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Why Are There No Great Restaurants In Fairfield County?

I always feel very dissapointed this time of year about the restaurant quality in Fairfield County. For me summer is celebration time. Both my wife's and my birthday and our anniversary all fall between May and July. I hope every year a new restaurant will open that will truly excite me. I have tried them all in the area. While many are very good, none are what I would call special. The closet restaurant that I would consider for a special occasion would be X2O in Yonkers. I don't understand why Fairfield County doesn't have some thing great. I know people in this area would go. Maybe I'm spoiled by living so close to NYC, but I'm tired of having to go to the city every time for that special dinner. If they build it people would come! Here are some of the restaurants I eat regularly at in NYC that I wish we had somthing of this quality in our area. Eleven Madison Park, Craft, Gramercy Tavern, Keens, Pampano, etc.

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  1. Can you provide some context of the ones you consider "very good" but not special. It may help point you towards some that you may have missed.

    2 Replies
    1. re: foleyd7

      I've tried Thomas Henkelman, Napa, Harvest Supper, Da Pietros, Schoolhouse, Lolitas, Bernards, Le Chateau, le cremaillere, Mortons, Capital Grill, etc.

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      Harvest Supper
      15 Elm St, New Canaan, CT 06840

      Da Pietro's
      36 Riverside Ave, Westport, CT 06880

      1. re: stevel

        Is decor and formal service a main concern for you?

    2. The original comment has been removed
      1. I think there are a handful of very good/great restaurants in the area. They've all been mentioned here. Unfortunately if you don't like cramped spaces you are missing out on some of the best food around here! It's certainly not my favorite thing to be close to a neighbor, but I'll make exceptions if the food is good.
        In general I think that a suburb is just not going to have the population to keep places like you've mentioned above afloat.

        1. I recently had a good meal at Napa & Company in Stamford. We walked in without a reservation and were seated at a bar table. My wife and I shared the grilled octopus and the sweetbreads (small plates). We also shared a bottle of the house-recommended pinot noir.In short, the meal greatly exceeded expectations. We had just returned from our usual (March) stay in Rome and wanted something low-key and good. Napa delivered.

          For special meals (anniversary, birthday, whatever) we'll still seek out places in Manhattan like Daniel, Per Se, Le Bernardin, other. In lower Fairfield County and neighboring Westchester County, where we live, we have no shortage of good/very good places to dine.

          Gelato, on the other hand, is a different story.

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          Napa & Company
          75 Broad St, Stamford, CT 06901

          1. Competing with the City is tough, but Fairfield could have some very nice meals as well. Check out Gabriel's in Greenwich, ( formerly Lucas on Church St. ) You won't be disappointed, you will feel as though you are eating in Manhatten. The food is that good. ( Steaks & Seafood are perfect ) Paci in Southport is also very lovely for dinner. I would say to go during the week if possible, could get loud on a Sat. night. Let me know what you think.

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            Paci Restaurant
            96 Station St, Southport, CT 06890

            17 Replies
            1. re: temilove

              Southern Fairfield County (Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, Wilton, Weston and Westport) probably has a best-guess population of 400,000. Further, the population is spread out over many, many miles. The numbers and the geography argue against sustaining a stable of great restaurants. We do have a number of good to very-good places that can tide us over between the fancy meals in Manhattan.

              1. re: steve h.

                I don't think it is really fair to try and compare Fairfield County to the likes of Gramercy Tavern, Per Se, Daniel, Le Bernardin, etc.
                You are basically citing the best restaurants located in the food capitol of the US (the world?) and questioning why those don't exist in the surrounding suburbs.
                Comparing NYC to other top food cities (Chicago, LA, San Fran, etc) is fair. The sheer number or restaurants, people, and (most important of all) visitors/tourists in those cities dictates that they will have more great ones than the surrounding areas.
                But if you exclude the top tourist cities mentioned above, then I would bet Fairfield County does a very nice job of representing itself from a food perspective. Of course, it helps if you enjoy Italian food, too. ;)

                  1. re: foleyd7

                    Totally agree with you on all counts...apples and oranges...but regardless, it has come a long way in the past 5 years or so. There have been some really great places and some really good casual spots popping up recently that have totally changed the culinary landscape here. It's not NYC and never will be...but that's okay for me...

                    1. re: sibeats

                      Thanks for the reply's, I appreciate your opinions. I'd like to reply to a few points. I do believe Fairfield County can support restaurants of this price point. T.H. is just on example. Decor is very important. Part of the experience of eating out is the ambience. There is no excuse to pile tables on top of each other. Professional service is a must. A big problem with Schoolhouse is that they use what seems like high school students for servers. Not for a restaurant that wants to be taken seriously. I did mention special occasion but I also said I eat at all the restaurants I listed on a regular basis. These are meals I pay for myself not on a corporate account. In short "if you build it they will come"

                      1. re: stevel

                        I guess it's just a difference of opinion. I find the servers at Schoolhouse friendly and charming. Service has never been a big sticking point for me unless there is a major problem or just hovering annoying waitstaff. Quality of food is much more important to me than decor.

