Best Restaurants 2013: Experts' Picks

Our dining experts pick their favorite places to dine out in 26 categories.

 

 

Late last year, we sent out ballots to a group of 89 dining-out experts we’d put together from among reviewers, food writers and editors, cookbook authors, bloggers, and other avid diners we know to have a wide knowledge of Connecticut restaurants. We asked them to name their favorite restaurants in 25 dining categories. They responded—hungrily—and we are happy to present the results of their votes. The Top 5 finishers in each category are listed in alphabetical order and are all entitled to call themselves “Best” on our behalf. The accompanying comments come from the panelists. The runners-up—excellent, all—are included for you to perhaps try out and assess yourselves. Many other worthy establishments received votes, too, but not enough to be included. One thing is clear, however: The dining-out firmament in Connecticut is as rich as ever.

 

BEST OVERALL:
Rebeccas, Greenwich
Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich
Union League Café, New Haven
West Street Grill, Litchfield
Winvian, Morris
HONORABLE MENTION:
The Whelk, Westport
The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton
Max Downtown, Hartford
Ibiza, New Haven
Millwright's Restaurant, Simsbury
ON20, Hartford
Brasserie Pip, Ivoryton

PHOTO BY STEVE BLAZO

UNION LEAGUE CAFE, NEW HAVEN: "She's a grand old dame, but Chef Jean-Pierre keeps her menu fresh and exciting, without gimmickry. Impeccable service. I can't imagine a better restaurant for special lunches and/or dinners on special occasions." - Todd Lyon, veteran food writer

 

BEST NEW:
Eleven14 Kitchen, Greenwich
Elm Restaurant, New Canaan
Millwright's Restaurant, Simsbury
Waterhouse Oyster Bar & Bistro, Branford
The Whelk, Westport
HONORABLE MENTION:
The Chelsea, Fairfield
Republic, Bloomfield
South End, New Canaan
Barnum Publick House, Bridgeport
Six Main, Chester

MILLWRIGHT'S RESTAURANT, SIMSBURY: "Tyler Anderson and his team are working magic in the old Hop Brook Mill. The beautiful rushing waterfall outside will captivate you, but the fresh, seasonal and immaculately prepared dishes will divert your attention from the view quickly. Maître d’ and sommelier Brent Bushong is intent on providing old-fashioned service, making himself available for any questions or needs." - Leeanne Griffin, dining blogger and food writer, Hartford Courant

PHOTO BY MATT BRANSCOMBE

 

 

 

BEST ITALIAN:
Carbone's, Hartford
Liana's Trattoria, Fairfield
L'Orcio, New Haven
Paci, Fairfield
La Tavola, Waterbury
HONORABLE MENTION:
Basta, New Haven
Da Pietro's, Westport
Sal e Pepe, Newtown
Alforno, Old Saybrook
Cavey's, Manchester
Columbus Park, Stamford
Salute, Hartford
CARBONE'S, HARTFORD: "Carbone's consistently delivers delicious, authentic Italian food. There's none of those heavy, saucy, cheesy products that many people think of as Italian food." - Cathy Ross, Associate Editor, Connecticut Magazine

PHOTO BY JULIE BIDWELL

 

BEST AMERICAN:
Good News Cafe, Woodbury
Max Downtown, Hartford
Rebeccas, Greenwich
The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton
West Street Grill, Litchfield
HONORABLE MENTION:
Community Table, WashingtonZinc, New HavenDressing Room, Westport;
Match, South NorwalkDavid Burke Prime, Mashantucket
Old Lyme Inn, Old LymeHeirloom, New Haven
WEST STREET GRILL, LITCHFIELD: "For nearly 25 years, West Street Grill has been a Litchfield County star -- creative menu, attentive service and a celebrity vibe." - Charles Monagan, Editor, Connecticut Magazine

 

BEST FRENCH:
Bernard's, Ridgefield
Luc's Café & Restaurant, Ridgefield
Ondine, Danbury
Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich
Union League Café, New Haven
HONORABLE MENTION:
Cavey's, ManchesterBrasserie Pip, IvorytonBar Boucheé, Madison;
Le Petit Café, BranfordLa Bretagne, Stamford;  Boulevard 18, New Canaan
BERNARD'S, RIDGEFIELD: "It's impossible to imagine Ridgefield without this charming French restaurant, and its equally charismatic owners-chefs Bernard and Sarah Bouissou. It skews from formal dining with contemporary French food and classic touches to relaxed (at Sarah's Wine Bar upstairs)." - Amy Kundrat, Executive Editor, CTbites.com

 

