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Monday
Dec312012

CTbites Staff Picks for TOP EATS OF 2012

It's that time again...time to reflect on the year that has passed, and look forward to what is yet to come. For the food obsessed in Fairfield County, 2012 was a stellar year. The restaurant scene literally exploded with some very notable openings, and 2013 promises to continue the trend. 

As we say good bye to 2012, we asked the CTbites Team to list the restaurants at which they spent the most time eating throughout the year. What you see below are the STAFF PICKS for TOP EATS OF 2012.

Let us know your favorite spots as well.

Happy New Year from CTbites. 

Amy Kundrat: Top Eats 2012

The Whelk, Westport

Heirloom, New Haven

Community Table, Washington

Six Main, Chester

Stanziato's Wood Fired Pizza, Danbury

Jeff "Jfood" Schlesinger: Top Openings 2012

Bar Sugo, Norwalk

Boulevard 18, New Canaan

The Chelsea, Fairfield

Elm, New Canaan

Olio, Stamford

Picador, New Canaan

South End, New Canaan

The Spread, Norwalk

Stephanie Webster: Top Eats 2012

The Whelk, Westport

The Spread, Norwalk

Bodega, Fairfield & Darien

Elm, New Canaan

Coromandel, Multiple locations

The Chelsea, Fairfield

Barcelona Stamford

Valencia Luncheria, Norwalk

Lou Gorfain: Top Eats 2012

Elm, New Canaan

Bar Sugo, Norwalk

Napa & Co., Stamford

l'Escale, Greenwich

Bernard's, Ridgefield

leFarm, Westport

Columbus Park, Stamford

Rowayton Seafood, Norwalk 

Fairfield County Foodie: Top Eats 2012

Bobby Q’s, Westport

Coromandel, multiple locations

Valencia Luncharia, Norwalk

Bon Appetit Café, Wilton

Barcelona, SONO

Barcelona Stamford

Tawa, Stamford

Thai Spice, Norwalk

Ellen Bowen, Events Curator: Top Eats 2012

New for 2012                  

Terrain, Westport

bartaco, Stamford & Portchester locations (Westport...coming soon)

The Spread, Norwalk

The Whelk, Westport

The Chelsea, Fairfield

Artisan, Southport

 

Oldies but goodies

Barcelona, multiple locations

Brasitas, Norwalk & Stamford

Nicholas Roberts, Norwalk

Tacos Mexico, Norwalk

Napa & Co., Stamford

Chris Grimm: Top Eats 2012

New in 2012

The Whelk (Westport) – high-quality seafood is no longer an inexplicably unfilled niche in lower Fairfield County, as Bill Taibe’s latest offers great food, creative drinks, and flawless service in a friendly setting.  The Whelk shares that casual all-about-the-food vibe with some of my favorite restaurants, like NYC’s Momofuku Ssam Bar, Montreal’s Au Pied du Cochon, and Nashville’s City House.

Elm Restaurant (New Canaan) – Brian Lewis is serving the most refined food that I have eaten in Connecticut.  Kudos.

The Spread (South Norwalk) – like the Whelk, the emphasis is on food over formality. 

Ellyn Weitzman, Ad Sales Director for CTbites: Top Eats 2012

The Spread, Norwalk

The Whelk, Westport

Match, SONO Norwalk

Terrain, Westport

Pepes New Haven for kids

Sarah Green: Top Eats 2012

Barcelona, Stamford

The Whelk, Westport

Coromandel, Southport

Fin, Fairfield

Los Portales Mexican Grocery, Norwalk

Quattro Pazzi, Fairfield

Valencia Luncheria, Norwalk

The Spread, Norwalk

Grey Goose, Southport

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Reader Comments (27)

So you guys like all the same places? How is El Charitto not on this list? The Brickhouse for bar food? Cafe Moja for interesting cocktails? I feel like you guys report on the same places all the time. Just my two cents.

December 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRlam

Hey Guys,

Thanks for the comments and I appreciate the suggestions. We are always looking for those "under the radar" spots to try. To be honest, I never heard of Brickhouse (Stamford I assume). I just went to their website...how did I not know of a 12 oz burger? They are now on the list for my 2013 Burger search so we will see how that goes.

If you have any other suggestions, just send us an email or post on the site. Some have led to some pretty good spots.

Thanks and Happy New Eating Year.