                        1. re: sibeats

                          Friendly yes, professional no. Can they describe the dish in detail? Do they know the ingredients? If I ask about the wine can they help?

                          1. re: stevel

                            I've never had them not be able to describe a dish...and I've never asked about wine so I can't answer that one.
                            I guess I just have more relaxed standards when going out...everything doesn't have to be perfect, but the food has to be good. If the food isn't good, I'm not going back. If there is a minor service issue, no big deal. Like I said before, different strokes...

                        2. re: stevel

                          Thanks for clarifying your thoughts on decor. In that case I have no recommendations.

                          1. re: stevel

                            Hi stevel,

                            If it were easy then it would have been done.

                            Ms. Schaffer at Napa & Company, others have worked hard to raise the bar here in Southern Fairfield County. They have gauged the market, bet serious money and have been rewarded. It would be interesting if you were to e-mail Mary Schaffer, ask her your question and share the response with us. Maybe do the same with Henkelman.

                            I'm not convinced it's as simple as "if you build it they will come". Still, I'm a diner and not a restaurateur. Maybe shoot those good folk I mentioned an e-mail.

                            Edited to add: You could always sic jfood on this pressing issue. The good doggie hangs out on ctbites.com these days. Despite the lack of opposable thumbs, he's pretty good at sniffing out a good story, retrieving the goods and typing out his findings.

                            -----
                            Napa & Company
                            75 Broad St, Stamford, CT 06901

                            1. re: stevel

                              Just go & try Gabriele's of Greenwich, on Church St. You really won't be disappointed. Also, if you would like stay in Fairfield, try Paci on a weeknight. it's much more quit, and the service is great, as well as the food. ( I would go to Gabriele"s first. )

                              -----
                              Paci Restaurant
                              96 Station St, Southport, CT 06890

                              1. re: temilove

                                I agree with Stevel, I've noticed a few big differences between the restaurants in Ffield Cty and NYC.

                                First is service. Even at Schoolhouse, which has great food, the service would be considered borderline terrible in a good NYC restaurant..and they had two inexperienced college-age servers just this month. I'm not one to complain about service, but the service at the best restaurants here just don't compare with ones in NYC (even at the middle of the pack restaurants).

                                Second, I've noticed that the restaurants in fairfield county don't seem to be doing anything "unique". Even the best restaurants all have burgers on their menus and I often feel they are all very safe with cooking their food. Of course it's hard to compare NYC with fairfield county, but still. Henkelmann's food is flat out ordinary and uninspired, in my opinion. I think the best restaurants here need to do a better job of changing their menus (Schoolhouse does do a good job of this, but places like Paci seem to never change their menu and after the 3rd time eating there, it starts getting old)

                                Lastly...somewhat unrelated...but how can Napa charge $26 for their burger at dinner when what is considered the best burger in NYC (and most expensive)--the Black Label burger at Minetta Tavern, costs the same price. I think Napa's burger is good, it's just not worth any where closer to $26.

                                -----
                                Paci Restaurant
                                96 Station St, Southport, CT 06890

                                1. re: wreckers00

                                  I think everyone here agrees with Stevel that there is no comparison between NYC and FFLD County restaurants. You can't compare a suburb to a major city, especially NYC.
                                  The difference is that Stevel is saying that FFLD county should be able to support NYC quality restaurants and others here disagree. I feel as though you don't have the population to support such expensive places on a regular basis. Which would also explain why Batali is bringing in a casual place, even more casual than Tarry Lodge in Portchester. I'm sure a restaurant group as successful as theirs has done their research and determined that the pizza/antipasti restaurant will do better than a more upscale venture.

                                  1. re: sibeats

                                    Good points sibeats. All I'm saying is I'm just waiting for a "great" restaurant to break out in this area...maybe we're too close to NYC for this to happen?

                                    I've heard about or been to "great" restaurants in low-populated areas (much lower than FField County). ie; Townhouse in rural VA, elements in Princeton, NJ, plus areas like Charleston, SC or Boulder, CO or Portland, ME that seem to have some great restaurants in not-so-large cities.

                                    1. re: wreckers00

                                      I hear you...we always lament the lack of great places in the area...that being said, there are a handful of newer places that have cropped up in the past couple of years that we are very happy to go back to again and again. And it seems as though things are looking brighter for the future with more promising places on the horizon!

                                      1. re: sibeats

                                        definitely agree. I've been happy with some of the newer places (which are my favorites in the area)

                            2. re: sibeats

                              Well put silbeats! The only thing one can ask for in FFCounty is decent product, at fair prices with good service. If you can get that all under one roof you usually have a winner and that can be hard to find around here.