Taproot is one of Fairfield County’s newest chef-driven restaurants. Jeff Taibe (Kawa Ni) and Steph Sweeney (Whelk, Jesup Hall) have teamed up to open the doors to a dining experience that combines a hyper local menu in a charming and down-to-earth setting. If you’re close, it's almost guaranteed to become a contender for a regular hangout spot. If not (but hey, Westport to Bethel is only 30 minutes), it is worth the drive. Thanks to a creative and seasonal menu, it's one of our new favorite spots. And here are just a few reasons why.
It Really is Farm to Table
Jeff Taibe and Steph Sweeny are serious about their local farmers and purveyors. So much of the produce cultivated at nearby Holbrook Farm finds its way to the table at Taproot. Too many harvested cherries? Farmer Jess will let Jeff know, et voila, they make their way into a plethora of amazing and inventive dishes. Other farms you’ll encounter throughout the menu include: Sporthill, Millstone, The Hickories, Earth Root Farm, and purveyors from the Westport Farmers Market.
Salads are the obvious dish to experience these partnerships and Taproot’s Field Greens salad does not disappoint with its tangy lemon vinaigrette and perfectly not-quite-so-hard boiled egg. Also, look for seasonal touches to salad offerings such as a recent Peaches and Shishitos with smoked corn, goat ricotta, basil, and maple-pepper gastrique.
Jeff Taibe’s Lamb Patty Melt is TDF
Licking my fingers in public is not the sort of thing I do, or like to witness. But occasionally a dish will come along that may force one to ignore restaurant etiquette. Jeff’s lamb patty melt is such a dish.
The lamb burger is cooked to order and topped with sweet and sour red onions cooked with brown sugar, red wine vinegar, and thyme. A final layer of Arethusa’s Europa cheese, a Gouda-style cheese, is melted on top of the stack of lamb and onions that is sandwiched between slices of toasted rye bread. What you chose to do to register culinary delight is up to you and entirely excusable when it comes to this dish.
It’s the Location for a Perfect Date Night
The Bethel Cinema is an adorable movie theater that features independent and foreign films. Whether you’re a cinephile, or just looking to impress a date or friend, you can easily lock down your movie buff street cred here. And conveniently Taproot is located next door. This means you have the perfect two-stop date night within 100 feet of each other. And if you want to get crazy, walk or drive down the street to Dr. Mike’s ice cream for a scoop.
I recommend securing a cozy booth and sharing several small plates. The uni and olive oil or foie mousse are two fairly tantalizing dishes to share. We also recommend the smoked bone marrow—served with stewed onions and toast—and lamb meatballs prepared with guajillo, tomatoes, farmers cheese, and mint.
There is a time and place for fine dining or indulging in a scene-ey spot, but if you’re looking for a place to enjoy on the reg, white tablecloths usually won't cut it. Taproot’s community-minded spirit and hand-hewn environs make me want to linger and enjoy a meal with good friends and family. The custom dinnerware, a coppery brown pottery, and hand-hewn tables exude a warmth to the dining experience that, when paired with personal touches of Bethel memorabilia and potted plants, makes me feel as if I am at Jeff and Steph’s kitchen table.
The food may have some luxe touches (uni, arctic char, foie gras here and there) but many of the dishes are executed in a shareable, rustic, and otherwise unpretentious and approachable way. The pimento cheese embodies, a small, “for the table” dish, embodies this. A crock of pimento cheese and country ham comes is accompanied by thick chunks of crusty bread. If a roasted chicken doesn’t scream down-home, what does? Taproot’s take on roast chicken comes, most recently, with cocoa beans, confit baby leeks, and flat beans.
These are four good reasons, but I am sure I could easily come up with many more, most of which can be found in a seasonal, changing menu in the able hands of Chef Jeff Taibe and a warm and welcoming dining room thanks to Steph Sweeney. Run, don't walk to this not-so-hidden gem.
Taproot 269 Greenwood Ave, Bethel 475.329.5395