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Johnny Ray's - Milford, CT

Aha - - Another new upscale place in Milford, CT! website not fully up and running yet, but here it is: www.johnnyraysrestaurant.com

The restaurant located across the street from a scenic car wash on Bridgeport Avenue is a hidden gem that I hope will get better with age. We stopped there on a Saturday afternoon for lunch after calling and speaking to a nice gentleman who recited practically the entire lunch menu to us over the phone. When we arrived, the beautiful water wall immediately smacks you in the face. We sat in the bar and there was just one other table dining there. The bar is very large with high ceilings and exposed HVAC ducts. A few booths and a beautiful bar with granite countertops. A grand piano off to one side. I wonder how the acoustics are when it is busy. The dining room in the back is quite pretty, albeit dark with no windows. It is clear that a decorator was used. Nice round booths in a peach hue. The bathroom was also really nice with glass basin and glass tilework. I really wonder if they are affiliated with the tile store next door. Definitely did not cut corners on the decorating here.

Now, the menu. . . When we were seated, the waiter accidentally gave us the dinner menu instead of the lunch menu, so we were able to catch a quick glimpse. Definitely upscale. Prices were various to high but nothing extreme and pretty inline with other upscale places. I'm curious how the owners will describe their menu. I'd have to say Spanish/Meditteranean/Italian? They serve incredible soft brown bread, whipped butter, and some plain bruschetta along with pickle, olive oil and hummus tray--the assorted olives and marinated garlic and pickles (cornichons) were so good! For lunch, we had the wild mushroom goat cheese pear appetizer that was fabulous. Their calamari were fried beautifully light and came with a pignoli, basil, tomato sauce. Disappointment on the appetizer was that we had ordered duck spring rolls, but the waiter said they hadn't been made yet that day (?) I had a pappardelli pasta dish with a veal ragout that was good, but I had wished I tried something more daring--tasted like a basic meat sauce to me. A guest had a shrimp and chicken dish served over mashed plantains that looked absolutely incredible. Another guest had their cuban sandwich which she said was disappointing because it was described to be on a special bread and pressed but it appeared to be served on a regular italian hoagie roll loaded with ham and turkey and pressed--nothing special she said. When asked, the waiter also told us that they regularly serve a sweet potato and chorizo soup that sounded interesting.

I'm sure they are ironing out the kinks and going on a Saturday afternoon during a quiet time is not the best time to review a new place and get the full experience. Several people drove by and stopped to pick up a copy of the menu while we were there. Our young waiter was a sweetheart.

Please, if you go for dinner, do report in; I'm curious.

I hope a lot of people start going, so they can really get this place up and running. I'm sure it will get better and better as more and more people frequent it.

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  1. I'll report in on Saturday. We're having a swanky company cocktail and dinner session there on Friday night. Can't wait!

