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Stonington Borough: A borough dweller's review.

l
Localculinariat Apr 30, 2009 02:53 PM

There is perhaps more per capita culinary interest in Stonington Borough than any other new england village. With more than half dozen eating establishments, a year-round farmer's market, Connecticut's last commercial fishing fleet, the famous red shrimp, several outlying farms... it is a food mecca that sometimes leaves the serious restaurant goer scratching their head (not at the table of course). Having been on both sides of the restaurant industry for many years I thought I should make a clean sweep of reviewing all of the borough establishments, as I often see them come up in conversation here. As a resident I dine here regularly, and have better than common insight. I will start at the head of the borough and work my way down to cannon square.

Dog Watch
Replacing the once well know "Boom" at Dodson's Boatyard, Dog Watch is what one would expect from a restaurant situated between metal sheds and gravel lots. For a late night burger, an afternoon fried seafood item when coming ashore, or any other such chance or convenient feeding situation the Dog Watch will suffice- it is a Bar with an obtuse bar menu. Infamous as the borough's rowdy nightspot, inclusive of over served regular locals, karaoke, and dancing (as well as the latest last call), it is a better place to meet a willing middle age woman, than take a girl on a date. What the Dog lacks in culinary excellence it more than makes up for in good, strong drinks, entertainment, and community appeal. In conclusion, don't go to the Dog Watch for dinner, got here for a drink and have a bite to ease your hunger or absorb the liquor. The food is expensive for what it is. Tim, the regular bartender, is a great guy, good for conversation and entertainment.

Yellow House
The Yellow House Coffee/Tea Shop, the thrown of Borough Warden Don Maranell, is a favorite morning and lunch spot to see and bee seen, discuss who and what is going on in town, do business, and maybe have a cup of coffee, as one would a drink in the evening, because it is the thing to do when socializing in the morning. Don is a entertaining and gracious host, however, the cup of coffee is more reminiscent of his earlier days in the navy, than what could come of a good bean. The pastries are often dry and tasteless. Lunch on the other hand is a pleasant daily assortment of sandwiches and soup, like lunches of yore, generously portioned, but not too much.

Water Street Cafe
Generally considered the gem of Stonington's restaurants, the zany decorating and eclectic cuisine draws crowds throughout the week, year around. There is something for everyone, from Southern to Asian inspired- a great use of local ingredients, fresh flavor combinations, and seasonal offerings. Unfortunately it is often loud, and the service is inconsistent (of the regular help, some is exceptional, and other's seemingly unmotivated). The food is exceptionally constant. Prices are fair, ranging from inexpensive to moderately so, allowing for any budget (you can eat here as inexpensively as Dog Watch).

Milagro's
The Borough's gem in the rough, Milagro's offers exceptional modern Mexican cuisine, that is as innovative as it is authentic. The food is intoxicating to say the least, with menu items like fish tacos, melt in your mouth carne asada, made to order tortilla chips, and fresh margaritas. Again, the service is inconstant. When the owner Martine and his wife are serving, one could expect no better service, while the young "gringos" lack luster and attentiveness. Prices are reasonable. Seating is very limited.

Teresa's
Teresa's like The Yellow House offers lunch's and coffee, with some specialty food offerings, hot prepared foods, a larger variety of sandwiches, etc. The coffee is world's better here, probably the best cup in the borough. She also offers Gelato and excellent pastries. a lack of seating, and less political appeal usually means less customers, but do not be fooled, Teresa's is excellent.

Noah's
The notorious rival of water Street Cafe, Noah's offers one of the most comfortable dining atmospheres in the borough. The menu of Wurst specials, quiche, Mexican inspired dishes, noodle bowls, meatloaf, sandwiches, seafood specials... are all excellent, though some find it bland, and geriatric. The food is less consistent here, ofetn the same dishes are distinctly different based on the cook. While the best place to start the day (great breakfast menu), it is infamously the worst, featuring often obnoxious tourists and off shift employees. Again, the help is an anchor to this restaurant, a gang of nearly rude waiters, waitresses, bartenders, and chefs who are inattentive and often abrasive.

