Inspired by a recent inquiry from a local chef, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite places to take a flavorful break on the way to or from Connecticut’s casinos. No need to gamble on where to stop for a bite; the southern shoreline towns along I-95 dish up some amazing food—from banh mi to seafood, donuts, Greek specialties and more.
You’ve heard us say it before, but the recommendation bears repeating: look no further than Takumi Sushi, Ramen & Lounge for the finest sushi and ramen around!
Hit up Pho Madison for all sorts of Vietnamese. Not a fancy place whatsoever, but their banh mi rank among the top statewide and their noodle dishes are excellent.
Note: Across the street, you’ll find the Madison outpost of Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale —the more clam shack-style joint of this shoreline landmark. You order at the counter, then can sit inside or outside. But for fried oysters, you’ll need to head to Westbrook. Or New Haven.
Speaking of … Lenny & Joe's Fish Tale is place to go for a fried scallop roll, their lobster rolls are also noteworthy and, along with their New Haven location, they serve fried oysters. On a side note (get it?), their cole slaw is crazy good.
On a clear day, you can’t miss Lobster Landing. That is, unless you don’t care for lobster and hot dogs or sausage and peppers aren’t your thing, as that’s pretty much the extent of the menu. This no-frills little lobster shack, directly on the water with picnic tables, is an experience not to be missed for any lobster lover near the shore. And you can BYOB.
Saybrook Soup and Sandwich gets top billing for standout soups, sandwiches and salads. A certain fan attempts to convince them to open a Middletown outpost whenever she visits. In fact, said fan often strategically books appointments in OS at mealtimes so she can stop in. Even their cookies and desserts are “yummmey”—note their website.
Make the effort to seek out Som Siam East, a tasty little Thai spot somewhat hidden in an abandoned mini golf course just off 154, onto Route 1. Their lunch specials are an especially fine bargain, but you’ll find something good to eat all day here.
Alforno offers excellent pizza, salads, Italian in general. As a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s let their pizza do the talking. But take note of their hours as they close between lunch and dinner.
If you are craving a beer and some snacks, Penny Lane Pub is another great stop in Old Saybrook. Their sweet potato fries are killer and come with a perfect dipping sauce. Wash it all down with a locally brewed craft beer or beer flight. http://pennylanepub.net/
The coffee at Ashlawn Farms Coffee is pretty tasty and they’re conveniently located in the train station. Beyond coffee, their oversized sausage biscuit sandwiches are ridiculously good—as are many other options for breakfast or lunch.
Mystic Market South is another favorite stop for a quick, but very tasty, lunch. Located near the entrance to I-95, Mystic Market has prepared soups, made to order sandwiches, and ready-made salads. Their house-made roast beef sandwich is a favorite. Their bakery is also well stocked and the coffee selection, including cold brew Stumptown, is spot on for a hot day.
Open super early, Flander's Donut and Bake Shop is the best local spot for donuts, and perhaps one of the best donut shops in the state. The crumb donuts are a bite of perfection and the price is right.
La Belle Aurore is a casual farm to table spot. Their brunch has so many delicious options, it’s difficult to choose what to order. The farm stand vegetable hash and challah French toast stuffed with gooey cream cheese and berries are mouthwateringly good.
Located on Main Street in the quaint village shoreline of Niantic, Lillian's Cafe is a delicious gourmet stop not too far from the highway. It has lovely indoor and outdoor seating areas and their daily menu selection is quite extensive. Their salads that utilize in-season ingredients and the scallops also get two thumbs up.
Caffe NV and the Caffe NV Bakery and Market (across the street) are great options if you are looking for a Mediterranean meal. The main restaurant (Caffe NV) has great Greek food that tastes like it was cooked in a Greek grandmother’s kitchen (but maybe even better!). It’s a perfect option for a relaxing sit-down meal. The spinach pie, chicken souvlaki, gyro and other sandwiches are worth stopping for. Be sure to save room for some Greek pastries at the end of the meal. Across the street, the bakery sells tasty baked goods and also has coffee, breakfast and light lunch items for more of a quick stop.
If you are passing through Waterford in the morning, The Shack is a local favorite spot for breakfast. Their fluffy blueberry pancakes and grilled muffins are not to be missed. And who doesn’t appreciate when the coffee keeps flowing as you eat your meal?
Just down the road from Caffe NV, Supreme Pizza is a very casual pizza spot that’s ideal for a grinder to go. The meatball grinders here are SO good, with a perfectly toasted roll and heaping of meatballs. The homemade rice pudding is also one of the best in the state.
Lazy Leopard Thai Cafe serves both Thai and sushi. You can order from both sides of the menu. So far, we’ve been in a Thai mood on each visit, so we’ll have to try some sushi on our next visit. Their Thai is great! They also close between lunch and dinner, so watch the hours here.
We keep going on and on about Berry's Ice Cream and Candy Bar, but it is so good! Berry's has amazing ice cream, but their milkshakes steal the show with flavors like Thames Thin Mint. The staff is also super friendly and are happy to make suggestions for more experimental combinations.
Muddy Waters Cafe is a local meeting spot that you really can’t miss while visiting New London. Grab a grilled muffin or breakfast sandwich and a coffee and snag a table on the deck overlooking the Thames River.
When heading to the casinos, Paul's Pasta isn’t too far from the highway and is an incredible Italian restaurant that focuses on freshly made pasta. The chicken alfredo pasta is divine and their garlic bread is just as good. The fact that they offer some dishes in half portions is the cherry on top if you want something a bit smaller than their usual massive portions.
Did we miss any of your favorite foodie stops along I-95 to the casinos? Let us know in the comments.