Connecticut Golf Courses Tee Up Great Food (at the 19th Hole)
A luscious Angus filet mignon from Monty’s of Milford’s Great River Golf Club.
Ask athletes about the particular euphoria that comes when the exertion of competition is followed by a great meal and excellent libations—preferably in an atmospheric setting—and they’ll all smile and nod in knowing assent.
While baseball, football and basketball players, for example, have to find their way to a preferred hotspot after hitting the showers, golfers have an edge in this arena—the clustering of delicious après links amenities right on or adjacent to the courses.
For diehard golfers, earning the sweet rewards is the key to fully enjoying them. For the rest of us, destination-style dining and socializing options that happen to be linked to the state’s public and semi-private golf courses should be considered undiscovered gems that offer scenic beauty as part of the appeal. (Right, the Back Woods Burger at On the Rocks at Fox Hopyard Golf Club: Four Mile River Farm all-natural beef, smoked bacon, grilled portobello mushrooms, onion and crispy fries.)
“The real charm of the 19th hole at a golf course, i.e. the bar, pub, grille room, lounge, veranda, patio or anyplace else you can enjoy a cold one and some grub, is that you don’t have to play the other 18 to enjoy it,” says John Torsiello, a Connecticut-based golf writer and editor of Golfing Magazine New England whose work has appeared in Golf Digest’s Golf Course Living and other publications. “But to truly savor the 19th hole, playing the first 18 is paramount. It’s a fitting way to gather after spending time with friends, a perfect spot to tally up scores, pay off or collect bets, tell a few jokes, discuss the great and not-so-great shots of the day, and make plans for the next round (drinks or golf).”
In honor of the summer golfing season, we offer some insiders’ tips on great places in Connecticut for enjoying not just the golf but also fine dining and imbibing in places everyone can enjoy whether they play or not.
(Our list isn’t meant to be exhaustive or a definitive best-of, but is a sampling that highlights some of the state’s terrific amenities. Send tips on other great places to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them.)
Monty’s at Great River Golf Club, Milford
Everyone we talked to eagerly recommended Monty’s River Grille. It was labeled “better than good” by one fan who likes the burgers and vegetable spring rolls. Torsiello says, “The 19th hole at Great River is one of the most impressive you’ll find anywhere. The clubhouse is magnificent and it’s hard to beat enjoying a lager, glass of wine or single malt on the wrap-around veranda overlooking several holes and the practice area. Plus, the food here is very good, which makes the view all the more palatable—pun intended.”
Great River’s website calls the club “the Northeast’s premier semi-private golf property,” and says, “Designed by Tommy Fazio and open since 2001, the course is beautifully maintained, picturesque and very challenging!”
Monty’s features an American-International menu with “exciting interpretations of delicious classics as well as various dishes from around the world.”
Summing up what this story is all about, the Monty’s web page says, “What’s more, the atmosphere at Monty’s is always upbeat with live jazz, live acoustic music and more. There’s always something special going on, too, with our homemade grilled pizza nights, à la Carte Sunday brunches and unique interpretations of classic dishes . . . .”
Monty’s is open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, and Chef de Cuisine Jeffrey Wieloch just announced a new dinner menu at the beginning of May.
(203) 701-0051, greatrivergolfclub.com
On the Rocks at Fox Hopyard Golf Club, East Haddam
Based on the enthusiasm we heard about On the Rocks at Fox Hopyard in East Haddam—and after drooling over the photos on the restaurant’s website—we know why golfers love to end up at the 19th hole here, and why the general public should make connecting with On the Rocks a priority.
Dishes like grilled littleneck clams, Duet of Duck—pan-seared breast of duck, braised duck leg, black cherry white balsamic glaze, Anna sweet potatoes, sautéed leeks and fiddleheads—and Thai Curry Shrimp & Sea Scallops sound amazing.
“On the Rocks … offers the best American fusion with a great balance of traditional and contemporary cuisine,” the website says. “Chef James Martell has created a menu that is sure to please and the entire menu is available all day . . . .”
Complementing the cuisine are great views of the golf course from an elevated outdoor sitting area. One fan credits On the Rocks with trying “the hardest” to please Connecticut guests, and suggests checking out the special events like wine tastings. As for the standard fare, the burgers are excellent, as are the Reuben and the French Dip sandwich.
(860) 434-6644, ext 108, golfthefox.com/fox-hopyard
Violi’s Restaurant at Hunter Golf Club, Meriden
When we reached out on Twitter for input for this story, one response came from Juliet Burdelski, Economic Development Director for Meriden, who wants the state, its golfers and discerning residents to know about the municipally-owned Hunter Golf Club and the Violi’s Restaurant & Banquet Facility located at this “hidden-gem” course.
