Nostalgic Milford restaurant has ‘the vibe, the aura, the food’ to succeed

MILFORD — Hair of the Dog restaurant and bar is known for its fun and welcoming “vibe” and Sandra DeRosa Briggs has done it again, customers say, in a second restaurant brimming with nostalgia for all generations.

“I like people walking around and looking at every nook and cranny,” Briggs said. “People walk around and say, ‘Oh my God, I remember that. “”

Briggs and two investment partners recently opened Whiskey Tango Foxtrot — or WTF, as it’s known — at 521 New Haven Ave. in the former Tavern on Point food court.

Briggs, who has decades in the industry as a waitress and bartender, worked at Tavern on Point before opening Hair of the Dog in November 2020, and often imagined what she would do with the place if she was the owner.

This visualization came to fruition when the restaurant was put up for sale and two friends/clients offered to invest because they were so confident in Briggs’ talent.

The theme of the restaurant is Music, TV and Movies, with favorite characters and themes from all generations on every wall and in every “nook and cranny” – even the toilets.

There’s a “Central Perk” area with a leather couch where guests can eat and drink among “Friends” themed treasures.

Briggs said she had a challenge with the restaurant’s “large” dining room and large tables, so she created a menu of shareable platters with catchy menu names such as “I’ll Have What She Got “, a reference to the iconic scene from the movie “When Harry Met Sally”.

Other items include: “Yoo Adrian” – a pasta dish; “Fifty First Dates”, an assortment of cheeses and seasonal meats served with marinated vegetables; “Bird is the Word” Chicken Platter; and the “Up in Smoke” fajita platter.

They also have a keto platter called “99 problems and a carb ain’t one” and a dessert, “It’s like a box of chocolates.”

All foods are fresh, and sauces, dry seasonings and dressings are made from scratch, Briggs said.

Customer Mike Russo, who worked with Briggs, recently ordered four lunch entrees and a dessert of tequila-soaked fried pound cake with dipping sauces, including one margarita-flavored.

It was delicious, he said.

“When we were there, she (Briggs) touched everyone with her personality – I told my wife she was going to make it,” Russo said.

The bar/restaurant has been open for two weeks, the restaurant one week, and there are already regulars.

Client Denise Posey joked that she could call herself ‘Norm’ – a reference to the ‘Cheers’ character, as WTF is ‘a place where everyone feels like a regular’.

“WTF is definitely my new favorite local hangout – it has a warm, inviting atmosphere with just the right amount of cheeky nostalgia,” Posey said. “The menu revisits family sharing and the dishes are always there. Sandra (Briggs) is especially good at treating you like family while making you feel like a VIP guest.”

Briggs let her creativity roar throughout the restaurant. “Each wall has a different theme,” she said.

She has a music wall that looks like a concert, another that’s a drive-in, and a TV wall that looks like a 1960s living room.

There’s also a wall with images of women who inspired her, including Princess Diana, Tina Turner, “The Golden Girls.” “The world is angry – I want to make people happy,” Briggs said.

When designing the restaurant, Briggs said she took the ethos from an old Kodak ad’s tagline, “Memories that Shape Our Lives,” thinking it would resonate with everyone.

The restroom has a “crush” theme, as Briggs calls it. The woman’s room is covered with images of Paul Newman, Brad Pitt, Rob Lowe, James Dean. Men’s room features Marilyn Monroe, Pamela Anderson, Farrah Fawcett’s famous 1976 poster in a red bathing suit.

It also has a wall where the background is a painting of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar, with photos of bands from the 1980s.

There are board games everywhere because she wants to give guests the opportunity to engage.

The bar is inspired by a combination of the bar from the sitcom “Cheers” and the one at the old Knickerbocker’s in the Connecticut Post Mall.

“I’m here almost all the time behind the bar,” Briggs said.

In one of the “nook” areas are the oldest rowdy Muppets – Statler and Waldorf – on their balcony with a curtain.

On a bar wall is a painted lyrical nod to Billy Joel’s famous line “I’d rather laugh with sinners than cry with saints,” from the hit song “Only the Good Die Young.”

“I love the details,” Briggs said of her mood-setting style. “I want customers to have fun, relax and know they are going to be taken care of.”

Briggs thinks the name “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” works on many levels – and all the signs were there.

She likes the whiskey to be tied to the bar and the tango and foxtrot to be dances. She also likes the acronym to be “WTF” because sentiment is something people can especially relate to these days with everything going on in the world.

Briggs also likes that Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is an understatement for soldiers to say “WTF?” She’s heard it in military movies for years, Briggs said, and thought it was an official order until someone tipped her off.

Also, his late grandmother’s name was Fox, and although she died when Briggs was a toddler, she was told that they looked a lot alike.

She said the day before the biting real estate deal, she saw a fox in her yard for the first time.

Briggs had no plans to open another restaurant anytime soon, she said, but couldn’t resist when friends/customers Mark Onofreo and Lisa DiPasquale – who were neither another in the catering sector, have offered to invest.

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