in a gorgonzola cream sauce with cherry peppers. The dish had a kick, and it was filling. We ended up taking most of it home, as well as some of the rest of what we couldn’t finish.
As Porte cleared our table, she suggested we box up the big stack of garlic parmesan pub fries that we didn’t eat with the burger. “They make great Sunday morning home fries,” she promised. It was advice we should have heeded.
We were also too full to try dessert, but they did have Key lime pie, strawberry peach cake, and Mounds cake on the menu, and all of the desserts, Porte told us, are homemade by her business partner’s sister.
It’s a great menu at Seekers, with a mix of dinner plates, sandwiches, salads, and sides. We saw a sirloin steak special go by, as well as the Cobb salad, and a mussel and clam dish. It all looked terrific, and by the number of empty plates at the tables around us, customers were satisfied. If you haven’t visited before, make sure to put Seekers on your go-to list.
568 Poquonnock Road, Groton
Website: sneekerscafe.net or search for Sneekers Café on Facebook and Instagram
Cuisine: There's something for everyone at Sneekers, from lobster alfredo to pesto chicken to burgers and wings and Reubens.
Atmosphere: They say on the website "located in Main's Plaza ugly strip mall," which it is. Inside is eclectic, with a hanging carousel horse and big fish and posters, TVs, and too many Grand Marnier bottles lining the walls to count.
Outdoor seating: Yes, there are about a half-dozen tables in a roped-off section of the parking lot.
Prices: Affordable and fair
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday noon to 9 p.m.
Credit cards: Yes
Handicapped access: Yes