Report: NYC carpet baggers make 2 Chow stops on CT roadtrip
Hit some known and frequently discussed CT Chow joints, so thought I'd give a New Yorker's view.
Friday night my wife and I set off on an overnight from Brooklyn to Ellington, CT. Early Saturday morning we were due at my daughter's all girl, almost all horseback riding camp for their closing "show" and to take her home. For some reason on the previous ride up I neglected to do any Chow-search so I wasn't going to miss the opportunity for two meals this time.
On the way up we stopped at the seemingly famous and conveniently located Ted's Hamburgers just off I691 in Meriden. All you CT/NE 'hounds know the deal of course - tiny joint w/ big grey greasy lumps of cheap salty ground beef. 3 booths, 3 or 4 stools at the counter, a mild mannered gent working potatoes becoming and already being (home) fries and a couple of well mannered teens trading well mannered teen jibes and bonmots dealing with soda and buns. Two please, with everything.
I attacked the crusty toasted bun barely controlling a big steamed glop of something like mild commercial Provolone (?), onions, pickle, mayo, etc etc and that sick looking piece of ground up former cow floppin' over the sides. It took work and barely a minute to inhale and wipe my hands. My wife was still working on hers by the time I was contemplating another, this time w/double meat. We had a plate of their fresh and good cubed fries sans cheese while I waited on my double. They seemed surprised I didn't double the cheese too. This time went with nothing but beautifully oily sauteed onions, better to enjoy the salt laden and super steamy juiciness of the burger mass. Killer belly bombs! Fresh, real, homey and so steam ridden but so not White Castle. No regrets the next morning either! And I got a swell T-shirt, tho regretably not the basic one the cook (owner?) was wearing. No doubt Ted's will be a regular stop on our trips to camp next summer.
Saturday morning at camp we said our hellos, goodbyes, met the horses, enjoyed the competition; then packed up and set out South on I91 down to Rt9 for Johnny Ad's in Old Saybrook. The ex-wife and her husband and baby were game too and we hightailed it a bit out of our way further west in search of the elusive (in NY) Fried Belly Clams - or as "you people" call them, Fried Clams! Only a few minutes wasted in wrong turns, and amazingly normal traffic, got us to the Johnny Ad's shack peopled by another group of shockingly pleasant summer work teens. Wife and stable-smelly kid went running for the 'loo; Ex, her spouse and toddler avoided the tight order area that stacked up behind me and headeded towards pleasant parking lot view picnic tables; I was left to quickly improvise an order pleasing to all: 2 platters of clams at around $14/ea. (missed seeing where I could get a double Side Order sans passable fries and slaw for I think around $23); a combo platter w/clams, flounder, shrimp, scallops, calamari and a little cup of Lobster Salad for maybe $16; 3 bowls of RI chowder; a hot dog for the 2.5yr old; and birch beer. The soda was great!!! Not too sweet or fake - I wonder how "real" it was. I didnt' taste the dog, but it and the bun were cut in half for kiddie convenience. The chowder was full of potatoes and sort of full of chopped clams w/pretty good oceanic saltiness. The two women - a Brooklyn native (current wife, dislikes NE style) and an Indianapolis native (former wife, baby momma, very much dislikes Manhattan style) - were quite pleased with the taste and texture, and very much enjoyed the unexpected since neither had ever heard of RI style chowder. All the seafood was fine - the breading was crispy, not too salty on it's own, rarely too clumpy and thick, and even as it cooled and we reached plate bottoms the greasiness never overtook the experience. I had one scallop and enjoyed a fully flavored and not oversized sea scallop just on the verge of rubber. Everything else seemed fine to the rest of the adults and my daughter (the tentacle eater). However, the clams were simply great, if not completely astounding - the bellys were rich, smooth and ungrainy; the siphons were pleasantly chewy with a little snap but not rubbery. If I have any complaint, perhaps they weren't "oceanic" enough for me - but then again, these are not three dollar oysters. Everyone enjoyed spoonfuls of the tiny lobster salad side and I was happy to experience actual lobster taste beside the mayo. Everything done and done and done (including the fries) I realized Johnny Ad's did in fact have actual Lobster Rolls. I didn't see them on my initial guerilla attack and was quite surprised - only lobster SALAD? But the menu boards were lengthy. So, as the women slacked off, I hopped up and got a true meat and butter only lobster roll to split with the Ex's "current". And some more calamari for my 12 year old who succored her sadness in leaving camp, horses, friends. Anyway, the roll was awesome!!! Super butter laden so the Paris native "current" (knew to the fried seafood thing in general too) felt right at home, plenty of fairly tender steamed lobster meat reward w/o doing the work and even a toasted squared off bun that provides a good handle. However, as a Long Island native, I'm now prepped for a real lobster meal - it could be as long as a year since my last, and shells never got in the way of my good time. I'm now slaked for truly tender and varied textures of giant steamed bug.
