Best Restaurants in Connecticut 2015: Experts' Picks

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Get ready to bite into the restaurants judged the best of the best in Connecticut by our “experts,” who range from veteran restaurant critics and food writers to contemporary bloggers who track the trends—and hottest, newest places—along with cookbook authors and even a former restaurant owner. Joined by some food-savvy Connecticut Magazine editors, it’s a group for which dining is a passion—and dining at the best places is an art that takes constantly having a collective finger on the pulse of the Connecticut dining scene. Together, our Readers’ Choice and Experts’ Picks provide a comprehensive view of the state’s tastiest places to eat well.

Experts’ Picks: Best For Overall Excellence

Union League Café, New Haven

Max Downtown, Hartford

Winvian, Morris

Olio, Stamford

South End, New Canaan

Bailey’s Backyard, Ridgefield

LeFarm, Westport

Bernard’s & Sara’s Wine Bar, Ridgefield

Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich

West Street Grill, Litchfield

Arethusa al tavolo, Bantam (below) - "It's the type of sparkling, happy and casual-but-sophisticated wine bar/restaurant you might find in Milan, say, with models from runway shows and financiers salted among travelers savvy enough to find the place to eat. Executive chef Dan Magill's food is fabulous, as are the wines by the glass." —Douglas P. Clement, Vertical Editor, Connecticut Magazine

Julie Bidwell

Experts’ Picks: Best New Restaurant

A’Vert Brasserie, West Hartford

Moxie, Madison

Kawa Ni, Westport

Viron Rondo Osteria, Cheshire

Washington Prime, Norwalk

Jojoto, Branford

Muse by Jonathan Cartwright, Washington

Paloma, Stamford

Tarry Lodge, New Haven

NIXS, Hartford

Ceviche, Middlebury

Ted’s Montana Grill, Hartford

Red 36, Mystic

Experts’ Picks: Best Italian

Carbone’s, Hartford

Bin 100, Milford

Treva, West Hartford

Bricco, Glastonbury, West Hartford

Cavey’s, Manchester

Rustica, Chester

Bar Sugo, Norwalk

Upper Crust Trattoria, New Milford

Cotto Wine Bar, Stamford - "I’m always searching for Italian restaurants that will remind me of being in Italy. Cotto Wine Bar is run by Romans who import the best cured meats and cheeses, and have a big wine list representing all of the regions of Italy. And they bake an excellent pizza."Elizabeth Keyser, food writer

