BridgeSide Grille

by Brian Watson, CISA Intern, August 2012

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Click here for an interview and more from BridgeSide Grille.

Rose O’Hagan was only 23, yet she was already working day and night, seven days a week, doing her best to run her recently opened Sunderland restaurant, Steeple Jacks. 1979 was in the days before global sourcing, so she didn’t have to think about buying local: it was something “you just did.” She ran the restaurant for ten years, to much positive acclaim from the community, but eventually left to focus on her family life.

Her leave was only temporary.  In April of 2007, with her kids now grown up, she started BridgeSide Grille. Her comeback was inspired by inner feelings of   “unfinished business” and her observation that the “community was lacking a restaurant that could provide affordable, good food and a clean, comfortable atmosphere.” She also wanted to get back to fulfilling her two main passions: “cooking good food with local ingredients and building a sense of community.”

She overcame the initial struggle of establishing a new restaurant through three outlets: Steeple Jack’s reputation, her reputation in the community (as she says, “I wasn’t a stranger”), and the budding reputation of her new restaurant, which soon started gaining community approval as customers discovered that she offered “good food at a reasonable price.”

BridgeSide Grille offers American Cuisine, but with a special touch, or as Rose calls it, “Pub Fare with Local Flair.” Local ingredients are key to her appreciation of the Pioneer Valley: “What makes this area so beautiful and viable are the local farmers who work so hard to produce quality ingredients that I can trust.” Rose feels as though her use of local ingredients is a big part of the reason why she gets so many repeat customers: BridgeSide Grille, says Rose, is on par with other restaurants that focus on fresh, local ingredients…but the price is not.  Her unique in-season specials, her generous portion sizes (she tells me that, for example, she pours a 6 oz glass of wine when most other restaurants only give you 5 oz), the bar, breakfast on weekends (with unique choices, such as the Swedish oatmeal pancakes), and the outside patio, all help.

Rose’s attachment to local extends far beyond merely what she cooks with, as she works with local businesses, employs local artists, and in the fall, hires local musicians to perform at her restaurant. “It’s my community; that’s why I support local and they support me in return. It would go against my grain not to support local.”

BridgeSide Grille is open Tuesday – Friday 11:30am to 9pm (Lunch and Dinner), Saturday 9am to 2pm (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner), and on Sunday 8am to 2pm (for Brunch).

Try BridgeSide Grille’s Heirloom salad:

  • 1 heirloom tomato
  • 1 package of fresh mozzarella (buffalo mozzarella preferred)
  • 1 tropea or cipollini onion
  • fresh basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • French bread
  • garlic, salt and pepper to taste
  • goat cheese (from Goat Rising preferred)
  1. Slice the heirloom tomato & the mozzarella into 1/4″ slices.
  2. Thinly slice the onion.
  3. On your favorite platter, alternate layers with the tomato, mozzarella, basil leaves and onion.
  4. Drizzle with approximately  2 tablespoons of olive oil and  finish with approximately 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
  5. Make your crostini in the oven by thinly slicing stale french bread, painting with olive oil, salt and pepper, chopped garlic & goat cheese.  When done, sprinkle with chopped basil and serve with the salad

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