Both cars and families rolled home down 95 more than sated and a bit sun burnt. Happy blood attented to topped out tummies and created some driving averse fatigue. I was thankful to have the break of stop and go traffic on the Whitestone Bridge. And we didn't eat until Sunday afternoon. Thank You, Connecticut and Connectict Chowhounds. Am I right about these places or could they have been better in the past (or have better competitors)?
I'm pretty sure the cheese on the Ted's burgers is actually cheddar.
Good write-up on the various places. Thanks
Jestner - I'll tell my wife it's probably cheddar. Come to think of it, there was a tiny bit of that cheddary fat and grit texture. Thanks!
Elizzie - thanx for the tip. I did read how there's the CT dog thing to check out (I guess in a way like it is in Jersey). But, what, if any, off-road chowing can I do on 84 from Vernon and East? Saturday is going to be an all day adventure, picking up a trailer in north Jersey, driving across 84, getting a horse in Ellington and then bringing it back to Jersey. (Otherwise we're Brooklyn thru the city to 80).
If Willington is not too far off your path - about 15 minutes off of 84 at exit 68 - I highly recommend Willington Pizza House. They make some of the tasiest pies on the east coast. I used to eat there all the time when I could afford it, as a UConn student. You can get directions from their website (www.willingtonpizza.com) as well as menu items.
I'm not as familiar with that area, though friends tell me that King's in Newtown (just off 84) is amazing for breakfasts...let me do a little research. Or some other Chowhound must know...
thanx! you're a peach! breakfast is a meal I eat. Anything else along 84 would be awesome too.
King's in Newtown is not East of Vernon. Newtown is on the boarder of Danbury which boarders NY. Sorry...Kings is a great place for breakfast!! I think they are open from 8-3 everyday. The owner is also a horse person, lots of pictures of his horses and kids all over the restaurant. There is also a 24 hour diner just off exit 10 in Newtown that is good, but being from NJ you probably don't need another diner. If you are driving through Newtown later in the day, there is a really good pub style place also off exit 10. Make a left at the exit and go about a mile until the first light. The place is on your left. Relaxed outdoor dining overlooking the river if the weather premits. Red Brick Tavern, Sandy Hook, CT.
Hello all my CT Hound buddies -
Thanx for the excellent tips. I was mistaken about where/how I'm driving. We're going to and from North Jersey (Sussex County) along to 84 East to Vernon. So Vernon/Ellington is as far East as we're going. As a New Yorker I always get confused when there's actually more East to travel!
Anyway, our day starts where we live in Brooklyn on Avenue C minutes from Avenue J and the famed DiFara's. So, we'll take a pass on the pizza. Someday, I'll have a chance to try the New Haven thing - especially clams.
So, thanks for all the tips, guys! I think King's is the spot for lunch especially w/the horse leanings. My daughter will dig it.
I hope you all can come enjoy our chow down in the Boros someday sooon. DR