HOME > Chowhound > All New England Archive >


CT must eats

Chicago chowhound visiting CT in mid July. Will be driving from NYC, staying in Hartford for a couple of days and in the Mystic area.

What are some must eats?
Lobster roll?
New Haven Pizza?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't know much about New Haven pizza or lobster rolls, but for some great thin crust pizza in Stamford, stop at the Colony Grill and have a pepperoni or sausage pizza with hot oil baked into the crust. You should also stop at Duchess if you see one--it's a statewide Connecticut chain, and a longstanding institution. It's famous for its hot dogs and hamburgers.

    Also, if you stop at exit 14 in Norwalk, you can visit Swanky Frank's. It's also an institution, and serves great fried hot dogs with crispy casings. Have it with sauerkraut and mustard, and the fresh cut fries.

    7 Replies
    1. re: brattpowered

      Man.... how I miss my Duchess dogs!!! Busta, it's worth a stop on your way through -- easiest one to get to off I-95 is in Darien, exit 13 and head south on US 1 about a mile, it's on the left. Enjoy one for me ---

      1. re: ChowPupATL

        actually, the closest would be off exit 40 from I-95 northbound.. the duchess is right at the end of the exit ramp!!

        1. re: goodbyeohio

          And then you can stay at the Mayflower Truck Stop, and when you wake up, you can eat at the Mayflower Diner. That's one thing that Connecticut still has that is sadly disappearing elsewhere: authentic, old-school diners. There are a few in Milford alone that are perfect (Bridgeport Flyer, Kimberly, Mayflower). Nothing like them in Iowa, where I live now. (And you can also go to the new Penthouse Superstore, also off exit 40... if you want to lose your appetite. It's pretty lowbrow, to say the least.)

      2. re: brattpowered

        jffod likes Hot Diggety Dawg off Exit 24 in Fairfield, but if teh OP is going Hartford - Mystic this is a little out of the way.

        1. re: jfood

          Its NYC to Hartford to/fro Mystic per the original post.

          1. re: Jestner

            Oops, missed that Rand McNally moment.

            Then hot diggety is smack dab in the cross-hairs between NYC and Hartford if i-95 is the route of choice..

            Then on the way from H to Mystic there is a clam place in Clinton (think its called clam shack) probably around exit 63'ish on Route 1 (also called Boston Post Road) that has pretty good whole bellies.

          2. re: jfood

            bad day man. this is not hot diggety dawg but Super Duper Wienie

        2. If you search the board you will find a lot of recent posts about both Mystic/Lobster rolls and New Haven pizza...everyone has an opinion...a little more info as far as $$ and type of food will help on the Hartford restaurants... are you staying in Htfd or a suburb?... traveling alone or with family etc...

          3 Replies
          1. re: LenaNE

            Just really looking for eats that are unique to CT. Things that a visitor has to have. Visitors to Chicago must have deep dish pizza, hotdog, italian beef sandwich, jibarito, Harold's. I will be traveling with the family, but they share in my quest for good food. We haven't finalized our plans, but we are willing to let the food be our destination.


            1. re: busta312

              As posted below: Hot Dogs, Steamed Cheeseburger, Whole Bellied Fried Clams, Lobster Roll (if inclined), Pizza

              1. re: busta312

                as for unique to CT... follow the other posters..pizza in New Haven, clam/lobster shacks along the shore line...Hartford is like any other city as far as restaurants...a mix of upscale/casual/outdoor/any type of "ethnic" food...but you can most likely get something like it in Chicago.. Franklin Giant Grinder is a Hartford institution... but maybe not unique...
                Wethersfield/Franklin Aves..Italian/Spanish/Brazilian/Indian
                Farmington Ave...Jamaican/Mexican/Japanese/Coffee houses/Brazilian
                Downtown...Max's...upscale American/Tumbull Kitchen....upscale loud world influenced/Peppercorns...excelllent Italian/Bin228...wine bar and Paninni etc../Tapas on Ann..Meditteranean/Hot Tomatoes...casual Italian/Sally's Fish Camp..seafood/Blacked Eyed Sallys...BBQ/City Steam Brewery...brewery food/Joe Blacks..Irish....and many more...

