Best Restaurants in Connecticut 2016: Experts' Picks

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 as well as the hottest, newest places. 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.

Best For Overall Excellence

Union League Café, New Haven 

Max Downtown, Hartford 

The Restaurant at Winvian Farm, Morris

South End, New Canaan 

Bailey’s Backyard, Ridgefield 

Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich

West Street Grill, Litchfield

Arethusa al tavolo, Bantam 

Millwright’s, Simsbury 

Oyster Club, Mystic 

The Whelk, Westport

Community TableWashington  

Viron Rondo Osteria, Cheshire - “To state foodies, Viron Rondo is no stranger. The former owner of the popular Da Capo restaurants in Avon and Litchfield, this veteran restaurateur left them and started anew [at this] “old world” style Italian restaurant . My favs? A kale salad with feta cheese, clementines, cranberries and drizzled with a honey, the brick oven roasted chicken, and of course, Rondo’s My Mother's Chips, a recipe from Rondo's Greek mother featuring paper thin slices of eggplant and zucchini, lightly floured, fried and served with a cucumber yogurt dip.”—Maryellen Fillo, Hartford Courant

Best New Restaurant

Atelier Florian, New Haven 

Hoodoo Brown BBQ, Ridgefield 

Brick +  Wood, Fairfield

Mill Street Bar & Table, Greenwich 

Shell & Bones, New Haven 

Rothbard Ale +  Larder, Westport

Elm City Social, New Haven

Roots Down, Woodstock (right)

Frank’s Gourmet Grille, Mystic 

Best Italian

Carbone’s Ristorante, Hartford 

Bar Sugo, Norwalk   

Adriana’s, New Haven 

Liana’s Trattoria, Fairfield

Treva, West Hartford

Bricco, Glastonbury, West Hartford

Rustica, Chester

Upper Crust Trattoria, New Milford

Tazza, Fairfield

Goodfellas, New Haven (below)

Aranci 67Redding “This under-the-radar family-owned restaurant serves some of the best pasta dishes you can get on either side of the Atlantic and that’s  only the beginning of the Sorrento-style Italian food wonderland that is Aranci 67.”—Erik Ofgang, Connecticut Magazine 

Best American

Firebox, Hartford 

West Street Grill, Litchfield

CHAR, Greenwich

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton

The Spread, Norwalk

Match, Norwalk 

Millwright’s, Simsbury 

Community Table, Washington 

Metro Bis, Simsbury

Zinc, New Haven 

South End, New Canaan 

River TavernChester - “Their Chef de Cuisine, Matt Wick, is just killing it. If you like inventive dishes made with ingredients from local farms then this is your place. Eat your way through the small plates, which change almost daily, try the ramen, and take advantage of half price wine on Mondays and Tuesdays.”—Alycia Chrosniak,

Best French

Union League Café, New Haven

Luc’s Café, Ridgefield - “The casually elegant food prepared with plenty of herbs like tarragon, rosemary and thyme and fresh produce, coupled with an effervescent, never stuffy team of energetic wait staff, and the Old World atmosphere make Luc’s one to remember.”—Donna Christopher, food writer and blogger formerly of Hearst Media.

Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich

Da Pietro, Westport

Ondine, Danbury

Le Petit Café, Branford

Bernard’s, Ridgefield  

Best Mexican/Latin American

Iguanas Ranas Taqueria, Middletown 

Brasitas, Multiple locations 

Valencia Luncheria, Norwalk  

Baja’s, Orange 

Casa Villa, Stamford

Besito, West Hartford

Mezon, Danbury 

Bodega, Fairfield 

Olea, New Haven (below)

Tequila Mockingbird, New Canaan 

Monte Alban, Hartford 

Ceviche, Middlebury

Sayulita, South Glastonbury Best Indian

Thali, Multiple locations

Chaat House, West Haven

Coromandel Cuisine, Multiple locations  

Tikkaway Grill, New Haven 

Amba Vilas Palace, Danbury 

Best Asian

Feng Asian Bistro, Hartford 

Wafu Asian Bistro, Southport

Mecha Noodle Bar, Fairfield 

Taste of China, Clinton 

Kawa Ni, Westport (below)

Pho Saigon, Bridgeport - “You need to put the address in your GPS because this place is in the middle of nowhere, but it’s well worth the trek. I’m a pho junkie and this place has the absolute best in the state. There’s no fancy tablecloths, no modern décor done by an interior design team. There are tables, chairs and good food.”—Ken Tuccio, host of the Welcome To Connecticut podcast.

