If you go
› What: Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish, 3202 Brainerd Road
› Phone: 423-805-5357
› Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday
› Price range: $2 for sides, $3.75 for kids meals, $11 for grouper and tilapia plates
› Alcohol: Beer
As a longtime Brainerd resident, I'm always happy to see a good new restaurant move into the area. And it's even better when it is close enough to walk.
Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish recently opened in the 3200 block of Brainerd Road in an area that, frankly, can use a boost in business and activity. It's the bright red building just through the tunnel on your right if you are coming from town.
I stopped in twice last week and feel certain I will return. One way to tell if a place is any good is by studying the clientele. When looking for a lunch place in particular, if you see a lot of utility trucks parked outside, it's a safe bet the food is good and plentiful.
While the restaurant was not filled with guys in neon shirts and vests for either of my visits, they were represented.
Bolton's specializes in chicken and fish. Spicy chicken and fish, to be more precise. That's not to say that you don't have some choices to make when selecting your meal.
When it comes to the chicken, you can choose between a breast quarter, leg quarter, six wings, three tenders or chicken on a stick. With those, you can choose between a sandwich for $5 or a plate with two sides and two pieces of bread for $8 to $8.25 (breast or wings).
Bolton's offers whiting, catfish, grouper or tilapia as sandwich or plate options as well. The whiting and catfish choices are $5.50 for the sandwich and $8 for the plates. The grouper and tilapia options are $9 and $11.
You'll need to pick your level of spiciness. This can be tricky as taste buds differ from person to person. While Bolton's is known for it's cayenne-based spice, you can opt for no spice. The levels at Bolton's range from no spice to very spicy.
Kids can choose among three wings and a side, two tenders and a side, or one piece of whiting and a side for $3.75.
Sides, which are $2, include mac and cheese, slaw, green beans, baked beans, fries or potato salad.
Bolton's does sell beer, with a 7-ounce option for $1, in addition to the more familiar 12-ounce choice. It's not a big selection, but there are a couple of imports in addition to the usual domestic options.
On my first visit, I chose the extra spicy catfish plate with mac and cheese and fries as sides. I use Tabasco as my measuring stick when asking a server how hot something is. That seems to be as close to a universal measuring gauge as I have found. I can kind of guess how hot something is based on whether the server thinks it's too hot or too mild.
The first bite of the fish was pretty spicy, nearly taking my breath away, but I acclimated pretty quickly. The fish is served on a piece of wheat bread, and a second comes with the plate. They also include some sliced onion and pickle chips, which really add a nice touch to the plate. The fries are the standard crinkle variety, and the mac and cheese was good.
The fish is the star, and it was perfectly cooked — light and tender on the inside, spicy and crunchy on the outside. You get one large piece and, with the sides and bread, it's plenty of food.
I wanted to try the chicken, so I went back a couple of days later. You order at the counter upon entering, and the server who took my order suggested the breast quarter. I chose the hot option for my spice level this time and, truthfully, it was hotter than the extra hot. Maybe because there was more of it on the chicken crust.
Again, it was not at all uncomfortably hot. I'm not a fan of things that are so hot my tongue feels like it's gone a few rounds with a cheese grater. I like to taste my meal. I found Bolton's spice to be delicious.
For sides this time, I got the green beans and the potato salad. Again, these were pretty standard fare, though I did like the addition of chopped red peppers in the beans, and, again, the pickle chips are a nice addition. The chicken plate also comes with two slices of white bread, which are good for getting the extra seasoning off your fingers. You will need both hands to eat this large piece of chicken.
Bolton's occupies a space that has been several things over the years including an antiques store and a clothing shop. It's on the ground floor with the entrance facing Brainerd Road. Parking is in the rear. It's a large space with three open rooms that flow into each other.
Everyone was friendly, welcoming and helpful.
Both the fish and the chicken were really good. The sides were pretty standard fare, though simply adding the sliced onion and pickles was a nice touch. I'll be going back, and I'm glad to see them in Brainerd.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.