Best of Connecticut 2009: Food & Drink
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SANDWICH: BEEF BRISKET
Chester's Barbecue New London, (860) 447-1406; and Groton, (860) 449-6868 (chestersbbq.com).
Chef and owner Chester Dugas is fond of saying that "Barbecue is not the sauce; it's what the sauce goes on," and nowhere is that more evident than in his beef brisket sandwich, the most popular item on the menu. Drawing on his years of cooking in the Midwest-the heart of barbecue country-Dugas employs a combination of Texas and Kansas City styles, s-l-o-w-l-y smoking the beef (like for 15 hours-slow enough for you?) before piling it high on white bread and adding his homemade sauces. Authentic barbecue, amazing taste.
SANDWICH: FRIED FISH
Cove Fresh Fish Market, Clam Shack and Cafe Stonington, (860) 536-0061 (covefish.com)
You'll usually get your choice of cod or flounder brought in fresh each day from Stonington pier, breaded lightly and served on a hot-dog roll with homemade tartar sauce, coleslaw and fries. Eaten on a warm summer evening at one of Cove's picnic tables, this can be a simple but transcendent Connecticut meal, a gift from the sea that can easily become part of an annual ritual.
SANDWICH: HOT PASTRAMI
Katz's Restaurant & Deli Woodbridge, (203) 389-5301
You will love Katz's Reuben even if you don't care much for pastrami. When the meat is as perfectly seasoned and carved as it is at this quintessential Jewish deli/restaurant in Woodbridge, what's not to love? With all the proper ingredients, including zesty mustard and "to die for" rye, this is a classic sandwich not to be missed.
SANDWICH: LOBSTER ROLL
Lenny & Joe's Fish Tale Madison, (203) 245-7289, and Westbrook, (860) 669-0767 (ljfishtale.com)
Lenny & Joe's is the gold standard-hot dripping-with-butter lobster meat stuffed into a split-top hot-dog roll. The quality's the same whether you enjoy it in Westbrook (we love the enclosed porch, with hanging plants all around) or casual Madison (near Hammonasset, with a "Flying Menagerie" charity carousel outside). You can also take it out, but we dare you to make it back to I-95 before polishing off the whole thing.
La Molisana Sausage Waterbury, (203) 574-1272
The Town Plot neighborhood has long been an Italian enclave in Waterbury, dotted with restaurants, specialty shops and backyard grapevines and tomato plants. Among the relative newcomers is La Molisana Sausage, tucked into the first floor of a two-story residence on a side street. Within its aromatic confines, proprietors Tullio and Assunta Lupo sell an assortment of Italian staples (the cheeses are especially good) as well as their own products, such as meatballs and marinated eggplant. But the real standouts are the sausages-hot or sweet pork sausage, sopressata, coppa, pork liver sausage and more. They're a secret ingredient in some of the better local restaurants' dishes; now they can be a part of yours, too.
SEE AND BE SEEN (RESTAURANT)
West Street Grill Litchfield, (860) 567-3885 (weststreetgrill.com)
Litchfield does small town in a big way and West Street Grill seems to follow its example. Think New York-style bistro-small tables, dim lights, excellent food with a good posibillity of bumping elbows with celebrities of all ilks right at the next table, especially on a Friday or Saturday evening. Regulars include Philip Roth and Mia Farrow; word has it that George Clooney stops by when he's in town.
Il Palio Shelton, (203) 944-0770 (ilpalioct.com)
It may look the same as the dish it's named for, but Il Palio's "three-potato risotto" is a different kind of delicious. A blend of Idaho, sweet and red bliss potatoes (sometimes changed up with purple Peruvians) is cooked risotto-style with chicken stock, salt and pepper and a touch of butter, then accented with shallots, Parmesan cheese and parsley. This standard side for Palio's Pollo Arrosto (oven-roasted chicken) also goes wonderfully well with Sogliola Farcita (oven-roasted fillet of sole), Falda di Manzo (grilled skirt steak)-and a glass of vino.
Alchemy Juice Bar Cafe Hartford, (860) 246-5700 (alchemyjuicebar.com)
What'll it be: Raspberry Creamsicle, Carrot Cake or Berrylicious? With names like those, you're expecting something delicious but maybe not particularly nutricious, right? Wrong. At Alchemy, their scrumptious smoothies are healthy, delicious, 100 percent organic and made with a variety of fresh fruits and pure juices. Have two.
Foxon Park East Haven, (203) 467-7874 (foxonpark.com).
Family-owned and -operated for over 80 years, Foxon Park has long been the choice of thirsty Connecticut residents, whether it be after washing down a slice of New Haven pizza or simply enjoying a cold one with a great meal. All made with real sugar, Iron Brew, Gassosa, White Birch Beer or any of the 18 different flavors are sure to please when you're looking for great taste!
Liquid Lunch Shelton, (203) 924-0200 and (203) 926-6038, and Milford, (203) 877-SOUP (liquidlunchrestaurant.com).
With at least 10 different soups on the menu on any given day, there's always something for everyone at any of Liquid Lunch's three locations. (A second Shelton spot opened up on Research Drive earlier this year.) From standards like beef barley and vegetarian lentil to specials such as shrimp pesto cream or roasted artichoke and chicken Gorgonzola, Culinary Institute of America grad Fred Bialek is sure to have something hot in the pot you'll love. Where's your spoon?