            2. Here are some ideas.

              Blackies, or any number of cool hot dog joints in the state. Blackies has great hot relish for their dogs. Located on Waterbury/Cheshire line off 84

              Ted's for Steamed Cheeseburgers located in Meriden

              New Haven Pizza - whether you goto Modern, Sallys or Pepe's is up to you...

              Costellos (http://www.costellosclamshack.com) for whole bellied clams
              Abbotts (http://www.abbotts-lobster.com/review...) for lobster eats.
              These places are in Noank, roughly next to each other. (Off 95 in the Mystic area


              I've tried to simplify and think of things roughly on your route. If you are more interested, in say, whole bellied clam dinners - post a topic for just that and you will get a ton of more specific reviews, etc. Just trying to keep this high-level.

              1. Pizza: Sally's, Modern, Pepes - all in New Haven. In Branford, Marcos or Born in America.
                Lobster Rolls: Dockside or D'Angelo's in Branford. Lenny and Joe's Fishtale in Madison. In Old Saybrook, Jenns Jetty or Bill's Seafood There are many others but these are the ones Ive tried. I wouldn't recommend Lennys in Branford (Indian Neck area) since last time we were there one of us ordered shrimp and they were obviously prepackaged frozen - not fresh at all.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Shoreliner

                  For pizza, Sally's, Modern, Pepe's in New Haven all good, but so is Bar. Born in America, in Branford just changed hands not too long ago but have had good results, the young couple are relatives of Mario, from Mario's down accross from the train station in Westport. For sea food, Bill's Sea Food in Westbrook definately worth a stop, have the large lobster roll or one of their specials. If you want a VIEW and just o.k. food visit the outside bar at the Waters Edge Inn and Spa also in Westbrook, but it is all VIEW, just bring $$. Lenny's in Branford is cash only (they do have an ATM) and gets the nod for steamers, lobster and a surprisingly decent cheap burger on an english muffin. Skip the Dockside in Branford, sorry. Noah's in Stonington for good regional food-some dishes with a Portugese flair which is (or should be) the local influance in the Mystic-Stonington area. Can not go wrong with Kitchen Little for breakfast. Also, if you want something else on the water, there is Guilford Mooring in yep, Guilford. Again, local sea food, good view, food can be good to average, I think it's getting better? Lots more. Enjoy.

                  1. re: ryone

                    I LOVE Lenny's Lobster. Their shore dinner is way more food than you'll ever eat (including a lobster and a plate of steamers) and is awesome and well-priced. I will admit to never really venturing past that particular menu item, except on rare occasions when I'm sucked in by the soft shell crabs. I live in MA now, but whenever possible I get back to my old CT stomping grounds and Lenny's. Sunset on the back deck, a pitcher of good beer, and a big messy lobster -- heaven.

                2. In the Mystic area go to SeaSwirl, on Route 1 on the Stonington side of Mystic, for all kind of New England sea side treats - lobster rolls, whole belly clams, fried cod sandwiches, soft swirl icecream. The Seaview stand on Route 27 in Mystic between the seaport and the cemetary has a very good lobster roll and a beautiful view of the Mystic River.

                  If you venture over the boarder from Mystic to Watch Hill in RI, try a Dell's Frozen Lemonade.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: cheesey

                    Roseland Pizza in Derby, CT. Check out the link below. Easily off route 8.

                    1. re: javaandjazz

                      Yes to New Haven Pizza. I'm a Pepe's white clam aficionado, and with the clams, you can kill two birds (or bivalves) with one stone. You can also go to Ashley's ice cream on York st. for dessert and get bittersweet hot fudge... so good.... I also think there are some good cheeseburgers and hot dogs around, but the lobster roll is where it's at. I think it's important that you find a true CT lobster roll, though, which is served warm with butter in a toasted open-top hot dog bun. No mayo! V. important! I've heard good things about Abbott's in Noank for all that stuff. Any indigenous shellfish is a good call.

