Milford bar owners focus on food

MILFORD – Don’t tell the Colletons that the name of their bar and grill, The Barking Monkie, is spelled wrong. Monkie happens to be their dog, a rat terrier, Fran Colleton’s favorite out of their four dogs.

Monkie was sitting calmly on Fran’s lap last week as she and her husband, Tim, talked about how they came to open a tavern off the Milford Oval.

Tim sells cars in Shrewsbury, Mass., and the couple had once owned a fish market/restaurant in Hudson, Mass., and thought it would be fun to own a pub.

They couldn’t afford to buy one in Massachusetts, so they looked over the state line and learned that Clark’s Tavern in Milford was for sale.

So they took the plunge and bought the business, put in a commercial kitchen, extended the bar, installed new table tops and lighting, refinished the floor and redecorated the place with a 1920-30s industrial theme.

They thought it would take three weeks to move in, but it took three months and The Barking Monkie opened on July 2.

"None of us knew what we were doing," Fran said. "We just dove in. We’re hoping we can make a living here."

"It was the right plan at the right time," Tim said. "It took every last penny, but we did it, and people seem to like it."

The Barking Monkie, which unlike Clark’s Tavern is open for lunch, has gotten 4.5 stars on the Yelp website, many "likes" on Facebook and three stars from Encore, the Telegraph’s entertainment magazine.

It’s definitely a family business. The Colleton’s daughter, Antoinette Carroll, works behind the bar, and her boyfriend, Justin Anderson, is the cook. Dishwasher and all around help is BJ Lavoie. "He’s the muscle," Tim said. "He picks up a keg like it was a bottle of beer."

There is a full menu, from appetizers to desserts., and Tim drives to an Epping farm for lamb every Friday for their lamp burgers. The haddock for Friday’s fish and chips special is from Boston.

Prices range from $8.95 for fish and chips to $18.95 for the grilled rib-eye steak dinner. Entrees also include grilled coconut-lime shrimp skewers, panko mac and cheese, marinated chicken, steak or lamp skewers and a shrimp dinner with 30 fried shrimp. But burgers and wings will probably be their niche, Justin said, and the burger menu so far includes "The Italian Job" with mozzarella, tomato and pesto. There should also be a wing menu by the end of August.

Tim is proud of their cheesecake, served with an Italian wild black cherry topping.

"It’s unbelievable. You’re not going to find anything like that around here," he says.

Antoinette, who is 30 and has a background in business management, is learning to be a bartender and haunts the web looking for tips and recipes. Her signature drink is The Green Monkie Martini, flavored with green apple and pineapple. Her Monkie Colada is frozen and flavored with pineapple and coconut.

"I’ve really found my grove. I can’t believe I’ve never done this before," she said.

She also helps with the menu, creating what has become the grill’s most popular item, a goat cheese ball appetizer, as well as teriyaki pork shanks.

On a recent weekend, the Fire & Iron Firefighters Motorcycle Club packed the place, which was "a really good test for us," serving waves of people all at once, Justin said.

After working 12 hours a day, seven days a week to get the tavern started, the family is beginning to take breaks here and there, Fran said. "We’re starting to get into our comfort zone."