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Is O'Rourke's in Middletown, CT worth it?

They had this place on tv the other day. I am sure there are lines now. I have always wanted to check the place out? Is it worth it? Thanks!

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  1. Used to be fun and good, years before the fire. The place has become sooo full of itself. The past four visits I've experienced poor & surly service, agonizing waits, sloppy inconsistantly prepared food and indifferent gloppy presentation. I've called it quits and sadly won't go back. Great memories of the olden days though

    6 Replies
    1. re: Big Fat Moe

      I heard the same exact thing from a couple of pre-fire regulars.

      1. re: Big Fat Moe

        My Dad used to go there back in the day when he went to Wesleyan. He said it was much better back then but i still had to try it. Let me tell you for a diner make sure you bring some extra cash cause wow expensive. The fact that you have to wait outside is crazy i wouldnt do it even if you paid me. The service is very hit or miss and the menu is almost too big for me. I would say yes its worth it just cause its been on TV which is cool. But i will not be going back

        1. re: bmgsmg72

          Just curious--how can you define the service as "hit or miss" if you've only been to O'Rourke's once? Based on your ONE experience, it was either a "hit" or a "miss"--so which was it?

          1. re: kattyeyes

            yes ive only been once, But the time i went my girlfriend and I actually had 2 servers cause we started out of the counter then moved to the booth when it opened up. The guy at the counter was not very helpful and seemed very busy. but when we moved to the both we had this girl and she was able to help us out better. So that is how i say the service is it or miss hope it answers your question.

            1. re: bmgsmg72

              Got it--thanks. Not to say service isn't important--it absolutely is. But I didn't hear you or anyone else who complained say one word about the food. In your opinion, was that a "miss" as well? I've eaten a number of different breakfasts and lunches there almost weekly for several months running and don't get what's NOT to love. Do tell.

              1. re: kattyeyes

                Well i would say price is a huge factor for me in going out to breakfast. I just can not see spending a lot of money for it. [note: i cannot comment on the lunch cause ive have not eaten it]. I would almost rather take my chances at dennys. But as for the food i would say the menu is just too big for me. The home fries were soggy i like mine crispy so its really a matter of choice there. The bread that they gave at the start of the meal was great. I just ended up getting pancakes and bacon an home fries cause i did not feel like spending all the money on an omelet. The bacon was cold and basically fell apart i like thick applewood smoked bacon only place ive seen it is at TPC River Highlands.[ Actually if you ever get to try one of their brunches like they are having one on mothers day coming up the bacon there is amazing.] The Pancakes were nothing special i could go to dennys and get something similar. Overall for a breakfast place just too expensive. I would say though i do get a kick out of people waiting in the winter time when its like 15 degrees out and snowing to get some breakfast.

      2. Yes, there are lines, but it is definitely worth it. If you're an early riser, you can tend to beat the lines if you get there before 7:30 or so. And if you don't mind sitting at the counter, you can usually get a seat a bit faster. Brian's menu is a book of highly creative omelets, eggs and French toasts. Breakfast always starts off with a sample of his freshly baked breads (lemon poppyseed and orange spice, for example). In fact, last time I was there, one of the waitresses came around with a giant paddle with batter on it and spoons for people to sample it. How fun is that? Samples tend to get passed (sometimes by Brian personally) throughout breakfast. I've had puff pastry filled with raspberry preserves, pistachio bread and outrageously buttery pound cake. I realize everyone has a different experience, but I have consistently received great, friendly service by a variety of different waitstaff there. In fact, my favorite waitress there is downright funny. She chides people who don't finish what's on their plate (which is definitely a feat--these are not light meals by any stretch of the imagination). I am thrilled Brian is back. I love his soda bread, his Huevo O'Rourke, Eggs with Black Beans and Santa Fe Eggs...and I could go on and on. If you saw O'Rourke's on "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives," it's because so many people wrote to Guy to recommend it, he had to check it out...or so he said at the beginning of the show. So ends my love letter to O'Rourke's. I'm proud this place is such a landmark in my hometown. Hope you enjoy when you visit!

        1. In my opinion O'Rourkes is the best breakfast in the state by far. Yes the lines are long, but I always feel my wait was worthwhile upon completion of my meal.

          1. I'm ambivalent. They certainly have an extensive menu and everything I've ever had there pre and post fire has been very good. One good thing about the fire is that the place is now clean. Gave me the willies before.

