Bridgeport, CT Finds
- Jim Leff Dec 11, 2008 06:01 AM
Pho Saigon 80 Wood Ave 203-334-8812
Extremely barebones little family-owned parlor, usually deserted, clueless as to the operation of a restaurant. Really excellent Pho (beef noodle soup). this place doesn't belong here, please get word out or it will vanish, a big loss.
Garibaldi 1703 Park Ave 203-362-1065
Great nice people, and they're Oaxacan! They mostly make the standard stuff, but they can be persuaded to make a few Oaxacan things like tlayudas. They make Oaxacan style tamales on weekends, and might be persuaded to make mole negro tamales if you place a large order with a generous deposit.
Beira-Mar Bakery 344 James St 203-366-0155 outstanding portuguese pastel de nata (egg custard tarts)
El Pueblito 1222 State St 203-332-4408 an older find (I first landed here on their opening day...they consider me sort of their "founding gringo customer"), which I need to revisit. Unless they've gone downhill fairly recently, this is the best columbian restaurant I know.
Also one over the border in Westport:
Galaxy Cookies 47 Saugatuck Ave 203-226-9731 Makes some really really well-made (but non-snobby/precious) cookies. Expensive, naturally.
I’m from Bridgeport and I can tell you that while it isn’t paradise on earth it is no where close to being as bad as most people make it out to be. Most city residents are honest, hard working people. The funny thing is that more than a few of BPT’s drug dealers and pimps would go out of business very fast if it wasn’t for all of their customers from the surrounding wealthy suburban towns.
On to the food………I would love it if more people would add to this thread. Here are a few of my posts from the past.
In the near future I will add a write-up of some good Brazilian places.
Thanks for the tip on Pho Saigon. I will try it this week. Epernay on Fairfield Avenue is a great new place. Chef owner Peter is terrific. Bistro menu, really cool atmosphere. Also Helados Vasquez on Fairfield Avenue in Black Rock Section. Best gelato all made on the premises, and terrific home cooked Mexican food for lunch and dinner. BYOB and have a blast there!!!
re: Joanne Davis
We're from New Haven, but we never mind making the trip to Bridgeport for Omanel. Wonderful Portugese food at very reasonable prices.
...and where else can you get a bottle of wine for $12?
In addition to great traditional dishes, they usually have a lobster special - generally around a pound and a quarter for about $20, served with totally addicting fried potatoes (which actually accompany many of the dishes).
i live here and i can tell you there good restaurants here. Ralph &Riches, Taberna wine bar, Joseph's steak house, Tuscany.It's not nyc but the food is good and the prices are good as well. most night s you'll see the owners and in some cases owner / chef working . thay are proud of there places and rightly so.bridgeport ain't that dangerous,use common sense. just don't go crack shopping in the bad areas at night. calm down i'm joking
I'm shocked. Bridgeport is starting to get some love. A writer from the NY Times wrote a piece for Amtrak's magazine about the international chow scene in Bridgeport. He did a pretty good job. It was nice to see some photos of places I frequent like Mommie's Patties and Taqueria Michoacana.
Thank you for the tip on Pho Saigon - it's one of those things I crave every now and then, and unless I'm in Manhattan I just give up!
I headed over to Pho Saigon on Wood Ave. because I have not had pho for a long time - I found the restaurant, circled the block and decided to head over to Black Rock and eat at Helados Vasquez.
I live in Bpt and now own a children's boutique downtown in the Arcade Mall so I'm eating out almost every afternoon. Here are my recommendations: 1) Meatball Parm Panini from Amici Miei (Main St), 2) A fresh salad from Flour & Flower at 1042 Broad St (no outside signage but on first floor of Read's Artspace next to Martial Arts place). I highly recommend the Greek dressing! It's olive oil and spices and light on the vinegar. 3) Blackened catfish po-boy from Two Boots Pizza (Fairfield Ave) and catfish fritters. 4) Talapia from El Pueblito on Wall St. *There is a Mexican Restaurant opening in the Arcade Mall in the next few weeks, so I will review that for everyone soon.
Unfortunately all, Helados went out of business. Was the best Mexican around. And the gelato was ridiculous too. Hopefully it will come back some day soon.
As for BPT, I would second the Taberna call. Extensive wine list, and food is simple and very tasty.
For Italian, I would say either Cafe Tavolini or Cafe Roma. Roma makes a GREAT martini too, if you're into that. I know Ralph n Rich's is good, but I think they're more about "quantity" over "quality". Which, believe me (being a fat kid) aint that bad, but for the purposes of assessing the best Italian in the Park City, I would not put them on there.
Portuguese - Omanel on Main St. Enough said.
Wings & Cheesesteaks! (football season)- Black Rock Sports Cafe
Epernay is good, but out of all my experiences eating there, I do not think I have ever been "wowed". But would def NOT NOT (intended double negative) recommend, you might disagree.
Pho Saigon - make sure you check out the banh mi sandwich. It's the best around in Fairfield County (slim pickins).
Galaxy cookies too, like Helados, has regretfully closed too. What a shame.
