An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jul 9, 2014
10:05 AMThe Connecticut Table
Best Connecticut Places to the Watch World Cup With Great Food, Drinks
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If you’re cheering on the U.S. team, and for the moment don’t want to chow down on the cuisine of a World Cup rival, try the classic American menu at Backstage in Torrington. It's laid-back bar and restaurant where you can enjoy a soccer game while consuming some excellent eats and enjoying a pick from a wide assortment of craft beer. As Connecticut Magazine restaurant reviewer Elise Maclay wrote in her review: “Backstage is passionate about three things: music, beer and food. With a connoisseur collection of domestic brews, a menu ranging from wings to lobster potpie, halibut and steak, this functional, focused, no-b.s. bistro in Torrington next to a vintage theater that gets acts like Diana Krall and Steve Martin delivered a dining experience so pleasurable it negated the notion that you have to go to a big city to enjoy yourself big-time.”
You know Vaughn’s is great place to enjoy hearty pub fare like Shepherd’s Pie and Guinness Lamb Stew—with pints of Guinness, of course—when you click on the website and there’s a pop-up announcing a Connecticut soccer club match being featured at the pub.
It’s a classic Irish pub with all the essentials, and innate soccer DNA; what else needs to be said?
Vitals: 59 Pratt St, (860) 882-1560, irishpublichouse.com
Bar Rosso is “a stylish dining and gathering destination that celebrates the art of Italian food and wine” where the menu “is designed around a simple philosophy – good food that satisfies all of the senses.”
The special on the menu right now? It’s World Cup 2014. Bar Rosso is showing games live on a big-screen projector. Even better, for the tournament it’s offering specials from noon to 5 p.m. (a timeframe that wraps in when lots of the games are being shown) that, for example, includes a Margherita pizza or burger with a beer for $15. And there’s always the terrific regular menu to consider.
Vitals: 30 Spring St., (203) 388-8640, barrosso.com.
It’s not unreasonable to think that you might want to hoist a pint (or two) while watching a game. Willimantic Brewing Co. offers a “world cup” of sorts, with many hand-crafted, fresh-brewed selections having international flair: European Special Bitter (an unfiltered E.S.B. featuring English Maris Otter, wheat, and chocolate malts then hopped with Polish Junga and Lublin); G’Day IPA (an unfiltered India Pale Ale brewed with 2 Row, Rye, Caramel 15 malts, fresh sliced kiwis, and hopped with New Zealand Galaxy and Loftus Ranch hops); and Certified Gold (a bright golden ale balanced with Munich malt and Goldings hops). You’ll also find more than 20 craft beers (imported and domestic) on tap. There’s also a deep menu that ranges from steaks, pasta and seafood to burgers and wings.
With seven locations across Connecticut, Wood-n-Tap offers something that you will not be able to get from the games themselves: predictability—you know that you will always be able to find a location fairly close by! You also know that you’ll have a solid menu to peruse (from bourbon sirloin steaks and swordfish to bison burgers and chicken marsala, plus apps aplenty), there will always be plenty of drink choices (including microbrews like Blue Moon Beligan White and Newcastle Brown Ale), and that no matter how hungry you and your friends think you are, and even if the game goes into overtime, you will never be able to finish a full order of the monster nachos.
Text "WNTWorldCup" to 373-37 for a chance to win VIP Viewing Party of @It_FIFA Finals match! Must be 21+ and this text is good only this wk.— Wood N Tap (@WoodNTap) June 11, 2014
Vitals: Hartford, Farmington, Southington, Rocky Hill, Vernon, Orange, Wallingford, woodntap.com.
This excellent seafood restaurant and bar will kick off World Cup festivities on Thursday, June 12, with a four-course dinner featuring Brazil (the host country) inspired food and cocktails. The party will continue all tournament with Max Fish inviting guests to try a Caipirinha, Brazil's national cocktail this drink is made with cachaca (a popular Brazilian style of distilled alcohol), muddled lime and sugar. Max Fish’s acclaimed seafood menu also features a wide assortment of dishes made from fresh catches that are often locally sourced. Also look for World Cup action at the long list of other great Max restaurants in Connecticut.
The TVs are small at this artisan craft pizza joint and beer bar, but if you want to get a taste of “La Dolce Vita” while cheering on Italy or convince your significant other that an evening/afternoon of watching soccer can actually be romantic, look no further. The flour for the individual size pizzas is imported form Naples, Italy, then heated at 800+ degrees in an Italian-made wood fired oven. The result is a smoky slightly charred (in a flavorful way) crust that is crunchy on the outside, yet flaky and airy on the inside. Beyond the pizza, there’s a curated line-up of craft beer on tap. The bar never orders full size kegs, so the beer is always fresh and the offerings change almost daily.
Insider’s Splurge: The fairly new restaurant Post 154 in Westport is also said to be offering menu and drink specials during the World Cup and has a big bar area adjacent to the patio.One foodie insider said “it’s areally great place to watch games for those in the know.”
Vitals: 154 Post Road East, (203) 454-0154, Post154.com.
