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Even More Stuff We Love About Connecticut

  • 6 min to read

See the winners and finalists for the Best of Connecticut 2020 in Food & DrinkFun & Leisure and Shopping 

Our readers have picked the winners in 2020's "Best of Connecticut"® survey, but we just couldn’t stop there. Here our staff and contributing writers gush about a few more of their favorite things around the state.

FOR FOOD AND DRINK

Buzz-worthy burritos: I love Paul Mannion’s San Diego-style burritos so much I hired his Green Grunion food truck to be at my wedding. I also moved to Bethel shortly after Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery opened featuring Mannion’s burritos, for reasons that may or may not be coincidental. After a short stint in North Carolina, the Green Grunion is back in Danbury. facebook.com/TheGreenGrunionEO

Sushi-market: Super-fresh, inexpensive trays of restaurant-quality sushi made daily are a staple from Fresh Market in Westport. No pricey yellowtail, but who’s complaining? Not me! facebook.com/thefreshmarketPostEMC

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Guilt-free sips: Athletic Brewing Company’s Run Wild IPA tastes just like a craft beer should, made with all-natural ingredients in small batches in my hometown of Stratford. It’s brewed with a blend of five Northwest hops for that classic IPA taste without too much bitterness. The best part? It rings in at only 70 calories and is non-alcoholic. As an expecting mom, I savor every sip. athleticbrewing.comALB

Motorcycle meetup: My husband and I love grabbing breakfast at Toymakers Cafe in Falls Village before we head out on our dual sports-for-a-weekend adventure. It’s known near and far as one of the best motorcycle meet-up spots (for its location and proximity to some really great backcountry cruising roads). Oh, and owners Annie and Greg Bidou make the best waffles around, hands down. Sadly, breakfasts will be coming to an end soon. Toymakers is closing Sept. 7. — ND

Fab fro-yo: Swirl Frozen Yogurt, an independent, outlasted three chain competitors in New Canaan because its many flavor offerings are pure heaven in taste and texture. facebook.com/swirlfrozenyogurtsMC

Scrumptious scones: The scones at Rosy Tomorrow’s in Danbury aren’t fussy but they are good. While the scones (and brunch) are on hiatus due to the pandemic, they will hopefully be back soon: golden brown and crispy on the outside and buttery-soft on the inside. rosytomorrows.comAV

Peaches and dreams: When Dr. Mike’s peach ice cream is available I drop what I’m doing and head to stand in line outside the Bethel ice cream shop. All the ice cream at Dr. Mike’s is excellent but the fresh peaches combined with a vanilla base are the closest thing I’ve found to the taste of summer. — EO

Tea time: Call it high tea or afternoon tea, the experience at Tea with Tracy in Seymour is a luxury no matter if you are in London or Connecticut. Although I’ve always preferred coffee to tea, Tea with Tracy’s was enough to change my mind. Even the iced teas are wonderful! teawithtracy.squarespace.comAV

OMG omelets: When you have to drive 30 minutes or more from practically anywhere to get to Easton’s Olde Blue Bird Inn, it better be worth it. The omelets make it so. Large, fluffy and full of your filling choices. facebook.com/bluebirdinneastonctMC

Hunt-worthy brew: Back East Brewing’s Ice Cream Man is the first beer I look for when I scan the selection at any package store. At my local spot, the Bloomfield-born New England IPA is never put out on display; it goes straight into the cooler behind a mountain of Busch Light. Finding a 4-pack or two is like hitting the beer lotto. backeastbrewing.comMW

Prized pasta: Grano Arso’s housemade and milled pasta is made with local grains and is gritty and flavorful enough that I can’t make a trip anywhere near the area without making a beeline for this elegant Italian restaurant owned by husband-and-wife duo Lani and chef Joel Gargano. granoct.comEO 

Pandemic pizza: Figuring out what to make to eat is a struggle most days at our house. But this summer we always knew what we were having for lunch on Tuesday: pizza. That’s because the Big Green Pizza Truck parked itself at a nearby farm and pumped out its New Haven-style, wood-fired pies. The mashed potato pie with bacon and caramelized onions is a belly-buster, in a good way. — AY

Hey puddin’: I come for the ribs at The Cookhouse in New Milford, but with bread pudding on the menu, it’s always a good idea to save room for dessert. The bourbon glaze with pecans is just the right touch. thecookhouse.comAV

Show your favorite restaurants some love in our 2021 Best Restaurants Readers Choice survey.