Fried Chicken - Drumstik on Main Street.
Bereket Turkish Restaurant on Main as well.
God, I'm starving now!!!! Go BPT!
269 Fairfield Ave, Bridgeport, CT 06604
1909 Main St, Bridgeport, CT 06604
Bereket Turkish Restaurant
4031 Main St, Bridgeport, CT 06606
Black Rock Cafe'
850 Franklin St Ste 5, Wrentham, MA 02093
We are heading to Taberna on Sat night so a full posting will follow soon.
I started a post almost a year ago about Cafe Roma and there was lots of lively discussion about Bridgeport that stemmed from it:
As for Tavolini, I went over 3 years ago and it was so bad that I have never been back. Usually a restaurant has to be bad on consecutive occassions for me to write it off, but Tavolini pretty much lost me with 1 visit. Maybe they have changed, but it would take a LOT of convincing from Chowhounds to get me to go back: Here are the (lenghty) notes I wrote back then in my own notes:
I recently grabbed a copy of the “Best Of” issue of the Fairfield County Weekly and as usual, I quickly flipped to the restaurant section….. the Italian restaurant section to be exact. To my surprise, some of the traditional repeat winners (like Pasta Nostra) were not there and they were replaced with all new names that I have never seen before. How great is that!! New, great restaurants to try. So naturally, I hit the #1 pick of the year according to the reader survey: Café Tavolini - - - which has been open for only a year, if that long. (On top of being the best Italian restaurant, they also won Most Romantic Restaurant, so should be even better!
)Before I give a food review, let me tell a story about expectations. I remember many summers ago when Batman the movie was coming out. Many summers ago, as in: the Batman with Michael Keaton. The movie was being hyped for weeks by the media and one of my college roommates was there on opening night, patiently waiting in line for tickets to see the movie of the century. When he ultimately gave me his review, it was basically: it sucked; it was over-hyped; it isn’t worth the money.
So naturally, I didn’t rush out to catch it that week, or the next week, or the next week. But ultimately I got there and - - - I loved it. I thought it was a great movie that took a new, darker spin on the Batman story, and I loved Michael Keaton as Batman - - because outside of the costume he wasn’t some muscle bound Schwartzeneggar-type superhero.
We debated the merits of the movie for quite some time and in the end, I racked a big portion of our differences up to expectations. He went to the movie expecting the greatest show of the year, if not all time; when it didn’t meet his expectations, he had a long way to come down. When I went to the movie, I had no expectations at all… in fact I was expecting a bad movie, so I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw.
See where this is going?
Café Tavolini was to me what Batman was to my college roommate; probably a good restaurant, but a complete let-down to me because I expected so much.
It all started with the restaurant itself. I had known the previous restaurant that was there (Picasso) and it was OK, but pretty shabby in terms of set up and decoration. Tavolini has done a remarkable job redecorating and has added a big new bar and a nice outdoor dining area. All in all a very nice makeover. But romantic? With multiple widescreen TV’s hanging in the bar AND the restaurant showing ESPN and American Idol, this was far from anything that could be described as romantic. You can probably get away with a TV in the bar (not 2 or 3) and still keep a quaint, romantic feel, but having 2 TV’s mounted on the restaurant walls was a little tacky. So from the get go, I felt a little trepidation starting to set in about what was to come next.
When we sat down I flipped through the wine list - - - let me rephrase that - - - I opened the little 6 inch leather pad that had 2 pages of wine listed - - - maybe 15 total selections in all. When I looked for their best red wine (not to buy, but as a quick indicator of what they stocked) I found J Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet for $44. Ugh. Even if you don’t love wine like I do and don’t make it an integral part of your dining experience, you have to admit that great food restaurants very often have great wine lists - - - it’s a natural restaurant pairing. More trepidation set in. (I won’t even mention that when I ultimately ordered a bottle of red wine, it felt like it came straight from a rack hanging over the stove - - - I had to dump multiple ice cubes into the wine to bring it down to a temperature that was bearable for drinking. Usually if a red wine is a bit too warm (this one was borderline hot) I will ask for an ice bucket to sit it in for 5 minutes or so… but I didn’t ask because frankly I didn’t expect them to have one or know why I was asking for one with red wine.)
Liz also grew suspect of the bread which wasn’t warm (and seemed to have a little dryness to it that indicated it was sliced up well before it was served), of thin breadsticks that were served in their paper wrappers, and of butter that was set out in wrapped foil packets. And the oil they served for dipping clearly was not Extra Virgin - - - it was one of the lightest olive oils I’ve ever seen - - - which is probably why they dropped in several cloves of roasted garlic to give it some sort of flavor.
Onto the food: The menu was typical of middle-tier Italian restaurants. Some antipasti, some salads, a section for pasta, a section for fish, and a section for meat. Many of the main courses seemed to have repeating themes, such as: penne ala vodka, or ravioli with a pink cream sauce (special), or lobster over linguine in a spicy pink sauce, or chicken… well you get the picture. Creativity and range of menu were not strong suits.
