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Best Restaurants 2019: Experts' Picks

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Best Restaurants 2019: Experts' Picks

Voting is now closed for our latest Best Restaurants: Readers' Choice survey. Look for the results of the survey — along with a fresh serving of Experts' Picks — in the January 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine and at

Pictured above: Millwright’s, Simsbury • Expert's Pick: Best for Overall Excellence (photo by Winter Caplanson)

Still hungry after reading the results of our latest Readers' Choice survey? We’ve assembled a panel of culinary experts to dish up a second serving of restaurant recommendations below.

Best For Overall Excellence 

Arethusa al tavolo, Bantam

Cafemantic, Willimantic

The Cottage, Westport

Kawa Ni, Westport

Kawa Ni: “It’s not just the cuisine that’s exceptional at Bill Taibe’s snug, perpetually thronged, pan-Asian spot (though I would gladly wait an hour for his delectable peekytoe crab rangoon, his spicy miso ramen or his sloppy-joe-style gochujang pork sandwich). The whole experience here — from the hip-yet-cheerful staff, to the underground-funk soundtrack, to the boisterous gong that sounds every time a patron downs a sake bomb — makes you feel like one of the cool kids.”  — Sarah Gold, former New York Times restaurant critic

La Tavola Ristorante, Waterbury

Millwright’s, Simsbury

Miya’s Sushi, New Haven

Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich

Union League Cafe, New Haven

Winvian, Morris

Best New

Balos Estiatorio, West Hartford

Balos Estiatorio“You actually feel like you’ve been transported to Greece from Blue Back Square. The waitstaff adds to the overall experience.”  — Teresa Dufour, host of CT Style on WTNH

Bistro on Main, Manchester 

Bridgestreet Libations & Temptations, New Hartford

Broken Symmetry, Bethel 

Community Table, Washington

Gaudí Tapas and Wine, Danbury

Grano Arso, Chester

Harlan Haus, Bridgeport

Lucas Local, Newtown

Main Street Pint & Plate, Bristol

OKO, Westport

Swyft, Kent

Vintage, Colchester

Vintage: “With a menu that changes daily, this tiny farm-to-table restaurant marries diner comfort with upscale flavor and the most faithful local sourcing I’ve seen anywhere in Connecticut.”  — Winter Caplanson, Connecticut Food and Farm Magazine

Vyne, Middlebury

Most Romantic

Ballo Italian Restaurant, Mohegan Sun

Old Platform 6, Oakville

Old Riverton Inn, Riverton

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton

2 Hopewell, South Glastonbury

Union League Cafe, New Haven

Vue 24, Foxwoods 

Winvian, Morris

Best American

Arethusa al tavolo, Bantam

The Cottage, Westport

Engine Room, Mystic

Good News Cafe, Woodbury

Jesup Hall, Westport

Match, Norwalk

Millwright’s, Simsbury

Present Company, Simsbury

Taproot, Bethel 

West Street Grill, Litchfield

Best French

Àvert Brasserie, West Hartford

Bistro on Main, Manchester

Cavey’s, Manchester

Le Petit Café, Branford

Luc’s Cafe, Ridgefield

Sucre Sale, Ridgefield

Union League Cafe, New Haven

Best Italian

Adriana’s, New Haven 

Alforno Trattoria, Old Saybrook

Aranci 67, Wilton

Bar Sugo, Norwalk

Bar Sugo: “You’d be hard pressed to find more inventive Italian small plates anywhere in Connecticut. Additionally, all pasta is housemade, and they don’t get enough props for their brick-oven pizza. Owner Adam Roytman has officially put his stamp on this popular restaurant that he took over a year ago.” — Andrew Dominick, writer for CTbites, Westchester Magazine and Food Dudes

Grano Arso, Chester 

L’Orcio, New Haven 

La Tavola Ristorante, Waterbury

Rustica, Milford and Chester 

Roma Ristorante, Oakville

Trattoria ’A vucchella, Bridgeport

Osa, Middletown

Best Asian

Formosa, North Haven

Great Taste, New Britain

Kawa Ni, Westport

Midori, Hamden

Shu, Fairfield and West Hartford

Taste of China, Clinton and New Haven

Wang, Cromwell

Best Sushi

Hana Sushi, Manchester

Ki Asian Bistro & Sushi, Danbury

Mahzu, Norwich

Miya’s Sushi, New Haven 

OKO, Westport 

Sushi House, Rocky Hill

Sushi Red, Plainville

Best Pho/Ramen

Kawa Ni, Westport 

Mecha Noodle Bar, New Haven, Fairfield and Norwalk

Midnight Ramen, New Haven

Pho 501, East Hartford

Pho Saigon, West Hartford

Pho Vietnam, Danbury

Sprouts Vietnamese Cuisine, Bethel

Tiger Belly, Granby

Best Mexican

Evarito’s, Norwalk

Fiesta Cinco de Mayo, Willimantic

Long Wharf food trucks, New Haven

Los Garcia Mexican Fusion, Waterbury

Rincon Taqueria, Norwalk

Rivas Taqueria, Wallingford

Sayulita, South Glastonbury

Taqueria Mexico, Wallingford

Tequila Revolucion, Fairfield

Tequila Revolucion: “The roots of this tiny spot on Fairfield Avenue trace their way to the Mercado Benito Juárez outside Oaxaca, where a staff member’s family makes the sauce used in the daily mole special. Hard-to-find ingredients like Huitlacoche can be found in dishes here, along with quality margaritas, and excellent nachos.”  — James Gribbon, writer for CTbites