Our fellow food lovers at OmNomCT also posted a story about great places to watch the World Cup and dine well in Fairfield County. Check it out.
OK, here come the additions to make this story richer, deeper and more broadly reflective of World Cup watching and eating havens across Connecticut:
O'Tooles hit our radar when the pub Tweeted about being next to the city's World Cup soccer village.
We checked out O'Tooles' website and, wow, it looks great, from the food to the atmosphere and more. It's run by an Irish duo, and yes, it's big into World Cup soccer.
Vitals: 157 Orange St., (203) 562-7468, otoolesforapint.com
"Our menu goes beyond the typical pub grub with a range of high quality Irish, pub and new tavern favorites made all made from scratch," Tigin says on its website. "New snack and sharable dishes accompany sandwiches, entree salads, big plates and desserts." It's been a while, but we've enjoyed Tigin's hospitality a few times in the past, and in addition to loving this "real" Irish pub, we're remembering those bold, rich gastropub flavors—and now craving them once again, of course.
And, you know, watching soccer with the Irish and Irish in spirit is as about good as it gets.
Vitals: 175 Bedford St., (203) 353-8444, tiginirishpub.com.
"Starting June 12 through July 13th, Capriccio will have 4 Outdoor TV’s with LIVE GAMES !!!!," the website announces. "Bring your favorite Jersey’s to all the Soccer World Cup Games !!! Outdoor Dining available ! No reservation needed."
Just before noon Friday, the cafe known for its pizzas, paninis, pastas and other "Italian delights" (see the Capriccio menus) backed up the invitation on Twitter:
World Cup Schedule for Today!!!!! come and Watch LIVE at Capriccio Cafe any of this games today! Mexico vs... http://t.co/dtJsVaV6rt— Capriccio Cafe (@capricciocafect) June 13, 2014
And when the sun shines, it looks like the place to be.
Vitals:189 Bedford Street, Stamford, (203) 356-9819, capriccio-cafe.com
Artisan just tweeted an invitation to come and watch the World Cup at this fine dining haven in the Southport section of Fairfield, and that's an invite that promises to marry great soccer from Brazil with truly fine food. (Below, a lamb burger from Artisan's Facebook page.) Here's the description from the website:
The menu at Artisan encourages you to eat well and experience cuisine influenced by the rhythm of New England's seasons and farmstead offerings. While the menu rotates on a quarterly basis to reflect local offerings, some signature appetizers stay on the menu all year long. Our New England Seafood Chowder is such a dish: the rich, creamy broth is poured table side over bits of shrimp, crab, oyster, and scallops, accompanied by house-made fennel oyster crackers. Another year round favorite are our chilled Thimble Island CT Oysters & Cape Cod hard shell clams served with with a zesty black pepper mignonette and a few pieces of Artisan fresh baked bread. Our Tuna Crudo takes on different accoutrements as the seasons change, from grapefruit and avocado in the summer to an eggplant and chickpea chutney in the cooler months.
Our entrees offer a diverse and delicious selection of proteins that range from pink hued and beautifully marbled Berkshire Pork Chops, to tender duck breast cooked a la plancha, to our mouth watering bone-in dry aged Strip Steak, to perfectly pan seared Diver Scallops glistening in a bacon gastrique. The Artisan Pot Roast is a local favorite that makes an appearance on the menu just as the cold starts to creep in, and is the perfect dish to warm up a chilly New England night. And in summer, we make way on the menu for Mediterranean inspired Mussels, served with our unbeatable duck fat french fries.
The Tavern Menu is crafted to include lighter fare and more casual dishes for laid back dining with no reservations needed. The items on the Tavern menu reflect Artisan's core desire to be at once accessible and excellent; for example, our "1946 Blend" Burger, features Kobe brisket, Angus rib cap, and boneless short ribs, and is topped with a smoked cheddar cheese sourced from a local cheese maker. The Tavern menu also showcases Chef Kieffer’s contemporary approach to New England favorites with classic dishes such as Mini Lobster Rolls, served on brioche buns with a side of coleslaw, and Cod Fish and Chips served with Artisan tartar sauce.
Vitals: 275 Old Post Rd., (203) 307-4222, artisansouthport.com.
We just remembered adding Local to our best burgers in Connecticut story and the thought struck that it probably had all the elements to also make it a prime World Cup viewing venue.
And we were right. It only takes a couple of minutes on Local's website to see that a place that's passionate about artisan beer and American comfort food is exactly the kind of hotspot we're highlighting here—and one look at the sleek bar with the big-screen TVs seals the deal.
Local's "About" section online says:
Welcome to local kitchen and craft beer bar, Fairfield's newest hot spot.
With over 30 craft beers on tap, you'll be sure to get a unique experience at this social kitchen.
Local has great food and atmosphere with interactive menus on iPads to add to the experience.
Discover local kitchen and beer bar.
Take a look at the food shown here, and the place, and then make plans to please your palate as you watch (some great soccer.
One note: It's "silent sidelines" at Local, which is showing the soccer matches without the sound on, which only means you can watch with passion while also talking to, and hearing, the folks sitting next to you.
