Diners have to get to The Snug pretty early to nab a slice of the family steakhouse’s prime rib.
“We roast that in a slow-cook oven every day, so it takes it to a temperature and holds it so that it remains absolutely marvelous,” said Snug owner Kay Bentley. “Fridays and Saturdays we will usually sell out. Some people come in and they’re disappointed but if you want that, you have to be here.”
That will be especially true this weekend when the Bentleys — Kay, husband John and sons Birk, Chris, Alex and Colin — celebrate their 21st year in business. Along with the fantastic food that loyal customers have come to know and love, the restaurant will be offering an extended happy hour.
“Normally we do happy hour in the bar only for dinner on Mondays through Saturdays, but we’re going to do it throughout the entire restaurant: select wines, bottled beer and well liquor drinks and that’s anytime during the evening on Friday and Saturday,” Kay explained.
Other than drink specials, the celebration — like the restaurant itself — will be pretty low-key.
Customers will be able to sample some of the Snug’s seasonal specials, including a wrangler ribeye with southwestern succotash and potatoes au gratin and a shrimp stuffed filet bordelaise with garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus, in an atmosphere that may look a little bit different than it used to. The dining room sports a new, lighter coat of paint, tile floors and new TVs.
“We’ve given it a facelift,” Kay laughed. “We really like it and the comments have been really good.”
The Bentleys haven’t touched the food, however. Customers can still order a Black ‘n Blue Filet with their famous blueberry-port wine sauce, the Neptune’s Cow (a filet topped with sautéed shrimp and blue crab sauce), the Arroz salad and the blackened honey glazed salmon. To Snug customers, the presence of these items on the menu is non-negotiable.
What they might not know is that everything, from breads to dressings to sauces, was invented by the Bentleys and is made in-house. And that includes the crab dip appetizer, which John sampled on a trip out of town and tweaked to make it his own, and the blueberry port wine sauce, which John invented after a customer dared him to re-create a sauce from a restaurant in Boston.
“We do everything ourselves,” Kay confirmed. “Our sauces and our crab dip… anything we’re doing, we’re doing the prep on it. If it’s on the menu, we made it and we’ve tasted it. We’re not going to put it on there until we think it’s a winner.”
One thing that they have done, though, is reintroduce lunch.
“We’d been closed for a number of years, about seven years, and reopened in May and it’s coming along nicely,” Kay said. “We closed when they started doing all this road construction and my husband was ill, so the timing was really bad and we stayed closed. In May we just thought, ‘Okay, it’s time again.’”
“It’s a slow process because lunch has changed so much. People want to hurry,” she continued. “And when we reopened for lunch, we actually did the wrong thing. We used paper cups, we used baskets and, after a while, we said, ‘Uh-uh.’ People have a notion of what you’re like, so we changed all that and it’s very much back to the way it used to be. We just tried to make it more convenient and a little faster.”
The lunch and dinner menus are much different, Kay explained, with lunch focusing primarily on soups, sandwiches and salads. They still offer the crab dip, the arroz con pollo and burgers, but the star of the lunch menu is definitely the Kentucky Hot Brown, an open-faced sandwich filled with chicken breast, bacon, ham and turkey and then covered in sauce mornay and topped with roasted tomatoes and parmesan cheese.
“It’s very popular,” she said.
In its 21 years, the Snug has made a lot of changes — ending lunch service and beginning it again, turning the Cubhouse banquet facility into the Bottle Shop — and weathered its fair share of hardships, most notably John’s pancreatic cancer, the economic downturn in 2008 and a nearly two-year road construction project right outside their front door that required customers to use the restaurant’s emergency entrance in the back.
Despite everything, the Bentleys are still at it, providing great steaks, seafood and drinks in a homey atmosphere to people who come back again and again. And they plan to stick around for quite some time.
“Somehow we’ve hung in there,” Kay said. “And you just have to keep at it, you have to be careful about what you’re doing, your inventory and that you’re keeping your customers happy so that they’ll come back and that’s what we try to do. We used to be called really pricey. I think some people think of us that way, but if you’re going to get a steak here, it’s the best. It’s the best you can buy.”
The Snug Steak & Grill
240 Davis Road, Augusta
Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; Monday-Saturday, 5 p.m.-until
Reservations recommended, especially on weekend nights
The Bottle Shop
Monday-Thursday, 2-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 2-11 p.m.