            You ask is it it worth it? I live in Middletown and don't go very often. I do think they are a bit pricey for a diner. Also, I hate to wait in line for anything. I wouldn't wait in line to witness the Second Coming. So I will only go during the week for breakfast, not a weekend, and not at any other busy time. Also, for lunch I will aim for before noon or after 2pm. BTW, waiting means you're outside on the sidewalk just a few feet away from noisy traffic. Weather can be a factor, too.

            I would say, though, you definitely have to try it. It is an experience.

              1. The first time I had lunch at O'Rourke's was in 1988. I remember it clearly because the bowl of tomato bisque I had there was better than any soup I'd had at _any_ restaurant, period. It was followed by a piece of blueberry pie that I thought was some of the best I'd ever had.

                Currently, the servers aren't the greatest but the food is still amazing. O'Rourke's is certainly all it's cranked up to be -- even now.

                16 Replies
                1. re: shaogo

                  I'm not sure how often you visit O'Rourke's, but as someone who goes almost every weekend, I don't know what you mean about the servers. We now know most of them by name and are never disappointed in the service we receive.

                  So, to all of them--Jeanine, Maria, Rick, Derek & Casey (I refer to you two as "the cute boys!") and Eve--we love you guys! And I am especially grateful when one of you is walking around carrying the giant beater and spoons so we can all have a sample of whatever batter Brian just whipped up for the tasting.

                  Happy belated 1-year anniversary of the phoenix rising from the ashes!

                  P.S. I had the pleasure of stopping in for lunch a couple of times over the past few weeks...broccoli cheddar soup--out of this world! Juicy steamed cheeseburgers on homemade buns--need I say more?! Brian O'Rourke, you da man--and we love you, too!

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Hey, I just had breakfast at O's this morning at 6. I would have phoned you, but we arrived as Scargod's around 11 from a looong day's drive from Nag's Head. I awoke at 5:30 and slipped out the door. Had the Grav Lox Deluxe and hit the road back to Maine, Delishious as always. Got a t-shirt to take to my son in Seoul.
                    What a great trip Scargod and I had. You'll hear more.

                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                      Hey, we just missed you by less than 24 hours! Hiya! We went late (for lunch rather than breakfast yesterday) and split a table with a nice couple we met in line while waiting outside. The couple traveled from outside Worcester, Mass. JUST TO GO TO O'S after seeing it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

                      There was a huge pack of bikers in front of us--a dozen or so. We figured we were in for a long wait, but shot the breeze while waiting on Main St. It was gorgeous here yesterday and the sun felt good--who could complain? The Worcester couple thanked us for the inside info we gave them on the place. When asked if it was worth the hour and a half drive plus the wait in line on the street, they said, "ABSOLUTELY!" And they ate every last bite on their plates--including the fresh breads and freshly made jam. :) We asked if we (or DDD) had oversold the place and they said not at all--that they had never eaten in a diner like this one.

                      Welcome home! :) Looking forward to hearing more about your trip.

                      1. re: kattyeyes

                        My partner and I had lunch there for the first time today. He had Chipotle burger and I ordered Brian's Reuben. We shared half and half. Both were terrific. Service is certainly spotty, but the ambiance is sooo friendly. I'm heading back when I'm in the area. Thanks to CH folks for pointing it out to us.

                        1. re: kattyeyes

                          I'm headed there for dinner on Friday with family -- what to order? Is there a menu somewhere online where I can whet my appetite?


                          1. re: allieb2031

                            No online menus that I'm aware of. After lunch any day this week, maybe give 'em a ring. As far as I know, I think they create their menus each week (including breakfast specials) pretty much off the cuff, but they might plan ahead and I just don't know. Don't forget, you can BYOB if you'd like. :) Hope you enjoy!

                            O'Rourke's Diner
                            728 Main St, Middletown, CT 06457

                            1. re: kattyeyes

                              Is this the place where they have good corned beef hash? I can't remember what someone said a little while ago... Maybe it was closer to New Haven? Is it Irish? I'm going to try it next week.

                              1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                It absolutely is the very place! :) And they also have both wide and wild varieties of hash, depending on what day you go--red flannel (beet) hash, duck hash...they make more varieties of hash than I ever knew existed. It is absolutely Irish. Brian O'Rourke IS O'Rourke's. Bring your appetite. You won't leave hungry.

                      2. re: kattyeyes

                        What's the typical wait time for a table on a Saturday morning for a party of five, say around 8:30 or 9:00 am?

                        1. re: taos

                          Oooooooh, that's prime time. You might give them a call tomorrow afternoon and let them guide you. I don't think I've ever gone at that hour (I'm a crazy early bird). But I suspect the line is out the door by then.

