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Best Sunday dinner off the Merritt Parkway?

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johnblacksox Aug 11, 2013 04:32 PM

Hello,

Driving back from NYC on Sunday night, I'd like to stop for dinner somewhere "not too far" off the Merritt Parkway.

Criteria:

1) Must be no more than 10-15 minutes off of the Merritt/Wilbur Cross Parkway. Please don't try to stretch this to somewhere 20 miles off the parkway that you love. I honestly need it to be "right off" parkway.

2) Must be North of Stamford and South of Wallingford. In other words, somewhere vaguely between "a good distance out of NYC" and "nowhere near Hartford".

3) Must have a wine list. Doesn't have to be awesome. But absolutely must serve wine. No exceptions.

4) Any price, from a great cheap pizza place to a high end fine dining place. If it's a mom and pop brick oven pizza place, great. If it's a 3 star Michelin restaurant, great. I don't care either way, as long as it's good.

5) Must be open Sunday night. (This rules out a lot of places.)

Thanks!

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    GatorMan RE: johnblacksox Aug 11, 2013 05:24 PM

    Sorry to have seen this so late - I would have recommended Biagio's in Stratford - you can see the parkway from its parking lot. Good Italian, with a wine list.

    Maybe next time!

    1. p
      plien69 RE: johnblacksox Aug 11, 2013 05:24 PM

      Lots of options in New Canaan, but I'll let others more knowledgeable chime in there.

      I'll suggest Barcelona Fairfield, literally right next to Exit 44 off the Merritt. Tapas and other more substantial Spanish entrees. Pretty extensive wine list that leans heavily towards Iberian and South American.

      1 Reply
      1. re: plien69
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        CTeater RE: plien69 Aug 13, 2013 10:06 AM

        +1 Always stop on the way home. Can sit outside.

      2. j
        johnblacksox RE: johnblacksox Aug 11, 2013 05:39 PM

        Oh! I meant this for 2 weeks from now, not tonight. :-)

        I checked out Biagio's, but I saw it got mixed reviews, so I was hesitant.

        Also checked out Barcelona, but is it just tapas? And the decor looked...um...weird. An old motel?

        I also checked out: Match in Norwalk, Bin 100 in Milford, Eli's Brick Oven (not sure if they have wine), and Elm in New Canaan.

        9 Replies
        1. re: johnblacksox
          bagelman01 RE: johnblacksox Aug 11, 2013 06:21 PM

          Barcelona does occupy the restauarnt space in an old motor inn, but the food is very good.
          Bin 100 would be my first choice on the list

          1. re: bagelman01
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            harrie RE: bagelman01 Aug 12, 2013 07:47 AM

            I would call Bin 100 convenient to I-95, but across town from the Parkway; I guess it falls under the 15-minute time limit, but to me it feels like a long haul. JMO.

            1. re: harrie
              bagelman01 RE: harrie Aug 12, 2013 07:58 AM

              If one takes the Milford Parkway exit (just before the Sikorsky Bridge) and gets on 95 South to exit 34 and makes a left for two blocks, it's about 8 minutes each way.

          2. re: johnblacksox
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            plien69 RE: johnblacksox Aug 12, 2013 08:02 AM

            Yes, it's in the lower level of the Motel Hi-Ho, but it's a separate space; you don't need to go through the motel lobby to get to the restaurant. Honestly, the outside doesn't look like much (mid-century turnpike motel, gravel parking lot), but the restaurant space itself is nice. I would characterize it as retro chic, not motel shabby (IMO of course).

            They do specialize in tapas, but also have a number of fuller entrees (think paella, mixed grill, etc.)

            Also, according to their Facebook page, Sunday night is pig roast night: $29pp, and wine bottles are 50%.

