Happy Monkey in Greenwich, CT
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has finally arrived in Connecticut with his newest restaurant, Happy Monkey in Greenwich.
The fanciful, Latin-inspired hotspot is focused on food, friends, and some pretty incredible drinks (think Mezcal Lavender Negronis, Blueberry Pisco Punch, and Basil Jalapeo Margaritas), but it’s the joyful attitude, lively bar scene, and sleek furnishings that will have you going back for more.
That, and his legendary Arroz con Pollo with crackling skin, which takes numerous days and multiple techniques to master. His squash blossom quesadilla, crisped to perfection and served alongside a jalapeo salsa you’ll want to sip straight from the bowl, is the actual star of the menu. A whole grilled lobster with smoked chile butter and guacamole loaded with sweet peas is also a must-order. Go regularly and you’ll be as joyful as a monkey when you go home.
Hoodoo Brown Barbecue in Ridgefield, CT
It’s difficult to focus on what Hoodoo Brown Barbecue accomplishes best in a blurb. To put it simply, everything. Whatever your own smoked meat preferences are, don’t miss their brisket, which comes with a gorgeous rosy red smoke ring and outside bark look, but it’s so dang juicy that it’s best characterized as moist. Then there’s the pork belly with a crackling skin reminiscent of chicharron, served with a fresh salsa dubbed “Hoodoo Voodoo.”
They also have special days like Baby Back Wednesday, Prime Rib Thursday, French Dip Friday, and Tex Mex Tuesday (the first Tuesday of each month), where they make birria tacos, BBQ empanadas, enchiladas, and other dishes. I could go on and on about their Texas-inspired ‘cue, but it’s best if you go, get a platter, and sample a variety. —CTbites’ Andrew Dominick
Elm in New Canaan, CT
To begin, the closest thing to a Double-Double, Animal-Style Burger outside of In-N-Out in Los Angeles is in Connecticut, at Elm. Evidence can be found here. Chef Luke Venner’s unrivalled pastas, on the other hand, are the heart and soul of Elm.
Although they alter seasonally, the day he removes the bucatini or hand-cut lumache sauced with n’djua bolognese from the menu, all hell would break loose. On Fridays, there’s also afternoon tea that rivals some of the best in the country, with a global range of brews, little scones, black truffle croque monsieur, and a tiny, but big, wasabi lobster roll. Parade’s Kelli Acciardo
Swyft in Kent, CT
Swyft’s other offerings are good, too, but their distinctive three-day fermented sourdough wood-fired, farm-driven, Neapolitan-inspired pizzas are the bomb. The mozzarella is hand-stretched in-house, and the crust is precisely browned and chewy. The Forager, with king oyster mushrooms, delicata squash, bechamel, and sage, and The Alchemist, with house produced mozzarella, black garlic, miso, broccolini, and guanciale, are two standouts. Everything they’re doing here is great. —CTbites’ Stephanie Webster
Rosina’s in Greenwich, CT
Alumnus of Fortina Chef Jared Falco is making waves in the kitchen at Rosina’s, his new Italian restaurant in Greenwich that serves killer pasta, New York-style pizzas, and a delightful neighbourhood ambience. There’s his famed chicken cutlet, as well as 5-star apps (think arancini, the perfect ravioli with ricotta, egg yolk, and black truffle, and a buffet of vegetarian alternatives like broccolini, sprouts, and beets with labne), but it’s all about the pasta. The malloreddus with shrimp, Calabrian chilli, and breadcrumbs are wonderful, as is the radiatore with guanciale, chilli, and pecorino. Don’t overlook the osso bucco or the center-cut veal chop parm. Parade’s Kelli Acciardo
Dew Drop Inn in Derby, CT
Anything with parmesan cheese, bacon, and garlic will be delicious. With that said, there’s something extra unique about the extra crispy parm butter bacon garlic wings slathered in it all at Dew Drop Inn. If it doesn’t appeal to you, there are over 100 more wing flavours to pick from. You will not be hungry when you depart. —Raenah Farina, also known as Stamford Foodie
Clam Castle in Madison, CT
There are other historic seafood shacks and wayside haunts dotting Connecticut’s shoreline, but we’ll save you the trouble and just point out our favourite: CLAM CASTLE. It’s difficult to find a more relaxed, yet chef-y, jewel than this. The lobster roll is perfect—hot and buttered on a traditional New England roll. The lobster grilled cheese is excellent.
The panko-fried fish and chips platters are fresh, delectable, and crispy without being oily, and they are served with skinny onion strings, sweet potato tots, or fries. And the clam-filled New England chowder is one of the best we’ve had in the state.
The burgers and seafood tacos are also excellent. There’s nothing they don’t get right here, which is why it’s French Chef Jacques Pépin’s favourite restaurant in Connecticut. Bring a few bottles of chilled rosé and set up camp in the garden for the finest meal of the summer. Parade’s Kelli Acciardo
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