Locali, New Canaan

Goodfellas, New Haven

Experts’ Picks: Best American

Firebox, Hartford

West Street Grill, Litchfield

Char, Greenwich

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton

The Spread, South Norwalk

Match, South Norwalk

Millwright’s, Simsbury

Community Table, Washington

Good News Café, Woodbury

Metro Bis, Simsbury

Experts’ Picks: Best French

Union League Café, New Haven

Luc’s Café, Ridgefield

Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich

Da Pietro, Westport

Ondine, Danbury

Le Petit Café, Branford

Experts’ Picks: Best Mexican/Latin American

Iguanas Ranas Taqueria, Middletown

Brasitas, Norwalk, Wilton

Valencia Luncheria, Norwalk

Baja's, Orange

Casa Villa, Stamford

Besito, West Hartford

Mezon, Danbury

Bodega, Fairfield

Experts’ Picks: Best Indian

Thali, Ridgefield, New Haven

Kolam, Newtown

Chaat House, West Haven

Coromandel, Stamford, Darien, South Norwalk, Southport, Orange, Newtown

Experts’ Picks: Best Asian

Feng Asian Bistro, Hartford

Wafu Asian Bistro, Southport

Mecha Noodle Bar, Fairfield

Thai Delight, Newtown

Clinton’s Taste of China, Clinton

Kawa Ni, Westport

Experts’ Picks: Best Pub

Cask Republic, Stamford, New Haven

The Rustic Café, East Lyme

Little Barn, Westport

Bidwell Tavern, Coventry

The Hideaway, Ridgefield

Dew Drop Inn, Derby

Geno’s Grille, Storrs

The Engine Room, Mystic

White Horse Country Pub, Washington

Republic, Bloomfield

Experts’ Picks: Best Craft Beer Haven

Local, South Norwalk

Little Pub, Ridgefield, Wilton

Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Middletown

Cask Republic, Stamford, New Haven

The Engine Room, Mystic

Coalhouse Pizza, Stamford

The Ginger Man, Norwalk

Willimantic Brewing Co., Willimantic

Craft 260, Fairfield

MiKro, Hamden

Walrus + Carpenter, Bridgeport (right) - "Casual hotspot that manages to be more bar than restaurant without having a pub vibe. Their cocktail program, originally created by Adam Patrick (now bar manager at Match in SoNo) has been taken over by Sean Nye (previously of South End) and features perfectly executed classics as well as Sean’s own concoctions. They also make a barrel-aged Manhattan not to be missed. Southern comfort food like waffle iron grilled cheese with bacon and classic mac and cheese pair perfectly with a wide selection of craft beers, both on tap and in the bottle. Live music on weekends attracts a crowd."—Adeline Jessica Crites-Moore

Experts’ Picks: Best Cocktails

Crown 116, New Haven

Ordinary, New Haven

Dish Bar & Grill, Hartford

Match, South Norwalk

ON20, Hartford

Bailey’s Backyard, Ridgefield

Geronimo, New Haven, Fairfield

Experts’ Picks: Best Place to Eat in The Bar

Post 154, Westport

South End, New Canaan

Good News Café, Woodbury - "Order Miss Peggy’s Crispy Onion Bundle or “Adult” Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Lobster." —Susan Purdy, cookbook author, with Cassandra Purdy, chef/caterer

Bar Bouchée, Madison

Kotobuki, Stamford

Crown 116, New Haven

Rooftop 120, Glastonbury

Union League Café, New Haven

Heirloom, The Study at Yale, New Haven

Experts’ Picks: Best Barbecue

Bear’s Smokehouse Barbecue, Hartford

Walrus + Carpenter, Bridgeport

Bobby Q’s, Westport

The Cookhouse, New Milford

Dinosaur Bar-b-que, Stamford

Chester’s Barbecue, Groton

Experts’ Picks: Best Steak

The Capital Grille, Stamford, Hartford

Morton’s Steakhouse, Hartford

David Burke Prime, Foxwoods

Blackstones Steakhouse, Norwalk

J. Gilberts, Glastonbury

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, West Hartford

Joseph’s Steakhouse, Bridgeport

Experts’ Picks: Best Tapas

Barcelona, Stamford, Norwalk, Fairfield, New Haven

Picador, New Canaan

Ibiza, Hamden, Danbury

Olea, New Haven

Costa del Sol, Hartford

Experts’ Picks: Best For Families

Rizzuto’s, West Hartford, Stamford, Bethel, Westport

Sesame Seed, Danbury

Glenwood Drive-In, Hamden

Lenny and Joe’s, Madison

Wood-n-Tap, multiple locations

Coriander Café, Eastford

Truffles Bakery and Kitchen, Farmington

Fat Cat Pie Co., Norwalk

East Side Restaurant, New Britain (below) - "For more than 70 years, families have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and family nights out here with heaping plates of authentic German food, accordion music, whopper desserts and rollicking toasts of ‘Ticky tocky, ticky tocky—hoy! Hoy! Hoy!’" —Connecticut Magazine staff

Experts’ Picks: Most Romantic

ON20, Hartford

Le Petit Café, Branford

Ondine, Danbury

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton

Artisan, Southport

Winvian, Morris

Paragon, Foxwoods

Experts’ Picks: Best Desserts

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton

The Pantry, Washington Depot

Union League Café, New Haven

Community Table, Washington

L’escale, Greenwich

Ondine, Danbury

Mama’s Boy, South Norwalk

Experts’ Picks: Best Brunch

Mama’s Boy, South Norwalk

The Spread, South Norwalk

Fresh Salt, Saybrook Point Inn, Old Saybrook

Bella’s Café, New Haven

Fat Cat Pie Co., Norwalk

Experts’ Picks: Best Sushi

Miya’s Sushi, New Haven

Toro, Newtown

Yokohama, New Milford

Kotobuki, Stamford

Wasabi, Orange

Shiki Hana, Fairfield

Pink Sumo, Westport

Experts’ Picks: Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Heirloom Food Company, Danielson

