Dining Out

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All Day: The Shack
Waterford, (860) 442-6660, and other locations (shackrestaurants.com)
Discriminating-yet-insatiable omnivores come here for The Mess, a hearty helping of The Shack’s well-loved home fries topped with scrambled eggs, ham, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, sausage, onions, Monterey Jack cheese and bacon—and let’s not forget the side of grilled corn bread. If that doesn’t meet your caloric requirements for the day, consider the down-home Sausage Gravy Breakfast or the fresh-baked Belgian Waffle Mountain. The restaurant does offer lunch and dinner menus (including a daily Thanksgiving feast), but why dally with those when you can enjoy all you want of the most important meal of the day whenever you please?

Eggs: Cosmic Omelet
Manchester, (860) 645-1864 (cosmicomelet.com)
If you’re looking for an out-of-this-world yet reasonably-priced breakfast, search no further. This unique establishment specializes in three-egg omelets, available in more than 30 creative choices (hint: what makes an omelet “cosmic” is the addition of cream cheese). Try the Cosmic Cloud Nine, with turkey, tomato and bacon, or Cosmic Mad Max, with shaved steak, hot peppers and red onions. The decidedly un-cosmic but spicy Jay’s Blazin Omelet and the based-on-an-American-classic McOmelet are tasty, too.

Pancakes: Chip’s Restaurant
Orange, (203) 795-5065, and Fairfield, (203) 332-3370 (chipsrestaurants.com)
Chip’s motto is “We love pancakes”; well, we love them, too. Because they’re sweet, light and available all day long, choosing just one of this restaurant’s signature dishes isn’t easy. Whether they’re classic varieties (buttermilk, chocolate chip, blueberry) or specialties—like German Apple (sliced apple cooked inside five buttermilk pancakes, served with cinnamon and powdered sugar and raspberry purée) and Strawberry Shortcake (five pancakes filled with strawberry compote)—Chip’s pancakes are in a league of their own.

Coffee Bars

Hankering for a great cup o’ Joe—perhaps with a treat on the side? Here are some worthy places to consider—whether you’re looking for a sandwich, a salad, or just a special roasted blend.

Cafémantic, Photo by Liss Flint

Ashlawn Farm Coffee
Lyme, (860) 434-3636 (farmcoffee.com)

Willimantic, (860) 423-4243 (cafemantic.com)  

Caffé Toscana
Old Saybrook, (860) 388-1270

Daybreak Coffee Roasters
Glastonbury, (860) 657-4466 (daybreakcoffee.com)

Fuel Coffee Shop
New Haven, (203) 772-0330

JoJo’s Coffee Roasting Co.
Hartford, (860) 524-1488

Meet Me on Main
Coventry, (860) 742-5835

Middle Ground
Stafford Springs, (860) 851-8900 (middlegroundcafe.com)

Molten Java
Bethel, (203) 739-0313 (moltenjava.wordpress.com)

Perk on Main
Durham, (860) 349-5335 (perkonmain.com)

Tusk & Cup
Ridgefield, (203) 544-0800 (tuskandcup.com)

New Haven, and other locations, (203) 777-7400 (willoughbyscoffee.com)


Cutting-Edge: Ibiza
New Haven, (203) 865-1933, and other locations (ibizatapaswinebar.com)
Every night at his three Connecticut restaurants—Ibiza in New Haven, and Ibiza Tapas in Hamden and Danbury—chef Ignacio Blanco draws upon his formative years in the Galicia region of Spain, melding that knowledge with modern cooking techniques to present dishes that are as delicious as they are inspired. Infused with authentic Spanish flavors, plates big and small are often fresh takes on favorites; for example, Albóndigas de la Abuela features veal and pork with potato, peppers, white wine and saffron broth—not exactly your grandma’s meatballs! Chef Blanco’s creativity is a treat that every diner gets to enjoy at every meal.

Farm-to-Table: Firebox
Hartford, (860) 246-1222 (fireboxrestaurant.com)
The farm-to-table movement may be just another trend to some, but at Firebox it’s a guiding philosophy—and has been from day one. Using ingredients from Connecticut producers like Baggott Farm, Cato Corner, Grow Hartford, Jones Apiary, Farmer’s Cow, Beckett’s Farm and Starlight Garden, to name just a few, chef Sean Farrell makes sparkling-fresh salads, charcuterie, chickpea gnocchi (with asparagus, roasted tomatoes, feta cheese) and Cast Iron Duck (with ramp spaetzle, Swiss chard and rhubarb gastrique). Chef Farrell once cooked what used to be called “California Cuisine” at top restaurants in San Francisco. Now, it’s Connecticut cuisine.

Gluten-Free: Trumbull Kitchen
Hartford, (860) 493-7412 (maxrestaurantgroup.com/trumbull/)
We have yet to see any other gluten-free Connecticut restaurant menu with such a high scrumptiousness factor. Shrimp Cobb salad; pan-seared Atlantic salmon with tarragon mashed potatoes, asparagus and sweet-corn purée; pan-roasted Nantucket Lightship scallops: Get us a table, stat. The folks at Trumbull Kitchen report that fully 15 percent of their clientele (and growing) are eating gluten-free these days, but they’re not the only diners ordering the seafood pad thai or the herb-cured, brick-pressed chicken with sautéed seasonal vegetables—hands-down, two of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.

Small Plates: Molto
Fairfield, (203) 292-8288 (pizzeriamolto.com)
So many delicious treats, so little time! At Molto, the ambience is ’50s Roman café, the noise level near-deafening; there’s a 40-foot carrera marble bar and old Italian movies on a big screen in back. But it’s the food that keeps ’em coming—pizza, pasta and salads and lots and lots of small-plates: There are 23 “Italian tapas” listed, including crispy artichoke hearts, mushroom risotto, roasted beets and fennel, grilled bronzino, eggplant rollatini and panzanella. And if you count the mozzarellas (four kinds) and raw-bar selections, there are well over 30. At Molto, good things come in small packages.

Vegan: Six Main
Chester, (860) 322-4212 (sixmain.com)
Six Main has raised the bar on vegan dining, and we’ve got chef Rachel Carr to thank for it. Whether you’re actually vegan or not, you’ll marvel at the delicious gourmet vegan, vegetarian and raw dishes Carr creates featuring organic produce grown on owner Bill de Jonge’s Upper Pond Farm in Old Lyme. De Jonge invited Carr to join him at his new restaurant when she moved east after a long stint as executive chef at raw vegan eatery Cru in Los Angeles. In little more than a year, the duo has turned healthy eating into an amazing fine-dining experience.

Dining Out

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