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10th anniversary in CT- need help with choices

My husband and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary and I am trying to find a really special place to eat that night. We have little kids so we don't get out too much just the two of us, so we want to go to a place we've never been to before and somewhere we wouldn't take the kids.

So far, these are the ones I am thinking of:

Union League Cafe - New Haven
Ibiza - New Haven
Grant's - West Hartford
Max's Oyster Bar - West Hartford
Apricot's - Farmington

Any opinion and other suggestions are greatly appreciated!

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  1. Sharpe Hill Vineyard - Pomfret, CT.

    If you go, know that you need to make a reservation a few weeks in advance. Well worth it. It's over an hour from my house and we try to make it out at least a couple of times each year.

    Happy 10th!

    Sharpe Hill Vineyard
    108 Wade Rd, Pomfret, CT

    1. Having dined at all of your choices but for Ibiza I'd pick Grant's in West Hartford, especially now that the place is quieter since their renovation two years ago. The others are just hit or miss, in my opinion.

      One you didn't mention was the inimitable Cavey's in Manchester. They're a two-for-one; haute modern French upstairs and Northern Italian downstairs. Superb food and service. 'nuff said. Happy anniversary!

      1. Not sure where you are from but,you could add Carbones in Hartford, to your pick list. The food is usually good. and the place is kind of romantic.(http://www.carbonesct.com/index.htm) Hope this helps. Earle Ct.

        1. I would vote for the Union League. Amazing food, beautiful, historic setting, flawless service and not as expensive as you might think, either. You'll also enjoy the quiet! And there will be no kids there. The morel mushrooms might be ready now - we usually go every spring to get a dish with morels in it.

          The food at Ibiza is phenomenal, but the place is loud and I can't stand the service - constantly trying to upsell you and turn over the table.

          I've only been to Grant's once, but I found it to be nothing special - "play it safe" food in strip mall suburban tarted up with a bunch of molding from The Home Depot. I like Bricco better, but then again you'll get the loud factor.

          I have not been to Apricots in years, but every time I have been, I've been the youngest person in the joint. It's quiet and more rustic a setting than the rest of your choices. The food was excellent, but it's been a while.

          1. I've been to ULC and Ibiza, and while both are wonderful, I absolutely adore Ibiza. I find that Union League is harder to relax in. Ibiza is intimate and certainly upscale, but it's cozy in a way that I feel Union League is not. The food is fantastic - get the short ribs, or better yet, go with a tasting. Every morsel I've had here has been wonderful. And obviously, drinks are important for a 10th anniversary! The sangria and mojito are superb. Wherever you end up, though, happy anniversary!

            1. Happy anniversary! Your list is solid and the other suggestions from Hounds are all good. (Btw, Shaogo, I think you reversed the locations of Cavey's restaurants. French is downstairs and their Northern Italian is upstairs. The downstairs (French) is perfect for an anniversary.) I would add Amelia's (small, romantic, candles on the tables, excellent food) and Metro Bis (Chris Prosperi is the chef and he and his staff prepare some inventive dishes). Both Amelia's and Metro Bis are in Simsbury. Let us know where you end up and how it goes....

              1. For a 10th Anniversary, I would do the French restaurant downstairs at Cavey's. Of the places listed, most of them are "you can go there any time" places. But Cavey's is really special, elegant, and will remind you just how special you are to each other. It's not the kind of place you go to regularly, and that's the point.

                1. I usually shy away from recommending a restaurant for special occasions, but I make an exception to recommend J Gilberts in Glasonbury. I have NEVER had a less than excellent experience there. You can go swankier. You can go pricier. But I don't think you can go better all things considered. You will need a reservation and mention it's a special occasion.

                  1. Thanks so much for all the responses! Funny, I didn't mention Cavey's because we live in Manchester and we've been there a few times. But my husband did just remind me that we have not dined downstairs. I suppose we could do that... I'll let you know what we end up doing!
                    Thanks again!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Bralex

                      Open mouth insert foot... I must've been upside down when I described Cavey's.

                      Now that I know you're in Manchester, I have another recommendation: The Student Prince in Springfield (if you like German food).

                      Again, happy anniversary!

                    2. You didn't say when you're going... I agree that Union League is really, really good but for an anniversary I think Le Petite Cafe, in Guilford, since it is small and itimate, would be cozier and more romantic. Ask for a window seat at the front.
                      Ibiza's OK, but not like the these two top French restaurants. Can't speak for the others.

                      1 Reply
                        1. I haven't been at any of the places you mentioned but know that Union League and Ibiza always get good reviews. I would suggest Barcelona in New Haven but it can be a bit loud, but the food is excellent. Also, Le Petite in Branford is good. My choice for excellent food and stellar service would be Carmen Anthony in New Haven. When you do decide and go somewhere I hope you will come back on and give us a review! Congratulations on your 10th anniversary!

                          1. I have only been to a handful of places in Connecticut where I feel like I could have a quiet, intimate, special dinner with a loved one. For me, most are too big and there's too much bustle and/or noise. I think of Union League that way. If there are more intimate areas available, other than the main rooms, then I am not aware of them. I did attend a wine tasting dinner in a smaller upstairs room. I don't know whether you can normally get into these.
                            Thus, I would give the nod to places like Le Petit (in Branford), Ibizia or Skappo. I like Som Siam, in Guilford, but it's only moderately fancy (for dinner), and is limited to Thai food.
                            Now, if you could eat outside I would want to go to l'orcio or Leon's.
                            Surely there are more places like I have mentioned, where you don't feel like you're in a cafeteria, regardless of the quality?

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Scargod

                              okay, I like to go to places that have that certain 'fun factor' to marry food. Places that aren't pretentious, stuffy and you can have some fun.