December 31, 2012 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

I feel the same as well-having followed your blog for 16 months, I read about the same places over and over. Dare I suggest you start eating north of the shoreline? There is great food in northern Fairfield County too. I like the styling of your site, and most of the writing, but you're limiting your site and alienating most of the state by focusing only on the southern portion of the county.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusyS

Just a few of my favorites from this year: leFarm in Westport, Casa Villa in Stamford, La Zingara in Bethel.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRuth E.

Well there's clearly some agreement between your editors on a few of the top places. There were certainly some fantastic restaurants to visit this year, but if I had to pick my "Top Eats", I'd have to agree with many of you. I'm also pleased to see Community Table way up north getting some much deserved recognition.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

I'd like to add a few more to the list as well. I really like Liana's in Fairfield and Paci in Southport. Both have great food and great service. Those guys know what they're doing.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

Glad to see Staziato's recognized, their food never fails. Mezón, right up the road from Staziato's, is another stand out that shouldn't be missed.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJason

Dear Amy, Jeff, Stephanie, Ellen, Chris, Ellyn:
Thanks for all your lists, always good to know what is new and good. Your site is an invaluable resource that I refer to over and over for Fairfield County dining suggestions. Keep up the terrific work. Now, if I may suggest....how about skewering those restaurants that deserve it? Unfortunately, there are many worthwhile recipients in Fairfield county.
There is nothing more delicious than an honest and truthful review of a mediocre (or just plain bad) restaurant!
Have a good new year and I look forward to reading more CTBites in 2013.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEduardo

I must admit that my failure to get to Community Table in 2012 was probably my biggest dining disappointment in 2012. If I ate out in Connecticut twenty times in 2012, half of those meals were at The Whelk. I wish I had recalled Match and Coromandel when I made my picks, and both were sources of some great meals. But I otherwise found myself disappointed by a few old standbys.

Also, my "local" dining tends to stray from Fairfield into New York. In that spirit I would mention three places that would appeal to many CTBites resaders:

1. Blue Hill at Stone Barns - this should be one of America's destination restaurants. I've tried to visit every year since it opened and, while in no way abandoning the farm-to-table quality of the place, an increased emphasis on technique has made BHSB better than ever.

2. Atera (NYC) - this new 2012 restaurant, which served a 28-course tasting menu which seemed like a combination of El Bulli, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and what I perceive Noma to be, served me the best food I have ever been served in New York City.

3. Daniel (NYC) - as the new guard becomes the old guard, Daniel Boulud's formal flagship offers the best total dining experience in the city.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris Grimm

Same old, same old, choices. So The Whelk is new, but it's the noisiest restaurant in Fairfield County. What about Cafe Lola, Osiana, Grey Goose, The Artisan, Bona, Tarry Lodge, Spotted Horse, etc., etc? Don't you guys have any imagination?

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLouise

I don't understand the comment above. I would say that Tarry Lodge is not an interesting place and the food is only ok, at best, every time. Grey Goose is good but Spotted Horse, the sister restaurant is as loud as they get and the food, again, only mediocre. As for Artisan, if it is not a spectacular spring evening, there is really NO reason to ever go there. And yes, the Whelk is noisy but guess what? Great food. Every. Single. Time. Osiana, I agree with Louise, is great. But I think the choices on the ctbites list are full of imagination.

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFood Rebel

Louise

Thank you for the comments and suggestions for inclusions. While Artisan is on Ellen's list, I am glad to give you some insight on two others on your list where I have eaten and reasons for non-inclusion on my list from a totality of my visits.

Tarry Lodge - I like the pizza, probably on my top-5 in the area, but I did not enjoy the other dishes, so as a full experience, it does not quite get there for me.
Spotted Horse - I like the eggplant tower, the hamburgers (I even wrote a review for A Hamburger Today on the hamburgers) and several other dishes. My issue is that the kitchen was incredibly inconsistent in all but one of my dishes, most were missing ingredients or not cooked as requested and they were all redone. I have trouble placing them on a "Best of" list with these events even when the end results were probably deserving. I would not want my unfortunate experiences to happen to others based on my recommendations and then hear "how could you recommend..."

But there are over 35 different places on our combined lists so I disagree with your "same old, same old" comment.

Quick question...where is Bona?