Golden Palace, Uncasville • Experts' Picks: Best Hidden Gems

Best Hidden Gems

The Eatery, Wallingford

El Pollo Guapo, Wethersfield and Hartford

Golden Palace, Uncasville

Harborview Market, Bridgeport

Jem’s Gardens, South Windsor

L’Orcio, New Haven

Lebanese Cuisine, Bethel

The Little Rendezvous, Meriden

Match Taco, Bridgeport

Sweetwater Juice Bar & Deli, New Britain

Sweetwater Juice Bar & Deli: “Despite a harrowing backstory — owner Mark Schand spent 27 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit — this tiny juice bar and sandwich shop is one of the most infectiously upbeat locations you’ll find. With its tropical theme, fresh ingredients and friendly staff lead by Schand, Sweetwater is a testament to the power of the human spirit. It also has great smoothies.”   Erik Ofgang, senior writer at Connecticut Magazine

Teff, Stamford

The White Hart Inn, Salisbury

Best Outdoor Dining

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank

Ford’s Lobster, Noank

Fresh Salt, Old Saybrook

Goats N’ Roses, Marlborough

Hopkins Inn & Restaurant, Warren

The Hops Company, Derby

Lobster Landing, Clinton

The Place, Guilford 

Red 36, Mystic

Shell & Bones Oyster Bar and Grill, New Haven

Best Middle Eastern/Mediterranean

Lazizah Bakery, Norwich

Lebanese Cuisine, Bethel 

Noujaim’s Bistro, Winsted

Noujaim’s Bistro: “Simply prepared traditional Lebanese and Middle Eastern dishes that are packed with perfectly blended flavors. The hummus is hands-down the best I’ve ever tasted, anywhere. Order the mazza plate (appetizer sampler) so you can also enjoy the baba ghanouj! The shawarma dishes are excellent. The wine list includes reds and whites imported from Lebanon. Great, welcoming atmosphere.”  — Amy Nawrocki, co-author of A History of Connecticut Food and columnist for Edible Nutmeg

Oliva on Main, Manchester 

Sesame Seed Restaurant, Danbury

Tangiers International Market, Hartford

Zohara, West Hartford

Best Latin American/Spanish

Barracuda Bistro & Bar, New Haven

Brasitas, Norwalk

Canggio, Norwich

Gaudí Tapas and Wine, Danbury

Ibiza Tapas, Hamden

Geronimo, New Haven and Fairfield

Olea, New Haven 

Porrón & Piña, Hartford 

Rubamba, New Haven 

Best Pizza

Crown Pizza, Waterford

Domenick & Pia Pizzeria, Waterbury

E&D Pizza, Avon

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven, Fairfield, Danbury, Manchester, West Hartford, Waterbury and Mohegan Sun

Letizia’s Pizza, Norwalk

The Little Rendezvous, Meriden

The Little Rendezvous: “The hole-in-the-wall ‘Little Vous’ is often ignored in favor of the New Haven giants, but its coal-fired 1880 bread oven makes some of the best apizza in Connecticut.”  — Eric D. Lehman, co-author of A History of Connecticut Food and writer for Edible Nutmeg

Locali, New Canaan

Modern Apizza, New Haven

Otto Pizza, Chester

Papa’s Pizza, Milford

Sally’s Apizza, New Haven

Swyft, Kent

Zuppardi’s Apizza, West Haven

Best Seafood

Liv’s Oyster Bar, Old Saybrook

Lucas Local, Newtown

Noah’s Restaurant, Stonington

Oyster Club, Mystic

Red 36, Mystic

Shell & Bones Oyster Bar and Grill, New Haven

The Whelk, Westport

Best Breakfast/Brunch

Arethusa a mano, Bantam

Caffe Social, Norwalk

The Corner Restaurant, Milford

Cromwell Diner, Cromwell

King’s Restaurant, Newtown

Leo’s Restaurant, Middlebury and Southbury

Laurel Diner, Southbury

Laurel Diner: “This unassuming, whitewashed eatery serves up the best hash browns and corned beef hash in the state. Owner Pete Homick works the griddle just behind the counter, flipping pancakes and folding omelets in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. And Pete’s grilled cinnamon roll is rich, fluffy and a favorite with kids.”  — Mike Urban, Yankee Magazine contributor