Pho 501, East Hartford

Lao Sze Chuan, Milford 

Best Pub

Little Barn, Westport

Bidwell Tavern, Coventry

The Hideaway, Ridgefield

The Engine Room, Mystic 

White Horse Country Pub, Washington

Republic, Bloomfield 

Donahue’s, Madison  

Blind Rhino, Norwalk 

Little Pub, multiple locations  

Corner Pug, West Harford

Best Craft Beer Haven

Local, South Norwalk

Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, Middletown - “Connecticut’s original craft beer bar is still going strong with a curated tap list of rare IPAs, sours and sought-after Connecticut brews. With a laidback, unpretentious vibe it’s also something that’s all-to-rare in the craft beer world: affordable.”—Erik Ofgang, Connecticut Magazine

The Engine Room, Mystic

Coalhouse Pizza, Stamford

Willimantic Brewing Co., Willimantic

Prime 16, multiple locations

MiKro, Hamden

Stanziato's, Danbury 

Cask Republicmultiple locations “The go to place for hard to find craft beer along with your everyday favorites. Knowledgeable and well-trained bar staff.”—Kevin Mardorf, and

Best Cocktails

116 Crown, New Haven 

Ordinary, New Haven 

Match, Norwalk - “I chose Match in this category last year, and even though they've switched up bartenders, the quality is the same. Fabulous, inventive cocktails meet a great bar scene and excellent food.”— Adeline Crites-Moore, owner Adeline Jessica Social Media

ON20, Hartford

Bailey’s Backyard, Ridgefield

Geronimo, multiple locations

Luxe, Westport 

Elm City Social, New Haven

Kawa Ni, Westport 

The Cottage, Plainville 

Little River Restoratives, Hartford

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

Hoodoo Brown BBQ, Ridgefield (below) - “Open for less than a year this big, bold and oh-so-delicious barbecue joint has already made its way into the hearts (and stomachs) of legions of barbecue lovers. One taste and you’ll see what draws the crowds.”—Erik Ofgang, Connecticut Magazine

Smokin’ with Chris, Southington


Best Steak

The Capital Grille, Stamford, Hartford

David Burke Prime, Foxwoods 

J. Gilbert’s, Glastonbury

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, West Hartford

Joseph’s Steakhouse, Bridgeport 

Washington Prime, Norwalk (below)

Michael Jordan’s, Mohegan Sun 

Best Tapas

Barcelona, multiple locations 

Ibiza, multiple locations 

Olea, New Haven  

Costa del Sol, Hartford

Majorca, Hartford

Best For Families

Rizzuto’s, multiple locations

Lenny and Joe’s, Madison 

Wood-n-Tap, multiple locations

Fat Cat Pie Co., Norwalk

East Side Restaurant, New Britain - “With lederhosen-wearing servers shouting ‘Ticki Tocki Ticki Tocki—Hoy! Hoy! Hoy!’ as they deliver enormous 1-liter steins of beer and an accordionist playing toe-tapping music, this place is so over-the-top, you just have to join in the fun.”—Connecticut Magazine staff

Confetti, Plainville 

Fortina, Stamford

Brazi’s, New Haven 

Most Romantic

ON20, Hartford

Le Petit Café, Branford

Ondine, Danbury 

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton

Artisan, Southport

Winvian, Morris  

Paragon, Foxwoods 

Union League Café, New Haven

Golden Lamb Buttery, Brooklyn 

Bernard’s and Sarah’s Wine Bar, Ridgefield

Best Desserts

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, Wilton

The Pantry, Washington Depot

Community Table, Washington

L’escale, Greenwich

Ondine, Danbury 

Vespa, Westport  

ávert Brasserie, West Hartford 

Best Brunch 

Mama’s Boy, South Norwalk 

Fresh Salt, Saybrook Point Inn, Old Saybrook 

Bella’s Café, New Haven

Apricots, Farmington 

Firebox, Hartford

Heirloom, New Haven

Best Sushi

Miya’s Sushi, New Haven

Toro, Newtown 

Yokohama, New Milford

Kotobuki, Stamford (below)

Shiki Hana, Fairfield  

Pink Sumo, Westport 

Ichiro, Danbury 

Sushi Red, Plainville 

Murasaki, West Hartford Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Heirloom Food Company, Danielson

Claire’s Corner Copia, New Haven 

Hidden Valley Eatery, Washington Depot

It’s Only Natural Restaurant, Middletown  

G-Zen, Branford 

Bloodroot, Bridgeport 

Organic Market, Westport 

Shoreline Diner, Guilford 

Best Outdoor Dining

Fresh Salt, Old Saybrook

Hopkins Inn, Warren

Harlan Publick, Norwalk  

Bartaco, Westport 

Morning Glory Café, Old Lyme

Paloma, Stamford 

L’escale, Greenwich

L’Orcio, New Haven (below) - "Dining at L'Orcio feels like eating at a good friend's house, and their back patio is no exception. With plenty of room for tables and a wooden trellis canopy, the patio is tucked behind the restaurant's historic brick building on State Street away from the foot traffic and street noise. This spot is a hidden gem in New Haven where outdoor dining space can be hard to find."—Kate Hartman, Connecticut Magazine 

Madison Beach Hotel, New Haven 

Lake View, Coventry 

Red 36, Mystic Best Hidden Gem 

Ichiro, Danbury

Staropolska, New Britain

The Blue Oar, Haddam - “Part cafeteria, part treehouse, a magical setting on the Connecticut River.”—Robert Rabine, food critic.

RSVP, West Cornwall

Aranci 67, Redding (below)

Turkish Kebab House, West Haven

Coriander Cafe, Eastford

Soul De Cuba, New Haven 

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  

Lenny and Joe’s  Fish Tale, multiple locations

Best Hotel DiningArtisan, 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 (above)

Falls Village Inn, Falls Village

L’escale The Delamar, Greenwich

Parallel Post, Trumbull 

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