SOUTHINGTON — At the customer-driven restaurant Nataz, quality is of the utmost importance. Quality of food, quality of cooking, quality of service — even quality of conversation and employee appreciation.
It’s this same reason the restaurant — an old doctor’s office on North Main Street — is somewhat nondescript with only a small sign with its name on a solid red storefront. Owner and head chef Rick McLain would rather you find his restaurant through word of mouth recommendation than just by walking by.
“My concept, my philosophy is this: there is no one that puts out a better product than you,” said McLain, a Southington native.
With great pride in his work, McLain is quick to say Nataz is the best restaurant in the state, rivaling the likes of Manhattan-worthy eateries. If you think another place is better, he’ll eat there, and figure out how to do it even better.
“I just believe I'm the best restaurant in the state because of what we're trying to do, and I put my money where my mouth is,” McLain said. “Find a better meal, better price, better servers, I'll go and try to do the best I can.”
The 28 N Main St. eatery is one of McLain’s three restaurants named after his firstborn, Natasha. The Southington location opened in 2017.
McLain describes the food as American, with strong influence from other cultures.
“The idea is that we give so many different options of food that people wouldn’t normally eat,” McLain said, mentioning the whole red snappers they serve surprise people who haven’t eaten a whole fish before.
The restaurant only serves a prix fixe menu, but McLain said he’s customer-driven and will adapt to what the customer wants to eat. The fixed price meals, which include salad, entree, and dessert, change often and include a variety of meat, seafood, and pasta dishes.
“We have a menu, which is a guideline. So maybe you don’t want everything, you just want scallops — that’s not an issue for us,” McLain said.
He said the prix fixe menu also gives people the option to order something they wouldn’t normally order.
Kitchen staff Hanah Diedwards’ favorite item on the menu is “Heavenly,” with butter-poached Maine lobster meat, and a tomato-based Maryland blue crab and lobster sauce over angel hair. She works at the restaurant but takes every opportunity to eat at it too.
Diedwards has been working at Nataz for three years, usually during summers as she attends college in Washington, D.C. She said the restaurant has given her almost “too much experience” in managing and work ethic and she’s loved the feeling of teamwork that the staff has.
“It’s become my second family,” she said.
McLain, 55, has been in the restaurant business since he was a dishwasher at 14, making money after quitting school. A Southington native, he had his first daughter Natasha at 17, and went to school to train in law enforcement, so he could support her.
After about 12 years in law enforcement, primarily as a patrol officer, McLain was back in the business and starting his own restaurant. His kids — of which he now has seven — are also involved in the business.
Nataz also has locations in North Branford and Clinton. The restaurant is BYOB with a small corking fee.