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    Sunday, August 07, 2022

    The Green Room brings soul food and more to New London

    Owner Jonai Phillips makes cornbread before dinner at The Green Room on Thursday, July 25, 2019. The new restaurant, at 246 Bank St. in New London, features a soul food menu and Sunday brunch. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

    New London — Looking at a city as diverse as New London but without much in the way of soul food, Tondra Bryant and Jonai Phillips saw a void. The family friends were both working at 385 Bank, but when that restaurant closed and they saw an available space a few doors down, they saw an opportunity.

    Bryant, Phillips and Shakim Outler, Bryant's longtime boyfriend, opened The Green Room for both dinner and Sunday brunch earlier this month, after a few weeks of just offering brunch.

    "We say 'comfort soul,' so we're not here selling pigs' feet and things like that," Bryant said, referencing a dish her grandmother did cook. The restaurant does sell soul food staples — such as fried chicken, collard greens, candied yams, cornbread and chicken n' waffle bites — but its menu goes beyond that with soups, salads and other comfort food.

    The most popular item, Bryant and Phillips said, is the Rasta Pasta — a Jamaican-style alfredo pasta with jerk sauce.

    Phillips, who, like Bryant, is a New London native, lived in Brooklyn for eight years when she was in college and after, and she recalls eating at Footprints Café, famous for its Rasta Pasta.

    Pounding the top of the 13-seat bar for emphasis, she recalled that in discussions with the co-owners before opening The Green Room, she said, "You have to have Rasta Pasta."

    Some of the cocktail options include Henny Things Possible — with Hennessy, muddled strawberries, passionfruit and mango juice — and one that Phillips described as like a coconut margarita with a cayenne pepper rim.

    The restaurant is in what was long Ye Olde Tavern, and what was most recently Bream Cove Tavern. Phillips said it seats about 80 or 90, between the bar, lounge with a fireplace, dining room and private room in the back. After the kitchen closes at 10 p.m. each night, only the lounge and bar are open until closing time.

    The owners made a few changes to the interior, such as sanding and staining the bar, whitewashing the fireplace and changing the light fixtures, to make it look a little less like an old-school tavern.

    Bryant said one of the comments she hears most from customers the past few weeks has been, "Oh my God, I love the ambience." She has seen people who haven't seen each other in a while run into each other at The Green Room, and emphasized it's a place where everyone is welcome.

    As for the name of the restaurant, Phillips said, "I was trying to pick something that's catchy, and green is a color that's fresh, new." Green is also one of New London High School's colors, and it's a fitting name for a place adorned with mini succulents throughout.

    Outside of the restaurant, Phillips works at Foxwoods while Bryant is a secretary in Norwich Public Schools.

    In the future, they hope to hold some special events, like fundraisers or card game nights.


    Shanice Sebastian, a bartender and server, makes a lemon drip drop at The Green Room on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
    Owner Shakim Outler mixes an order of chicken wings at The Green Room on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
    The Green Room, at 246 Bank Street in New London, has a mixture of formal seating and a casual bar environment. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

    Business Snapshot

    Business: The Green Room

    Where: 345 Bank St.

    Owners: Jonai Phillips, Tondra Bryant and Shakim Outler

    Hours: 4-11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, with kitchen closing at 10 p.m. each night.

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