“I love Boston. They’re in my Top 5 – Not just New England, but Boston.”
It’s a comment I’ve heard Toby Keith voice more than once through the years. So I was not at all surprised – in fact, quite honored being a Bostonian and a Toby Keith fan – to hear he was bringing his “I love This Bar & Grill Restaurant” chain to mingle amidst Boston’s rich and diverse history.
If you’ve ever been to a Patriot’s home game, you’re probably pretty familiar with Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots and the New England Revolution. But if you’ve not been to Gillette Stadium in the last couple of years, what you may not know is Patriot Place has become a world unto itself.
I Love Patriot Place, Toby Keith and This Bar & Grill . . .
Patriot Place in Foxborough, MA is adjacent to Gillette Stadium and features more than 1.3 million square feet of shopping, dining, entertainment, a four-star hotel & spa, state of the art theatre, The Hall (a Patriot’s museum), Brigham and Women’s/Mass General Health Care Center, a winter skating rink and of course the football stadium – Gillette Stadium.
And in May of 2011 nestled among the festivities to enjoy at this slightly northwest of Boston wonderland came the opening of Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar & Grill” Restaurant. And seven months later on November 30, 2011 the artist, entrepreneur and restaurant owner celebrated the establishment’s “Official Grand Opening” with a night of festivities and famous country artist Ronnie Dunn headlining the evening.
Toby Keith is well known worldwide for his hard-earned and well-deserved country music singer-songwriter accolades. He is among the top musical performers in any genre throughout this past decade, and is ranked among the top selling artists in all-genres at #3 on Billboard’s Top 200 Artists of the Decade. He was also named Billboard’s #1 Country Artist of the Decade and #1 Country Songwriter of the Decade, and was honored by Nashville Songwriters Assn. International (NSAI), which awarded him its prestigious Songwriter/Artist of the Decade Award. He is a three-time BMI Country Artist/Songwriter of the Year with his catalog generating more than 65 million performances. And Toby was just named Artist of the Decade at the 2011 American Country Awards.
But Keith’s business empire is as expansive as his hit making ability, encompassing restaurants, movies, a clothing line and his own record label. Forbes has named Toby the top earning country performer in the nation. His Wild Shot Mezcal (not avail in MA) has been named “the number one premium mezcal in the U.S. market” by Beverage Media Magazine. And Toby’s “I Love This Bar & Grill” is hailed as “one of the best celebrity owned restaurnats in the nation.”
Come on in … I’ll show you why . . .
The perfectly situated 20,000 square foot building occupies a very large corner placement adjacent to Gillette Stadium where with a quick glance from the upper stadium entrance and you can’t help but notice Toby’s signature ILTBG neon guitar logo gracing the building, which is exactly how I came upon this establishment in the summer of 2011 while attending a country music concert. And as you make your way around the building’s corner from the free parking lot you’re greeted by a wall of windows showcasing a quieter sit-down-to-eat section of the restaurant.
Now, the restaurant serves up live entertainment, so if you’re there for the evening, before you venture in, make sure you’re 21+ and have your ID ready because TKILTBG checks you at the door – no questions asked – no excuses accepted … even if it’s obvious you’re over 21. Obvious doesn’t matter. Toby’s not messin’ around here. Have that ID ready for inspection. I was impressed. That got a check.
Step In and Step Up . . .
Once you’ve entered “I Love This Bar & Grill” your next reaction will surely be awestruck by the jaw-dropping ginormity and quality of the restaurant. This ain’t no honky-tonk. You can step to the side and be seated in the quieter sit-down-to-eat section or you can step up to the main event sporting an 85-foot red, white and blue guitar shaped bar. This in and of itself is a not-to-be-missed attraction. I guarantee you will not see this anywhere else, nor will you want to miss out on saying you did.
Now, whether you’re going to Toby’s to watch a sporting event or a live event, there’s no need to worry about picking a spot and marking it “yours”. With over 50 HD plasma screen TVs throughout the establishment, you can mix and mingle without missing a thing. The screens are strategically placed at every angle around the 85-foot bar and line the walls. The restaurant supports plenty of elbow and dancing room even packed to its 1200-person capacity.
Live Entertainment . . .
Toby’s ILTBG has regularly scheduled live entertainment, some of which are national acts. On this particular evening’s marquee was the Boston country radio WKLB 102.5 hosted Ronnie Dunn Solo Debut Performance and the Grand Opening of “I Love This Bar & Grill”.
I headed straight to the stage where patrons stood comfortably abutting its edge in anticipation of showtime. Whiskey Girls (servers) take care of the details while you focus on the fun. Personable, well-groomed and appropriately dressed, these charming young ladies are always at hand ready to replace your empties and fill your food odor. No need to search, shout or whistle. “They’re” watching “you” and at your immediate service.
I was in attendance during a packed almost to its 1200-person capacity evening of entertainment so I was more than impressed by the ease with which I wandered from center stage to the barns to the VIP Lounge without a problem. Patrons of this establishment are polite, more than willing to slip you through the crowd and simply there for a good time. No fights; no loud, boisterous behavior.
The Bull, the Barns, the Lounge . . .