Skippers Dock
It is humerus that the borough is anchored by Cliche' restaurants (though Dog Watch is a bar). Skipper's dock is a sort of disneyfied seafood restaurant. The menu is wildly overpriced, and ironically the place mat's feature the menu of the once simple seafood restaurant by the same name. It is common knowledge that they use little if any fresh ingredients and the overcooked, over seasoned offerings are evidence of such. Honestly though, one could go here and enjoy themselves- there is a pleasant jazz trio on Sunday afternoons, the best view of any borough restaurant (perhaps the only with a view)... but then again, there is the staff. The waitstaff is infamous- characterless, aloof, the bartenders likewise. If one were indifferent to having a great meal, or good service this would be the best place in the borough. The icing on the cake is a clientel that ranges from greasy men off speed boats with their mistresses, to peculiar tourists with fanny packs, and every level of pretension and peculiarity in between.

I hope this has been helpful, and inoffensive. Finding good help seems to be the greatest hindrance to many restaurants today, and the borough is evidence of this. The use of fresh ingredients puts Milagro, Noah's and Water Street at the head of the pack.

  1. a
    Alica Apr 30, 2009 03:36 PM

    Great reviews! You are spot on! We are on our way there tonight!

    1. b
      bakinggirl May 1, 2009 06:38 AM

      Thanks for the post. We live about 1/2 hour north of the Borough but never seem to make it down there for dinner. I've wanted to try Milagro's for awhile - I understand that Zavala in New London is their "sister" resto, and we've had some pretty good food there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bakinggirl
        l
        Localculinariat May 1, 2009 08:27 AM

        I enjoy Milagro much more than Zavala; if you like them, you should expect to love Milagro.

      2. o
        Otto of Ledyard May 1, 2009 10:46 AM

        What a great synopsis of Stonington Borough restaurants! Hit it right on the mark. Noah's used to be one of our favorite Friday night restaurant spots. No more, too bad. It is also too bad that there are so few good waterside restaurants in the area...and those that exist often have the reputation you describe at Skippers.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Otto of Ledyard
          a
          amy17 May 1, 2009 11:11 AM

          Wow. Can I just add that Noah's is an impossible place to have a conversation - really bad acoustics. Now, can you do Westerly and Mystic for us?

          1. re: amy17
            l
            Localculinariat May 1, 2009 11:55 AM

            Westerly would be considerably greater undertakings, though I could compile a list of worthwhile restaurants in both places when time allows.

        2. c
          chowmensch May 1, 2009 11:20 AM

          Thanks for the detailed report, Local. I agree on most of what you said (especially Skipper's Dock) but I'm higher on Noah's. Still love it and will continue to patronize....

          1 Reply
          1. re: chowmensch
            l
            Localculinariat May 1, 2009 11:50 AM

            Yes, perhaps the thoughts about Noah's came across stronger than necessary, their food is excellent, despite the inconsistency, and I continue to enjoy it as well.

          2. b
            bostongal May 1, 2009 09:28 PM

            Spot on..one question, where is Teresa's?

            1 Reply
            1. re: bostongal
              l
              Localculinariat May 3, 2009 11:41 AM

              At the corner of Grand and Water Streets.

            2. c
              catsmeow May 3, 2009 03:36 PM

              Great write up! Thanks. What are your 2 favorite restaurants around Westerly..a casual place(it could even be a clam shack type place) and a more upscale place? Water views are a plus. Thanks.

              5 Replies
              1. re: catsmeow
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                coastalgypsy May 4, 2009 08:42 AM

                Westerly is lacking! Prime Time Cafe has a river view, and they have pretty decent food, interesting menu... are they considered Pawcatuck? Sea Swirl is the best clam shack... but that's in Mystic. It's a shame there's not a good restaurant in Watch Hill, with that great water view...

                1. re: catsmeow
                  c
                  chowmensch May 4, 2009 09:03 AM

                  I liked Cooked Goose in Westerly....a very nice lunch spot.... No water view but very good food in a casual, relaxed atmosphere....

                  1. re: chowmensch
                    a
                    Alica May 4, 2009 09:51 AM

                    Olympia Tea Room is such a nice spot but the food is lacking and the owner is sort of grouchy.

                  2. re: catsmeow
                    l
                    lightsup1 May 29, 2009 12:07 PM

                    Go give the Andrea Hotel on Misquamicut beach a try. The menu is going through some very interesting changes from a beach joint with burgers, dogs and seafood to a beach joint with lobster/avocado sliders, moulles frites, and panko crusted pork ribs. What's more, the specials are quite good! Last weekend they were doing an Asian style whole steamed red snapper.

                    -----
                    Andrea Hotel
                    89 Atlantic Ave, Westerly, RI 02891

                    1. re: catsmeow
                      w
                      weberd10 May 31, 2009 01:21 PM

                      Check out the Up River Cafe in Westerly, one of my favorite spots on the CT/RI shoreline... http://www.theuprivercafe.net/

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