BEST MEXICAN/LATIN:
Besito, West Hartford
Brasitas, Norwalk
Ibiza, New Haven
Oaxaca Kitchen, New Haven & Westport
Tacuba, Branford
HONORABLE MENTION:
Bistro Latino, GreenwichValencia Luncheria, NorwalkBistro Basque, Milford;
Ola, OrangeCora Cora, West Hartford;  Milagro, Stonington
TACUBA, BRANFORD: "Tacuba's beach-shack decor is artful and it's a fun place to be. Love the spears of tropical fruit dusted in cayenne." - Elizabeth Keyser, food writer and journalist

 

BEST INDIAN:
Coromandel, Darien
Kolam, Newtown
Navaratna, Stamford
Swagat, West Haven
Thali, New Haven, Ridgefield & New Canaan
HONORABLE MENTION:
Tawa, StamfordTaste of India, West Hartford
Zaroka, New Haven;  Mirch Masala, Groton
THALI, NEW HAVEN, RIDGEFIELD & NEW CANAAN: "Prasad Chirnomula is a rock star of cuisine. He has a remarkable palate, whether creating traditional dishes, riffs on street food, re-creating his mother's dishes, or fusing flavors for innovative Indian concepts." -Faith Middleton, WNPR host

 

BEST ASIAN:
Feng Asian Bistro, Hartford
Miso, New Haven
Shiki Hana Japanese Bistro, Fairfield
Shrine, Mashantucket
Tengda, Westport and other locations
HONORABLE MENTION:
Great Taste, New Britain
Kudeta, New Haven
Miya's, New Haven
Pho Saigon, Bridgeport
Matsu, Westport
Wasabi, Orange

PHOTO: ©2013, CHUCK DORRIS, EDINING.US

MISO, NEW HAVEN: "Friends once invited us to eat at the sushi bar at Miso and it continues to set the bar by which I judge sushi in Connecticut." - Amy Kundrat

 

 

 

BEST SEAFOOD:
Max Fish, Glastonbury
Oyster Club, Mystic
The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood, Rowayton
Waterhouse Oyster Bar & Bistro, Branford
The Whelk, Westport 
HONORABLE MENTION:
Ibiza, New Haven
Max Oyster Bar, West Hartford
Elm Street Oyster House, Greenwich
Carmen Anthony Fishhouse, Wethersfield
S&P Oyster Co., Mystic
Jasper White's Summer Shack, Uncasville

PHOTO BY JULIE BIDWELL

THE WHELK, WESTPORT: "These restaurants--The Whelk and Oyster Club--buy local, sustainable fish, and that's very important to me. Of course, the chefs at these restaurants also know how to cook fish perfectly." -Elizabeth Keyser

 

BEST PUB:
The Cask Republic, New Haven
The Ginger Man, South Norwalk
LIttle Pub, Ridgefield
White Horse Country Pub, Marbledale
Willimantic Brewing Co., Willimantic
HONORABLE MENTION:
The Corner Pug, West HartfordTigin, Stamford;  Delaney's Tap Room, New Haven;
 The Half Door, Hartford; Harp & Dragon, Norwich; Republic, Bloomfield
THE HARP & DRAGON, NORWICH: "The Harp & Dragon is a deservedly popular watering hole with a huge beer list, excellent pub grub and an atmosphere you could whack with a shillelagh." - Joan Gordon, restaurant reviewer, The Bulletin, Norwich

 

BEST STEAK:
The Capital Grille, Stamford
Carmen Anthony Steakhouse, Waterbury and New Haven
Craftsteak, Mashantucket
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, West Hartford
Joseph's Steakhouse, Bridgeport
HONORABLE MENTION:
Octagon, GrotonDavid Burke Prime, Mashantucket;  
Michael Jordan's Steakhouse, UncasvilleGabriele's Italian Steakhouse, Greenwich; 
Morton's Steakhouse, Hartford; Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Newington
CARMEN ANTHONY'S, WATERBURY & NEW HAVEN: "The classic New York City steak house lives on. Clubby, expensive. Big booths, lavish cuts of meat. Only wish it was still legal to smoke a fat cigar while sipping cognac after the meal." - Todd Lyon

 

BEST BARBECUE:
Bobby Q's, Westport
The Cookhouse, New Milford
Hilltop BBQ Steakhouse, Moodus
Jeff's Cuisine, Norwalk
Pit Stop BBQ, New Britain
HONORABLE MENTION:
Smoke & Bones, DerbyChester's BBQ, Groton;  Black-eyed Sally's, Hartford;
 Big Bubba's BBQ, Uncasville; Dinosaur BBQ, Stamford
BOBBY Q'S, WESTPORT: "Bob LeRose has put Connecticut barbecue on the map with Bobby Q's and Bar Q [in Stamford]." - Amy Kundrat