Vitals: 85 Mill Plain Rd., (203) 955-1919, fairfieldlocal.com.
We know from chatting with him that Ted Turner has been passionate about sailing and Major League Baseball; maybe the drama of World Cup soccer also interests him?
Whatever the case, Turner's new Ted's Montana Grill on Front Street in Hartford seems like another spot to get some great food and watch the matches from Brazil.
The great food part we can vouch for first-hand; the bison burgers at Ted's are amazing. (Left, bison nachos; below, the Avalon burger.)
In terms of prospects for prime soccer viewing, we called Ted's and asked if the games are being shown. After a caution that there's one TV in the cozy bar area, the answer was that if anyone asks, sure.
At this shiny new spot in Hartford, the food is good enough to justify making the effort to request World Cup viewing.
Vitals: 35 Front St., (860) 692-1167, tedsmontanagrill.com
This Tweet from the Spotted Horse Tavern in Westport is music to our culinary World Cup ears:
From the team behind the Gray the Gray Goose Café in Southport, the Spotted Horse Tavern "is a neighborhood respite where folks gather over great food and drink. Housed in Westport's historic Sherwood House (circa 1808), the design is modern in its interpretation, with a nod to the historic building’s colonial past. The menu is in keeping with our local food movement but we don’t beat you over the head with it. Organic, clean, distinctive flavors find their way into each dish by way of unique ingredient combinations and thoughtful preparations, and favorite comfort foods are left to speak for themselves."
We can easily see pairing a great beer or red wine with this menu item: steak frites with a red wine-shallot reduction and Parmesan fries. Dress up your order with some chic looking seafood (above), or dress it down with a burger Parisian-style (right).
Any way you slice it, the Spotted Horse Tavern happily has World Cup fever.
Vitals: 26 Church Lane, (203) 557-9393, SpottedHorseCT.com
Trolling back through our Twitter Connecticut dining list on the morning of Sunday, June 22, we found another great spot for watching the World Cup while enjoying fine food, Baró in Fairfield, a tapas bar and restaurant featuring tempting Latin American and Caribbean cuisine.
USA vs. Portugal tomorrow at 6pm. Stop by and enjoy our $10 special in honor of the World Cup host Brasil! http://t.co/AVa0R0HHq3— Baró (@Baro_CT) June 21, 2014
We should have known sooner, of course, as Baró was honored for Best Latin American cuisine in our 2014 Readers' Choice Restaurant Awards. The "About Us" section describes "a lively celebration of craft cocktails, Latin flavors and Spanish wines."
If that sounds good, the photos of the food will have you heading to Baró to see a World Cup game, or just to enjoy the sizzle of dining in the spirit of Brazil 2014.
To top it off, the restaurant tweeted that it was offering $1 oysters, all day, every day. (Above, 'Queso Frito' fried farmers cheese with tomato & oregano sofrito, from the restaurant's Facebook page, and below, a Cubanito sandwich.)
Vitals: 1229 Post Rd., (203) 292-9560, baroct.com.
If you're looking for other hotspots in Fairfield County, specifically the Stamford area, What's on the Menu has a web page devoted to where the World Cup is being shown and what the specials and promotions are at those venues.
Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant,
This is the perfect World Cup viewing discovery for the arrival of summer. We included Flanders in our July feature on great casual roadside food for summer travels in Connecticut and then clicked on the website to find that this fish- and shellfish-lovers paradise is also a Brazil 2014 hotspot.
Whether you love lobster, fish-and-chips, fried clams, or other super-fresh seafood, Flanders is legendary all over Connecticut. Getting cozy in the bar with some craft beer or wine and seafood is definitely a g---o---a---l!
We just excerpted a tiny section of the Things to Share menu and already our mouths were watering:
Traditional Style -
fried, side of marinara sauce
Parmesan Style -
fried, sautéed with olive oil, banana peppers, Parmesan cheese
Sicilian Style -
fried, sautéed with olive oil, banana peppers, Parmesan cheese, spicy Italian sausage, tossed with marinara sauce
Sliders 8 each
choose tuna or lobster salad
TUNA: fresh tuna, wasabi mayo
LOBSTER SALAD: shucked lobster, mayonnaise, lemon
Mussels Formica 11
Atlantic mussels, one pound,
steamed, white wine & garlic butter sauce
Maine steamers, one pound, clam broth, melted butter
Colossal Crab Cakes 7 each
baked golden brown with a touch of butter
Cappy’s Shrimp 15 sautéed with oil and old bay, served with homemade tortilla chips
Vitals: 22 Chesterfield Road, East Lyme, (860) 739-8866, flandersfish.com
La Boca is located in Middletown's restaurant district, offers more than 20 craft beers, and features all of the staples of a good Mexican restaurant, along with more ambitious dishes such as Osso Boca (above right).
On top of all that, La Boca has put out an invitation (below) for everyone to celebrate the World Cup with the friendly, welcoming folks who congregate at the restaurant and bar.
What more needs to be said?
Vitals: 337 Main St., (860) 347-4777, labocaonmain.com