Redding Roadhouse is hardly a trendy gastro pub. It’s literally Ye Olde School.
For over three hundred years, there has been a Watering Hole serving up grub and grog to weary travelers at the junctures of Redding and Georgetown Roads in Northwest Fairfield County. Mark Twain was a regular. As were MidCentury Mad Men (Is that Dan Draper romancing a client by the fireplace?).
Indeed, the Roadhouse still offers respite to travelers, though most aren’t just passing by. Since co-owners Michael and Donna Roberts and Lou Macol gave the place a 21st Century culinary makeover, it’s become destination dining for thousands, from CEO’s to carpenters (Is that Mick Jagger chatting with a fireman at the bar?). In fact 70 percent of RRH patrons hail from Fairfield’s Gold Coast, not to mention Boston and New York.
Sure, you can still order brews, stews, meatloaf, fish, chips, and chicken pot pie. But the Stew is a nicely spiced Moroccan Seafood. The savory Pot Pie is served upside down in a vessel of puff pastry. And the beers poured are domestic, European, and craft. Diners can also select from a wine list of 70 different varieties.
The menu boasts such signature entries as Pistachio Crusted Sea Bass and Braised Lamb Shank. In addition to standard bar food as Burgers and Wings, patrons can munch on apps like Mediterranean Lamb Meatballs with Greek Olives, feta, and yogurt sauce, Seared Tuna with curry, soy and Wasabi dipping sauces, and according to RRH regular Mary Lou Sheehan, “the best oysters and mussels I’ve ever tasted.in my life.” She’s 95 years old.
After taking over the kitchen exactly 10 years ago, Chef likes to internationalize New England Standards. His Osso Bucco is embraced in a French Onion demi-glace. RRH Filet Mignon Brochettes enjoy a Far Eastern interpretation, basking in Thai BBQ and served with Wasabi mustard. His chorizo is joined with sweet and sour figs in a balsamic and sherry reduction
The New Olde School conceit is epitomized by the haute presentation of old fashioned Banana Cream Pie, suspended in a wine glass, so that its chocolate and cookie can ease to the bottom for a decadent finish.
On the other hand, Roberts believes that moderne results begin with classical techniques, especially homemade stocks. Every week he personally reduces over 60 pounds of veal bones to a velvety rich stock for starting his meats, risottos, sauces, and glazes. When possible he likes to source greens and veggies from local farms or the gardens of his own customers. Few Fairfield chefs go to that trouble. Fewer bar cooks.
Michael is not a classically trained chef. He’s self-taught, having worked his way through college as a line cook. Thinking the job was just a way of making a buck while he honed his creative writing in the classroom, Michael didn’t realize his creativity would eventually be expressed in meals not manuscripts. That said, he’s about to launch a weekly column for a local paper and still pens poetry.
The Chef would like to be even more creative with the Road House menu, but knows he can’t venture too far off the Road, as it were, respectfully acknowledging:
“The Roadhouse is what it wants to be.”
Indeed, it is. While not a Michelin restaurant, RRH welcomes motorists with an ample, warm space and fun vibe, promising good times, good music, and good food. Partner and Front of the House Lou Macol is proud that he oversees an adult drinking and eating establishment: “where a woman can sit solo at the bar and not get hassled.”
We asked the Chef where he’d take the menu if the Road House would let him.
“Tapas, small plates, wonderful wines,” Michael said.
You don’t mean a gastropub?
He smiled wistfully, knowing that destination will not be reached on Redding Road
Redding Roadhouse 406 Redding Road, West Redding, CT. 203. 938.3388
[Photography courtesy of Christina Venturini / Blue Pear Photography]