 

BEST PRIME RIB:
Carmen Anthony Steakhouse, Waterbury & New Haven
David Burke Prime, Mashantucket
Griswold Inn, Essex
Hawthorne Inn, Berlin
White Horse Country Pub, Marbledale
HONORABLE MENTION:
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, West Hartford
Rooster Tail Inn, Warren
Sans Souci, Meriden

DAVID BURKE PRIME, MASHANTUCKET: "There's a reason the prime rib leads off the menu at David Burke Prime. It's the best I've ever had." - Charles Monagan

PHOTO BY JULIE BIDWELL

 

 

 

BEST BRUNCH:
Bernard's, Ridgefield
Firebox, Hartford
Fresh Salt, Old Saybrook
Heirloom, New Haven
The Restaurant at Water's Edge, Westbrook
HONORABLE MENTION:
Greenleaf Organic Bakery & Café, Wilton
Dressing Room, Westport
Thali, New Haven
Apricots, Farmington
The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton
Nicholas Roberts Gourmet Bistro, Wilton

FIREBOX, HARTFORD: "Short rib eggs Benedict, roasted beets with fried pork belly and brioche French toast are some of the innovative offerings you'll find on Firebox's farm-to-table brunch menu, along with your choice of fresh-squeezed mimosas. Try your bubbles with grapefruit juice." - Leeanne Griffin

 

MOST ROMANTIC:
Brasserie Pip, Ivoryton
Mayflower Inn, Washington
ON20, Hartford
Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich
Union League Café, New Haven
HONORABLE MENTION:
Le Petit Café, BranfordArtisan, WestportFresh Salt, Old Saybrook;
Bee & Thistle Inn, Old LymeJohn Davenport's, New Haven
Paragon, MashantucketWinvian, Morris
BRASSERIE PIP, IVORYTON: "A hand-holding ride to the shore, a beautiful old inn, a cozy tavern and Noel Jones fabulous menu--who could ask for more when it's dinner for two?" - MaryEllen Fillo, columnist, Hartford Courant

 

BEST BREAFAST:
City Limits Diner, Stamford
Kitchen Little, Mystic
Home on the Range, Bridgeport
Patty's, Litchfield
Zinc, New Haven
HONORABLE MENTION:
Sugar & Olives, NorwalkBella's Café, New Haven
King's Breakfast & Lunch, Newtown;
Noah's, StoningtonChip's, Orange
HOME ON THE RANGE, BRIDGEPORT: "This is a little mom-and-pop place in Black Rock section of Bridgeport that makes the best bacon-and-egg sandwiches (and I'm very particular about bacon-and-egg sandwiches!)" - Elizabeth Keyser

 

BEST APPETIZERS:
Barcelona, New Haven & other locations
The Fez, Stamford
Good News Cafe, Woodbury
Molto, Fairfield
Zinc, New Haven
HONORABLE MENTION:
Ibiza Tapas, HamdenBricco, West HartfordLuce, MiddletownBistro Latino, Greenwich
Paragon, Mashantucket;  Brasitas, Stamford; The Spread, Norwalk
THE FEZ, STAMFORD: "You can make a meal on the appetizers alone in this brilliant Moroccan spot. Carmelized cauiiflower with raisins and toasted pine nuts; crisped chick peas and okra, homemade hummus you'll want to dunk your face in." - Beth Levine, freelance writer

 

BEST DESSERTS:
Brasserie Pip, Ivoryton
David Burke Prime, Mashantucket
Grants, West Hartford
Ibiza, New Haven
Union League Café, New Haven
HONORABLE MENTION:
Thomas Henkelmann, GreenwichZinc, New HavenCafé Routier, Old Saybrook; 
 The Whelk, Westport; Claire's Corner Copia, New Haven; Liana's Trattoria, Fairfield;
 
Elm Restaurant, New Canaan
IBIZA, NEW HAVEN: "Semi-frozen quince paste, passion fruit, cream cheese cake, cinnamon-rice pudding, orange reduction. Mere words on a page? No, the heavenly membrillo at Ibiza." - Andrew Brady, freelance food writer

 

BEST FOR FAMILIES:
City Limits Diner, Stamford
Joey Garlic's, Farmington & Newington
Rizzuto's, Westport & West Hartford
Ten Clams, Mystic
Wood-n-Tap, West Hartford & other locations
HONORABLE MENTION:
Tacos Mexico, Norwalk
J. Timothy's, Plainville
Recovery Room, New London
Filomena's, Waterford

WOOD-N-TAP, WEST HARTFORD: "From mini-burgers to New York strip, there's something for everyone at these pubs." - Leeanne Griffin

 

 

 