                      1. re: ctscorp

                        ctscorp, wow! I left New Haven almost 30 years ago, and I'm delighted to hear that Ashley's is goin' strong. Their "sweet cream" still resonates as the best ice cream I have enjoyed, anywhere. If I remember correctly, "Ashley" was a frisbee- retrieving dog.

                        1. re: ctscorp

                          Ashley's yes is still good -- when i was at school in new haven -- we went there a lot -- my favorite is the coffee oreo -- just had some the other night on the way back from the cape -- and it is STILL good

                    2. You must try the Shady Glen cheeseburger in Manchester, 5 miles east of Hartford. Special crispy cheese makes this unforgettable.....


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Science Chick

                        Some people fawn all over Shady Glen, and it might be worth a visit cause you very well may love it. I too agree that their crispy cheese rendition is/was unforgettable. I'll never return - BUT - it is unique. I don't understand the fuss. It is a good suggestion though.

                        I guess what I am trying to say is its not my bag, but it is unique, and thus, it could be a great suggestion for a place that you wish you had in IL.


                      2. Take a look at this site, This should help you in many ways. http://www.restaurantsct.com/Cake/ind... Also I see your going to stay for a few days in Mystic area This site should help you find a place. http://travel.explorenewengland.com/r... I hope these help you , and hope you have a good time in Conn.

                        1. Go grab a hot dog at Guida's in Middlefield. You will not be disappointed!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mels

                            And if I recall correctly, Monday nights are BOGO.

                          2. connecticut does a good job on pizza. pepe's, others in new haven are worth the trek. don't like lines? no problem. drive to pepe's fairfield outpost just off i95.

                            breakfast in mystic is easy. kitchen little, just north of the seaport, is the place to go. i like the portuguese fisherman's breakfast but you may differ. deb and i sail to mystic most years and never fail to arrive real early to avoid the dreaded tourists. place is cramped but the food is good.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: steve h.

                              if you want to avoid the "dreaded tourists"..(which we all are when not at home)..head North into beautiful Stonington Village for lunch or dinner at Skippers Dock...

                              1. re: LenaNE

                                hi lena,
                                yes, i am a dreaded tourist. i like living on the economy wherever we go. pretty fond of visiting good restaurants, too.

                                1. re: LenaNE

                                  or Noah's for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Fresh New England food -- IMO better than the Dock although the Dock has the view.

                              2. If you're only passing through once, I'd recommend adding a stop in Essex to visit the Griswold Inn (c. 1750 or something close). Great area for walking around and soaking up some CT history anyway.

                                And for an experience you definitely will not find in Chicago, visit Randall's Ordinary in N. Stonington (near Mystic). Colonial cooking. Google it - you'll be intrigued.

                                Btw, if you do settle on Pepe's when you're in New Haven, you owe it to yourself to go all the way - white clam pie.

                                1. I owe it to a fellow Chicagoan. Try Kitchen Little in Mystic. A shack on the outside with great food on the inside. Just before the Seaport on the right off I95 exit 90. they open at 6.30, but close at 2.

                                  Also good in Mystic (forget the name-- ask around), a seafood place on the water just by the bridge. Eat outside if it's nice.

                                  If you get to Greenwich and want to drop a wad, try the Homestead or La Cremiellé (sp? Google will help) for the best French food outside of Paris. Jacket required.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: schlimmerkerl

                                    what about grinders? Are they just sub sandwiches with a different name? ie. pop and soda?

                                      1. re: Jestner

                                        Well.....not EXACTLY the same. As a CT transplant, living in MA for almost 20 years now, I still miss the way CT grinder places do hot oven grinders. They usually have roasted/sauteed green peppers as an option, which I rarely find anywhere else. Love those on an eggplant grinder.......

                                        1. re: Science Chick

                                          For all intents and purposes, it is the same thing.

                                          If the OP goes into any sandwich store and asks for a Turkey grinder, he would get the same thing as if he had walked in and asked for a turkey sub. - because of this - the answer, in my opinion, to his question is that they are the same thing.

