Broasted chicken and beyond at Smarty's Restaurant & Pub

Who knew you could get broasted chicken in Connecticut?

Who knows what broasted chicken is?

Turns out it's sort of a pressurized deep-frying process that theoretically renders the bird less greasy and moister.

You'll be happy to know that the thoughtful folks at Smarty's Restaurant & Pub in Niantic feature broasted chicken as a menu highlight - and their version is spectacular.

Smarty's opened a few months back at the corner of Main and Pennsyvania in a spot noted for a variety of tenants in the past, including a Chinese restaurant and a comedy club.

Smarty's Restaurant & Pub is, as the name suggests, essentially two concepts in one. A brightly lit, white-walled, family-friendly dining room, extending length-wise on either side of a hostess area, provides a cozy restaurant atmosphere. And beyond, in dark green tones, is a U-shaped bar and adjacent lounge catering to the pub crowd.

They share a menu, which is sufficiently expansive that it works out just fine. The welcoming spirit and communal vibe of Smarty's and the very friendly staff means that there's no church-and-state style separation going on.

There are plenty of items on the menu that resonate with bar food, including standards from appetizer, soup/salad, sandwich/burger/wrap territory. But there are also the broasted chicken, steak and pork entrees, baked or fried seafood possibilities, and non-broasted chicken options.

Back to the broasted chicken. A four-piece dinner ($9.95) boasts a breast, two thighs and a wing and comes with molasses-happy baked beans, delicate cole slaw and a choice of potato. The chicken was still smoking from the frier with the exterior quick-flashed to a thin-crisped and seasoned coating. The meat inside was unbelievably moist and flavorful. Amazing. (And ditto for the sides, particularly the garlic mashed potatoes.)

There are also barbecued baby back pork ribs on the menu, though when served they were the cut I associate with St. Louis style ribs - which is to say they are larger and with more meat on them. In any case, the ribs at Smarty's were sizeable and beautifully lean. Not only that, they were nuanced with a mild but tangy rub, then basted with a sweet sauce just before delivery. If they'd cooked another half-hour, the meat would have leap-frogged off the bone and into my mouth. No complaints, though. Smarty's ribs are pretty wonderful just the way they are. My half-rack contained almost 10 ribs and a half-plate of the irresistible curly fries and, for $12.95 ($18.95 for a full rack), this is a terrific deal.

Also sampled during two visits: Smarty's nachos ($7.95), artichoke and spinach dip ($8.95), a veggie wrap ($8.95), a portabella mushroom sandwich ($7.95) and, from a daily special board, a ham salad sandwich ($6.95).

The nachos, with black olives cheese, tomatoes, sour cream and jalapenos, were served on tri-colored, sturdy chips that did not get soggy. The dip was nice, with a luxuriant cheesiness and came with what seemed to be fried flour tortillas.

The ham salad sammich, served with Swiss on grilled rye, had a terrific flavor, though the mayo-to-ham was a bit goopy for my taste. The portabella was beautifully marinated and served hot and juicy on a fresh roll. As for the wrap, it was more a salad wrap than a veggie - though perhaps that's a question of semantics. Heavy on shredded lettuce, carrots and onions, with a few diced tomatoes and cheese - as opposed to grilled squash or whatever.

A final note: the curly fries are spectacular.

SMARTY'S RESTAURANT & PUB

215 Main St., Niantic

(860) 739-8818

Cuisine: Nice mix of family-style and pub food, with terrific broasted chicken and pork ribs.

Atmosphere: As a friend said after settling in and looking around, "I just like it here. I feel comfortable in this place." Family dining and pub atmosphere under one roof.

Service: Very cordial and eager to please. Some of our entrees came out at separate times, but it was explained that cooking times varied and they wanted us to get the food fresh.

Price: Appetizers $4.25-$9.95, soups and salads $2.75-$9.95, sandwiches, burgers and wraps $5.95-$8.95, entrees $8.95-$19.95.

Handicap access: Good.

Reservations: Not necessary.

Credit cards: All major.

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