You may notice a mechanical bull in the pen in the back, right portion of the bar. As of the Grand Opening “Bullet, the Mechanical Bull” was not operating but word is that it should be very shortly. Check with management while there. I’m sure riding “Bullet” is an experience northerners aren’t accustomed to but are eager to try.
And if you haven’t picked up by now, there’s quite a few choices for seating throughout “I Love This Bar & Grill”. But if you prefer being situated with your party in a more reserved atmosphere, the restaurant boasts two private barns adjacent to the stage where privacy abounds while still being part of the establishment. You have a complete, comfortable, unobstructed view of the stage and the bar area. The “Jack Daniels” barn accommodates 25 guests, the “Jim Beam” barn accommodates 35 guests, and both come with a private server.
If you enjoy the entertainment but also need a quieter, more exclusive atmosphere to impress your guests, Toby’s got you covered in the VIP Lounge – which is where I spent most of my evening.
The VIP Lounge accommodates a 35 person max. It’s situated quietly adjacent to the stage, completely enclosed with a delightful view of the band and the entire bar area from behind the privacy of sound proof, smoked glass. The lounge is adorned in rustic red tapestry wallpaper, a private mirrored bar, a bartender and Whiskey Girl servers. There’s plenty of room to stand and mingle or comfortably relax in rich, posh leather seating looking out into the courtyard while eating, chatting, watching live entertainment or the strategically placed HD TVs.
This ain’t no hole in the wall tucked in the back of bar pretending to be VIP. The Lounge is well planned, laid out, top quality and seriously impressive.
The Service, the Staff, the Spirits and the Menu . . .
A delightful benefit of being a guest in the VIP Lounge is that all the details are taken care of for you. The only thing you need to do is concentrate on enjoying yourself. The VIP menu consisted of a plentiful mix of hors d’oeuvres from a Southern-style cuisine. Piled high roast beef sandwiches sat center stage on high quality wood coffee tables awaiting your indulgence. Scrumptious, crunchy and hot Southern Fried Chicken Tenders made their rounds throughout the crowd via Whiskey Girls before making their way to matching high quality end tables for further nibbling. And then there was the famous fried bologna sandwiches, which I was ever-so-eager to try as “fried bologna sandwiches” are not exactly familiar to the northern palate. This “thick cut bologna seared with onions and American cheese, topped with Miracle whip dressing, served on grilled garlic toast” was absolutely and delightfully scrumptuous. I don’t know how I’ll ever digest “my regular” bologna sandwich again. Dessert consisted of not-yet-on-the-menu, mouth-watering baked apple slices in a “Jack Daniels” sauce. This was a chef’s delicacy that brought new fame to an apple slice.
There’s no red SOLO cups or plastic anything served here. Porcelain plates were in plentiful supply on coffee tables accommodating their respective entrees. Silverware was polished, wrapped and sealed in signature Toby Keith paper napkins.
And if you think perhaps you’d be getting a watered down, mini version of whatever spirits you ordered, wrong again ! This VIP open bar event served larger-than-life, full proof spirits in hearty sized glassware.
This was no “buffet style” self-service event either. This was a full scale, more than friendly, always available, please sit down and relax or mingle with your guests while I pleasantly wait on you, replenish your drink or the entrees before you ask kind of service.
The American Soldier Special for the Troops . . .
“An important menu feature is the American Soldier Burger, a nod to Keith’s well-known patriotism and USO trips to entertain troops in the Middle East. The burger is served free of charge to any military personnel with valid military ID.”
Ah ! The Catch22 – the Issue Out of Hand . . .
Every event, every establishment has one … the issue that gets out of hand. And believe it or not, I not only got to witness but was part of what could potentially have been an issue out of hand – but wasn’t.
No recording devices means just that ! So when security became concerned with my press equipment they quietly engaged in a conversation with me and discretely reported their concerns to management. And General Manager Jim Taranto efficiently had the matter under control and resolved. I had the (almost-after-hours) honor of sifting through my footage with Toby’s in-house photographer while sipping spirits and being offered my choice off the full menu.
Seriously, the top notch service never ended.
My Tip . . .
No matter the establishment, Five-Star or honky-tonk, I’m very fussy when it comes to service, selection and cleanliness. My grandfather was a chef in the family-owned “Dini’s Restaurant” in the heart of Boston and I’ve had the honor of working at an upscale, on-the-water, fine dining establishment on the white sands of Cape Cod’s Buzzards Bay.
Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar & Grill” gets a thumbs up and five stars for quality, service, selection, entertainment and atmosphere.
This ain’t no honky-tonk and this ain’t no hole in the wall. Like everything Toby Keith does, “I Love This Bar & Grill” is top quality and Built to Last.
Author Note: My sincere gratitude to ALL of Toby Keith’s staff and management. To Sloane Cavitt of Show Dog-Universal Music who immediately contacted me when it came to her attention that my name mistakenly never made it to this evening’s guest list . . . to General Manager Jim Taranto who efficiently contacted Corporate Headquarters to request a media pass clearance . . . to Julie Salickram of Toby Keith’s ILTBG staff who exhausted herself by email, phone and facebook attempting to contact me to confirm that I was cleared as an All Access VIP Guest, the evening would not have existed if not for your immediate and professional attention to this slight mixup. Thank you !