I ended up getting a special appetizer of Portobello mushroom topped with spinach, pancetta, and provolone. For the main course I ordered a veal dish that was topped with prosciutto, tomato, and mozzarella while Liz ordered the special ravioli (in the pink cream sauce).
The Portobello was overstuffed with too much going on - - especially too much pancetta that dominated the whole thing. The quality of the ingredients all seemed fine, but there was no balance to the dish.
Liz’s main course came with a surprise. She ordered the special, but there was also a ravioli dish on the regular menu that was in a simple tomato sauce with sausage. She seemed to get a combination of the two when she was presented with ravoli in a pink cream sauce with sausage. Actually, it turned out to be a nice surprise, as the sausage was the best part of the entire dinner. The ravioli were fine and were cooked properly, but the whole dish was drowning in the pink cream sauce. I used to be a food drowner when I was younger, but I’ve converted to the teachings of Mario Batali: simple, quality ingredients in the right proportions. The ravioli should have been coated in the sauce, not swimming in it.
My veal, which was pounded thin, was overcooked to the point of being well done. When I make veal scaloppini, they get sautéed for 30 seconds per side and go straight to the plate; light, quick cooking is the key to tenderness in veal. I will admit that the veal was not tough, so I know the quality of their product was good, but it could have been so much better had it been not been overcooked. The light brown sauce/au-jus for my dish was very good - - - and it wasn’t overly used like the pink sauce for their ravioli.
For desert we split an order of tartuffo, which if you’ve had before, is pretty safe at a lot of places because they are often purchased rather than store made.
You probably can’t tell from my review, but I could possibly give this restaurant another shot down the line. When a restaurant gets voted #1 over places like Pasta Nostra, Paci, Mona Lisa, and Pane Vino, it should be an A++. Attention to detail in all aspects of the dining experience (wine, bread, oil and butter, menu, etc) is what makes a restaurant great. Maybe this restaurant can get there some day, but it has a few grades to climb first.
I discovered Pasta Nostra using the Fairfield County Weekly “Best Of” issue many, many years ago, so I know that their readers and their surveys can yield good results… but this year they missed on Café’ Tavolini on two counts – restaurant and romantic. Now I need to figure out if I’m going to take a chance on the other 2 restaurants that topped their Italian list this year. If Tavolini is #1, I’m a little hesitant to hit #2.
3074 Fairfield Ave, Bridgeport, CT 06605
269 Fairfield Ave, Bridgeport, CT 06604
116 Washington St, Norwalk, CT 06854
96 Station St, Southport, CT 06890
Foleyd7 - it sounds like everything went wrong for you when you went! I was trying to think of really good Italian in BPT only. Tuscany was good, but was pretty overpriced (to the best of my recollection). Every time I have been to Tavolini it was pretty spot on. I do have to agree with you regarding the TV in the dining room - that is def not romantic! But on a nice summer night, grab a seat outside and it is nice. Wine list is definitely suspect, but I normally go with a martini to start - which are decent. But if I am heading to Tavolini, I am not really looking for a nice brunello, but I can def understand where you are coming from. But the bread is normally slammin'! Sorry your experience was not a good one.
But compared to Viale (which is right across the street basically), it is way better. Viale, in my opinion, only does pasta well. Which is not a bad thing - but standard Italian courses are not their niche. Have you been?
I have not been to Pasta Nostra - but just might have to make a trip down there! thanks for the rec. And yes, Paci is the best.
116 Washington St, Norwalk, CT 06854
96 Station St, Southport, CT 06890
Haven't been to Viale but have been meaning to try. Interestingly enough, that was the restaurant that was ranked #2 in the Weekly in the same year that Tavolini got #1.
I've also had Ralph n Rich's on my list but haven't made it there. Your note about quantity over quality may have me just skip it.
Pasta Nostra is my hands down favorite for pasta (and there awesome all-Italian wine list) - - - but I will warn that it is expensive and they are super busy so get a reservation in advance.
Here's a link to my Italian list in Fairfield County. Lots of good recomendations throughout the thread too:
116 Washington St, Norwalk, CT 06854
re: Jim Leff
Oh, my bad about Galaxy - just saw the store was closed - did not know they moved. In that case, Woo-Hoo!
@Foleyd7 - Bridgeport, unfortunately is not as heavy-hitting for Italian as other cities in the county. And these places were "new", so they probably got some special consideration.
Anyhoo, I would definitely recommend you go to Ralph N Rich's over Viale. That is, if you make it to either. If you like to eat (a lot) then go on a Sunday for "Sunday Sauce". Check it out here: http://fcmenutalk.com/post/632075185/... . It's like Sunday brunch for eye-talians!! I would highly recommend, if you feel like gettin' your grub on! Let me know if you do head over there.
Ralph N Rich's
815 Main St, Bridgeport, CT 06604
My son is now living in Bridgeport. Any updates on what places are worth checking out?
There's a fairly new Turkish place he tried out on Fairfield Ave. He said it was ok, but not awesome. There is also an Italian deli in his area that he says is the real deal with awesome cold cuts and San Marzano DOP tomatoes.
I'll try to find out some names from him...