One of our favorite CT food writers, Erik Olfgang, crafted this delicious roundup of the Best Restaurants in CT for Thrillist.
Connecticut is responsible for gifting the world a number of important foods: the hamburger, the lobster roll, and New Haven-style pizza. And while you’ll still find excellent versions of all of these in the Nutmeg State, its dining culture has also expanded well beyond them. Today you’ll find things like slow-smoked barbecue, steaming bowls of pho and ramen, San Diego-style burritos, and sushi made from fish caught in Long Island Sound. With food-friendly cities like New Haven, Westport, and Norwalk, there are countless places to eat in the state -- here’s your guide to the very best.
Best ramen: Kawa Ni
Since opening in 2014, this casual Japanese spot has powered Connecticut’s otherwise sparse ramen scene, gaining a well-deserved cult following in the process. Modeled after a Japanese pub with long wooden tables, communal seating, and a robust sake list, Kawa Ni offers dishes like pork & garlic ramen (with braised pork belly that’s thick, tender, and salty) and a refreshing cold duck soba. Whatever noodle dish you opt for, be sure to start with the signature smoked bone marrow appetizer.
Best steamed cheeseburger: Ted’s
Meriden & Cromwell
Steamed cheeseburgers are an odd central Connecticut delicacy found in Meriden and a few other surrounding towns. The concept took hold in the early 1900s, and while Ted’s (which opened in 1930), didn’t invent them, it’s the longest tenured purveyor of them. One bite into the burger here and you’ll wonder why they haven’t caught on in the rest of the country: The steaming process creates a lighter burger that’s less juicy (but not at all dry) with a stretchy, low-moisture cheese perfectly melted on top.
Best diner: O’Rourke’s Diner
This old-school diner (open since 1941), maintains a fiercely loyal following. After a fire destroyed the place in 2006, the community united and raised funds to help restore and reopen it. Today, the breakfast and lunches prepared by Brian O’Rourke, nephew of the original owner, are still some of the best in the state. “Available only when the time is right,” the “Brian’s Breakfast” special is a two-course meal consisting of whatever O’Rourke feels like making that day. Fortunately, he always chooses well.
Best Polish food: Staropolska
Out of all the restaurants on Broad Street’s “Little Poland” stretch in New Britain, Staropolska stands out for its heaping portions of traditional dishes like stuffed cabbage and hunter’s stew (a traditional cabbage and pork-based stew). For the full experience, opt for the Polish platter, which comes with gołąbki, kiełbasa, bigos, pierogi, and a potato pancake.