Claire’s Corner Copia, New Haven

Hidden Valley Eatery, Washington

It’s Only Natural Restaurant, Middletown

G-Zen, Branford

Bloodroot, Bridgeport

Back 40 Kitchen, Greenwich

Organic Market, Westport 

West Street Grill, Litchfield (below) - "Co-owner James O’Shea has an ace up his sleeve with an array of delicious vegetarian/vegan dishes, which are his own creation. Some are on the menu and some are not, but he loves to show them off. Just ask." —Connecticut Magazine staff

Experts’ Picks: Best Outdoor Dining

Fresh Salt, Saybrook Point Inn, Old Saybrook

Hopkins Inn, New Preston

Locali, New Canaan

Washington Prime, Norwalk

Harlan Publick, South Norwalk

Bartaco, Westport

G.W. Tavern, Washington

Morning Glory Café, Old Lyme

Capriccio Café, Stamford

Paloma, Stamford - "Newly opened, Paloma is a beautiful spot to eat outside. Take a seat right by the water, have some fantastic cocktails, and try some of Chef Aarón Sánchez’s Mexican-inspired cuisine to while away the perfect day." —Connecticut Magazine staff

L’escale, Greenwich

Experts’ Picks: Best Last-Minute Option

Donahue’s Madison Beach Grill, Madison

City Limits, Stamford

Dish ’n Dat, Canton

85 Main, Putnam

The Vanilla Bean Café, Pomfret

Ted’s Montana Grill, Hartford 

Experts’ Picks: Best Undiscovered Treasure

Ichiro, Danbury

Staropolska, New Britain

The Blue Oar, Haddam

Basso Café, Norwalk

Olio, Stamford

Ruuthai’s Kitchen, Bridgeport

Eren’s Grill, Fairfield (Greenfield Hill)

RSVP, West Cornwall

Experts’ Picks: Best Seafood

Fresh Salt, Saybrook Point Inn, Old Saybrook

F.I.S.H., Stamford

The Oyster Club, Mystic

Max’s Oyster Bar, West Hartford

Stowe’s, West Haven

Muse by Jonathan Cartwright, Washington

Gaspar’s, New London

S&P Oyster Co., Mystic

Acqua, Westport 

The Whelk, Westport (below) - "Chef-owner Bill Taibe must audition every fish he serves at his lively neo-mod clam shack on the river.  We had the most beautiful trout we’ve ever seen or tasted here." —Connecticut Magazine staff

Experts’ Picks: Best Value

Restaurant L&E, Chester

Little Pub, Ridgefield, Wilton

Rizzuto’s, West Hartford, Stamford, Bethel, Westport

Jack Rabbit’s, Old Saybrook

The Granola Bar, Westport

Volta, Stamford

Los Poblanos, Norwalk

Nataz, North Branford

Sans Souci, Meriden

Mamie’s, Roxbury

Antonio’s, Ansonia, Woodbridge

Experts’ Picks: Best Hotel Dining

Artisan, Southport

Heirloom, The Study at Yale, New Haven

Winvian, Morris

Old Lyme Inn, Old Lyme

Fresh Salt, Saybrook Point Inn, Old Saybrook

The Willows, Bristol

Madison Beach Hotel, Madison

Harbour House Restaurant at the Inn at Mystic, Mystic

The White Hart, Salisbury

Falls Village Inn, Falls Village

L’escale The Delamar, Greenwich

(This article was originally published on a different platform. Some formatting changes may have occurred.)

This article appeared in the January 2015 issue of Connecticut Magazine

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