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Colchester, CT - a culinary wasteland?

We recently moved to Colchester and are amazed at how little options there are for restaurants in such a large town. There are seven pizza restaurants in town. There are five Chinese restaurants in town and two of them are owned by the same owner. For upscale dining options, we have Nunu's, Cafe Mangia and Gilbertie's Place. Nunu's & Cafe Mangia are italian. And finally there is the doomed Cafe on Main who started off strong in town, but now has resorted to a $6 menu and installed an ATM to accept cash only. Seedy. I think a good mexican restaurant would kill in town. Or how about Thai, or German, or a seafood restaurant, or a good pub with good pub food, or anything except pizza and chinese. How can we get some variety in town? I know I am not alone!!

Cafe Mangia
68 Linwood Ave, Colchester, CT 06415

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  1. I hope your move went well, it's a great place to live. I do agree with you about the lack of variety, having grown up in Colchester with all those pizza places!

    Thai or sushi/hibachi would be a great addition to town, and perhaps a family restaurant (featuring steak, burgers, seafood, etc.). Also, don't forget to try Harry's!

    1. Colchester,

      A bunch of chicken farms turned into a bedroom community cheaper and farther out than Glastonbury. It will take another 30 years and double the population in order to sustain any kind of assorted upscale restaurants.

      Unfoirtunately, you get what you pay for, when you get the lower housing costs of the outer ring of suburbs you get downscale eating as well.

      BTW>>>This is not a look down you nose at Colchester. My brother In law's family is from Colchester having settled there more than 100 years ago. I've been visiting more than 45 years and outside of a decent bakery for bread and rolls there's never been anything there worth eating. and i don't know if the bakery is still there, as I haven't been in 8 years.

      1. I'd have to agree with bagelman. Colchester is not a "large" town. It is a rural bedroom community populated by people who, for their own good reasons, want to live in a town that is very different from Glastonbury, West Hartford, Farmington or the like. In order for the culinary scene to measure up with what you are looking for, Colchester would have to lose much of the charm that makes it what it is. Glastonbury and W. Hartford have "Plan B". You have "Harry's". Therein lies the difference between the towns.

        1. I think Colchester has grown up quite a bit, at least you have a stop and shop....I'd kill for Harry's in my little town. Gonna hafta head west on 2 or 16 to 66 to Middletown for more dining options

          5 Replies
          1. re: BiscuitBoy

            I agree that Harry's is great during the months they are open. We enjoy them quite frequently in the summer. I do not agree that people in Colchester want to live in a town that is very different from Glastonbury. I think Glastonbury is over populated, has little parking and is becoming a bit saturated, however not all of the people of Colchester lack the sophistication or income to support a well run, quality restaurant - independent of course. I do not want to see a chain restaurant roll in here.

            As a side note, I saw a sign for Ichi-Ban Asian Bistro in the new shopping plaza next to Stop and Shop. Does anyone have any info on that or when it is opening? I can't find anything online.

            Asian Bistro
            100 Market St, Rockland, MA 02370

            1. re: EasternCT

              Quote: "I do not agree that people in Colchester want to live in a town that is very different from Glastonbury. I think Glastonbury is over populated, has little parking and is becoming a bit saturated, however not all of the people of Colchester lack the sophistication or income to support a well run, quality restaurant..."

              You are making my point. People choose Colchester over Glastonbury because they view the latter as over populated, with little parking and saturated. It has nothing to do with sophistication, income, or lack thereof. It is a reasoned decision that some make and others don't. You simply cannot expect restauranteurs to try to make a go of it in a town that is less than half the size of Glastonbury, population-wise. The economics of scale are simply not there, even if the income and sophistication are. There are dozens of sub-20,000 towns in CT that have ample sophistication and income, yet have few if any restaurants of the ilk you seek. No one is going to question the income levels or sophistication of places like Sharon, Litchfield or Hebron. But that doesn't mean that investors are drooling at the prospect of opening up high end restaurants there. It all comes down to population. If one of the reasons that you chose to live in Colchester is to avoid the perceived overpopulation of other towns, that makes perfect sense. But once you do, you can't look over the fence and long for the things that the more populated towns have. Sort of like the Manhattanite who buys a vacation home in VT and then complains that there is no good deli.

              1. re: FoodieJim

                You said a mouth full and I'm in Moodus, so talk about a wasteland. We drive 30+ anytime we choose to dine and Mangia in Colchester is one of our spots and it's quite good. It's tough to find good(and I say that based on our tastes and local) dining options within a tolerable drive. So we drive!


