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Oct 3, 2009 09:50 PM

CT Restaurant Week

Well, it's time once again for Connecticut Restaurant Week 2009, from Oct. 4-9 (Sunday-Friday, a 6-day week). Special menus are supposed to be priced at $20.09, or two-for-one, or some other special choosing of the restaurant.

By my count at, there are 67 restaurant locations participating this year (53 actual different restaurants). Only about 2/3's of the restaurants have bothered to submit their special menus; I guess the rest want you to trust that you'll love whatever they choose to proffer.

A number of the menus listed look like they might be worth the trip if they're not in your immediate vicinity (Bricco & Grants in W. Hartford, most of the Max Group Restaurants, Hawthorne Inn in Berlin, even Leon's in New Haven). Other menus seem just a bit half-hearted.

One that you might really want to try, and whose menu isn't listed, is ON20 in downtown Hartford, which is offering a 4-course luncheon tasting menu Mon-Fri for $20.09, according to an email I received a couple of days ago. (They're not open for dinner regularly.) Their usual lunch tasting menu is $35 last time I checked. (Their website flash loads abysmally slowly, even with broadband.) Edit: I found the announcement here:

If you haven't heard about this earlier, don't be surprised. I'm not impressed with the almost complete lack of promotion compared with, say, New Haven restaurant week, which according to a billboard I saw on I-95 in Milford and a local radio spot I heard last week, is coming up November 8-13 (another 6-day week).

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  1. Leon's huh? I was in Amity liquor and saw they were going to do a beer pairing dinner with Leon's and I said loudly, "Leeeonnnnnnnnn's?" as only I could say it. The salesman said "shush!" when I said I there were ten better Italian restaurants in New Haven that I would go to first. This applies even if they have reduced restaurant week prices. Same for Sage, down the road.
    Of interest: Boom, Cavey's, Foe, Trumbull Kitchen (was there recently), On20, Agave Grill and Firebox.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Scargod

      Believe me, I have even less fondness for Leon's than you, after only a single visit (giving a nearsighted, middle-aged guy an unreadable menu in a darkened dining room will do that). But I do wish they would turn a corner on the road to success, seeing as they are so prominent (as in visible, every day, from I-95) on the New Haven restaurant scene.

      Their offering of sweetbreads as an appetizer instead of the likes of NY Style fried calamari, and skirt steak frites instead of a you-pick-'em southern Italian red-sauce standard, and a full 3 courses for $20.09 (instead of, for instance, what Spris in Hartford is offering) means that they're trying to attract a new crowd and, maybe, people like myself who've been putoff previously by their whole attitude these last couple of years. We'll see.

      Agreed on Boom & Firebox, but I need to know what they're offering before I make the 30 mile trek to either from New Haven. Neither of their websites was helpful whatsoever.

    2. I agree with you on the menu offerings at both Bricco and Grants. Trumbull Kitchen looks excellent, too. ON20's been on my list for years, but I'd have to take a half-day to have a lunch like that and can't afford the time right now.

      Also agree other offerings seem somewhat half-hearted (and really find that to be so when several restaurants didn't even post a menu).

      I would be very interested to hear what La Tavola and Firebox are offering. If I find out, I'll post back. If anyone else figures it out before I do, please share!

      7 Replies
      1. re: kattyeyes

        Regarding ON20, I'm in the same predicament. If you read their website announcement, they make no mention of it being restricted to lunch-only (same on the CRA page; Foe is lunch-only). Elsewhere they mention that they're open to the public for dinner (or were last spring) on Thursdays & Fridays. I'm going to call them tomorrow to see if the special is available Oct 8 & 9 at dinner.

        1. re: rbailin

          Called ON20 today, the special is only available during lunch.

        2. re: kattyeyes

          La Tavola (Waterbury)

          I called and got this info today for their RW menu:

          3 courses:
          lunch - soup OR salad
          dinner - soup AND salad

          soup: pumpkin and ginger bisque

          entree choices:
          penne pepper vodka w proscuitto
          roasted chicken (lunch)
          brick chicken (dinner)
          flatiron steak

          Nutella cake

          1. re: kattyeyes

            Ah, kattyeyes, you beat me to it. I stopped at La Tavola this evening on the way home from work, seeing as they are one of a small number of upscale restaurants open on Monday.

