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Entries in Delicious Dives (51)

Friday
Jun172016

Friday Froth: A Trip To Barcade New Haven, Video Games + Beer

Maybe it's just the freshness of a mind before it reaches pickled adulthood, but childhood memories seem more permanent. I can't remember breakfast on most days, but I recall hopping on bikes with a few friends, ditching our mother-mandated helmets, and riding down to Vic's Variety on Paradise Green in Stratford to buy Crybabies and play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on a stand up, four player arcade game. 

Nintendo and Sega Genesis had killed video game arcades as dead as iTunes killed record stores until four guys in Williamsburg thought "What if we bring them back, but with beer?" That was 2004, and in the ensuing years the Barcade franchise has spread around New York, to New Jersey, Philly, and now, New Haven. It was once again time to get my Hadouken! on.

Travel time driving to Barcade is variable, in my case 3 hours in traffic. But by the time I arrived I was seriously ready to blow something up. Centipede, Galaga, Punch Out, four player X-Men and Ninja Turtles, Ms. Pac Man... take your pick, they're all still 25-cents to play. 

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Sunday
May292016

2016 CTbites' Best "10" Burgers in Southwest CT

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY AND HAMBURGER MONTH

The thermometer reads 90-degrees, the trees are in full bloom, the birds are chirping and the air is filled with the fragrant aroma of backyard grilling. It must be time for my Annual CTbites’ Southwest Connecticut Burger Review, now celebrating its 5th anniversary.

This year I again took a slightly different approach. Over the years I have rated, and continually update, every burger I eat in CT on a scale from 1-10. To achieve the highest score, the bun-to-bun experience needs to be flawless; meat, cheese, toppings, sauce, and bun, all must work in absolute unison. There are currently thirteen incredible burgers that received a perfect “10.” From two east coast interpretations of the west coast double-double, to a food truck creation served on an Ube bun to several with bacon-onion jam, all of these burgers were spectacular. The 2016 list includes six new burgers while four from last year's list did not make the cut. The final rankings from the the Winner to number thirteen take into account not only the burgers but also the fries or chips.

Here is the CTbites' list of the Best “10” Burgers in Southwest Connecticut.

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Sunday
Jan032016

La Esquina Opens in Stamford: Authentic Latin Cuisine Just Around The Corner

You know that little place, right around the corner? The one that serves just that dish you were craving? The one that serves food you just know comes from a parent or grandparent’s tried-and-true recipe? You know the place, your go-to joint, always reliable, where you don’t have to dress up and you don’t have to spend a fortune?  Well, “La Esquina,” literally, “the corner,” is just THAT place, serving up authentic South American yummies with home-style flare and flavors that impress.

La Esquina Latin Grill, right on “the corner” at 50 Hamilton Avenue in Stamford, is a labor of love for the young and extremely talented co-owner and head chef, Robert Monegro. Chef Robert grew up in Stamford with his Guatemalan mother and Dominican father, both chefs. He decided that after learning all he could by growing up in the kitchen of his parents’ restaurant, Flamboyant in Stamford, he would put his own mark on the culinary map of Fairfield County. And he is doing just that.

 

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Sunday
Jul262015

Best Warm Lobster Rolls On The Connecticut Coast: 2015 Update

Welcome to the end of July, summer’s center point.  The perfect time for our annual quest to find the best of Connecticut's official pleasure of summer: warm, buttery lobster rolls. 

At the suggestion of readers, chefs, CTBites staff and a food critic or two, we've added an array of food trucks, pounds, shacks, and even a high end restaurant to our previous portfolio (see 2014 edition here)

So take a ride up the balmy Connecticut coastline.  We start in the southwest and head northeast, as CTBites forages the best warm lobster rolls in America. 

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Sunday
Jun282015

Pho Hong Thom: A Must Eat Vietnamese Gem in Bridgeport

Here’s a little secret...SHHHH!!!  We got a tip from those in the know - and by that I mean some of Fairfield County’s finest chefs - that the place “around town” for truly authentic Vietnamese Pho is PHO HONG THOM on Wood Ave in Bridgeport. Naturally, we FORCED ourselves to give it a try. Tiny, unpretentious, even down-right plain, patrons come here for the food, not the decor. But they come. Empty when we arrived at 11:30 but jam packed by noon, PHO HONG THOM draws ‘em in and keeps ‘em coming back for more. Here’s why:

PHO HONG THOM gets its name from Hong and Thom Nguyen, owners of this family-run establishment in the heart of Bridgeport. Originally from a tiny village near Hanoi, the Nguyen family are “all in” with sons and a daughter helping out whenever possible. This is family cooking at its best and you get a hint of that as a mosaic of flavors greet your nose upon arrival. Broth is at the heart of this menu - and I’ll tell you what Pho..

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Sunday
Mar292015

Magee's Curbside: Must Try Breakfast & Lunch in Stamford!