                655 Washington St, Canton, MA 02021

                1. re: FoodieJim

                  I would agree to a point, but there is one notable exception in the area: Chester and Deep River.

                  Chester has a population of less than 3,000, but has some of the best restaurants in Middlesex County in my opinion. L and E, River Tavern, Cabo, and Simon's are all exceptional.

                  Down in Deep River you have the Whistle Stop and El and Ela's. And further afield in Essex there is Brasserie Pip, which is terrific, as well as Gabrielle's.

                  All of these places are popular and do very well, drawing much of their clientele from neighboring towns. If you do it well, people will come.

                  Brasserie Pip
                  46 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT 06442

                  River Tavern
                  23 Main St, Chester, CT 06412

                  Whistle Stop
                  108 Main St, Deep River, CT 06417

                  1. re: eodell

                    Chester and Deep River are more tourist type towns as is most of the lower Connecticut River Valley. Anywhere there are tourists there have to be restaurants. Colchester is a small town so you would not expect ot find a lot of restaurants there unless there is a reason for people to come to the town for osme other reason. Jay

            2. FoodieJim,
              You said a mouth full and I'm in Moodus, so talk about a wasteland. We drive 30+ anytime we choose to dine and Mangia in Colchester is one of our spots and it's quite good. It's tough to find good(and I say that based on our tastes and local) dining options within a tolerable drive. So we drive!


              655 Washington St, Canton, MA 02021 Remove

              1. Just a comment on the location on the spot below in my post, Colchester Ct.and not Canbton Mass. Thanks.


                  1. re: raskolnikov

                    I actually agree that Colchester will not, and in fact should not be Glastonbury, West Hartford etc. However, don't think that means that there can't be, at least for small town CT, some diversity in dining options. I can't imagine that a decent independently run and reasonably priced Mexican, Thai or Japanese establishment wouldn't flourish in lieu of the 6th or 7th best of the 7 current Italian/Greek pizza joints in town.

                    1. re: EasternCT

                      Driving through Colchester after visiting my Mom I saw there was a Mexican restaurant in that spot that never lasts as a restaurant, just before the split between 85 and Parum Road

                      1. re: zitronenmadchen

                        It is a culinary wasteland...never thought there was much there...my brother lives in Colchester and goes to Manchester when he wants to eat.

                        I don't like Uliano's...they have several places...I wish they would do one of them really well...just a spaghetti house...

                        I will argue that whilke a large high level place may not be supported by the demograophics...if someone does really good food...they will come...regardless of distance...and the place is a stopping off place for everyone coming from the beach or the casino's...they need a really good local tavern/bar

                        I bought black bread last week and it tasted strangly thawed out...and a little dry...

                        1. re: zitronenmadchen

                          I know the mexican place you speak of at the 85 split and it is not Mexican at all. It is owned by Gilbertie's, the new restaurant in town. They serve really gross burritos with wet meat. Awful.Gilbertie's has a really nice lounge, well decorated but their food is sub par and I don't think they know what salt is. It is banquet type food, I believe the owner's son is the chef and graduate of Johnson & Wales.The entrees are really over priced for what you get. I'm in total agreement that if you build it, they will come. People come through Colchester all the time from the casino and the beach. They all stop at Harry's. So there is a demand.

                          1. re: EasternCT

                            Ah well. Neither place, Gilbertie's or the Mexican place, is destined to last. That spot has been so many different restaurants over the years.

                            1. re: zitronenmadchen

                              My wife and the boy have been frequenting Ichiban Asian Bistro, recently opened, and I have to say, WOW! The sushi is amazing, fresh and colorful and large in comparison to other top flight sushi restaurants in the area. I guess when I say in the area I mean within a 30 minute cruise. The wasteland called Colchester just stepped out of the dark ages!!! Oh, and by the way eodell, Raskolnikov is right next door. Big smillie face and looking forward to this seasons garden and we should get together and cook!


                              1. re: raskolnikov

                                Ichiban Asian Bistro YES! Finally a GOOD restaurant in Colchester. This is what we have been waiting for. I knew it would happen. My husband and I went there the night they opened. The sushi is amazing. We asked the waitress to recommend the best and she delivered. First, we had a pepper tuna- seared perfect. Then yellowtail tuna with fresh jalepeno, spicy tuna hand rolls, Uni (sea urchin), which is not for everyone, but my husband loved it. We've also tried the Tom Ka soup (Coconut soup), green curry tofu, beef teryaki (they use real, good quality steak, not mystery meat). Yeah, we have been there a lot and I am pretty sure they have only been open a month. They are awaiting their liquour license, but can't wait to go back to their full bar and have a cocktail and some sushi after work.

