New, Warm, and Inviting Decor With A Fresh Menu
Tonic Bar and Grille is the big name restaurant Wilmington restaurateur Dan Butler is bestowing on his former Deep Blue Bar and Grill eatery.
Tonic specializes in high-quality steaks, similar to Butler’s Brandywine Prime eatery in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, but it’s not limited to being specifically a steakhouse. Deep Blue began moving away from seafood a few years ago. After a steakhouse menu introduced by Bouchard was deemed a success, he and Butler decide to change Deep Blue’s concept.
Deep Blue was the seafood restaurant at 111 W. 11th St. in downtown Wilmington Butler opened more than 16 years ago. The restaurant, near the Hotel du Pont, was announced to be closed for remodeling in 2015.
Butler said he planned to change the name and concept and concentrate more on steaks rather than seafood. After a lot of great changes, Tonic Bar and Grille opened on Dec. 7th.
“The name was a process,” said Butler, who eliminated about 20 other possibilities before deciding on Tonic Bar and Grille. “We wanted to stay away from anything too specific about the cuisine. Deep Blue was so specific to seafood it excluded that segment of the population that just doesn’t eat seafood.”
“The word ‘Tonic,’ aside from the obvious that it’s a drink mixture, gives off a feeling of well-being,” he said. “You feel good after you had tonic. It’s comfortable.”
Butler teamed with longtime business partner Paul Bouchard and another investor, whom Butler declined to name, to refurbish the space which now feels more like a modern Chicago-style steakhouse. He has added more private dining for parties ranging from 10 to 75 people.
Butler, who also owns Piccolina Toscana in Wilmington’s Trolley Square, said private dining areas are important for patrons from the local business community.
“Our business is so driven by the business of downtown,” he said.
He knows that members of the city’s legal community like to dine in the restaurant and prefer quiet areas to have discreet conversations.
Brown paper covered the windows of the restaurant with signs that read “Closed for remodeling, re-opening early December.” The main dining area was being refurbished, the smell of fresh paint hung heavy in the air and new furnishings were covered in plastic wrap.
Renovation plans called for a larger bar area, softer seating and a raised banquette. Butler added 10 televisions – Deep Blue had no TVs – which are all tuned into local and international sports, including soccer.
“After 16 years here, we’ve heard what people want,” Butler said.
The decor, featuring warm grays and taupe, is much different than Deep Blue. It nows has, as Butler says, a more comfortable feel with dark, distressed wooden tabletops, new flooring , hanging drum pendant lighting and tailored leather upholstered chairs. In the main dining room, he created smaller, more intimate dining spaces with a mixture of booths, tables and a large banquette, rather than the previous expansive open dining layout. A wall now separates the bar and the 100-seat dining room. The kitchen has all new equipment, including a cooktop that can sear steaks at 1,600 degrees.
Deep Blue chef Pat Bradley is still in charge of the kitchen.
He and staff members have finalized the menu, which features about four or five different steak cuts.
The bar has 16 craft beers on tap, while also featuring, as Bouchard says, plenty of “big red wines that I love.” The bar also has a separate menu of burgers and other casual offerings.
“We’re excited about all the activity happening in downtown Wilmington and we’re proud to be doing our part to further the image of our hometown,” Butler said.