With so many restaurants in Connecticut it’s definitely hard to pick just 10 great places to eat but these are favorites. Do you have a favorite not listed here? Please leave a comment and tell us about it. Maybe we will visit it soon and share our experience.
These are listed in no particular order but I do have to say that we visit Ballo at Mohegan Sun on a regular basis so this has to be our favorite “regular” restaurant while we dine at Parallel Post and The Blue Oar at least 2 times a year.
Ballo is located at the bottom of the escalator of the Winter entrance in the Casino of the Earth section at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Inspired by San Galgano in the hills of Tuscany, BALLO Italian Restaurant and Social Club brings to life all the majesty of an Italian cathedral coupled with exceptional service and a fresh, authentic menu of Italian favorites. If you enjoy a good cocktail, start off with Ballo’s signature drink, the Limonatta. This is one of our favorites. Made with premium Vodka, San Pellagrino Limonata and a Blood Orange ice cube. For an appetizer you will want to try the Antipasto consisting of Prosciutto, Parmigiano, fresh tomatoes in olive oil, and Ricotta-stuffed peppers. Scallops and Scampi in a red sauce with Sopressata and red peppers over a bed of Polenta makes a great meal. For a simple dessert, Illy Espresso poured over Vanilla Gelato with a touch of sweet vermouth is excellent; not overly sweet but sweet enough to let you know that it was a dessert. And end your meal with a nice Espresso.
From the outside, the Blue Oar doesn’t look like much. You actually think, why did I stop here, and then you step just inside the fence and you immediately know why it is such a popular spot. The atmosphere – and later the food. You are immediately transported to an island in the Caribbean. The Caribbean music playing in the background sets the tone and it is, after all, finally summer in Connecticut. Summer in Connecticut is the best place to be because it is warm and sometimes hot, but rarely humid. This night was just perfect for sitting outside and watching boats cruise up and down the Connecticut River. Some even stopped and docked to come and eat at the Blue Oar. We learned that the Blue Oar has been in business since 1997. On most Summer weekends there is a line down the road and a waiting list to get in. We were lucky this night because while it was packed we were able to find seats almost immediately. It is a seasonal outdoor restaurant, opening on Mother’s Day and closing late September. Be advised, it is “CASH ONLY”, credit or debit cards are not accepted and they do not take reservations.
Michael Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta has been around since 1990 but the family has always had a dream of opening a restaurant. Michael Anthony’s Tuscan Grille is the realization of that dream. As you walk to the door you can smell the brick oven cooking delicious pizzas and once inside you can see the brick oven just beyond the foyer. The bar is just to the right of the front door. The main restaurant is to the left of the hostess station and they offer a partial rooftop seating area that overlooks the water. You must order the Antipasto Rustico – enough for 3 people, this is an assortment of Italian cheeses, dried cured meats, olives, roasted peppers and grilled vegetables. Another went on and on about the Penne Alla Vodka, penne pasta in pink cream sauce.
Otto Wood-Fire Pizzeria is located at 69 Main Street is a modern brick oven pizzeria offering a simple and delicious menu to families. The menu, which can change as often as daily, features gourmet pizzas, fresh salads, a limited, but nice selection of beer and wines. For the little ones, Avery soda and milk. For those who need a gluten-free option, Otto’s offers a “gluten free (not pizza) pizza,” which is baked polenta margherita topped with basil and stracciatella. Otto’s offers an Antipasti Plate that has a large assortment of salamis, cheeses, olives, nuts, anchovies, and herbs with olive oil dazzled over it. It was a nice variety and very tasty. The Margherita Pizza was topped with stracciatella, a soft cheese, and fresh basil on top of a thin crust. It was good and had a bit of char on the bottom because of the wood-fried oven. Seth told us it only takes about 3 to 4 minutes for the pizza to cook. We watched as they would turn the pizza every minute or so to make sure it cooked evenly. This pizza is best eaten while hot.
Oak Haven Table & Bar, located at 932 State Street, is a hidden gem in New Haven. Oak Haven offers an inviting and cozy atmosphere where one can dine on fresh flavorful food or enjoy a drink and conversation with friends. Their mission is to “sell fresh and unique food and drinks.” Chef Meg Fama is passionate about cooking and visits local farms often to get the freshest ingredients available to form the basis of her menu. With that in mind, their menu will vary depending on what is available. She takes what she can get and figures out what amazing cuisine she can create that blends “modern-creative and classical cooking styles”. Oak Haven sources the majority of their ingredients from Connecticut farms, including Four Mile River Farm in Old Lyme, Rose’s Berry Farm in Glastonbury, Starlight Gardens out of Durham, Chaplin Farms in Lebanon, and Stone Garden Farms in Shelton.