                              Ibiza - New Haven
                              Bricco - West Hartford
                              Cafe Routier - Westbrook
                              Bentara - New haven
                              Thali - New haven
                              River Tavern - Chester

                              Anniversarys for me are celebrations. Because I'm eating on linens in a room where George Washington ate doesn't make me love my spouse anymore. :-)

                              1. re: ElizabethHenton

                                It's not so much about eating where George Washington ate as it is going some place that you wouldn't pop into on any old Thursday night when you just don't feel like cooking. No offense to the places you listed. I've been to every one and they are all good. But to me, they seem more like Thursday night dinner spots, and not a special night out. A 10th Anniversary is special. It should be shared in a memorable spot with quiet tones, soothing music and a chance to focus on one another, and not the revelry of the table of 6 next to you, or the sky-high flames coming from the open exhibition kitchen with plates clanging and chefs calling out orders. If the OP were in Fairfield County, I would suggest Thomas Henkelmann. But since the OP resides in Manchester, then I would re-double my suggestion of going downstairs to Cavey's. Driving back from New Haven or Fairfiled County after celebratory glasses of Champagne and wine with dinner is not a good idea.

                                1. re: FoodieJim

                                  Have you dined at The Schoolhouse at Cannondale? Great for an anniversary.

                                  1. re: bac528

                                    I have not. Wilton is simply too far for me to go out for dinner. But if the opportunity arises where I don't have to travel over an hour to get back home, I will give it a try.

                                    1. re: FoodieJim

                                      So, it sounds like your suggestions are in concurrence with my ideas of what is a "special place".
                                      I looked at Thomas Henkelmann. Here and elsewhere it sure is getting very mixed reviews. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5802...
                                      When is the last time you went?
                                      I have been wanting to try Cavey's but need another reason to go that far.
                                      Ibiza: It has possibly been several years (?) since I've been to Ibiza and I'm not sure if I would think of the lower area as that sedate and quiet a place.

                                      1. re: Scargod

                                        My last dinner at TH was about 5 years ago. Don't go out to dinner in that area much any more. It is entirely possible that it has backslid. But without intending any offense to the good posters here, critiques of high-end dining is not the strongpoint of Chowhound and I always view them a bit more skeptically than I would those on other sites geared more toward "best of the best" dining experiences.

                                        1. re: FoodieJim

                                          I'm not so sure. A few years ago I would have agreed with you. Today, there may not be that many, but there are some sophisticated diners here, in the mix.
                                          Who are "those on other sites geared more toward "best of the best" dining experiences" places? eGullet or Zagat? Zagat has recent high praise for Thomas Henkelmann, but my Internet searching seemed to indicate that in 2007 they were iffy. They seem to be in fine form now, if you believe Zagat. eGullet has nothing current and had mixed comments, as well.
                                          I remember staying at a hotel. We based staying ther on reviews. We had a terrible experience so we wrote up a negative review. Guess what, it never showed up on the hotel review site! All they had were good reviews...
                                          I guess with all the very mixed reviews (except for 2009), I am looking at them with a very jaundiced eye until I hear from a recent Chowhound's visit.

                                2. The Schoolhouse at Cannondale is wonderful!!

                                  1. Let me throw out one more suggestion. I understand that On20 is now doing Friday night dinners open to the public. Maybe not every week, but worth a call to see when they are open. If they are, work with them on a tasting menu. They will put together pretty much anything you want. Say, for example, a 7 course tasting menu, or you could go nuts and do 15 tasting plates. Of course, they will have a prix fixe menu of probably 3 courses available as well. That, to me, would be a special treat for a 10th Anniversary. We went to the French Laundry for our 10th, but if I were staying closer to home, this is what I would do today. Probably the closest thing Central CT has to Per Se or TFL. Reasonable corkage as well in case you have a special bottle that you'd like to bring.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: FoodieJim

                                      That's actually a very good idea from what I've read about the place. I've yet to go, but it's on my list. Quick trip from Manchester and I'm sure it's pretty at night way up there On20!

                                      I do still recommend Sharpe Hill as it's one of my favorites. It's definitely a special place with great food and has the quaint/quiet/kid-free ambiance the OP seems to be after. The restaurant is in an old barn. While you wait downstairs before dinner, you can do a wine tasting. I also get it that not everyone feels like taking an hour ride to go for dinner. But for me, that's part of what makes it special--a ride to the middle of nowhere. ;)

                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                        I guess you are referring to Sharpe Hill Vineyard and the restaurant, Fireside Tavern. This is in N-E CT about 45 minutes (?) from Manchester. This is a fascinating looking place! I think I will take SO there!

                                        1. re: Scargod

                                          Yeah, probably about 45 minutes from Manchester. I think it's an hour + 10 from Middletown. I'd be shocked if you guys didn't love it. Now that it's getting warmer (?) you might not be as interested in sitting right next to the fireplace, but that's an option if you want to request when you call to reserve. We love it and hope you and the SO do, too. We try to go before the holidays and then in August (when you can sit outside) for my mom's b'day. Don't forget to make time for wine tasting before your meal.

                                          1. re: kattyeyes

                                            I appreciate all the responses and suggestions from everyone. Sorry I kind of dropped out for a bit. We ALMOST went to Union League Cafe in New Haven and a friend from the area mentioned Bisbane. It is from the previous owners of Roomba and it is, like Cavey's, 2 restaurants in one. It is not stuffy but cool and sexy. Really exactly the ambiance we were looking for. Half the menu is latin food and the other half is american. So we got a little from both menus and it was fantastic. The service was perfect and they even brought us free dessert because of our celebration. I highly recommend it. I will try some of the other suggestions in the future though. Thanks again!

                                            1. re: Bralex

                                              Bisbane?? Did you mean Bespoke/Sabor?