                                          1. re: Jestner

                                            Unless you are talking about Terrace Bakery's eggplant and meatball sub - heaven!!! terrace Bakery - Jefferson Street New London. Go early - closes at 2

                                  2. Louis Lunch for what is claimed to be the first burger served between bread. It is a very good burger, and just to say you have been there.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: mmalmad

                                      Oooh, I just remembered another fave: The Place on Rte. 1 in Guilford. Wood-grilled lobsters and clams, local bluefish... so good. BYOB and sides -- there's a grocery store across the street -- and you sit outside on logs with industrial spools for tables... so good.

                                      1. re: ctscorp

                                        Wow that place is still around?

                                        jfood used to eat there in the 80's and called it Whitey's. But only served dinner back then if memory is true.

                                        does it serve lunch now as well?

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          I think it's still there -- I haven't lived in CT in 8 years, but I ate there when I visited a few years ago. Still no lunch, though.

                                    2. If you are looking for those "definitive" places that give you a sense of place (keeping in mind that "definitive" and historic" are not always the "best"), I would suggest the following itinerary:

                                      Drive from NYC to Hartford by way of 95 North to 91 North. Stop off in Fairfield for a hot dog. No Chicagoan should skip the chance to try a hot dog from out this way. You may end up deciding that you prefer Chicago dogs better. But you owe it to yourself to experience the contrast. I would recommend Rawley's or Super-Duper-Weenie, both in Fairfield. Someone else mentioned Blackie's. It is great, but it is out of your way.

                                      If time (and stomach) permit, try to find a way to squeeze in Louis Lunch for a hamburger. You can do this by eating a dog as an early lunch (11:00) and going to Louis for a hamburger after noon. Louis is one of a handful of places that claims to have invented the iconic American delicacy. How anyone could lay claim to "inventing" the idea of putting meat on bread is beyond me, but it is safe to say that Louis probably invented the style of burger that it serves. It is historic and unique, and is worth a try for any out of towner looking for "definitive" CT food.

                                      While in New Haven, you simply MUST try the pizza. As with the hot dog, the contrast to Chicago style is evident, and you owe it to yourself to try this style. Most posters have mentioned the "Big Three", which are Pepe's, Sally's and Modern. All are great. But if you are looking for "definitive", go to Pepe's. If you are trying to capture the essence of the entire experience, live with the wait and go to the original, which is Pepe's. Not to say that the others aren't as good. But Sally's was a spin-off of Pepe's and Modern came along much later. If you want the one with instant name recognition and national acclaim, stick with Pepe's.

                                      Enjoy your stay in the Hartford area. There are lots of good eats there, but nothing is truly iconic or historic. Franklin Ave used to be the center of gravity for iconic Hartford chow, but it isn't really what it used to be. Still, a dinner at Carbone's (upscale, but not "formal") will give you a sense of what made Franklin Avenue a fairly famous "Little Italy". It has been pleasing diners since 1938. They recently brought on a new chef who has worked at some of the best and most cutting edge places in the area for the past 20 years, so it may well be that Carbone's will once again stake out a spot as one of the top 5 restaurants in Hartford. It had slipped quite a bit, but with the addition of Michael Kelley, I think it is worth a try. especially for your quest.

                                      In the Mystic area, you want two things: Whole Belly Clams and Lobster. For the former, I would go to Sea Swirl in Mystic. An outside-only clam shack that looks like (because it used to be) an ice cream stand. The best fried clams in the area. For Lobster, there are numerous iconic choices, many of which have been mentioned like Lenny's. But to keep the travel to a minimum, and to maximize your view, it is hard to argue against Abbott's. Someone from the Lake Shore should not escape the area without sitting outside wearing shorts and a t-shirt, plowing his/her way through a steamed lobster. And if you can do that while gazing out at Fisher's Island Sound, all the better. Abbott's is definitely the place for that. Yes, it is full of tourists. But I always bristle when people say that. Of course it is full of tourists. If you live in a land-locked state and are visiting Southeastern CT, you want to eat outside and look at the water. The Roman Colesseum is full of tourists too. Because when you go to Rome, you can't leave without seeing it. OK. Enough of my rant. Steamed lobsters are not hard to cook, and the taste difference from one place to the next is negligible. So go with the view, and the most authentic lobster pound in the Mystic area, and head to Abbott's. It has the added benefit of being a BYO, so you can splurge on a nice bottle of wine with your lobster and only pay retail prices. Be sure to bring your own stems as well.