O’Rourke’s Diner, Middletown

Oak Haven Table and Bar, New Haven

Rise, Mystic

Valencia Luncheria, Norwalk

Best Indian

Dhaba Wala Indian Kitchen, Hartford

Himalaya Cafe, Old Saybrook

House of Naan, New Haven

Indigo Indian Bistro, Manchester

Kolam, Newtown

Tikkaway Grill, New Haven

Utsav Indian Cuisine, Vernon and Wethersfield


Bistro on Main, Middletown • Expert's Picks: Best New • Best French • Best Desserts • Ben Dubow, Up-and-Coming Chefs

Best Food Trucks

Eat Justice, Bethel

Greekin’ Out, Bozrah

The Green Grunion, Danbury

HAPA, Stamford

HAPA: “When wunderkind chef Chris Gonzalez defected last year from Black Rock’s Miro Kitchen, he returned to what he loves — and arguably, does — best: turning out his unique brand of Asia-Pacific-inspired street food. His signature burger — topped with pork belly, caramelized onions, and spicy aioli on a purple ube bun, is singularly crave-worthy, especially when accompanied by a pile of furikake-dusted fries.”  — Sarah Gold, former New York Times restaurant critic

Jung’s Kimchi Corner, New Haven (food cart)

La Patrona, New Haven

Liberty Rock, Milford

Munchies Food Truck, New London

M.O.C. Eatery, Stamford

The Tasty Yolk, Bridgeport and Fairfield

The Experts:

Winter Caplanson, Connecticut Food and Farm Magazine

Douglas P. Clement, writer for Litchfield Magazine, Edible Nutmeg, CTbites, The New York Times, former Connecticut Magazine editor and writer

Adeline Crites-Moore, founder of Adeline Jessica in Connecticut

Andrew Dominick, writer for CTbites, Westchester Magazine and Food Dudes

Teresa Dufour, host of CT Style on WTNH

Sarah Gold, former New York Times restaurant critic

James Gribbon, writer for CTbites 

Ryan Kristafer, host of CT Style on WTNH

Eric D. Lehman, co-author of A History of Connecticut Food and writer for Edible Nutmeg

Amy Nawrocki, co-author of A History of Connecticut Food and columnist for Edible Nutmeg

Erik Ofgang, Connecticut Magazine senior writer

Mike Urban, Yankee Magazine contributor

Mike Wollschlager, Connecticut Magazine writer/content editor

Albie Yuravich, Connecticut Magazine editor in chief

 Best Barbecue

Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, Hartford, Windsor, South Windsor and New Haven

Chester’s Barbecue, Groton and Clinton

The Cook & the Bear, West Hartford

The Cue, Danbury

Hoodoo Brown BBQ, Ridgefield

Smokin’ with Chris, Southington

Taíno Smokehouse, Middletown

Uncle Willie’s, West Haven and Seymour

Best Desserts

Aranci 67, Wilton

Arethusa a mano, Litchfield

Bianco Rosso, Wilton and Trumbull

Bistro on Main, Manchester

Gaudí Tapas and Wine, Danbury

Hen & Heifer, Guilford

Sift Bake Shop, Mystic

Best Beer Bars

The Beer Collective, New Haven

The Blind Rhino, Norwalk

Cask Republic, New Haven and Stamford

Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Middletown

The Hops Company, Derby

J. Timothy’s Taverne, Plainville

MiKro Beer Bar, Hamden

Spigot Beer, Norwalk

Taprock Beer Bar & Refuge, Unionville

Best Cocktails

Conspiracy, Middletown

Elm City Social, New Haven

The Essex, Centerbrook

Jesup Hall, Westport

Little River Restoratives, Hartford

Match, Norwalk

116 Crown, New Haven

Best Vegetarian/Vegan Options

Arles & Boggs, Wallingford

Bloodroot, Bridgeport

Claire’s Corner Copia, New Haven

Flora, West Hartford

G-Zen, Branford

Heirloom Food Company, Danielson

ION Restaurant, Middletown

The Salad Bar, Rocky Hill

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale: “The quaint, tucked-away outdoor area near a little stream is so charming. Pair the scene with the amazing food, and you have something truly special.”  — Adeline Crites-Moore, founder of Adeline Jessica in Connecticut

Shandals Vegetarian Cafe, Bridgeport

Up-and-Coming Chefs

Mike Fox, MiKro Beer Bar, Hamden

Chris Gonzalez, HAPA food truck, Stamford

Dan Sabia, catering and special wood-fired cooking events, formerly of Jesup Hall, Westport

John Brennan, Elm City Social and Olives and Oil, New Haven

Ben Dubow, Bistro on Main, Manchester

Jess Bengston, Terrain Garden Cafe, Westport

Kristin Eddy, pastry chef at Millwright’s Restaurant (Simsbury), The Cook & The Bear (West Hartford), and Porrón & Piña (Hartford)

Juan Flores, Gaudí Tapas and Wine, Danbury

Colt Taylor, The Essex, Centerbrook

Joel Gargano, Grano Arso, Chester

This article appeared in the January 2019 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter here to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Erik Ofgang is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University