                            1. re: taos

                              I used to leave my mother's house at 3 am to get there at 6, never a line! The home fries were fresh too, but still not my fave.

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                Thank you for the input. We ended up eating there on a Saturday morning with a group of five. Showed up around 8:45 and had no wait for a table. When we left about an hour later there was a line waiting down the block. There were also tables set up on the sidewalk for extra seating.

                                The food was excellent and far from the usual greasy spoon diner fare. I had the Eggs Brian (not to be confused with the Brian's Breakfast or Brian's Lunch or Brian's Ruben ...). It was eggs scrambled with grilled ham, steamed spinach & cheddar, topped with mornay sauce and served with home tries & toast . I also got a slick of fresh cantaloupe with this. It was all very good. The eggs were prepared perfectly and the accompanying items were excellent.

                                Two major complaints:
                                1. The service was friendly but scatter brained. The waitress mixed up one order (brought the entirely wrong thing) and we had to remind her twice to bring the coffee she promised. Our check was also messed up. She seemed completely spaced out.
                                1. I ordered black coffee. Should be a simple order. I got hazelnut flavored coffee! The taste lingered in my mouth after the meal and I had to stop on the way home at Starbucks and get a real cup of coffee. Why are they serving flavored coffee as the default coffee?

                                I would still recommend O'Rourkes for the food but be prepared to deal with sketchy service.

                                1. re: taos

                                  I was hoping you'd post back with feedback. I think you got lucky landing a table like that. :) Really glad you liked the food. I am not nuts about their potatoes, but am a big fan of just about everything else they serve.

                                  I wonder if maybe your waitress was new? Not to make excuses for one of my favorite places--your two major complaints are certainly valid. As a fairly "frequent flyer" there, though, I never had that happen...nor is flavored coffee the default unless that's changed in the past few months. Sounds like there was a new kid in the house...most of the folks who work for Brian have been there a while and wouldn't make mistakes like this.

                                  What breads did they bring you to start your meal (I hope they didn't forget to do that!)? Oh gosh, and one more thing, please if you come back to Middletown and don't find the coffee you're looking for, PLEASE go to Klekolo (down Main St. to Liberty Bank, right on Court St.). They serve coffee right...and truthfully, usually so does O'Rourke's. :)

                                  Klekolo World Coffee
                                  181 Court St, Middletown, CT

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    Yes, it seemed quite possible that the waitress was new because when she brought the wrong dish, she was clueless as to how to remedy it and an apparently more experienced waitress came to help. I felt sorry for her and meanwhile the errant plate was getting traipsed all over the restaurant getting cold for whoever was going to eat it, so I just said, I'd eat it anyway. It was good.

                                    I don't remember getting any breads to start the meal. It looks like they forgot that too!

                                    I don't know about Kiekolo. Will take you up on your recommendation. I've gone to Brubakers in the past or Javapalooza (not sure if it is there any more -- last I checked the hours had become really inconvenient). Thanks for some good recommendations on good food in Middletown. I go there fairly often and have had a lot of bad food. ORourkes will be the start of something good.

                                    1. re: taos

                                      Ohmygoodness, glad to shake hands with you virtually. 06457 has too much good food for you to keep finding the bad. Top picks for you:
                                      1. Luce
                                      2. Pho Mai
                                      3. Iguanas Ranas

                                      The last two are hyper casual but solidly good eating. Luce is my favorite Italian restaurant and is by no stretch of the mind just red sauce. Hope you love as much as I do!

                                      Pho Mai
                                      570 Main ST, Middletown, CT 06457

                    2. We went to O'Rourke's this morning around 9. We had to wait about 10 minutes on the bench in the entrance. Enjoyed browsing the random object and cookbook collection (Paul Prudhomme's Seasoned America, The BBQ Bible...), but not much room on the bench. The place is MUCH smaller than I thought it would be-how the heck did they fit all the camera for DD&D's? How did Guy fit in there?

                      When we got our booth, we were greeted with a small plate of lemon poppy-seed bread, which was encouragingly good, although there was a wet spot about about 1" large that turned out to be spilled coffee on one of the pieces. Probably accidentialy spilled in the tight confines. A peppy, nice college-age student took our drink order-they have an AMAZING range of sodas and drinks available. The hot chocolate was pretty and tasted great. Next, our college-age waitress (Natalie!) took our order- just as nice and bubbly as the drink guy!

