CONNECTICUT — Connecticut foodies are obsessed with new hot spots, but would be better served if they instead focused on restaurants that opened in the 20th century.
That’s the view of food critic David Landsel, writing for Food & Wine magazine, who has compiled a list of “The best classic restaurants in every state.”
The foodie compendium of acclaimed restaurants celebrates “our renewal of vows with America’s finest old-school institutions” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the upheaval it has caused in the restaurant industry. Surprisingly, the writer found only three Connecticut restaurants out of nearly 250 on the list classic enough to celebrate. Maybe he just wanted to spread the epicurean love around him – he listed four in Alaska!
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The writer is at least lavish in his praise for the Union League Cafe in New Haven, where he recommends “sink into one of the banquettes for foie gras torchons accompanied by a quince chutney, followed by a duck à l’orange”. He found the restaurant area even more appealing, calling Chapel Street “an architectural feast, a pleasant mix featuring what seems like a little bit of everything from the very old to the thrillingly modern.”
The site itself was the home of New Haven’s first mayor and Revolutionary-era gadfly, Roger Sherman. The current building, with its huge stained glass windows, was built in 1860 as a townhouse for a local industrialist and later sold to the Union League, a male political organization.
Union League chef/owner Jean Pierre Vuillermet is a recognized Maître Cuisiniers de France, or “Maître Cuisinier de France”, and the menu makes that very clear. Diners will find Ossetra caviar on raw sea bass alongside prawns and clams, and Provençal snails and duck confit on the corn soup page on the entree list. Unsurprisingly, the cafe’s wine game is also top-notch.
Before the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, there was “The Grey”. It’s an authentic New England tavern, with 33 guest rooms, shops and a revered bar that’s been serving pints since 1766. That makes it the oldest tavern in the United States, according to its menu. Even Hollywood noticed it: the exterior of the Griswold Inn was used as the blueprint for the Collinsport Inn in the gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows”.
Le Gris’ suitably classic and hearty dinner includes ribs, seafood, and its “signature” clam chowder. Baked cod, Cajun-style grilled steak fries and the chef’s “quiche of the day” sit alongside the traditional burgers and other sandwiches on the tavern’s lunch menu.
The Griswold Inn Store is located directly across from the Inn. You’ll find products inspired by the city’s maritime and American heritage. The store is open seven days a week until December, with seasonal hours starting in January.
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roseland in Derby is no stranger to Connecticut’s “Best Of” restaurants, but the dinner we’re talking about is usually pizza. In Food & Wine’s eyes, however, Roseland’s famous apizza is actually part of an elaborate bait and switch operation.
“You’re here for the giant-sized puffy pies, but you’ll be back for everything, starting with the soulful fra diavolo, a frequent special,” the magazine deduced.
The Daily Meal described Roseland as “a little old house with lots of old-school charm” and called the restaurant’s pizza “underrated”. The restaurant is renowned for its large portionsbut the special shrimp pizza, with two pounds of shrimp, may be overkill.