Cavos, Newington, CT
My husband and I ended our vacation to Connecticut with a late lunch (around 3PM) at Cavos (http://cavostavern.com/).
We had saganaki and arnaoutti (which was skordalia with roasted peppers), and a gyro dinner plate. We shared all of it.
The saganaki was really good, though not hot (not served on a sizzling platter, as I've had it at other places), still tasty and well-cooked. Three slabs of cheese served with lemon wedges, yum. The arnaoutti was really good (I love skordalia, I need to make it at home more often). Our meal came with a salad that was nothing especially remarkable, but well-executed (fresh, not yucky, decent dressing, not enough olives for me :) and garlic bread that was a little too done on the bottom (like he left it just a bit too long) but it wasn't quite burnt. It had that lovely fresh garlic taste from actual garlic bits on the bread, instead of some spread that tastes so vaguely of garlic you think maybe someone waved a clove in the general direction of the broiler.
The fries we got with the plate were very crisp, and I liked them, but I was nearly completely full by the time they got there, so I only had a couple. The meat was wonderful, perfect, really (well, perfect for anything I've found in New England, anyway, I'm sure it's better in Greece or other places with large Greek communities). The tzatziki I loved, rich, creamy, garlicky, fresh. Clearly made there. Could have used a little more pita bread (perfect, grilled, warm, yummy) but we didn't really -need- it.
For dessert we had phyllo stuffed with a sort of custard cream. It was good, made on premises (according to the waitress) but I think I would have preferred baklava. :)
The whole meal set us back around $36 (not including tip). I liked it an awful lot, and would absolutely recommend it to anyone in the area. Or near the area. It was totally worth driving out of our way to get to.
We heard about Cavos from a Greek friend who loves food almost as much as we do.
After seeing the initial buzz posted here, we were determined to give it a try. We were delighted on three separate occasions.
Please don't be discouraged by some of the comments I make about the food. Chowhounds deserve to know the good and the bad about any place. On the whole, the food is very, very good. If you factor in the low prices, the place is a superb value.
One can make an entire meal of Cavos's appetizers. Even after scratching the usual frozen culprits (Buffalo Wings, Fried Calamari, Fried Zucchini) off the list, there're plenty of authentic homemade appetizers left to try.
Spanakopita was rendered luxurious by the addition of leeks. They obviously make their own here, this is not some briny/salty over-cooked frozen product.
Potato/garlic dip (Skordalia) was shot-through with flavor. Grilled Calamari was a bit tough, merely because they'd left it too long on the grill. Their grilled version, however, was better than the fried version we've had at more-expensive restaurants.
My favorite appetizer story: They had to take taramosalada (red caviar salad with yogurt) off the menu because it wasn't popular. One afternoon our waitress was explaining that her grandmother (a fixture in the kitchen) would make it but then it'd go bad. During our conversation, grandma asked the younger girl what we were talking about. When she found out, grandma offered to make us an order right then and there. It was divine, and generous in size. When we asked grandma to come to our table and share some of her handiwork, she refused, imploring us to eat it. And she said "and it's on the house." They didn't charge us even though we insisted on paying. Suffice it to say that we left an incredibly large tip (tip plus twice the menu price of the taramosalata).
Regarding "stuff they had to take off the menu." During the same conversation with the waitress (just yesterday) she revealed that they had to take the Moussaka off the menu (could the fact that prior Chowhound reviews panned the moussaka have something to do with it?) The girl also revealed that the roast beef grinder was the only other menu-item casualty.
My wife's a salad lover. Their house salad sauce is a delightful, complex, light-tasting vinaigrette. It is just superb. Their caesar dressing, sampled on one visit, was homemade but contained way too much mustard/mustard powder. The house salad, with a little grated cheese on top, pleased her more than the caesar.
Entrees were plentiful -- really huge. Prepare to share or leave wielding huge bags bearing leftovers.
Veal piccata was tender, lemony and redolent of good olive oil. Scrod "Santorini" (with tomato, garlic and feta) was interesting and the fish was very fresh.
A seafood carbonara lunch special was creamy but too full of inexpensive grated cheese. The seafood was over-cooked. Grilled pork chops were very tasty (they'd been coated in some of that delightful olive oil and char-grilled) but the pork was a bit dry.
They care about every facet of what they make. Whereas other "Greek/pizza" restaurants typically serve the cheapest, tasteless french fries, Cavos's are a better-quality product that's crispy and full of potato flavor, thanks to the coating of potato starch on this frozen, but premium product.
The waitress insisted that their coffee was from the Omar company, but it tasted better than what we're used to. Perhaps it's because they properly clean their coffee maker, and throw product out when it's past it's prime.
Baklava (ground nut pie in shredded puff pastry) is passable but very sweet. The vanilla custard in phyllo is a better bet. Their rice pudding is heavenly. Grandma's got her hand in making the desserts, and it shows.
Wines are a Hobson's choice of either Mondavi "Woodbridge" plunk or obscure Greek labels. More on the Greek wines for another time, after we've tasted them.
To reiterate: this place, like any value-priced location, has its faults. But the family gets a lot of points from me for trying very hard to to the very best they can.
2414 Berlin Tpke, Newington, CT 06111
Had lunch at Cavos today--wonderful Chicken Spanika, an alfredo sauce type of dish with spinach added and what must have been homemade fettucine--it was absolutely delicious. Wish the baklava was not such a generous portion, especially for lunch. BUT they handed me a sheet of paper, announcing that on Thursday evenings, in addition to the regular menu, there is a "meze" menu--small plates, $3-6, including such interesting things as Gigantes (large baked beans in tomato and dill), Saganaki (pan fried Greek cheese, glazed with ouzo), regular and tomato dolmades, Kolokithakia (fried zucchini), Roast Greek Lemon Potatoes, Bakaliaro (pan fried bakalao cod with scordalia sauce), Pantzaria (red beets), Saligaria Stifado (snails with stewed onions), and Maridaki (fresh fried smelts). You can die and go to Greek heaven!!! Open Thursdays 'til 10PM.
Nothing but praise for the Thursday "Meze" menu of small-plates at 'Cavos'. We stumbled upon this menu for the first time when stopping in for take-away 'Gyro' and 'Spanakopita' before the holidays and boy they got me good after that :) . The last time through I had the charbroiled 'Lamb Chops'(rather nice of them to plate more 'Tzatziki' and 'Pita' with this tasting portion), the 'Roast Greek Lemon Potatoes', plus two that philbkr mentioned above..the 'Bakaliaros'(pan fried battered salt-cod with Skordalia sauce), and the 'Saligaria Stifado'(stewed snails with onions, tomato, garlic).
As for the Greek wines: Hey, you don't have to ask me to dance twice I'm game. I don't mind defending the better examples of our local wines nor drinking what suits the food from elsewhere so while not jaw-dropping "stand alone" wines, I'll mix it up and have the Greek glasses at 'Cavos' whenever we land there. On Thursdays they offer a white 'Roditis' by the glass that's not regularly served but surprisingly decent with the food as well as a red 'Agiorgitiko/St George' (less noteworthy but at least worth a single try by the glass this same night). The winner though is their red 'Mavrodaphne' dessert-wine. At the end of the meal maybe it's just all the enjoyable food talking..but this one(like our last server) is quite the nice Greek-"sweetie".
Even though I assumed it was no longer available I was surprised to still see the
'Taramosalata' offered on the menu. When asked later, the server confirmed it was in fact still being made and that we could order some. Wish I questioned before I ordered but I'll remember the good news for next time. Another Kudos to the family!