            After being seated in the dining room at around 6:30PM with only a couple of other couples present, I was given the regular menu and had to ask about the RW offerings. Instead of a printed menu, my waitress recited the menu kattyeyes posted above, but leaving off the flatiron steak. After placing my order for the brick chicken (all 3 entrees are from their regular menu), she came back to mention the additional flatiron steak, but I decided to stick with the chicken.

            Before the soup arrived, I was given a basket of hot Italian style bread, and two small crocks of purple olives and white bean puree.

            The pumpkin & ginger bisque was hot, thick and tasty, garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle I couldn't identify. The salad that followed was mixed green (romaine, bibb, red leaf & frisee) lightly tossed with an olive oil vinaigrette and topped with a little grated white cheese (not parmesan).

            The brick chicken consisted of a semi-boneless half chicken, herbed and crispy on the outside, juicy and tender within. The thigh was formed into a cutlet on which the rest of the chicken was perched. It was accompanied by what I assume was typical Italian-style mashed potatoes (made with olive oil instead of butter), and perfectly cooked broccoli rabe with garlic slivers (my main reason for not switching to the flatiron steak). As far as I could tell, they were serving the full-sized portion of this entree.

            The nutella cake was a 4" tall cylinder of medium density, wonderfully flavorful dark chocolate cake and a little Nutella (hazelnut cream) filling, accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or gelato), banana slices and a smattering of little dark pearls that I thought at first were wild blueberries, but turned out to be cruchy chocolate instead. Coffee was offered and apparently included with the meal, but I decline, not being a coffee drinker.

            The extra little surprise at the end of the meal was that the after-tax total of the check was exactly $20.09. Service was great, friendly and attentive, an important point when one is dining alone. La Tavola was a delightful dining experience, and for me a perfect example of what a restaurant week meal should strive to be.

            1. re: rbailin

              Nice write-up. Sounded delicious! That was gelato you had with the Nutella cake--both the cake and the gelato are made on the premises.

              1. re: rbailin

                That sounds lovely. What a great Monday night . . . and how often do you hear that?

                1. re: rbailin

                  Try the antipasto platter....cheeses and meats from Molisanta's..also the cured beef appetizer is a must

            2. We went to Bricco tonight for our first visit. Unless you're a party of six, you can't make a reservation, but I called and was told it doesn't get really busy till around 6:30, so we arrived at 5:45 and were seated promptly. I should point out it was already busy and when we asked our server, she said it is always busy, regardless of restaurant week or what day of the week it is. Clearly, they're doing something right.

              Let me say that for $20.09 per person, our meals were generously portioned, beautifully presented and delicious from start to finish. I had the local pears with arugula and prosciutto to start and loved it. The pears were crisp and paired beautifully with the ham, greens and shaved parmesan. My guy had the lentil soup and enjoyed it.

              The ciabatta they brought to the table to begin the meal was accompanied by a sweet potato and roasted garlic spread (nice touch!) and an assortment of olives. We both started our meals with cocktails--I had the Bricco punch, he had a Dark 'n Stormy. And he found this particular Dark 'n Stormy to have a more ginger-y flavor than the ones he's had at Brasserie Pip. Perhaps they use a different brand of ginger beer. In any case, he thought Bricco's Dark 'n Stormy was even better than the ones he's had before.

              I had the Tuscan pot roast for my main, served over Anson Mills polenta with charred brussels sprouts and small whole carrots. I love polenta, anyway, but had not had Anson Mills till tonight and couldn't imagine what the big deal was--isn't polenta polenta? Guess what--no, if you love polenta, this is truly polenta heaven--it was like eating perfect clouds of polenta. Truly a notch above the ordinary. Lesson learned. :) Now I'm a believer. The pot roast was fork-tender and so plentiful, that it's going to be my lunch tomorrow.

              My guy had the cedar plank salmon, cooked rare as he had requested, with haricots verts and mashed potatoes and described his meal as "wonderful!"

              This was our first time dining out during restaurant week. I erroneously expected the portions to be small for the money--I was DEAD WRONG. We had plenty to eat already, and now--dessert. I thoroughly enjoyed the warm polenta cake served with poached pears and a creme anglaise. I intended to have a few bites and take the rest home, but couldn't resist and ate the whole thing. My guy had the olive oil gelato...which I thought the menu said was served with blueberries, but seemed to be served with (even better, in my opinion) warm cherries. I've been wanting to try olive oil gelato for a long time. WOW--creamy, intense--it was fantastic!