Harbour House Restaurant (formerly known as the Flood Tide), is under new ownership since March of 2014, has a new vision, and has undergone extensive renovation. The menu is great and includes favorites like Stonington Harbour Bommers, perfectly cooked sea scallops wrapped with slab smoked bacon in a pomegranate molasses glaze finished in the brick oven. These were sweet and juicy and nicely paired with the glaze. You might also consider Prime Rib, Charcoal Broiled Duck, Butternut Squash Ravioli, or Linguine and Clams. They offer live entertainment every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. When the weather is warm come for lunch or Happy Hour and sit on the deck to take in the beautiful water views. Harbour House restaurant offers fresh, seasonal and local cuisine, focusing on casual, but, elegant cuisine backed by traditional seafood fare. There are also handmade wood-fried pizza direct from the brick oven. Several signature cocktails are available to choose from or enjoy a brew from one or several of the 24 different beers on tap, which may change often.
Parallel Post, which was opened the end of 2012 by James Beard-nominated chef Dean James Max, is located within the Marriott in Trumbull, CT. Parallel Post serves dishes ripe with the season’s finest local ingredients. The menu changes every few days based on what is available locally. Their philosophy is: “that natural and sustainable products, and responsible farming, are the key components in ingredient selection.” You must stop by Parallel Post in Trumbull to meet Greg, the master Mixologist. Greg grew up in Jamaica and lived and worked in Louisiana, Florida, Utah, and now Connecticut at Parallel Post, where he mixes his own custom concoctions – some which are patented – into works of art in a glass! Also meet Chef Ali Goss, Chef de Cuisine, who has been at Parallel Post for almost two years. Previously she was the lead cook at Chef Max restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Have you ever driven by a restaurant often wondering if it’s a “hidden gem” – a restaurant you have driven by many times but never thought to stop at but offers good if not excellent food. Here are the menu items we tried at Jalapeno Heaven to give you an idea what they serve and why you should try them. Colorful tortilla chips served accompanied by salsa and salsa verde. Chimichanga with refried beans: flour tortilla stuffed with spicy shredded pork and cheese topped with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. The perfectly fried tortilla was super stuffed with a tender shredded pork that had the right level of spice. Cream of Seafood Tortilla: spicy cream soup with shrimp, crab meat, tomatoes, green chilies, and corn served in a corn tortilla cup. Tequila Lime Shrimp combo: jumbo shrimp marinated in a tequila lime sauce then grilled served with a tangy Mexican shrimp cake all over a bed of fresh spinach and drizzled with a warm tequila lime sauce. Chipotle Chicken Chalupa Bites: fried flour tortilla cups with a layer of refried beans, fresh chopped spinach and topped with grilled chicken, mushrooms and onions sauteed in a chipotle sauce covered with a drizzle of cheese.
Morello Italian Bristo, located at 253 Greenwich Avenue, resides in a two-story historical landmark building. The outside façade has large doors that can be opened during those gorgeous days and nights so diners can enjoy the lively and energetic street life present of Greenwich Avenue. The cuisine offered is rustic Italian with a modern twist “cuisine inspired by regional simplicity and seasonality.” The inspiration for Chef Garcia comes from his favorite regions in Italy: Rome, Tuscany, and Sicily. They use local ingredients as much as possible and when available, thus the menu changes often. For Antipasti try the Hamachi Crudo. Sashimi style sliced yellow tail tuna drizzled with chili extra-virgin olive oil then topped with pickled pear and lemon zest and finished off with a sparkle of sea salt and Prosciutto & Parmesan Fritters from the Per la Tavola menu. A simple tasty golden brown ball of prosciutto and parmesan sparkled with fontina cheese and parsley.
We stopped by The Wharf at the Madison Beach Hotel one Saturday evening as we were returning from another Connecticut adventure. The place was packed but we found quick seating in the Port bar area which is adjacent to The Wharf restaurant. Instead of going into the restaurant itself, we decided to eat in the bar as the bar menu looked quite appealing and there was no wait for a table – we were hungry. The Wharf offers farm-to-table cuisine using local ingredients with the flavors of the Northeast at the forefront of each. If the weather is warm enjoy a cocktail on the balcony and overlook the magnificent views of Long Island Sound.
Tell us, what is your favorite restaurant in Connecticut?