            1. re: johnblacksox
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              SteveSCT RE: johnblacksox Aug 12, 2013 09:01 AM

              Sunday nights at Elm can be a relative bargain. They have "Sunday Suppers", 3 courses prix fixe for $35. It's an inexpensive way to try some well-prepared and innovative cuisine. The drawback is that it's chef's choice, which doesn't offer variety. Since they don't always update their website, I would definitely call ahead for that night's menu before committing.

              If you're willing to try Match in South Norwalk (SoNo), a quick trip down Super 7, past I-95, you can try the original Barcelona, which is in a conventional restaurant setting a couple of blocks away.

              Another choice, 1 exit down Rte 7 from the Merritt, is Valencia Luncheria in Norwalk. It has long been one of my favorite casual restaurants (I'm far from alone in that opinion), and my friends from NYC now stop there on trips to and from New England. Their new location has plenty of seating and a great bar, but their spartan wine list may be a deal-breaker for you.

              Match is my least favorite of the bunch here - I find it overpriced - but I can't comment about Bin 100 or Eli's.

              1. re: SteveSCT
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                johnblacksox RE: SteveSCT Aug 13, 2013 08:11 AM

                I was looking at Elm, it looks pretty good...

                I have to say that Valencia Luncheria looks really good, food looks awesome, and nice wine too.

                A couple concerns...They only have 8 tables? Would I be able to get in on a Sunday night? Also, do they have table service? I can't tell from the website.

                1. re: johnblacksox
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                  SteveSCT RE: johnblacksox Aug 13, 2013 08:34 AM

                  Older CH posts can describe their old location, which had 8 tables, was self-serve at lunch, BYO, and could have hour+ waits. They have since moved 1/2 block south, where I estimate they now seat over 100, with full bar and wait service. It can still get crowded, but wait times are usually in the 10-15 minute range on busy nights. Sundays are generally not problematic.

                  1. re: SteveSCT
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                    johnblacksox RE: SteveSCT Aug 13, 2013 08:39 AM

                    Nice! That sounds great. What's the decor like inside? I can't tell from the website.

                    (Pet peeve of mine that restaurant websites rarely post pictures of their dining room, instead favoring 100 high def close ups of pieces of lettuce. Because evidently, I don't know what lettuce looks like. But I digress...)

                    Also, asked down below about Strada 18 in South Norwalk...Any thoughts on that?

                    1. re: johnblacksox
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                      SteveSCT RE: johnblacksox Aug 13, 2013 09:05 AM

                      It's casual decor and service. Specials and some menu items are artfully drawn on large blackboards. Their theme is Venezuelan beach food, so it vaguely attempts to look like a tropical seaside restaurant. Fortunately they don't get too into the theme, so it's more simple and pleasant rather than kitschy - though they have some outdoor tables on trucked in sand.

                      I'll refrain from commenting on Strada 18, which is down the street from Match in Sono, because I haven't been there in a while. The owners know how to run a restaurant well, because we have been patronizing their new French-themed spinoff in New Canaan called Boulevard 18 instead. We enjoy their take on bistro food (love the lamb burgers), and they have large, well-curated wine and cocktail lists.

                      As for Pepe's, I second bagelman's comments (tho I view Pepe's more favorably than he, because I don't have the secret Sally's phone #).

            2. h
              harrie RE: johnblacksox Aug 12, 2013 07:43 AM

              Another vote for Biagio's in Stratford. Very easy on and off the Parkway, delicious food and attentive service.

              1. m
                mmalmad RE: johnblacksox Aug 12, 2013 08:58 AM

                Barcelona is in the HiHo hotel right off exit 46 in Fairfield.
                Tapas, and Sunday night is 1/2 price wine. They do have an excellent wine list.

                1. c
                  chervil9 RE: johnblacksox Aug 13, 2013 05:48 AM

                  I wouldn't waste my money at Bin 100. I am from Milford and had a very mediocre meal there. It is not cheap and is not worth the extra driving from the Parkway. Amateur cooking, high prices.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chervil9
                    bagelman01 RE: chervil9 Aug 13, 2013 08:00 AM

                    I disagree with you 100%. I think the Prix fixe meal at $32 is a bargain, the food is delicious and the waitstaff excellent, especially Paolo.
                    I live in Trumbull, used to have a business in Milford and am in Milford 5-6 days per week and BIN 100 is a great choice.
                    Take a look at the reviews on Yelp and you'll find you are not representative of most giving an opinion.

