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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.

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          1. 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.