Somehow, despite all I’d heard and read in praise of Goats N’ Roses in Marlborough, I still wasn’t prepared for the experience of eating here.
Words, after all, don’t really do this place justice.
Driving along a sparse stretch of Route 66 in Marlborough, you know you’ve arrived at The Farm at Carter Hill, where Goats N’ Roses is located, when you see a vintage gas station and small sign proclaiming this as the home of Goats N’ Roses, an “edgy eatery.” Turning in you enter a space that feels part farm and part Cold War-era roadside attraction. The complex of buildings and fields is home to a bed and breakfast, general store, pub and event barn. There is even an animal pen filled with goats who jump and dance on their hind legs. An elaborate series of bridges crisscrosses the goat pen, allowing them to show off their climbing abilities.
In front of the inn and pub, around the corner from the goats, is a wooden pergola shading a collection of tables, each set in a fancy manner and each with a rose in its center. This is “Goats N’ Roses.”
Even if the food is just ordinary, I think as I’m led to my table, this place is worth a visit for the setting alone. A few minutes later, I learn the food is far from ordinary.
A double burger, served with the classic topping combo of tomato, pickle and onion, is among the best I’ve had in Connecticut. Good as it is, it is surpassed by The Purple Goat. One of the restaurant’s signature sandwiches, this intriguing creation features crispy eggplant cutlets and a rainbow’s worth of colorful vegetables from roasted peppers to vine tomatoes and greens. The sandwich is crowned by a winning combination of melted provolone and, of course, goat cheese.
The menu was conceived by chef/owner Kathy Denisiewicz and her niece and co-owner Juliette Denis. It is split into two broad sections, both of which feature farm-fresh ingredients. The “picnic fare” portion has creative sandwiches and elevated roadside items like burgers and hot dogs. The “farmer’s table” portion features more formal dishes. These include entrées like roast chicken and appetizers such as the lobster crostini, the signature tostones or the provocatively named Ménage à Trois of Avocados, three servings of avocado on grilled bread, one with bacon, another with tomato and the third with goat cheese.
Goats N’ Roses opened in the spring of 2017. Denisiewicz, who owns the Spicy Green Bean in Glastonbury and Shad Row in Rocky Hill with another niece, was approached by the owners of The Farm at Carter Hill about opening a restaurant there. As she contemplated the project, Denisiewicz enlisted the aid of Denis, who at the time was living in Miami and working as a teacher.
Both fell in love with the wacky location.
“I didn’t really know much about Marlborough except for that it was really pretty and country,” Denisiewicz says. After visiting the property she described it as “sensory overload.”
Denis adds, “It’s like Wonka land.”
They decided it would be the perfect spot for a memorable restaurant. It was Denis who struck upon the name. She was inspired by the goats on the premises, her middle name, which is “Rose,” and a love of the rock band Guns N’ Roses.
“It’s the perfect name for what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make everything fun, funky and lighthearted,” Denis says.
For dessert, visitors can choose from a variety of dishes that, like the earlier courses, emphasize fresh, local and summer-appropriate ingredients. The strawberry shortcake, served with two grilled, Southern-style biscuits, topped with strawberry juice, ice cream, house-made whipped cream and fresh strawberries, looks like happiness on a plate. As do the pistachio raspberry tartlets, which are topped with white chocolate ganache.
The seasonal restaurant is open through October. Space heaters are used and blankets are provided as the weather gets colder. The restaurant also offers on- and off-site catering. Goats N’ Roses doesn’t serve alcohol, but the Hog’s Breath Tavern right next to the restaurant does; visitors can get drinks and bring them to their seats.
As for the goats themselves: No visit to the restaurant is complete without a trip around the corner to where they are kept. When I ask Denisiewicz and Denis if the goats are the ones that provide the goat cheese for various dishes, they laugh. Right now the goats are too young to produce milk, and are pets of the property owners. Many have movie-inspired names like Bonnie, Clyde, Thelma and Louise.
“They’re filled with charm and personality,” Denisiewicz says.
The same can be said for the restaurant they inspired.