Dishes To Try Before You Die

Grab a fork, it's time to explore Connecticut's most notable dishes.


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So much good food, so little time! We all know that when it comes to dining out, Connecticut is one of the great places to explore. Whether your taste runs to hot dogs or haute cuisine-or to both and everything in between, as is the case with most of us-there is no shortage of new and great things to try.

But some of the state's culinary gems stand above or apart to such a degree that they virtually require us to give them a taste. Can you live in Connecticut and never try a New Haven pizza? It's possible, of course, but far from advisable. Can you get by without at least once digging into the delicious backhendl while looking out across Lake Waramaug from the terrace at the Hopkins Inn in New Preston? Again, it can be done, but why would you want to? And do you really want your tombstone to read: "She never tried a steamed cheeseburger"?

It is with these experiences in mind that we have compiled the following list of Connecticut's dining imperatives-dishes that for one reason or another demand our attention at least once, and quite possibly more than once, before we "leave the room." Is the list complete? Of course not. There have to be at least 100 such experiences out there, and we had room for only 50 in this feature. In that respect, we welcome your input. Let us know what Connecticut dishes you think we have to try while we've still got the chance, and we'll share the info with all our readers.

For now, these Connecticut treasures, listed in no particular order, will have to do. And in our opinion, they do very nicely indeed.

1. The white clam pie at Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven. This is a delicious Connecticut invention served at a genuine world-class dining destination (Pepe's now has branches in Fairfield and Manchester, but New Haven remains the mother ship). The white clam pie is fresh littlenecks, olive oil, oregano, grated Parmesan cheese and chopped garlic-all sitting atop one of Pepe's crunchy, chewy, blistery thin crusts.

2. The Seafood Feast at Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, Noank. This is one very good version of the New England shore dinner. The meal begins with clam chowder and shrimp in the rough followed by a heaping bowl of steamers and mussels, topped off with an Abbott's steamed lobster-accompanied by potato chips, coleslaw and drawn butter. All with a water view, too!

3. The hamburger at Louis' Lunch, New Haven. Was the hamburger invented here? That's the claim, and it'll seem that way when you step inside Louis'. The burgers are made with fresh-ground beef that is broiled vertically in the original cast-iron grill and served between two slices of toast. Cheese, tomato and onion are the only garnishes available-no mustard or ketchup.

4. The wok shrimp at Carole Peck's Good News Cafe, Woodbury. Described as "Always Good" on the menu, this is the go-to dish at one of the state's top restaurants. It's an inspired mix of wok-seared Gulf shrimp, green beans, peas, olives, roast potatoes and aioli.

5. The Kobe beef appetizer at Feng Asian Bistro, Hartford. The beef is brought to the table raw in thin strips, along with a flat volcanic rock heated by a small burner. It is up to you to place it on the rock and cook it to your own taste. At $10 an ounce, this dish isn't cheap, but it is fun and delicious.

6. Potage Billi Bi at Ondine, Danbury. The venerable French restaurant makes the most of this cream-of-mussels soup with saffron. The curious name comes from tin magnate William B. Leeds (Billy B.), who often sang the soup's praises at Maxim's in Paris.

7. Seared wasabi and sesame-rubbed tuna at Match, South Norwalk. This memorable and very popular opener includes coconut sticky-rice cake, sweet soy, avocado crema, watercress and spicy saracha, a Thai hot sauce.

8. The New Englander with fries at Super Duper Weenie, Fairfield. There are quite a few really good hot dog spots in Connecticut, but Super Duper Weenie stands out for the freshness of its homemade toppings, the creativity of its offerings and the sublime nature of its french fries. The New Englander, topped with sauerkraut, bacon, mustard, sweet relish and raw onion, is top dog.

9. The whole-belly clams at Sea Swirl, Mystic. Grab a half-pint of these hand-battered beauties and savor the taste of the sea. 

10. Ebibaba at Miya's, New Haven. One of the many unique treats to be found at this remarkably creative sushi restaurant, this sensual dish consists of tempura shrimp wrapped in a potato skin and topped with torch-toasted Havarti cheese and lemon-dill sauce.

Dishes To Try Before You Die

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