Collinsville, (860) 693-8010, lasallemarket.com
Stop by LaSalle’s Market any time of day and you’re sure to find it abuzz with activity. This deli-restaurant hybrid acts as a gathering place and community center for the small village of Collinsville, tucked against the Farmington River. Mismatched tables and chairs are often filled with people on lunch meetings or working on laptops. There’s a lot to love here including a host of “famous” sandwiches. The Mindbender with roast beef, corned beef, pastrami, Swiss and house Thousand Island and The Scarlet with smoked turkey, melted Havarti and cranberry sauce on pumpernickel are just two of many made-to-order options. There’s also wraps, salads, soups and homemade pizza. Orders are made from a large blackboard at the front of the restaurant and then zip down a wash line to the cooks. When it’s ready, your name is called and your meal is delivered to your table (indoors or outdoors). Service is fast, but more importantly, the food is delicious—a perfect stop on your way anywhere.
Manchester, (860) 649-4245
The cheeseburger at Shady Glen is something unique—at once gooey and crunchy; four slices of cheese are allowed to roam far beyond the surface of the patty and onto the grill. The burger won the James Beard “American Classic” Award in 2012 and is definitely worth a trip. There’s homemade ice cream here, too.
Simsbury, (860) 658-1430, tulmeadowfarmstore.com
The Tuller family began making ice cream on their family-run farm in 1994 and never looked back. Their top selling flavor is Red Raspberry with Chocolate Chips, but there are more than 50 varieties of their very rich (16 percent butterfat) and very flavorful ice cream to choose from.
The Collins Creamery
Enfield, (860) 749-8663, thecollinscreamery.com
There are plenty of hard and soft ice cream options at this roadside shop near the Connecticut-Massachusetts border. From Mocha Chip to Toasted Almond with everything in between, all of the summer treats can be enjoyed at the restaurants outdoor seating.
Newington, (860) 666-DOGS, doogieshotdogs.com
This is the place “where only the food is taken seriously.” They pride themselves on being fast, though not necessarily fancy, and that’s what makes it great. Two-foot hot dogs are slathered with toppings and their “Dare-to-Compare cheeze burgers” can be char-grilled any way the customer prefers.
The Clam Digger
Manchester, (860) 432-9888, theclamdiggerct.com
The seafood side of the Doogie’s family, The Clam Digger was born in Maine where premium seafood is king. Fish, clam strips, whole belly clams, shrimp, crab cakes and hot buttered lobster rolls are all fresh and cooked to order in four minutes or less.
Vernon, (860) 875-1344, reinsdeli.com
This deli has a long history of fresh, flavorful food because they started doing it the right way and have never changed. The owner coined the motto, “The Taste of Quality is Long Remembered” in 1972 and it is true today. Rein’s corned beef and pastrami is well seasoned and augmented with genuine Swiss cheese.
Passiflora Tearoom & Herbal Apothecary
New Hartford, (860) 379-8327, passiflorateas.blogspot.com
Tea reigns supreme at this café. All teas are served loose to savor the flavor and there are upwards of 60 varieties to choose from. Pair your warm beverage with an Organic Yogurt Parfait for breakfast or their Free-Range Apricot Almond Chicken Salad Wrap for lunch. There’s plenty of soup, salad and dessert options too.
Buster’s Drive In
Bristol, (860) 589-7509, bustersdrivein.com
A variety of flame-broiled burgers and dogs, onion rings, clam strips, homemade sodas and more than 20 varieties of milk shakes have been served at this roadside stand for more than 40 years. They are perhaps best known for their foot-long Michigan hot dogs. Settle in at a picnic table and enjoy some classic summer food.
Truffles Bakery and Kitchen
Farmington, (860) 409-0667, trufflesbakery.com
Long has this bakery been revered for its creative baked goods, and with good reason. All things, from cakes to pies and cookies to macaroons, are made fresh. Breakfast, lunch and now dinner options abound at this small shop where you can dine indoors or al fresco.
Hartford, (860) 246-1222, fireboxrestaurant.com
While the atmosphere in this downtown restaurant is relaxed—picture brick walls, large windows and classic table settings—the philosophy of quality farm-to-table food is serious. The people behind this happening eatery (most hail from Connecticut) believe that the best food travels the shortest distance from farm to table, which is why the restaurant sources its ingredients from within a 100-mile radius. Firebox menus (of which there are many, for every meal from brunch to dessert) rotate seasonally to align with the freshest resources available. The chefs combine local ingredients with classic techniques and innovative thinking to create memorable meals. They’ve been rewarded for their efforts by Gourmet magazine, The New York Times and was named “Best Hartford Restaurant of 2009” by Connecticut Magazine.