The food scene in Connecticut is constantly expanding, much like the waistlines of those who regularly cover it. In this list we look at our top cities and towns for eating food of all kinds. In other words, these are places we don’t recommend attending while on a diet.
The cultural capital of Connecticut is also its culinary capital. The city is home to Louis’ Lunch — the birthplace of the burger — as well as Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Sally’s Apizza and Modern Apizza — the unofficial holy trinity of charred and chewy New Haven-style pizza — but that’s just the beginning of its food offerings. From the taco trucks on Long Wharf to Miya’s Sushi, the breadth and scope of the city’s foodscape is more than can be digested in one trip, or dozens.
There is no better city for high-end, farm-to-table cuisine. Bill Taibe’s three restaurants — Kawa Ni, The Whelk and Jesup Hall — continue to impress, as does Brian Lewis’ award-winning The Cottage, and plenty of other spots. And more good things are on the way. Match Burger Lobster just opened and Lewis has announced plans for a second restaurant.
South Norwalk is so crowded with great dining options, in such close proximity to one another, that choosing just one can be stressful. Just a few of the many options are Tablao, Mecha Noodle Bar, Match and Cask Republic.
A multicultural hot spot of various ethnic cuisines, Waterbury’s dining scene deserves more statewide recognition. Domenick & Pia offers legendary pizza and La Tavola Ristorante features classic Italian fare. You can also find excellent bagels at Ami’s, and there are a variety of Middle Eastern restaurants.
If you like Polish food, New Britain’s “Little Poland” neighborhood is a must-visit. While in the neighborhood you’re likely to hear people conversing in Polish and you’re guaranteed to enjoy a full-scale immersion in gołąbki, kielbasa, bigos, pierogies and more. Polish cuisine destinations include Staropolska Restaurant and Cracovia, among many others. Beyond Polish food, Capitol Lunch is known for its hot dogs topped with the spot’s signature “Famous Sauce” and East Side is a famous German restaurant.
West Hartford and Hartford
By the time you finish reading this sentence, another two restaurants will have opened in West Hartford. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but the upscale-dining scene is expanding rapidly. It is already home to several restaurants and elite coffeehouses, as well as newcomers such as the highly touted The Cook & The Bear and Zohara Mediterranean Kitchen. Of course, like many things, West Hartford’s food culture is intrinsically linked with Hartford, home of the Bear’s Smokehouse Barbecue phenomenon, Firebox Restaurant and a burgeoning brewery and craft beverage scene.
A dark-horse entrant on this list, Danbury has a stronger food scene than many realize. Great restaurants include Pho Vietnam, an elite pho spot; Mothership Cafe, one of the state’s best bakeries and sandwich shops; The Atlantic, a beloved Portuguese spot; Stanziatos, a popular artisan pizza place and craft beer bar; and Pappadellas, a hidden-gem Italian spot.
Mystic Pizza served as the inspiration for the 1988 film of the same name starring Julia Roberts, but this spot is far from the only worthwhile destination in Connecticut’s popular seaside village. The Engine Room, Oyster Bar and S&P Oyster Co. all have passionate fans, and there are emerging locations including Sift Bake Shop and Rise, a breakfast-and-lunch spot.
The food scene here is increasingly vibrant. Acclaimed Italian restaurant Bread & Water is a powerhouse, as is Haveli India, Krust Pizza Bar and its new sister restaurant Osa (see our review on page 75). For diner lovers there is no better stop than the classic O’Rourke’s.
Connecticut’s biggest city has begun to flex its foodie muscles in recent years. The Black Rock section is home to upscale barbecue spot Walrus + Carpenter, the Vietnamese street food haven Nom-Eez, Source Coffeehouse and others. Downtown boasts Joseph’s Steakhouse, Brewport and a variety of comfort-food options from soul food to pho.
In the beautiful wilds of Connecticut, away from the city lights and crowded thoroughfares, you’ll find a food oasis in Litchfield. The borough of Bantam is a heavy hitter and home to the Bantam Bread Co. as well as Arethusa, which has a dairy and ice cream shop, a high-end restaurant next door and a coffee-and-pastry shop across the street. Another favorite is At The Corner Restaurant & Pub.