                      The menu included too many tempting items and I think we serioulsy let down drink guy by ordering the most boring items on the menu-choc. chip pancakes, corned beef hash, and eggs Benedict. The kids devoured the pancakes within minutes- water guy was like "How were the pancakes?" and I go "Terrible, obviously." and he goes,"I'll tell the chef to send more, and have him do a better job". Ha ha!- Weslyn moved up as college possibility in my son's mind. The corned beef hash was, hands down, the best I've had in a long time. I wanted the s. o. t. d. (turkey hash), but my duaghter put her foot down. DIdn't see duck hash or I would have overruled. The eggs were clearly not a chef favorite (uninspired) but good- a refreshingly small amount of hollandaise, perfectly poached eggs, excellent grilled ham slice, and crunchy englich muffin. The only mistake in my opinion was the thin slice of white american cheese hidden beneath the ham. Wasn't needed in the rich dish. The potatoes were not my favorite style (I like shredded rostii style potatoes), but they were crunchy outside and creamy inside, as they should be. Next time I'll get the fingerlings or the grilled grit cakes- which my kids said "No way!" as they always do when I order anyting remotely reminicient of my southern heritage.

                      It was a great find! I can't wait to go back to order the "Brian's special breakfast", or another egg special. I see they have a new 4-course meal offered later in the day-I'd like to see how the chef handles non-breakfast items. I appreciated the respectful way the wait-staff treated us-even thought there was quite a line outside in the cool misty am, we NEVER felt rushed. The eclectic group of patrons was also a welcome change from our usual places. BTW, the board noted new hours, so maybe call before your next visit. We'll definitely be back.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                        Glad you likedit. I discovered O'Rourke's as a Wesleyan dad, 10 years ago. I enjoy the novi lox omelet. The homefries are not my favorite either, over time one learns what to order. I would never order the steamed hamburger there, too much that is so good to chose from tho orser a burger. Go to Meriden for that.
                        ps Our son proudly wears his O'Rourke's t-shirt in Seoul.

                        1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                          True confession: I like breakfast/lunch better than dinner there; HOWEVER, I only had dinner there once and need to go a few more times to be a fair judge of it. Regardless, we always feel like it's one of our homes away from home and the BYOB option at dinner is nice.

                          Laura, really glad you enjoyed your breakfast. As to hours, I recently updated the O'Rourke's record in the "RESTAURANTS & BARS" tab to reflect their expanded late-night hours:

                        2. Don't let the "diner" designation fool you. The prices exceed that category, with breakfast meals around ten bucks. I stopped in for lunch, and tried the $3.50 steamed cheeseburger and a cup of soup. Ted's in Meriden has a better steamed cheeseburger, but it's 75 cents more (but worth the extra change.) The cup of barley soup was a good deal at 3 bucks, but needed some salt and pepper. Brian was there chatting with the customers. Bottom line, it's pricey for what it is.....but you may be more impressed with the pricier options than I was for a 7 buck lunch.

                          Also, note the lack of parking anywhere near the building.

                          O'Rourke's Diner
                          728 Main St, Middletown, CT 06457

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: BoNapateet

                            <<Also, note the lack of parking anywhere near the building.>>

                            On Main St., Middletown, there are parking meters and spaces up and down the roughly .7 mile expanse of the street on both sides. Not understanding "the lack of parking" you describe.

                            As to the price factor, it really depends on what you order. Yes, the more creative omelets (which, I should add, are huge) are around the $10 mark...as are the specials. But if price is a deal-breaker, one of my favorites there, the hash/egg/cheese on a roll is (I think) $3 or $4.

                            Since there are 2 votes for Ted's steamed cheeseburger on this thread, I will make it a point to get there and see for myself.

                            1. re: kattyeyes

                              I used to go pre-fire frequently, it was worth the wait. After the fire I didn't think it was as good. Maybe it was too soon? I guess I'll be trying it again after reading this.

                              1. re: dennisl

                                I have to agree. I used to go all the time pre fire. Went twice and was dissapointed both times. I don't mind a pricy breakfast but it was lacking both times. Ordered the Dubliner both times.

                                1. re: ganache123

                                  Wait a minute, is O'Rourke's the place that burned down a few years ago? We had just moved from Fairfield County, and still didn't know any other parts of CT existed (snarky, I know, but it's true). Why would they rebuild it so small? Does it look the same?

                            2. re: BoNapateet

                              Parking's not a problem. If the meters are full, pull down the street, 'round the traffic circle and park on the street that leads down to the left of the Catholic Church that's at the end of Main St.; you'll be a 2 minute walk from O'Rourkes.