BEST COCKTAILS:
116 Crown, New Haven
Geronimo, New Haven
G.W. Tavern, Washington
The Loft, South Norwalk
Scorpion Bar at Shrine, Mashantucket
HONORABLE MENTION:
Barcelona, New Haven
Pacifico, New Haven
The Cottage, Plainville
Luxe Modern, Westport
Rooftop 120, Glastonbury
Griswold Inn, Essex

PHOTO BY JULIE BIDWELL

116 CROWN, NEW HAVEN: "Be sure to order the Forth & Clyde! A magical mixture of gin, bourbon, elderflower liqueur, honey and lime juice--with flakes of Salemme pepper." - Sherri Daley, freelance writer

 

BEST OUTDOOR DINING:
L'Escale, Greenwich
Fresh Salt, Old Saybrook
Hopkins Inn, New Preston
L'Orcio, New Haven
The Fireside Tavern at Sharpe Hill, Pomfret
HONORABLE MENTION:
Blue Oar, HaddamRooftop 120, GlastonburyGelston House, East Haddam;
Sage, New HavenAbbot's Lobster in the Rough, Noank
L'ESCALE, GREENWICH: "The outdoor waterfront patio transports me to Provence and fools me into feeling as affulent as the setting. (And the people-watching is great, too.)" - Elizabeth Keyser

 

BEST SERVICE:
Ibiza, New Haven
Millwright's Restaurant, Simsbury
Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich
Union League Café, New Haven
West Street Grill, Litchfield
HONORABLE MENTION:
Carmen Anthony Steakhouse, WaterburyFirebox Restaurant, Hartford
Max Downtown, HartfordMayflower Inn, WashingtonON20, Hartford; Brasserie Pip, Ivoryton
THOMAS HENKELMANN, GREENWICH: "Traditional-style service that transports diners back to a day when good service was quiet, unobtrusive and elegant." - Ronnie Fein, food writer, cookbook author and blogger

 

BEST VALUE:
Nataz, North Branford
Recovery Room, New London
Sans Souci, Meriden
Turkish Kebob House, West Haven
Valencia Luncheria, Norwalk
HONORABLE MENTION:
Mamoun's, New HavenBodega, FairfieldSal e Pepe, NewtownRooster Tail Inn, Warren
Los Portales, Norwalk;  White Horse Country Pub, Marbledale
VALENCIA LUCHERIA, NORWALK: "Billed as Venezuelan beach food, the restaurant indeed looks like a little place you might pop into after an afternoon of sun. Try the two homemade sauces on every table (a chipotle-based BBQ and a piquant guasacaca sauce) on the many choices of empanadas and the arepas (fried/roasted and stuffed corn cake). You can stuff yourself for under $15 a person." - Beth Levine

 

BEST VEGETARIAN/VEGAN:
Bloodroot, Bridgeport
Claire's Corner Copia, New Haven
G-Zen, Branford
Navaratna, Stamford
Six Main, Chester
HONORABLE MENTION:
Thali Too, New HavenIt's Only Natural, Middletown
Greenleaf Organic Bakery & Café, Wilton; 
 The Stand, Fairfield; Good News Cafe, Woodbury
G-ZEN, BRANFORD: "You'll forget you're not eating any meat--or dairy--when you taste the vegan specialties coming out of Mark Shadle's kitchen. The black bean veggie burger is a must, with sweet potato fries and housemade hickory ketchup." - Leeanne Griffin

 

BEST SUSHI:
Feng Asian Bistro, Hartford
Kotobuki, Stamford
Miso, New Haven
Miya's, New Haven
Sushi Red, Plainville
HONORABLE MENTION:
Wasabi, OrangeFin, StamfordMatsu, Westport; 
 Ginza, Bloomfield; Tengda, Westport; Kazu, Norwalk;
MIYA'S, NEW HAVEN: "Sustainable maniac Chef Bun Lai has virtually reinvented sushi for all of us. And made us laugh. Just read that menu. Just taste that menu."  - Todd Lyon
BEST FOR HOTEL DINING:
Artisan, Southport
Eleven14 Kitchen, Greenwich
Heirloom, New Haven
Mayflower Inn, Washington
Winvian, Morris
HONORABLE MENTION:
L'Escale, Greenwich
Octagon, Groton
John Davenport's, New Haven
Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich
Paragon, Mashantucket
Fresh Salt, Old Saybrook
Water's Edge, Westbrook

PHOTO BY RAW PHOTO DESIGN

HEIRLOOM, NEW HAVEN: "At Heirloom, not only is the menu creative and service and setting sublime, but on a busy night in New Haven you really feel like you're someplace special." - Charles Monagan

 

Best Restaurants 2013: Experts' Picks

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