December 31, 2012 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

Don't understand commenters' criticism. These are "best of" lists so of course there will be some duplication.

I really enjoyed reading the lists and your site generally. For what it's worth, here are my favorite spots in Fairfield County, some new and some old:

LeFarm (Westport)
The Whelk (Westport)
Pasta Nostra (Norwalk)
Estia's American (Darien)
Nicholas Roberts (Norwalk)
Valencia (Norwalk)
Casa Villa (Stamford)
Dinosaur BBQ (Stamford)
Brasitas (Stamford)

Food shops:
Espresso Neat (Darien)
Craft Butchery (Westport)

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermla19

My my...hot debate over top eats for 2012! Love passionate foodies! I think the list is very complete...and while personal preferences of the CTbites staff offers plenty of variety!
If anyone wants to add to list they should!

I also like Miya Sushi in New Haven, Paci in Southport, and Luncheria in Norwalk

December 31, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersushifan

We like Lucas's new seafood restaurant in Georgetown. Bernard's is always a favorite for special occasions.

La Taverna in Norwalk has good food and a great prix fixe meal during midweek. Pasta Vera in Greenwich also offers good food at reasonable prices.

January 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGloria Gottschalk

I agree that this is an interesting forum I do, however, urge readers to take with a grain of salt the opinion of a self described "foodie" that dine's out 20 times a year and six of them are at the same albeit wonderful restaurant.

January 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave cervero

Again, Dave, most of my dining out was outside of Connecticut (although I live in Fairfield County). So many of my restaurant opinions don't hit the editorial sweet-spot for CTBites. On another site I wrote the following...

In 2011 I was very fortunate to eat at both El Bulli and Town House, before they closed. I never thought 2012 could come close - but it did, and then some. My top three meals of 2012 were of the caliber of those two best of 2011.

Honorable (Dubious) Mention - Romera, NYC. Has there been a more hyped New York opening that completely crashed and burned? My meal veered between inspired and yuck. It was a failure, but an audacious failure! I loved what it wanted to be - I just wish it could've lived up to the self-generated hype.

Best Dish of the Year - Rabbit livers, Shitakes, & Romano beans @ Fore Street, Portland, ME.
Best Dessert of the Year - Brown Sugar Tart (really more of a custard) with Poached Grapes and Stem Ginger Ice Cream @ The Ledbury, London.

Shout-out to 3 places where I constantly eat:
Momofuku Ssam Bar, NYC - my go-to lunch in the city.
The Whelk, Westport, CT - finally, fabulous seafood on the Gold Coast.
City House, Nashville - I love this place. The pig heart (when they have it) is to die for.

10. Elm Restaurant, New Canaan, CT - the most refined food I have ever been served in Connecticut.
9. St. John, London - it has been around so long, that it has become an institution - almost a museum of nose-to-tail. But still worthy of mention, and of a visit.
8. Sushi Yasuda, NYC - the best sushi I have had in NYC. Great plate combinations that make you think. And the Uni Roll is the most decadent thing since the Foie Gras Double-Down.
7. Bresca, Portland, ME - this tiny place is serving up precise farm- & sea-to-table food. I love the use of different pickles in most every savory dish to kick in the acidic brightness. I suspect that, in a couple of years, it will be extremely diffiicult to get a seat.
6. Le Bernardin, NYC - while there were a couple of less-than-perfect dishes, I look back on this as one of the better meals of the year because, when they hit their mark, they really hit their mark.
5. Daniel, NYC - when you look at the total package - food, service, setting - Daniel remains pretty close to the top of the heap in the city.
4. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY - we've gone just about every year since it opened. While the food is still "of the farm" they have really taken the technique up a notch. Although doing so takes one's eyes a little bit away from the ingredients and more toward the kitchen, it still strikes a great balance. This should be one of the great destination restaurants in the world.
3 (though, really, 1c). Atera, NYC. This was simply the best meal I have ever had in New York. Like a cross betweem el Bulli, Blue Hill, & what I perceive Noma to be. Small, with a dining bar that looks over the action.
2 (though, really, 1b). The Catbird Seat, Nashville. This is a restaurant cut from the same cloth as Atera, with two chefs who cut their teeth at Craft, Alinea, the French Laundry, & Noma. The amazing thing about this place (which also has a similar layout to Atera) is that while there is an emphasis on fine local ingredients, these two chef's, with very little help, put out very precise plates of food.
1a. The Ledbury, London. Australian Brett Graham is doing some great things in Notting Hill. The restaurant is beautiful in an un-stuffy way. Sort of the opposite of Catbird, this is the closest staff-to-diner ratio I've seen since el Bulli. In addition to serving me the best dessert I had all year, they gave me great savory dishes like roasted scallops stuffed with slivers of nori; pidgeon with red vegetables; and an amazing deconstruction of French onion soup. Grilled mackeral with smoked eel was amazing. Just one brilliant dish after another.

