Roasted chicken ©Jeff Kaufman

Roasted chicken at Taproot

We asked our food reviewers Erik Ofgang and Michael Lee-Murphy to name the top restaurants they’ve written about over the past year. Here’s what they said.

The Cook & The Bear, West Hartford

Upscale barbecue and hot-buttered comfort food mixed with craft cocktails and beer prove a winning formula at this restaurant from Tyler Anderson, chef and owner of Millwright’s in Simsbury, and Jamie McDonald, the pitmaster behind the success of Bear’s Smokehouse. If dishes such as smoked pastrami, bacon-wrapped and chorizo-stuffed dates and some truly awesome biscuits sound good to you, this is a place you’ll want to try. 860-595-3345. Read Erik's original review.

Domenick & Pia Downtown Pizzeria, Waterbury

Many of the restaurants on this list are new. Domenick & Pia’s is the opposite. The beloved pizzeria has been serving up pizza by the slice and pie since 1964, and owners Domenick and Pia DeRosa and their sons continue to run the establishment. The straightforward, New York-style pizza the place is known for continues to deliver the goods. We’re just sorry it took us this long to discover them. 203-753-3401. Read Erik's original review.

Grass & Bone, Mystic

I’m a sandwich guy. A good, interesting sandwich is one of my favorite food items, and I keep a mental catalogue of all the best ones I’ve had. I partially understand the geography of Connecticut as a map of sandwiches. This sandwich spot in Mystic, from the people behind the Oyster Club, is one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in a long time. The gorgeous fresh cuts of tender roast beef, served on a dense, grilled roll, with horseradish and a dipping jus stayed in my mind for weeks. 860-245-4814. Read Michael's original review.

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Popovers at Jesup Hall

Jesup Hall, Westport

Opened in 2017, the latest Westport restaurant from Bill Taibe, the chef and owner of The Whelk and Kawa Ni, did not disappoint. Initially, Bill wanted to offer tavern fare with big salads and burgers, but quickly abandoned that concept in favor of an ingredient- and chef-driven menu of locally sourced and, in some cases, foraged ingredients. The result is a restaurant with dazzlingly complex and flavorful dishes. 203-557-6198. Read Erik's original review.

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Order of Fries

Order of Fries, New Haven

This one isn’t as much a restaurant as a snack spot, but oh boy, is it good. The deep, rich flavors of Peter Wroe’s chili and truffle sauce are a great take on the classic chili fries concept. This State Street nook works great as a lunch spot or as a late-night, post-bar nightcap. 203-691-7654. Read Michael's original review.

Osa, Middletown

Even without the food, it’s pretty cool to just be in Osa. The design of the restaurant is easily one of the most interesting of the year, if not the last 10 years. The room is encased in wooden slats along the walls and ceilings, creating an entirely singular ambiance, setting the stage for the food, which luckily lives up to the billing set by the design. The food has a country simplicity to it, and its clean, wholesome tastes are deeply comforting. 860-358-9782. Read Michael's original review.

Taproot, Bethel

Not to be outdone by his brother, Jeff Taibe opened Taproot over the summer with his life partner, Steph Sweeney. Located within the Bethel Cinema, Taproot is a culinary blockbuster. Jeff was previously head chef at Kawa Ni in Westport. In place of the ramen and other Japanese cuisine Kawa Ni was known for, the focus here is farm-fresh ingredients, and a freewheeling mix of French, American and other styles. The results are crave inducing. 475-329-5395. Read Erik's original review.

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Two Wrasslin' Cats

Two Wrasslin’ CatsEast Haddam

Of all the places I reviewed or wrote about this year, Two Wrasslin’ Cats is the most unique, has the most character, is the most unforgettable. From the moment one enters the parking lot, the blue-and-green paint job announces that they do things a little differently. Two 6-foot-tall cats on their hind legs stand guard above the front door. They are tributes to Bruno and Larry, the two cats of proprietor Mark Thiede. The friendly Thiede will be genuinely happy to see you whenever you walk through the door to this sandwich and coffee spot, no matter who you are. 860-891-8446. Read Michael's original review.


This article appeared in the January 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine. 

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The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik 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