                                      Hope this helps.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: FoodieJim

                                        Good post FoodieJim. I also would like to add that I think steamed burgers might be a great thing for the OP to check out - and for that - I'd recommend getting a cheeseburger w/ works at Teds Cheeseburgers in Meriden. Right off 91 (91 or 15 to 691, first exit, 5N, will be on left). I much prefer Teds to Louis Lunch, but Louis Lunch is a good suggestion for historical purposes.

                                        1. re: FoodieJim

                                          Great post! Wish I could take your food tour, too! Gotta say, to the OP, while at Pepe's I really think you've gotta get the white clam pie -- two local birds, one (pizza) stone.

                                        2. It's not necessarily Connecticut cuisine, but Bentara Malaysian restaurant in New Haven is amazing, some of the best Malaysian I've had. The whole fish is to die for. I'll say I also deeply miss Mamoun's in New Haven -- a terrific and cheap falafel joint with a sister location in NYC.


                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: litchick

                                            Unfortunately, in my opinion, Bentara is really mediocre malaysian food -- seems like a bad hybrid thai/chinese place. Service was sweet and nice but the food really uninspired and not as cheap as you might think. Granted we had three entress for the two of us --- including the special filet mignon which was a slightly inferior cut of beef. Almost like Manhattan prices for that entree and not good at all.

                                            1. re: ssy

                                              I agree with litchick, Bentara's food has always been spot on for me. I've eaten in many other Malaysian places and once in a while there would be a dish that I may have liked better, but in general the food at Bentara has always been the best. And speaking as a chef, no food of quality is cheap, and the guys in the City pay the same for a filet as we do. Just as we have to pay the help, utilities and rent as they do.

                                          2. I would have to say the posts are very on for good local CT food but there is a place for breakfast that is my favorite, Somewhere In Time on RT 27 in Mystic. The have very creative omlettes and scrambles. I love the Banana Bread french toast with sausage. I order two slices instead of the three it comes with and share with my daughter.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: eyk423

                                              I have to agree with all these replies. Would also like to add Bill's Sea Food in Westbrook for a shore diner with decent views although not on the Sound like Abbots.Sit on the deck or at the outside bar. For dogs, all the ones mentioned are great but Thomlinson's (the greeks) in Bridgeport is, I think, worthy of mention, if not the best. The Place in Guilford is still there and does a teriffic job (if not a bit costly) with unique wood grilled lobsters and clams-BYOB and cash only. Try the bbq clam special. I live around the corner from Lenny's and it is one of the few places where you can get a BIG bug most of the time. Most other places are usually limited to 1 to 1-1/2 pounders but it's cash only-ATM on site. Also Guilford Mooring in Guilford has seating on the water and offers quite a few seafood dishes based on the local catch.

                                            2. I thought of one more CT place that is pretty unique. Again, it's not necessarily CT cuisine, but the Bloodroot feminist vegetarian cafe in Bridgeport has one of the best vegan/vegetarian restaurants I've ever experienced. I'm not a vegan or a vegetarian, but I've found the brunch and lunch options at to be excellent. Lots of organic, local, seasonal ingredients, in a realxed atmosphere. It's probably not for everyone, but I used to drive down there from New Haven at least once a month for weekend breakfast, and never had a bad time.

                                              Their info is here:

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: litchick

                                                i want to thank everyone for their contributions....

                                                we hit up louis lunch for a hamburger. pretty good.

                                                had the clam and bacon pizza at Pepe's....DELICIOUS...crispy yet chewy crust...the bacon was incredible. we went back so my wife could get a sausage cheese pizza.

                                                in mystic we went to the sea swirl and got whole bellied clams -- i found out I am more of a fan of the strips. Kitchen little for breakfast was wonderful. I had the Portuguese fisherman and my wife had the pancake special. Tried Abbotts for a lobster roll and the NE feast. Finally had breakfast at Somewhere in TIme where my wife had the banana bread french toast.

                                                Again, thank you for your input....