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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Small Plates, Big Taste

Bosley’s happiest hour

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Nowadays every chain restaurant seems to be offering menu deals as a way to attract penny-pinching customers. Five-dollar lunches, anyone? Unfortunately, you usually get what you pay for: cheaper ingredients and smaller portions. But other options exist. Bosley on Brady, the most expensive restaurant on Brady Street—with entrees like Florida grouper at $28 and rib-eye steak at $36—is an unlikely spot for a bargain. But owner Michele Green has a deal that few restaurants can beat. On weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. all small plates and bar drinks are half-price. The dining room does not open until 5, so you can sit at the trendy bar or one of the high-top tables in the front room. This is hardly roughing it: Tables have white linens and place mats are provided for patrons at the bar.

Start with a beverage and just watch what the kitchen produces for fellow diners. The small plates are focused on seafood, though other options are available. Check out the bowls of P.E.I. blue mussels in a steaming Thai curry broth, or the plate of tempura green beans. The person who ordered the pistachio scallops is smiling—two jumbo sea scallops are dusted with chopped pistachio and arrive over a bed of angel-hair pasta. No corners are cut on these small plates.

Some items exhibit Key West touches. The owner frequently visits that charming, eclectic town, and it serves as inspiration for the Florida Gulf grouper ($28), a sauteed or blackened filet that is always delight fully fresh. A recent addition to the small plates is lollipop conch fritters ($8), a Key West delicacy that’s rarely as good as these. The lollipop stick is a piece of sugar cane with a side of island sweet chili sauce. It has just a hint of hot pepper, as do the fritters with their tiny bits of minced conch meat. The Key West quesadilla ($9) is the sole small plate with meat. The flour tortillas are soft, not leathery, and have a filling of chicken with white cheddar. The real star here is the side of mango salsa mixed with red onion and a hint of hot pepper. Fresh mango is rarely worth ordering in this town, but this version is an exception. The key is that the mango is fully ripe and very sweet.

An item with Southern flair is the fancy fried green tomato ($10), which also comes with a fresh mango and watermelon accompaniment. One slice of tomato with cornmeal batter is topped with lump blue crab and a pair of grilled shrimp. This decadent plate is the sort of item one would hope to find in Charleston, S.C. Thai mussels ($11) arrive in a bowl with a coconut curry broth that has hints of Thai basil and garlic. The blue mussels are perfectly fine, and slices of toasted baguette are provided.

If it is already past 6, consider moving to the dining room. The Florida grouper is always excellent and the aged steaks are respectable, although seafood clearly is the first love at this kitchen. There is a new item modestly titled “grilled really big shrimp” ($24), which is served over an heirloom tomato risotto.

The wide-ranging wine list is comprised of some 90 varieties, with international flavors and some interesting sparkling choices. Only glasses are served at happy-hour prices. In addition to specialty drinks, the bar has a small beer list that includes The Southernmost Wheat beer, a product from Key West.

Service is professional and relaxed. The place may be crowded during happy hour, especially later in the week. But that’s to be expected: There simply is no better happy hour special in this area.

Bosley on Brady,815 E. Brady St. (414) 727-7975 $$$-$$$$ Credit Cards: All major Handicap Access: Yes Smoke-free

Bosley on Brady | Photo by Kate Engbring

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