I get this tip that the new place to go for the best casual breakfast and lunch food in Stamford is a small spot at 72 Magee Ave., in the “no-man’s zone” south of I-95 and the Metro-North tracks. On the way to Greenwich one morning I decide to investigate Magee's Curbside.

Here’s the bottom line in an anecdote:

After I show up and rattle the staff by asking them to make a few dishes I can sample and photograph—and ask if the owners are around—I’m sitting at a table talking to co-owners Danny DeGruttola (owner of The Brickhouse Bar & Grill on Bedford Street) and Evan Philippopoulos. A woman comes in and declares that she’s back after Magee’s delighted her with the best turkey burger she’s ever had. (The house-recipe burger was a recent special.)

No, the woman wasn’t a ringer; no one knew I was coming and the owners of the small, bright and cheerful place weren’t even supposed to be there—the food just is that terrific.

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Sunday
Dec142014

The Rosie O Sandwich @ Reddi Rooster in Stamford

Breakfast of Champions? The "Rosie O" at Reddi Rooster in Stamford may not qualify for this title or as a healthy start to the day, but when you want a diversion from the granola, the yogurt, the egg white omelet, the fresh fruit and throw calorie count to the wind, this sandwich is a great choice.

Reddi Rooster is located on Route 1 on the east side of Stamford near the Darien border. It is a fairly non-descript roadside luncheonette serving sandwiches, wraps, and a few hot dishes. The Rosie O has garnered some positive press as one of the best breakfast sandwiches in area so when I found myself in the area I decided to stop in and see for myself. It is available on a roll for $4.50 or as a wedge or a wrap for $7. I ordered the roll version and grabbed one of the seven stools. A steady stream of guests entered, ordered and waited, always a good sign…locals know.

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Sunday
Oct052014

Q's Restaurant: Vietnamese PHO & BBQ in Norwalk 

What's PHO lunch today? As autumn quietly slinks in, there's nothing like a truly authentic PHO to ease us into the chill that awaits. Head on over to Q's Restaurant at 172 Main Street in Norwalk (the old Valencia Luncheria spot) for the real McCoy. Recently opened (about 3 months and counting) and charmingly tiny, Q's is the love child of husband and wife duo Charles Eaton and XiaoNing Liu. Eaton, a Vietnam Vet, met Liu (a native of Old Nanking Province in China) while he was serving a tour of duty in Asia. Together, they have brought a small menu featuring Pho as well as other Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine to their wee, little kitchen. 

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Thursday
Feb202014

Rincon Taqueria in Norwalk- A Hidden Gem in Plain Sight 

Rincon Taqueria is the epitome of a hidden gem.

The exterior is fairly non-descript and the interior is one large, open space, but the food is delicious. As you enter there are tables for twenty patrons to the left and behind these tables is a long glass deli case containing large baskets and bowls filled with several varieties of chili peppers. Along the right wall are three six-foot tall refrigerators with bottles of soda, home-canned items and take-away containers, including homemade apple sauce, beef and vegetable soup, cassoulet with duck and pork, duck confit. Taqueria?

The young lady behind the counter asked if I needed assistance. I looked at the wall behind her and saw two large hand-written chalkboard menus with more traditional taqueria fare…Huevas Rancheros, Burritos, Chilaquiles, Tacos, Empanadas, Tamales and a Chicken Quesadilla. I ordered a trio of tacos…a fried fish, a beef and a pork. As it turns out the young lady is one of the owners, Maria Munoz Del Castillo.

As I waited, Maria brought a plate of Frijoles con Arroz. In addition to the slightly spicey rice and black beans, the dish contained a few green beans, corn, scallions, diced red onions and cilantro. It was a very pleasant way to wait for my meal.

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Sunday
Jan122014

Pantanal Restaurant & Churrascaria: Brazilian in Bridgeport

The smell of grilling meat perfumes the air on Frank Street in Bridgeport. What’s going on here? This drab residential neighborhood is crowded with cars. And what’s that funky-looking vividly green-and-yellow building? The sidewalk’s striped green and yellow too, the colors of the Brazilian flag.  This is Pantanal, a Brazilian buffet and churrascaria. We’re going in.

It’s Thursday at lunchtime and the place is crowded. We grab plates and try to take in all that’s offered at the cold and hot buffet. We’re overwhelmed, and we’re in the way. Everyone else knows what they want. We’re gawking, and we know we could easily overload our plates with the choice of salads, fruits, hearts of palm, collards, white rice, Spanish rice, mac ‘n cheese, black beans, pinto beans, fried sweet plantain, fried chicken, fried fish and stews. Customers are digging in to those stews. The chicken and okra stew looks intriguing, but I need to exert restraint. I need to focus. I chose an orange-colored stew of smoked pork ribs and white beans. Excellent choice, smoky and deeply flavorful.  

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