Continental Classics At The Bonwit Inn

By Connor Beach
The Bonwit Inn serves up a wide range of fine dining and classic American dishes to a customer base that’s remained loyal for the past four and a half decades.

First opening at the corner of Commack Road and Vanderbilt Motor Parkway in Commack in 1971, the two-story restaurant seats around 250 diners across the main dining room and the bar area, said manager Jim Dunbar.

Dunbar, of Garden City, has been working at the restaurant for 15 years. During that time he’s gotten to know a lot about his customers.

“We have a lot of steady customers,” Dunbar said. “Being here so long you get to know the customers and the community.

In addition to the seating areas on the first floor seating areas, Dunbar said, Bonwit has three banquet rooms on the second floor that can accommodate anywhere from 20-100 people.

Dunbar described Bonwit’s menu as traditional continental cuisine, with the restaurant serving up food suitable for casual lunches, or formal, catered events. It also offers a very popular brunch menu from 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. each Sunday.

“There is a focus on seafood and steaks, but we also have great pastas,” Dunbar said. “We always have new specials every day.”

Most meals at Bonwit start with their signature Greek Salad and Bishops Loaf that comes with every entrée. The Greek Salad is served family style for the table, and is well dressed so the taste of the vegetables and the light topping  of feta cheese is not overpowered.

For starters, the Baked Clams ($9) are a Bonwit classic. The clams are combined with breadcrumbs and baked to a perfect golden brown. The clam filling has an almost velvety texture that, when combined with the bits of pork that are mixed in, create a homey favorite for any seafood lover.

Under seafood, the Chilean Sea Bass ($34) is served with a chardonnay buerre blanc sauce, whipped potatoes, julienne zucchini and spaghetti squash. The flaky white fish is pan seared for a great color before being finished in the oven to keep the fish from drying out. The white wine butter sauce is a great match for the fish, and also compliments the creamy potatoes and thinly sliced squash.

From Bonwit’s selection of steaks and chops, the Lamb Chops ($39) feature domestic Colorado lamb chops that are grilled to order with a rosemary and garlic jus, mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. The lamb is cooked to a perfect medium rare with a beautiful color from the grill. The meat is juicy, tender and full of flavor; even the simple jus, made from the lambs own juices, works to showcase the meat’s natural flavor. The traditional sides and a serving of mint jelly help complete this delicious American classic.

If you saved any room for dessert, the Rice Pudding is served in an edible caramel wafer cup and topped with strawberries and whipped cream. The rich flavor and unique texture of both the pudding and the cup make for a fitting finish to a delicious meal.

Dunbar said it is not easy running a restaurant the size of The Bonwit Inn, but there is a special devotion to the restaurant that is shared by the staff and customers.