An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jul 17, 2014
02:32 PM
The Connecticut Table

New Eli's Tavern in Milford Dazzles With Delicious Gastropub Delights

New Eli's Tavern in Milford Dazzles With Delicious Gastropub Delights

Eli's Tavern

Filet mignon with mashed potatoes, market vegetables and a Cabernet sauce.

One of the hottest openings on the Connecticut restaurant scene took place just a few weeks ago in Milford center, where Eli’s Tavern debuted in an historic building on curving, quirky, charming Daniel Street, just off the green in a thriving Milford center.

Eli’s is the latest outpost in the small but mighty “chain” owned and operated very passionately by a group of Connecticut residents who all have other “day jobs,” explained Kevin Fitzsimmons, the general manager in Milford. There’s also Eli’s on Whitney and Eli's Brick Oven Pizza & Market in Hamden, Eli’s on the Hill in Branford and Eli’s Catering.

Eli’s Tavern ups the culinary ante by embracing the gastropub ethos and brining in a talented young chef, David Brooks (left), a Culinary Institute of America graduate who did an internship at the legendary Le Bernardin in New York City and previously owned Judie's European Bakery in New Haven (so “the desserts (below) are out of this world,” Fitzsimmons says).

The result of the whole formula is well-priced, delicious and hearty tavern fare that’s executed as beautifully as haute cuisine and kicked up more than a notch from pub fare by the chef’s talent and creative twists.

Consider the Philly Egg Rolls (below right) from the Small Plates menu. These variations on the classic Philly cheese steak sandwich—with the egg roll replacing the bread—are packed with super-tender and richly flavored (real) steak, onions and cheddar, and then nicely spiced with chipotle aioli. They’re totally addictive—and go great with any of the 18 craft beers on draught.

Another example is the lobster roll (below right). Lots of even the best lobster rolls out there are filled with knuckle and claw meat, but Fitzsimmons says the Eli’s Tavern version contains precious tail meat. Brooks makes the classic fresh and sublime with his foamed hot-buttered corn sauce, and then tops the lobster meat with crisped tortillas to bring some pleasant crunch into the equation—pairing all of that with a piquant purple slaw (and fries).

One key factor that renders the lobster so buttery soft and delicious—likewise the steak in the Philly Egg Rolls—is that Brooks prepares all of the meats and other proteins in the sous-vide method, which yields the most tender bites you've had while retaining and enhancing flavors.

So imagine the satisfaction that awaits in any of the burgers, the Tavern BBQ Hangar Steak, Filet Mignon, Southern Fried Chicken or Grilled Southwest Chicken sandwiches, among other dishes.

If meat isn't your thing, there’s plenty to love at Eli’s Tavern, from salmon and vegetable burgers to the crab cake sandwich and a range of other fresh seafood—Mussels Pappardelle, Scallops Coconut, Lobster Mac & Cheese and more.

And the seafood tower (below right)—forget about it; every time one comes out of the kitchen, guests at each table it passes by try to co-opt it as their own. (The raw bar menu changes daily. When we visited, the specials included Blue Point, North Point or Irish Point oysters.)

There’s even a mini menu of grilled flatbreads, with the Leek & Bacon one sounding very tempting (tender leeks, Fontina, Parmesan cheese and thick-sliced, smoked all-natural bacon.)

All the great food can be paired with an impressive selection of craft beers on draught or in bottles, lots of wines by the glass or creative cocktails.

The classic and creative cocktails are infused with the style of a master mixologist from New York City and the ingredients are as prime as those for the food, with fresh and natural mixers coming from Ripe in Wallingford and the chefs making purées and squeezing fresh lime and lemon juice.

The website sums it all up:

Eli's Tavern, the newest addition to the Eli's Restaurant Group, is a New York City style gastropub, serving tavern food with a modern flair! The urban style restaurant features an eclectic menu including local daily seafood specials, sandwiches, burgers, grilled flatbreads, crisp fresh entree salads and
delicious desserts. Our bar features 20 micro brews, 18 wines by the glass and specialty craft cocktails with fresh juices. Whether you are having a business meeting, meeting friends or going on a special date, Eli's Tavern is the place to be!

Amen to that—especially when the interior design of Eli’s is so vibrant and welcoming, with the open bar area located in the middle and seating on both sides and in the windows in the front. The most coveted location is the elevated booths along the wall on one side of the bar, with banquettes in the back. They’re private and cozy at the same time they’re open and part of the scene, and they strategically face the side of the bar with a row of big-screen TVs.

Settle in there and pretty much close your eyes and point anywhere at the menu—and you’re in for a gastropub-style fine dining treat that has all the ingredients and energy the Connecticut dining scene needs right now.

(Left, seared Diver scallops with Forbidden riche and a lemongrass-coconut sauce.)

Editor's note: Scroll down to see menus.
































New Eli's Tavern in Milford Dazzles With Delicious Gastropub Delights

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