Chowish meals between Hartford and New Haven (and beyond)
I will be in CT for work at the end of March. I am going to be working between Hartford and Brideport and I will have a car. I have a smallish per diem from my company, and I am willing to top up as needed and am very willing to travel beyond my work boundaries for good chow. I live in rural Quebec, between Ottawa and Montreal.
I would like some recommendations for a few nice meals ($70-100) and for some delicious chow finds that are local joints serv ing great food. I have read some posts and so far am interested in Union League Cafe and a good pizza place (NY style) and potentially some good Mexican if that is possible. I would also love to have some delicious seafood/fish too, as we don't get super fresh fish where I live. Also, sushi and bagels.
Any help would be appreciated. No need to suggest French bistros, Lebanese or Vietnamese as there is plenty of that here. Otherwise, I am open to anything. Oh, and I will be eating alone, but I don't have a problem with that.
I just spent the entire morning searching the boards (on holiday this week) and becoming more familiar with CT. Found some great threads with places I am checking out online. I might need some help to narrow down my choices, but I have more work to do!!
in Orange, CT (about 20 minutes forth of Bridgeport) on Post road is a place called Ola that should fit the bill for a couple of your criteria - they have great Latin food and their fish/seafood is terrific. I love the sugar cane salmon as well as the seafood paella. New Haven has some great pizza (I'm partial to Pepes or Modern), but it's New Haven style - not NY style. In Bridgeport itself is a Spanish restaurant called Taberna that I love - definitely try the stuffed piquillo peppers. Bridgeport also has a portugese restaurant called Omanel, and they have great garlic shrimp and paella with huge mussels and clams. Not the best area, though.
re: Ima Foodie
Thanks for the suggestions. Could you explain what New Haven style pizza is? I guess when I said NY style, I meant Neopolitan style - I know getting into this discussion can lead to a huge debate though - what I like is a fairly straight forward chewy crust tomato and cheese pizza. I have read lots of posts on the Clam pizza at Pepe's, though, which sounds delicious. I am very open to trying specialties of the region and am looking for food that I cannot get at home.
In my opinion, the difference between NY- and New Haven-style pizza is subtle, and more about execution than any real difference in style. Both are thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizzas. I think the term "New Haven-style" has more to do with how the two 900-pound gorillas of the New Haven pizza scene cook their pizzas: in blisteringly hot, ancient, coal-fired ovens.
Pepe's white clam is a definite must-try before leaving CT. FYI, there is a Pepe's branch just outside Bridgeport in Fairfield if that's more convenient for you.
For other unique eats, I can recommend 2 burger establishments: Louis' Lunch in New Haven and Ted's in Meriden.
Louis Lunch claims to be the birthplace of the hamburger, and there you'll get a hamburger broiled in an original 100 year-old vertical gas broiler, then served on white toast with your choice of cheese whiz, tomato, and/or onion. That's it. Order anything else at your peril. Admire the quaint building (saved from the wrecking ball and relocated brick by brick) as you wait for your burger.
Ted's is the home of the steamed cheeseburger, a specialty of a small region of CT around Meriden/Middletown. They steam the burger and cheese in a custom steam contraption, then serve the steamed burger and scooped out cheese on a hard roll with your choice of toppings/condiments.
Neither of these places would be my choice for a last burger meal, but they are uniquely Connecticut.
Finally, I'll recommend Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield for really great hot dog creations. SDW makes all their toppings in-house: sweet relish, hot relish, onion sauce, cole slaw, sauerkraut, chili (regular and Cincinnati-style) all made from scratch.
There's some great Mexican in and around Hartford and there's Guadalupe La Poblanita in New Haven. Mezcal, in New Haven is almost as good.
Definitely go to Union League. Le Petite Cafe, in Guilford, is a wonderful, small and intimate French restaurant.
In West Hartford Center, Bricco's is great for upscale Italian, Grants is fabulous for a big treat, and Max's Oyster Bar is a good place for fish. I also like Max-a-Mia in Avon. Although they specialize in upscale Italian, even the fish is fabulous there.
O'Rourkes in Middletown is worth a trip. It's a local legend. He was on the Food channel's DD&D show.
There is a Pepe's in Manchester that is much less of a hassle than New Haven's. Yes, the clam pizza is great.
I will second Max Fish for seafood. I have had good luck there.
I had dinner last night at the Firebox in Hartford and liked it very much. Very comfortable, we had the duck and the short rib.
A neat little place for sushi is Hana Sushi on Broad Street in Manchester. It doesn't look like much in the outside but I haven't come across any better (though I must admit I have a small sample size. ) Get the volcano roll, I haven't seen anything else like it.
When driving from Hartford to Bridgeport, take I-84 and stop at Blackie's in Cheshire for a hot dog. Best relish ever. Don't let anyone tell you different. Closed Friday.
This may help you:
http://maps.google.com/maps?ved=0CB0Q.... Alphabetically arranged and general type/ethnicity is color-coded.
I have other maps (like Hartford to Boston), under Scargo. There may be some slight overlap. These are places that my SO and I recommend or that numerous Chowhounds have recommended. There is lots of Mexican (green) on there and some very good ones not much off your Hartford-Bridgeport path. Enjoy!