              Now for true confessions. We both loved every bite we ate at Bricco. Our server was very pleasant. But (hey, just like my own workplace!) they seem understaffed for the volume of business they're doing. We arrived at 5:45 and left about 7:20. We weren't particularly in a rush, but I'd say the pace of the meal was somewhat off. It took a while to take our orders, then kind of a wait between courses. This is also my first time using stars to rate a meal out. The food at Bricco is certainly on a par with two of my Italian favorites in Connecticut--Luce (Middletown) and La Tavola (Waterbury). At both Luce and La Tavola, we found the service to be better. ALSO, and for us, this is a big ALSO, Bricco is not a quiet spot in which to dine. We sat next to each other at a four-top and still suffered through the whole, "What? Say again?" scene. Gosh, that gets old quick. By the time we left, I was relieved to sit in the relative quiet of our car on the way home. I find excessive loudness to be jarring. So, while the food was great, I won't be in a hurry to return. But if you don't mind that factor, it's hard to find anything else wrong with Bricco. The food is certainly fantastic even if you'll struggle to hear what your dining companion is saying.

              3 Replies
              1. re: kattyeyes

                I live in NH and have been to Firebox for dinner and I am SERIOUSLY considering making the god-awful 91 trek for a RW dinner there. And I'd recommend it to anyone who is even a bit closer to the spot.

                1. re: zoe p.

                  HA HA, that's funny. I hate 95, you hate 91. They are both a drag anywhere close to dinnertime, I hear you. Any intel on what Firebox is serving? I didn't get to reach La Tavola during business hours today. Thanks for the nudge toward Firebox. :)

                  1. re: zoe p.

                    Just called Firebox this morning. They'll be updating their site later, but in the meantime, RW menu is as follows:

                    3 courses

                    butternut soup or mixed salad

                    steak frites or scallop dish from menu (smaller portion)

                    apple cobbler

                2. Anyone want to give top recs - from the available list - in the greater New Haven area? Is Carmen Anthony Steakhouse worth a shot? Leon's? Sage?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: zoe p.

                    Of the ones with a posted menu, only Leon's seems the least bit interesting. I would also recommend the Chowder Pot III in Branford, if you like mostly fried seafood, based on the much better than expected meal I had at CP IV during Hartford restaurant week. But both CP's have now extended their offers thru Oct. 18, according to the latest version of the link in my original post, so there's no reason to "waste" an evening this week.

                    Of the others in the area, SBC is just too inconsistent for me in their food quality (even though the menu sounds ok), Sage has a bad rep and an unknown menu, Lansdowne B&G is an unknown pub to me with an unknown menu, Foe is lunch only(!), Carmen Anthony offers a menu I would never choose from at a steakhouse (and only 2 courses), and Bocca already had an $15-18 prix fixe menu that I've liked well-enough, but not for $20.09 with an unknown menu.

                    Lucky for you, New Haven restaurant week is coming soon (but again at $29/pp, not the same bargain).

                    1. re: zoe p.

                      Didn't like my post at the top?
                      Carmen Anthony's is in the vein of many steakhouses. I've never found much comment on it on Chowhound. I wouldn't waste my time unless they significantly discount the meals. I think of these as a good excuse when you are on a business expense account.
                      I know everyone feels differently, but I just cooked a two inch thick Angus strip that cost me $14. More than enough for both of us... I made a side better and more creative than you ever get at these places. We had a $100 bottle of wine (OK, it was discounted a little at the liquor store since I am a regular. A dinner like this for two would have cost what at Central Steakhouse or Carmen Anthony's? $250-300?

                      1. re: Scargod

                        I did appreciate your response. And I'm inclined to be wary of Leon's, given the reviews here and elsewhere. I've biked past Sage a few times and I like the location. I just wondered if anyone had any specifics to offer from recent visits . . . Do any of the three have fireplaces?

                    2. In an email today from the Max Restaurant Group mailing list, they provided the CT Restaurant Week menu for Max Burger in W. Hartford, which was one of the missing menus on the CRA website:

                      FIRST COURSE
                      (CHOICE OF)

                      CREAMY TOMATO & PARMESAN SOUP

                      MAX SALAD

                      ENTRÉE COURSE
                      (CHOICE OF)

                      ROASTED HALF CHICKEN

                      HILDA’S MEATLOAF

                      DESSERT COURSE
                      (CHOICE OF)


                      ROASTED PEACH SHORTCAKE


                      (What, no burgers, shakes & fries?!)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: rbailin

                        Still can't understand why Max Burger is called that......its no burger all.