FOR FUN AND LEISURE

CD mania: It’s temporarily closed now, but the Greenwich Library has an incredible collection of music CDs in every genre. Its rock collection alone numbers in the thousands, with endless box sets as well. Please reopen soon! greenwichlibrary.orgMC

Singalong: I admit it doesn’t look like much and it’s more bar than restaurant, but Thursday night karaoke at the Golden Leaf, a Chinese restaurant in Brookfield, has been a decades-long tradition. Al is a gracious host and the packed but supportive bar makes me feel comfortable singing for an audience. — AV

Let’s talk sports: Milford resident Dan Patrick helped make SportsCenter the best sports show on TV, then took to the radio waves and did the same in that medium. Now broadcasting his Fox Sports Radio show from his third different Milford studio, DP continues to set the standard for all who talk sports for a living. danpatrick.comMW

Virtual reality: The virtual tour of the Under the Skin exhibit at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich is fascinating. I didn’t enjoy frog dissection in school, so to see the stained skeletons here (sans scalpel) was infinitely better. undertheskinexhibition.com/clearAV

Huskies rule!: You can’t beat UConn. Our son earned a computer science degree this past spring at Storrs and right away landed a great job in technology. Tuition well spent! uconn.eduMC

Beautiful biking: There are so many bicycle trails around, but my favorite is looping around lovely Lake Waramaug in New Preston. Technically it’s not a trail, as you’re on the road, but it’s fairly flat and easy for occasional riders like me. explorewashingtonct.com/things_to_do/bicycling — AV

Handiworks of art: To And From is my go-to for on-trend nail art found in posh New York City salons, right here in Darien. All the polishes, removers and skincare products are made with clean ingredients, and you’ll notice the lack of “nail salon smell” as soon as you walk in. Choose from one of the salon’s current nail art styles, or bring your own photo from Pinterest or Instagram. Staff will help guide you with color choices and pricing. It’s a splurge, but your nails are guaranteed to be the talk of your event/holiday/celebration. toandfromnails.comALB

Outdoors photo opp: The views at Hubbard Park in Meriden are breathtaking and while I usually drive my car up to Castle Craig instead of hiking up (someday though!), it’s so worth it for the views. I especially love it in the fall as leaves change. — AV

Fun on the lake: Twin Lakes in Salisbury is one of my favorite lakes for all types of water activities, from swimming to kayaking and even boating. O’Hara’s Landing is a great place to launch on the impeccably clean lake, and the quiet location is backdropped by the most beautiful summer cottages and views of Bear Mountain, the highest peak in Connecticut. — ND

FOR SHOPPING

Scary selection: For my husband and I, Halloween is celebrated year round. Bridgeport’s hybrid record and movie store The Archive has the most extensive selection of horror movies on DVD and Blu-ray around (and even VHS tapes, if that’s your thing). Browse new and used mainstream classics, all sorted alphabetically, or grab a rare vintage find reproduced by Connecticut-based cult film preservation company Vinegar Syndrome. browsethearchive.comALB

The cat’s meow: Our family has adopted multiple feline best friends from Wilton’s Animals In Distress, which is dedicated to the care and placement of homeless cats and kittens on a year-round basis. animals-in-distress.comMC

Great grocer: Since March I’ve come to realize the value of having access to food and household items whenever I need them. Wallingford’s East Center Market had been my go-to butcher shop, but now it’s my go-to for everything. I imagine other people now feel the same way about their local IGA store. eastcentermarketplace.comMW

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Beautiful bauble: Now that I’ve hit 30, JL Rocks (Westport and Greenwich) is a great alternative to costume jewelry that is still affordable enough to purchase “just because.” These Double-Row Diamond Huggies are the perfect investment piece for everyday wear, with .11-carat diamonds set in 14K gold. They’re perfect with jeans and a tee all the way to black tie. jlrocks.comALB

Outdoors outfitter: Before I purchased my own kayaks a few years ago, I was fond of renting one from Clark Outdoors in Cornwall. I also enjoyed a guided rafting trip on the Housatonic River and realized there aren’t a lot of places in our area that offer these types of experiences. Clark Outdoors has been a staple in the Cornwall community for decades, and a guided service or even just a canoe or kayak rental is a great way to explore the Connecticut waterways. clarkoutdoors.comND

Pretty vintage: Stroll along Main Street in picturesque downtown Niantic and you’ll come across an array of adorable boutiques. My favorite is the vintage treasure trove, Anna Pearl’s Curiosities. The store stashes clothing, home goods, and most of all, an endless array of jewelry. While I love the experience of modeling baubles in person, Anna Pearl’s also has an amazing Instagram and Etsy presence, where you can find flash sales and unique items on display. Send a message to the shop to ask for more specific pieces — your ring size, a particular style or decade — and you’ll receive an array of photos, with prices, picked just for you. annapearls.comALB

See the winners and finalists for the Best of Connecticut 2020 in Food & DrinkFun & Leisure and Shopping 

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

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.

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.