                                1. re: EasternCT

                                  Looking forward to trying Ichiban. Hopefully a better experience than other places in town.

                                  The other Chinese restaurant in town (next to Cafe) is AWFUL! I went there with a work associate last year and found a magot crawling on my plate. Napkins smelled like Raid, so they must have had a big problem. As for Cafe on Main...There are flys in that place year round. Even the town McDonalds got shut down for several days, a few years back.
                                  Gilbertie's has changed ownership 3 times in the last 10 years, since it was Mariana's. Too bad there aren't better places to eat in this town. Yes Harry's is good, but it's not so good for you. Have you seen the heavy-weights that eat there?? To bad this town can't get their act together. As the above poster pointed out... Chester is an example of what a small town can be. Zoned correctly and they stand behind their businesses.
                                  Colchester... I would blame the zoning committee. 7 pizza places, 3 or 4 laundry mats, several auto parts stores and a cigar store ?? Really?...what's next, a tattoo parlor?

                                  1. re: Eatsogood

                                    Oh...and one more thing... The so called "Mexican Restaurant" is only cafeteria style dining. They had 2 youths manning the burrito/taco making station. After ordering a pulled pork burrito and choosing my add-ons, the teenager proceeded to use his hands to create it - with no gloves. The girl next to him did have gloves on, but said nothing to him. I really think this is just another place that is staffed poorly to save money and is destined to fail.

                                    1. re: Eatsogood

                                      I think the fact that Ichiban has been doing so well to the point of extended waits, even before their bar opens, is a sign that Colchester, and the surrounding area, has a pent up demand for something better than is currently available. They are getting impressive reviews from several surrounding towns (East Hampton, Moodus, Hebron et al.) and I think that Colchester can support additional higher quality dining options. I think too many of the options here are stuck in the past where quantity and lower prices were sufficient and that today's diner is more educated and discerning but will support restaurants that are making a serious effort toward better food.

                                      1. re: EasternCT

                                        We are waiting for a new restaurant to open in Hebron called Zen Garden. Supposedly the owners formerly owned a restaurant in Atlanta that was among the cities top 10. In talking to the landlord, they say if the build out is anything like photos they saw of the ATL location, this will be a place like no one in this area has seen before.

                                        1. re: jcanino

                                          Interesting. Do you know where in Hebron that is going to be? Presumably somewhere on 66...

                                          1. re: mels

                                            It will be on Route 66, in the space next to Teds IGA that until recently was a toy store. Supposedly, the owners are currently residents of NYC.

                    2. You have tried Hung Won in town? We like it, especially the specials. They are always trying something new to add to the menu with their specials, as well as use seasonal produce.

                      1. Heya,

                        You have Cato Corners Farm!

                        Some Saturday morning, put some wine or beer in a cooler, get yourself some bread at that cute little Russian bakery in town, pop into Cato Corners Farm, go into the barn and pat the nice brown cows on their warm wet noses, and then buy yourself a piece of hooligan. Then find some nice spot outside and have a picnic. What more do you need?

                        1. As a resident in C-Town for 30 years I totally agree there is way to many Pizza Resturants and Chineese, and not that Mangia and Nu Nus are not great, but you get a better price and more variety else ware. Most if not all the income is from out of town and surrounding areas, because there is little to no companies who employ a lot in town anymore. The only people who seem to be out on the town are the Seniors and early Family's who don't want to take their children far. The town use to be the fastest growing town in CT when the building boom hit and new local residents wanted to go out and see their new town, business was good then. You use to have great places with good atmospheres like Two Brothers, classy places like Modesto's and a great sports bar Mort's, but not anymore with these places changing hands and the new owners having little to no experence. To add insult to injury don't forget the village idoiots who obnoxious to potential customer but lack of business keeps these dumps afloat, the drugs (Heroin and Coke) becoming a problem in the town and our wonderful Govenor who leaned on the Police to look for more DUIs. But the physical proof is on a Saturday you can drive by the bars in C-Town and see them completely dead but drive to Roof Top or Plan B 30 minutes away and see 3 deep at the bar, it's not there is a lack of money it's just the location. Most people only have a house in our town but go out to the shore line, Mohegan Sun or surrounding towns like Glastonbury and Manchester to get something good.