Old Saybrook and surroundings for sit-down family dinner
I still need a casual restaurant for the occasional weeknight, sit-down dinner with my husband and son (who doesn't need a "kids menu" since he eats like we do). We are in Old Saybrook. Suggestions?
You can add Bills Seafood to the list....and a later dinner will get you a taste of an old shoreline style live music night....however, in the summer, if you want to sit outside - you need to time it right - or you will end up waiting awhile - come to think of it depending on the music, you may want to get there earlier and linger......
I like the Ivoryton Tavern in Ivoryton - cannot go wrong with their burgers...always find something to enjoy at the Ivory Restaraunt in Deep River...... want to like Red Door in Deep River - so will have to give that another try, others here have seemed to have a good experience
of course - the Gris in Essex is always a spot to try as is the Black Seal and Gabrielles
The Log Cabin gives a good value but their fame is not necessarily based on the quality of the food -- but the quantity. One reviewer years ago described a "night of the living dead" where at 5:00 all the blue-hairs drive up in lincolns and 2 hours later emerge with gargantuan doggy-bags.
You don't specify your preferences for cuisine, so I'll present several options I like in he vicinity.
ITALIAN: Katty is correct that AlForno on Rt.1 is a friendly casual restaurant, probably a little better than Sal's, which is nearby on Spencer Plain Rd. I liked Tiberio's a lot, but they recently changed owners and I haven't been there since. Luigi's seems to have a lot of cars in its lot, but I haven't been there for years so I can't tell what it's like now.
FISH: Liv's Oyster Bar and Otter Cove in Old Saybrook, or Flanders Fish Market in East Lyme. Lenny & Joe's Fish Tale in Westbrook and Westbrook Lobster (just across the town line in Clinton) are also reliable family spots even if their menu is not as venturesome as Liv's. In good weather, you can enjoy fish outside at Johnny Ad's in O.S. or Bill's in Westbrook.
AMERICAN: I think Cafe Routier in Westbrook is one of the best restaurants in the area, but it may not be "casual" enough for you. Ditto the Copper Beech in Ivoryton. Perhaps the Griswold Inn in Essex or Gabrielle's in Centerbrook might be more casual choices. Penny Lane Pub (despite its name) has pretty good food, and the Aspen restaurant behind the Saybrook Furniture Store is not bad either. If you ever go to the movie theater in Madison, try eating at Elizabeth's (or if you want to experience a French bistro, try Bar Bouchon). Pat's Kountry Kitchen is definitely casual, but it's menu is pretty predictable. Edd's place in Westbrook has casual home cooking you can take out or eat in his heated year-round Gazebo while gazing at egrets flying over the marsh.
ETHNIC: As your son's palate develops you may want to try some restaurants featuring foreign cuisine like Som Siam East (good Thai food--not all if it spicy!). Taste of China or Hanami, both in Clinton, are the best Chinese and Japanese places in the area. Tissa's Moroccan Market has unusual food (and great ice cream) in a very casual place. Cuckoo's Nest is the only Tex-Mex place nearby, but I generally go elsewhere for authentic Mexican food. And finally, if you like meat, and lots of it, pay a visit to Touro, a Brazilian grill on Rt. 1 in O.S.
I second Taste of China (I used to own it -- the new kids are doing a very good job)
Pat's Country Kitchen is kinda like a slightly up-scale "Cracker Barrel" but I've had some nice meals there and it's very family-friendly and $ reasonable.
Lenny & Joe's is reliable and predictable -- and good.
Is Al Forno an option? I sure do love that place, though my meal of choice there is a nice salad and pizza...maybe you had something more substantial in mind? I know they have other options, I'm just stuck on their pizza. If I lived in OS, Al Forno would be in my regular rotation for sure. And if you come up my way, please try Mondo on Main St. in Middletown.
If not too sandwich-y for your dinner needs, I'd be all over SSSC, too. Their sandwiches and salads are worth the trip for me! Looks like you've gotta get there before 7 p.m., which may not be ideal for your dinner schedule, tho'.
ETA: I used to love Samurai, but think it changed hands in recent history. Is that still a decent sushi place? Or is Hanami in Clinton a better bet? Never been. Heard good things, though.