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Skully’s Boneyard
Out of a possible five

Don’t let name of upscale bar fool you

It was one of the most erroneously named restaurants I have visited, this Skully’s Boneyard.

The Skully’s made me think perhaps it is a pirate-themed seafood joint. Boneyard had me thinking barbecue.

And when I drove past the place in the Dupont Village shopping center on Dupont Road, its sign with a skull and crossbones and a burlesque dancer lounging in a martini glass had me figuring it was a biker bar, which I am sure makes some people shy away. But a look inside and at the menu proved all these notions wrong.

Skully’s is, in fact, one of the sharpest upscale bars in the city with upscale food such as filet mignon, seared tuna and sugar-cane shrimp. You aren’t going to find those at most biker bars.

Skully’s does have a little edge to it, however. Its beautiful décor features dark wood, black tables and chairs, and a gorgeous bar as the centerpiece of this strip mall jewel. The walls are dotted with electric guitars and photos of rock ’n’ roll legends, and there is a neat little heavy metal section in the back. But even bluegrass fans couldn’t scoff at how sharp the place is and the pleasant atmosphere.

It was dimly lit to set the perfect mood and, despite all the swag on the walls, there wasn’t any music blaring, so it was easy to relax and converse over a cocktail or two.

The menu was also perfect. It had a little of everything – a lot of appetizers (great for a bar), sandwiches, salads, burgers, steaks, pasta and pizza – but there weren’t so many items that it became daunting.

The best appetizer was probably the best thing I had during my visits.

The calamari was cut into strips (always better than rings), lightly breaded in Japanese bread crumbs and fried until perfectly crisp. But what really made it great was the fresh, chunky cocktail sauce that was bursting with grated horseradish. It was wonderful with the squid and made me really want to try the jumbo shrimp cocktail next time.

The chicken wings were also above par. The boneless were hot, crisp and better than the norm when it comes to boneless wings, which I usually pass on. The bone-in were also crisp, and I enjoyed the unique sauces Skully’s offered. The black and bleu, a mix of hot sauce and bleu cheese, was spot-on, and the teriyaki-wasabi was an ingenious combination of sweet and hot. Cajun was not as peppery as I hoped, but still decent.

That teriyaki-wasabi sauce was less effective on the sugar cane shrimp. But the sauce wasn’t the problem. For starters, these “grilled” skewers were not grilled at all; they appeared to be baked. The result was no char on the 15 medium-sized shrimp or the sugar cane sticks, which really needed some fire to allow them to properly sweat to flavor the shrimp. There was no sweet sugar cane flavor, and the sides of drab rice and dry, unseasoned vegetables did nothing to help. The baby Parmesan bakers were good, however.

The side of vegetables with my bacon-wrapped filet was the complete opposite; moist, well-seasoned and flavorful. The beef was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and it included those same baby potatoes and a chop salad, which was not listed in the salad portion of the menu.

It should be because the mix of chopped greens, hefty portions of cheese and boiled egg, bacon, tomatoes and buttermilk ranch dressing was fabulous.

I enjoyed The Boss, a sandwich with high-quality corned beef and pastrami, sauerkraut, jalapenos and Swiss on rye. And I bet I would have loved this spicy spin on a classic deli sandwich had Skully’s not been out of Russian dressing, which is a must. I was more upset that I was not told there was no dressing when I ordered it instead of being surprised to find it missing when the sandwich arrived.

The bacon cheeseburger had a similar fate. It was big and juicy with thick-cut bacon and was perfectly medium-rare, which I was able to request, but it came with just a wilted piece of drab lettuce and a ramekin of ketchup. No mustard, no tomato, no onion and no pickles. Halfway through this delicious burger, a different server stopped by and noticed my lack of condiments and asked whether I wanted the “deluxe” toppings, which included the things I missed. That made the burger even better, but also made me wonder why I wasn’t offered the deluxe to begin with.

The service was uneven throughout my visits, but there was a very pleasant finale to one of them.

Skully’s just recently added desserts, which was a good move for a place offering upscale food. I passed on the variety of cheesecakes and instead went for the Funnel Fingers. These funnel cake sticks were artfully presented in a martini glass half-filled with melba sauce, a jelly-like mix of raspberries and other fruit. In true uneven fashion, my server could not tell me what exactly the melba sauce was made of, but it was delicious, as were the sticks. It was a fun dessert and would be great as a snack over a couple of coffee-based cocktails or martinis, too.

And it surely wasn’t something I expected to find at a place with a skull and crossbones logo.

Restaurant: Skully’s Boneyard

Address: 415 E. Dupont Road

Phone: 637-0198

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday and Tuesday; 11 to 3 a.m. Wednesday through Friday; 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday; noon to midnight Sunday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Full bar

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: No, 21 and older only

Menu: Calamari ($8.99), wings ($7.59 for 10; $12.59 for 20), The Boss ($13.79 full; $8.79 half), bacon cheeseburger ($8.29), filet ($28.99 hearty cut; $24.99 petite), sugar cane shrimp ($17.99), Funnel Fingers ($5.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.