(But I could easily argue for any of the top three being the best meal I had all year.)

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris Grimm

Who doesn't put Artisan, Terrain, Whelk and Dinosaur BBQ among top openings in CT in 2012?

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPete Townsend

Decent list but VERY southern FFC focused. Northern FFC is almost completely excluded. I thought this blog was dedicated to Fairfield County? Also, would be nice to see more New Haven County options and include more of southern CT in general.

January 3, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRK

We hear you RK. Consider Northern Fairfield one of CTbites' New Year's resolutions. :) If you have any suggestions for dining venues you frequent, please contact us.

January 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterStephanie Webster

Pete T.

I can give you the answer from my perspective on these four 2012 openings. I did not eat at two of them and my one visit to the other two was either at a pre-opening event or immediately thereafter. All four are on my list for returns in 2013; in fact one is already calendared for January.

Hope that gives you one perspective.

Ciao

January 3, 2013 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

@Chris Grimm. Wow am I jealous of some of your recent eating pursuits! Catbird Seat and St. John have been on my list for awhile and I've been dreaming of a trip to San Sebastian for years. Alas we have a 1 year old daughter at home and though we do take her to many a restaurant and food-related travel destination, there are limits!

Can I ask what site you posted your initial write-up on? I'm an avid reader of Chowhound but sadly the FFC-related posts are pretty quiet these days.

Despite having a small child, we too try to make it into Manhattan (as well as the other boroughs) for most of our meals because, well, the food is just better! I won't go into too much detail since this is a FFC board but I was curious if you've tried Momofuku Ko yet since you're such a fan of Ssam? It was one of my favorite meals of all time. As for 2012 openings, we really liked Perla and Empellon Cocina. I'm sorry to report that my husband and I just didn't get Atera. It's a critical darling but this whole foraging trend is just not for us. We did however visit Bresca in Portland a few years back and absolutely loved it. What a special restaurant.

Anyway, sorry to get off topic, everyone. Just wanted to let Chris now how much I enjoyed reading his post. Cheers!

January 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermla19

Thank you for the kind comments - feel free to contact me through FB - I have gallery links for many of these meals, fchrisgrimm-at-facebook-dot-com works and I can send links, or just search me there, if you are a FB user.

I use to be an active eGullet poster, but the place really slowed down (in terms of the regional posts). It doesn't get as much traffic Chowhound, but it is much easier to navigate. Now I tend to post about meals on Wine Berserkers (a general interest wine bulletin board that has a food/dining forum).

I haven't been to Ko yet. I have dined at Ma Peche, which I liked - but, for the money, I'd much rather just go to Ssam. Amongst New York openings, Acme was really nice, too. (And one forgotten meal - call it #11 on my 2012 best of - was Barley Swine in Austin, TX.

On the original topic, we had NYE dinner at Le Farm and loved it. I had not originally been enamored with the place, but thought to revisit, having enjoyed the Whelk so much - and glad we did, as NYE was superb - especially a pork pappardelle with collards that well echoed a similar dish at Nashville's City House.. I'm sorry that I didn't originally mention Match (though others did) because Matt cranks out some terrific food in a large place with a big menu - not an easy trick to pull off. I honestly didn't add more about established FFC places because I had largely been disappointed last year with places that I had previously considered standard-bearers - so outside of the notable newbies, I was not especially excited about local dining in 2012. (And, hey, Elm is Northern FFC! Anything north of the Merritt is!)

January 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris Grimm

And here's another take on Best Dishes of 2012 from our own Elizabeth Keyser:

January 6, 2013 | Registered CommenterStephanie Webster

Hey how about the new Estias in Darien.I practically have moved in. Great,fresh,inventive,cozy....4 stars from my family

January 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Brewer

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