“Hunter really is a great golf spot and worth the trip even just for lunch or dinner,” Burdelski says. “Violi’s has a nice mix of Italian fare and is a very friendly place to stay for a drink or two after a round of golf.”
Meriden City Manager Lawrence J. Kend-zior, an avid golfer and Hunter member, adds, “Surrounded by Mount Lamentation and local farms, Hunter is one of the most scenic golf courses in Connecticut. With multiple tees, elevation changes and just the right amount of water and sand, Hunter presents an appropriate challenge for golfers of all skill levels to get out, play and enjoy the views!”
And Vincenzo Landino of Wallingford, Development Manager for the Connecticut Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, got in on the Twitter exchanges, saying, “I’ve stayed for beers after golf and have eaten at Violi’s. The chicken parm is excellent!”
(203) 639-4830, huntergolfclub.com
Tower Ridge Country Club, Simsbury
Sitting on the patio at Tower Ridge is special for one simple reason, golf editor and writer Torsiello says—the view of the 18th hole as it tumbles down from a hillside, across a pond and to the putting surface that sits only yards away from the 19th hole. “You can watch the entire hole being played, and maybe even catch a glimpse of a hawk or two floating above the cliffs that serve as a stunning backdrop to this truly unique golf course,” Torsiello says.
The Tower Ridge website invites guests to “enjoy a delicious burger on The Grille Restaurant’s Patio overlooking our famous 18th Hole.”
That’s the terrific status quo that golfers love, but new excitement is also arriving. The country club’s website announces the May 30th opening of the Lion Four Tavern, whose own fledgling site says, “ … Nestled against the Heublein Tower on the Talcott Notch there is a beautiful patio for those spring, summer and fall days. Comfy rocking chairs overlooking our signature 18th hole [are] a great place to watch your friends finish their round or to relax after yours.” All of which makes Tower Ridge a destination.
(860) 651-9393, towerridgecc.com
Gillette Ridge Golf Club, Bloomfield
Not only does the restaurant at Gillette Ridge offer good food at reasonable prices in its comfortable grill area, and has a nice bar where you can chat with friendly servers and watch sports on large-screen televisions, the club’s patio is also a great place to unwind and watch golfers finish up their rounds on one of the toughest par-four courses in the state. (It was designed by Arnold Palmer.)
Open to the public from 11 a.m. daily, the restaurant offers a full bar with a fabulous wine and microbrew beer list.
(860) 726-1430, gilletteridgegolf.com
Restaurant at River Ridge, Griswold
River Ridge Golf Course is a scenic oasis that also happens to be 20 minutes from Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun Casino. Like the course, the restaurant is open to the public, serving lunch and dinner daily, along with a Sunday breakfast buffet.
Here’s the insider’s tip for those who love a good burger: The Restaurant at River Ridge gets its all-natural ground beef from Campbell’s Farm in Griswold, which makes for one delicious burger—branded as the Campbell’s Burger and famous enough to get billing on a roadside sign at the course, along with the fact that the restaurant features Stonington Seafood.
So if you like gourmet flavors when you relax after golf, this is a place to seek out.
(860) 376-0059, riverridgegolf.com
Shenecossett Golf Course, Groton
Over the years, Torsiello says, many famous golfers have walked the fairways at Shennecossett, including Arnold Palmer, Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Tommy Armour, Francis Ouimet, Babe Didrikson, Marion Hollins, Glenna Collett Vare, and former club professionals Alex Smith and Harry Cooper.
The course is a municipal one, and the town of Groton says, “There are fantastic views of the Thames River and the Long Island Sound looking from the 16th and 17th holes, and at any time, one might see the USCGC Eagle or a nuclear submarine navigating the waterways.”
Meanwhile, visitors can enjoy drinks and dine where the aforementioned golf greats once hung out, the Par-Four Restaurant. There’s lots of ambiance, a great collection of vintage photos and an old-time feel to the bar.
(860) 446-9146, groton-ct.gov/depts/parksrec/shenny
Other Great Spots
Also worth investigating for good golf and outstanding amenities are:
• Fairview Farm Golf Course, Harwinton, which has a great Sunday brunch, (860) 689-1000, fairviewfarmgc.com.
• Richter Park Golf Course, Danbury, where the Café on the Green has a great menu and an award-winning wine list, (203) 791-0369, cafeonthegreenrestaurant.com and richterpark.com.
• Jesse Camille’s Restaurant overlooking the Hop Brook Golf Course, Naugatuck, where folks love the clam chowder, Fafalle à la Vodka, and Blackened Cajun Chicken Tortellini, (203) 723-2275, jessecamilles.com.
• The Hills Restaurant at Western Hills Golf Course, Waterbury, (203) 755-1331, thehillsrestaurant.com.
Connecticut Golf Courses Tee Up Great Food (at the 19th Hole)