                    I have never found the cooking to be amateur, and while an expensive restaurant ($$$ Yelp rating), the prices are not high for what you.

                  2. j
                    johnblacksox RE: johnblacksox Aug 13, 2013 08:19 AM

                    Thanks everyone for the comments so far! It's a huge help.

                    Overall, I guess you're confirming what I read in my initial research, in that the higher end places tend to get mixed reviews, some good, some bad.

                    Given there doesn't seem to be a consensus on a higher end "can't miss" place, maybe I should aim for less fancy places.

                    So what are your opinions for the best pizza places "near" Rt 15? Same criteria:

                    - Must serve wine
                    - Must be open for Sunday dinner
                    - Bonus for nicer decor/service
                    - No big chains like Bertucci's

                    I even notice that Pepe's pizza in Fairfield is only like 3 miles off of 15. Is that reasonable? Or are there better/nicer options?

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: johnblacksox
                      bagelman01 RE: johnblacksox Aug 13, 2013 08:27 AM

                      Forget about Pepe's in Fairfield. and no this has nothing to do with my pro Sally's hate Pepe's reputation.

                      Not a place for wine!

                      You would be very hard pressed to find 'nicer decor/service' in a pizza place and certainly not with any type of wine selection in your target area.

                      1. re: bagelman01
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                        johnblacksox RE: bagelman01 Aug 13, 2013 08:32 AM

                        How about Strada18 in South Norwalk? It looks doable from 15, open Sunday, website looks nice.

                        1. re: johnblacksox
                          bagelman01 RE: johnblacksox Aug 13, 2013 08:57 AM

                          Eldest daughter works at another resto on that block. Strada 18 has lovely food, a very good wine list and nice decor. I'm not a fan of their pizza, BUT I am a New Haven native and everything after Sally's and Pepe's is not my favorite.

                          That said: Parking is tight, and you must pay to park either in the street or in the municipal lot.

                          This weekend is Norwalk Oyster Fest and I'd avoid the area at all costs.

                          1. re: bagelman01
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                            harrie RE: bagelman01 Aug 13, 2013 01:33 PM

                            Actually, this weekend is the Milford Oyster Festival.

                            The Norwalk fest is usually the first weekend in September, IIRC. If the festival *were* taking place the weekend of the trip in question, that would indeed be good reason to avoid Strada 18 (or any other dining establishment on Washington Street).

                            1. re: harrie
                              bagelman01 RE: harrie Aug 13, 2013 03:59 PM

                              harrie, you are correct. The schedule my daughter posted on her board (from the resto she works at) had the wrong dates.

                            2. re: bagelman01
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                              plien69 RE: bagelman01 Aug 13, 2013 03:59 PM

                              Agree with bagelman on Strada 18's pizza. Underwhelming crust.

                              SoNo has a nice selection of restaurants, but as noted, parking on the street is hit or miss (usually miss), so you'll have to park in municipal lots/garages. there's one behind the row of restaurants on Washington st. Enter the lot from Haviland st. and there's an alleyway you walk through to Washington St.

                              Also, note that while South Norwalk is a short, quick ride down Route 7 from the Merritt, there is no direct access from Route 7 North to the Merritt North. You have to get off an exit before and take some side roads.

                              Likewise, there is no direct access from Merritt South to Route 7 South.

                      2. WhatsEatingYou RE: johnblacksox Aug 15, 2013 06:35 AM

                        I recommend Coalhouse Pizza, its in Stamford. They have a rather large menu, and a wine list, also a huge beer selection. Its casual and very accessible from the Merritt with a lot of parking since its not in a downtown setting.

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