    1 Reply
    1. re: azsyno

      We went to Johnny Ray's last night and had an "interesting" experience. We had made 8:30 reservations (and yes...the person who took the reservation repeated it to me!) and when we arrived at 8:33, there was a "commotion" among the 3 young ladies at the podium. I was informed that my reservation was at 7:30 (WRONG!) but after a bit of a conference, we were told that they could seat us.
      When we sat down, a young woman came to our table to announce that she was our server (Pam)....shortly thereafter, a restaurant employee (later told to be a friend of the owner) came to our table to inform us that George, not Pam, would be our server. Pam then returned to our table, obviously not informed that she was no longer our server, and upon telling her this, she left to talk to somebody. George then walked by and told us that he was, not, in fact, our server, but rather, Pam would be. Does this sound like it's getting a bit tedious?????
      We then were left unattended for almost 15 minutes until ANOTHER server, noting our plight, asked if she could do anything, at which point I asked to see the manager. Quickly, Ray, one of the owners, came to the table and apologized, and Pam then came back to us!!!!
      At any rate, once dinner got started, we really did enjoy our meal. I had the plantain encrusted calamari and my wife had the seared tuna as apps, both of which we enjoyed. Almost unnoticed on the menu was the fact that all entrees come with a house salad, which followed the appetizers and was, in fact, very nice - interesting greens with a very good balsamic dressing.
      Following the advice of a previous post, I ordered the short ribs, and while somewhat "heavy," it was, nonetheless, delicious. My wife's duck appeared nicely plated, but with a bit too little sauce. Our request for additional sauce was quickly honored and she enjoyed her dish as well.
      I thought that a nice touch was that when the evening's dinner specials were recited, we were told that there was also a wine special. I'd like to note that the wine list, while rather short, was very interesting and included a number of wines that rarely show up on lists - 3 or 4 Argentinian reds, a nice selection fo Syrahs and Petite Syrahs, and a real attempt to showcase wines that are not necessarily commercially popular. When we inquired about the wine special - a very nice Argentinian blend, Pam offered to bring us a taste, and we took her up on her offer and actually ordered a bottle.
      So......after what can only be termed a very rough start, we had a very nice dinner and will definitely return. The owner, Ray, understanding our dismay in having to deal with the comedy of errors that greeted us, came by our booth several times during the meal to make sure that all was well, and went out of his way to thank us when we left.
      As summer residents of Milford, we are definitely pleased to see the new restaurants opening up. Bistro Basque has become a favorite, Johnny Ray's certainly seems likely to succeed (providing that they straighten out some of the logistical problems that we encountered), and our next stop will be Bin 100.

    2. I am in love with Johnny Rays!! I have been there twice so far - once for appetizers and drinks and once for dinner - and on both occasions the food was amazing. I have yet to order an appetizer that I didn't enjoy. The wild mushroom/ goat cheese/ pear dish is amazing - both of the calamari dishes are great - but the highlight of the appetizer menu is definitely the oysters. If you go to Johnny Rays, you must order the oysters!

      For dinner I ordered the strip steak over garlic mashed potatoes - delicious. My dinner companions ordered the stuffed pork chop, which was huge and very stuffed, and the chicken and shrimp over plantains. Both dishes looked great and my companions loved both.

      Our server was great (Amy, I think?). She was very cheerful and offered great suggestions with regards to the appetizers, which we took her up on and were glad we did! She also offered some nice suggestions about the wine. In all, she was very helpful and good-natured.

      The decor is also very pleasant. I generally like a bit of a darker atmosphere during dinner out - I just think it makes the meal a little cozier.

      The bathrooms are clean and nicely decorated though they are a little small, with only one sink. They can get a little crowded a little later in the night when the bar starts to fill up, especially the women's bathroom as there is only one mirror:)

      Overall, I love everything about the place - the food, the service, and the atmosphere. I plan on going back many, many times (for apps and drinks and for dinner) and I encourage anyone looking for a good meal in Milford to give it a try (and order the oysters!!)

      2 Replies
      1. re: guano

        Anyone been there in the past 2 months? I just tried accessing their website and it's completely down.

        1. re: mkoso

          I've been there within the past 2 months. It has potential and I enjoyed it but it needs a little work to get the kinks out of the operation, mostly in the service area. The food is good but a little uneven. Nice place, though.

      2. Yesterday we ate lunch at Johnny Ray's and I think our experience was in line with many of the other comments here on Chowhound.
        I want to start with the interior. The bar has a large, "waterfall" mirror behind it and it smelled a little of chlorine when we first walked in. We chose to sit in the rear, "real" dining room. Note the attached picture of the dining room. There is a lot of wasted space because of the "Las Vegas look" curved, high-back, salmon colored banquettes. The upscale interior is interesting (to say the least) but very odd to us.

