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Bahama Breeze

By Rachael Mason







 Owner: Bahama Breeze’s parent company is the Darden Restaurant Group.

 Open since: 1999.

 Hours: Monday through Thursday from 4 to 11:30 p.m., Friday from 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., Saturday from noon to 12:30 a.m. and Sunday from noon to 11:30 p.m.

 Location: Bahama Breeze is located just off Pleasant Hill Road, just east of the Interstate 85 interchange.

 Capacity: Bahama Breeze seats 260, including the deck.

 Atmosphere: With its tropical colors, casual setting and reggae soundtrack, Bahama Breeze seems like a beachside restaurant. The friendly but unobtrusive servers dressed in floral print shirts and shorts add to the vacation feel.
The bright images on the menu echo the artwork that can be found throughout the restaurant. The chairs and booth benches are covered in a variety of colorful fabrics, some with floral prints.
Live music is played on the deck every night at the restaurant.

 The menu: The Bahama Breeze menu has been updated for the first time since the first restaurant opened in 1996. Pam Smith, a nutritionist and registered dietitian,  worked with the company on the menu redesign. “It’s about a very authentic Caribbean experience,” Smith said.

 The food: The Caribbean is a cultural crossroads, so the restaurant’s menu reflects French, Spanish, African and even Chinese influences, Smith said.
The menu, which includes soups, salads pasta, pizza and seafood, is light and fresh. “The dishes just all have a lot of flavor,” Smith said.
The Roasted Poblano Pepper is a Caribbean version of a chili relleno. It comes whole, stuffed with grilled corn polenta, which is similar to yellow grits, and goat cheese. The poblano pepper is not hot, but does have a spicy aftertaste.
The specials page features the freshest fish available, from a selection of 20 island species, Smith said.
Specials might include dishes like the Tamarind Glazed Salmon, a grilled piece of fish on a bed of bok choy and soba noodles, and the Pan-Seared Black Grouper, served over a sweet potato mash.
Presentation is very important at Bahama Breeze. Pineapple leaves accent the shrimp, mango and avocado salsa that comes in a glass bowl served on a plate. Long plantain chips surround the bowl, while blue corn and other island chips are arranged around it.
On the plate, the Fresh Ahi Tuna Salad looks like a fish. The tuna is the head, while the piled salad greens resemble the fish’s body. Two pieces of bread are crossed to form the tail. This entree salad, in a citrus vinaigrette drizzled with a peanut dressing, is served with halved red grape tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes.

 Beverages: The drink book on top of each table is immense. To narrow it down, the menu lists some of the restaurant’s speciality drinks. The signature beverage is the Bahamarita, a frozen margarita made with Cuervo Gold tequila and mango, kiwi and strawberry ices. The Mojito Cubano, a Cuban cocktail, is made with fresh-squeezed sugar cane, Bacardi light rum, crushed spearmint and lime juice.
Most drinks are available in non-alcoholic versions. The Lemon Breeze is a tropical version of lemonade, made with fresh squeezed sugar cane instead of refined sugar.

 Dessert: Two new desserts are the Tropical Tower, scoops of coconut and mango sorbet in mango puree with fresh strawberries, and the Chocolate Island, a brownie cube topped with chocolate mousse served in a swirl of chocolate and vanilla sauce. Key lime pie and a banana and ice cream dish are also on the dessert menu.

 Things you might not know: The three Bahama Breeze locations in metro Atlanta will serve as a test market for the new menu. The Gwinnett location is among the largest of the 34 Bahama Breeze restaurants across the country. The chain began in Orlando, which is Smith’s hometown. The chef at the Alpharetta location developed both the shrimp salsa and the crab tower dishes, Smith said.

 The last word: “My goal is to have there be no bad decisions,” Smith said of the menu.

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