Best of Connecticut 2010: Food and Drink
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Dottie’s Diner Woodbury, (203) 263-2545
There are some impressively experienced and sophisticated palates here at Connecticut Magazine, but nothing creates the excitement (and an en masse rush to the kitchen) like a couple dozen of Dottie’s doughnuts suddenly appearing. It doesn’t even seem to matter what kinds of doughnuts these otherwise jaded editors end up with—the cinnamon has a wonderful crunch on the outside and a silky interior, the chocolate frosted is peerless, the powdered sugar melts in your mouth. Taken all together, they’re as fine an occasional treat as you can find in Connecticut.
Cosmic Omelet Manchester, (860) 645-1864 (cosmicomelet.com)
At this ramshackle eatery, what determines a “cosmic” omelet is one ingredient: cream cheese. As owner Tracy Devine opines, “It’s great for a whole lot more than just bagels.” But we’d respectfully aver that the “Cosmic Cloud Nine” (also with turkey, tomato and bacon) is no more delicious than the “Country Club Omelet” (ham, turkey, tomato, honey mustard and Swiss cheese). Nor should you admire “Nate’s Cosmic Omelet” (with sausage and onions) over “The Fiesta Omelet” (sausage, onions, peppers, cheddar cheese and salsa). Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks—and with 24 three-egg choices, there are many potential faves for everyone.
Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant East Lyme, (860) 739-8866 (flandersfish.com)
Seven days a week, Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant provides southeastern Connecticut with the freshest fish and seafood around. Succulent Maine lobster is a specialty, available in a variety of sizes—either stop in and pick out your own, or order online and it will be shipped directly to you. If you love seafood but don’t like to prepare it, you’re covered, as the 150-seat restaurant is open for lunch and dinner every day, including a buffet on Sunday afternoons sure to make any seafood lover deliriously happy.
Drumstik Bar-B-Q Bridgeport, (203) 374-6151
For 46 years, Drumstik Bar-B-Q has been making its acclaimed fried chicken from a closely guarded family recipe. What’s the secret? “For good fried chicken, the breading and oil is key,” says owner Kathy Palmesi, careful not to divulge any specific ingredients other than “fresh chicken.” Palmesi, along with her sons and daughter, fries up plenty of fresh chicken—up to 4,000 wings alone in a busy week. We’re fans of the family deal: 12 pieces of chicken, six dinner rolls, potato wedges and a large side (we recommend the green coleslaw—another special family recipe), all for only $20.99. Can’t beat that with a drumstick.
Rudy’s New Haven, (203) 865-1242
In 2001, current General Manager Omer Ipek introduced Belgian pommes frites to his customers and they became a huge hit. These piping-hot treats are handmade and cooked-to-order in a real Belgian fryer. Each order is cooked twice—first blanched at a low temperature, then fried in soybean oil—to give them a fresh, sweet taste. And they come with your choice of 25 sauces, including spicy-hot Samurai sauce made with Belgian mayo and chili powder. This fall, Rudy’s moves from Elm Street to Chapel Street after 76 years in the old location.
Patty’s Restaurant Litchfield, (860) 567-3335
There are mornings when only French toast will do. Cinnamon-raisin French toast, apple-cinnamon French toast, Texas-style French toast or French toast stuffed with cream cheese and ricotta and topped with fresh fruit. All served with real maple syrup and butter. For mornings like that, there are places like Patty’s, where you’ll find all of the above, plus a friendly, capable vibe and even, if you insist, many other delicious breakfast offerings. It’s the perfect first stop on a Litchfield County day trip.
Gelato Giuliana New Haven, (203) 772-0607 (gelatogiuliana.com)
You don’t have to fly to Italy to enjoy this creamy frozen delight. Inspired by her Italian heritage, Giuliana Maravalle, co-owner of Gelato Giuliana, decided to bring this flavorful dessert to the states in 2004. It comes in a variety of flavors—like classic vanilla, chocolate and cappuccino, as well as unusual ones like Apple Cobbler, American Kiss (contains a variety of chocolate bars) and tiramisu. And it has less fat than ice cream! Gelato Giuliana is available all across Connecticut and the East Coast (check their website for a purveyor near you).
Grilled Cheese to Go Milford (grilledcheesetogo.com)
Most of us think of grilled cheese as white bread, American cheese, throw it on the griddle, done. Add some canned soup on the side and you’ve got a quick-and-easy comfort meal. The Connecticut Post Mall’s Grilled Cheese to Go gives comfort a shot of class with high-quality cheeses, signature breads and homemade soup, making lunch on the run versatile—you can go really nuts and build a Muenster with bacon and onion on whole wheat, or cheddar and tomato with basil on rye—while keeping it affordable: the Combo, consisting of sandwich, small soup and regular beverage, goes for $5.99.
Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe Waterbury, (203) 754-5600, and other locations (nardellis.com)
Here’s an idea for fall that’s been around since, oh, 1922 or so: Pick up some Nardelli’s grinders on the way to the football game, the late-season picnic or ritual foliage drive. We grabbed a few 12-inchers—turkey breast, American combo, ham and Italian (pruzitini, capicola, salami and provolone) along with some Nardelli’s brand white birch beer—on the way to a Mets game last summer. The home team couldn’t put a run across the plate, but we scored heavily with the food by tailgating and avoiding the astonishing ballpark prices. Nardelli’s has been providing such tasty dining solutions for 88 years, making it among the oldest family-run “Best of Connecticut” winners.
SolToro Tequila Grill Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, (860) 862-4800 (soltororestaurant.com)
This lively cantina’s signature guacamole is second to none, thanks to primo ingredients—avocado, garlic, onion, tomato, Serrano chilis, fresh lime juice and cilantro—and a great recipe. But we swear the delicious chunky concoction tastes even better because you get to watch it made, for two ($8.95) or four ($15.95), right at your table. As the name suggests, tequila is a focus here in a BIG way. There are actually 198 blue agave tequilas on the menu, and you can even have flights. Put ours in a margarita, please.
Koto Japanese Steak House Groton, (860) 445-KOTO (kotoct.com)
Turning fantastic Japanese cuisine into an art form, Koto’s talented hibachi chefs prepare and cook your meal on a large tableside hibachi grill, performing impressive culinary feats right before your eyes—and they might even ask you to don the chef’s hat and attempt a trick yourself. Choices include lobster, steak, chicken and scallops, all served with shrimp, soup, salad and rice or noodles. They also serve up great sushi and offer intimate non-hibachi dining as well.