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Entries in Delicious Dives (48)


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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Delicious Dives: Los Poblanos, Mexican in Norwalk

One bite into the tacos al pastor at Los Poblanos, and my husband and I looked up at one another in amazement. Whoa, this is really good. Tender plump bites of orange-hued pork shoulder, coated with ground chiles and herbs, mixed with bits of sweet, juicy pineapple. The flavors melded, cooked together to just the right moment. Warm, soft homemade corn tortillas. The pork topped with minced fresh raw onions and cilantro. 

The exterior didn’t prepare us for food made with such care. I mean, I love discovering a little Mexican hole-in-the-wall. When I noticed a handmade sign for Los Poblanos hanging outside what was still at that point Hubba Luncheonette, in a dingy little strip mall in Norwalk (cattycorner to Penzy’s), I took a quick left turn. The transformation from American breakfast place and luncheonette to Mexican, in terms of décor, at that point was shiny tourist posters of the Puebla region of Mexico. Since then it’s brightened up. The walls are painted cheerful contrasting colors, orange, green and red. The place is small and simple, with four booths, and a couple tables for two. 

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Update: The Mission to Save King’s Kitchen In Southport

Independence Day – the one day a year when this nation of immigrants pays homage to our founding fathers by flocking to beaches; burger and beer in hand. Unfortunately, the three King brothers, owners of King’s Kitchen - known for serving Southport sustainable beachside fare - spent this July 4th battling to save their business.

Last summer, King’s Kitchen made their debut on the Southport shore, serving locally grown and sourced beach food. The menu features about five items and changes daily – items ranging from lobster rolls and quesadilla with a fennel and caper Russian remoulade, to ox hollow grass-fed burgers and short rib tacos. The brothers also offer an assortment of chips, and a variety of organic juices, including refreshing watermelon lemonade. 

Signs reading “Save the Shack!” cover the cabin that once served as King’s Kitchen headquarters for all food preparation, cooking, and serving. This blue-gray building, located at 1505 Pequot Avenue in Fairfield, was built in 1946. It is both a “historic landmark” and “childhood memory”, according to Hunter King, one of the King’s brothers and partners. 

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The Best Warm Lobster Rolls on the Connecticut Coast

Connecticut's signature food may not be New Haven Pizza or Steamed Hamburger.  And it’s certainly not Nutmeg (indeed, not a single nutmeg seed has ever been planted, much less harvested, in the Nutmeg state.  But that's a tale for another time).  

Actually, Connecticut’s truly indigenous dish may be the Warm Lobster Roll, a state treasure.   According to the new edition of John Mariana's authoritative Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, the Connecticut Lobster Roll was likely born in 1927 at Perry's Restaurant in Milford. A customer asked owner Harry Perry to serve his lobster meat off the shell, dressed in butter, and placed in a bun.   No need for a cracker, picks, or bib.  As the New Haven Register tells it, the new sandwich proved to be so popular that Perry soon mounted a large sign over his restaurant that read "Home of the Lobster Roll."     

Today, order a lobster roll in most of New England and you'll probably be served something quite different:  a bun filled with chilled lobster salad, the crustacean mixed with mayo, celery, and various condiments.  But travel along the Connecticut shoreline and your sandwich will likely be similar to Perry's original:  warm lobster meat drizzled in butter and piled high in a grilled bun, either long or round.  

With summer starting, CTBites embarked on such a trip - up the state’s entire coastline in search of the best Connecticut Lobster Rolls. 

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