        There were only about three other occupied tables in our room (and the place). I don't think she was the only waitress..... but nobody assisted her except for one time, where I think the manager (?) refilled our water glasses. We had to ask the waitress once for our water glasses to be re-filled. We had to wait quite a while for our wine and the service was sketchy, in general. I think she just forgot we had drink orders! We each ordered wine by the glass and our waitress got my partner's wine wrong, but in our favor, quality and price-wise. They have a decent wine list but not that many good ones by the glass. Hers was not supposed to be "by the glass" if it was really what she said it was......
        We were brought salads without having any setups on the table. We had to ask for them before we could begin eating. No bread was served. The mixed greens salad was good but the dressing was a "glop" in the middle of the greens (so you had to toss it yourself) and hiding on the bottom was one-half a cherry tomato!
        We both ordered fish. She the ginger-garlic crusted, overcooked salmon on a bed of mashed potatoes with a soy-lime "glaze" with fruit bits of mango and pineapple on top (the mashed potatoes with the fruit and glaze/sauce was an excellent combination).
        I had the overcooked plantain crusted mahi mahi with quinoa. Both were very flavorful but it wasn't bcause of the fish. The hard and flavorless ginger-garlic crust took more away from the salmon than it added. We didn't get "ginger" or "garlic" at all, just a hard crust over overcooked salmon. My mahi mahi had a peanut/curry sauce which was good, but overpowered (in a nice way) by coconut milk and liquified mango. I liked the quinoa, though it seemed undressed/un-seasoned and just "plain". Both our plates came with brussel sprouts. A couple were cooked to our liking and the rest were just plain raw, with a cold interior and essentially, inedible.

        Dessert was much better. OK that it had a cold spot in the middle-- though it was obviously warmed up! It was the banana bread pudding with a "laced" cream and raspberry sauce.
        Yes, their website is down. On this day, the waitress was near incompetent for this class of restaurant. The food had a few spots of brilliance. I don't think we will be back because there is so much better to be had nearby.

        1. Thanks for the review, Scargod. On our only visit the service was lacking as well, as I indicated above. My wife said her jambalaya was good but she had never had jambalaya before so you'd have to take her opinion with a grain of salt. I thought it looked very dark. Upon sampling it I could easily taste that the roux had been way overcooked to the point of being burned. The heat of the spice was on the money, though. I opted for the barbecued beef short ribs with mascarpone risotto. Mistake! The ribs had this sticky barbecue sauce glopped on them. The sauce was cloyingly sweet. The ribs were plopped on top of the risotto allowing the barbecue sauce to drip all over the risotto. This resulted in the dish tasting like nothing more than a huge mass of too sweet barbecue sauce. Whatever subtlety the risotto and mascarpone would have otherwise lent to the dish was completely lost. Other than that it was an enjoyable evening, mostly because of the killer martini they served me.

          1. I see they have their menus on www.restaurant.com since their website appears to still be down. THought I'd share -- and you can buy a discount coupon.


            1 Reply
            1. Hello Everyone!

              Although it seems that no one has posted to this thread in a few months, I felt compelled to respond. I have dined at Johnny Ray's in Milford a few times over the couse of the past few months....each dining experience was for dinner, with large and small groups. I have to say that they must have read and heeded your words of constructive criticism here. EVERY TIME I have eaten there has been a pleasurable dining experience, for both me and my dinner companions! We never waited long for a waiter, we got our drinks in a timely manner. Our appetizers, salads and meals came out in a timely manner and with great, bold flavors! The desserts are good too, especially their homeade ice cream, when they have it!

              The only "issue" I had once was that I ordered a Sprite and 3 times I was brought seltzer water. I figured it was an easy mistake. I was really not that annoyed by it. The food was delicious. The ambiance is nice inside. And the wait staff has ALWAYS been friendly with us, knowledgeable about the menu, and prompt with service!

              No complaints from me or the many people I have dined with there. I'd suggest giving them another try. Maybe they've learned from their growing pains?


              1. So, how is Johhny Ray's doing these days? I just read that they got Arturo, a server from the closed Il Forno.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Scargod

                  The last couple of times we ate at Johnny Ray's, we were less than overwhelmed. Admittedly, we tried their fixed price offerings over the summer (which were an excellent value), but if the quality of the food was indicative of their current regular offerings, while nothing was bad, nothing really stood out.
                  It seems to me that they generate most of their revenue from the bar. When we were there last, there were only 3 or 4 other tables occupied in the dining room. It WAS on a Thursday night, but if they can't do better than that, especially with their "during-the-week deals," that can't be a good sign.
                  That being stated, I would probably go just to see Arturo again!