Stonington Borough: A borough dweller's review.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
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.