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Glastonbury - Essex - Newington - Manchester - Clinton
Old Saybrook
- Old Lyme - Madison - Guilford


Glastonbury Top 10 Restaurants Bricco Trattoria - It’s always crowded — for a reason: Billy Grant’s take on rustic Northern Italian never fails to impress. The wood floors and brick-accented walls seem to set off the richness and authenticity of the food. Simple, artful preparation heightens the flavor. Salty chunks of braised pork in a red wine-tomato sauce atop house-made Cavatelli or a crisp kale “Caesar” brightens things up with fresh goat cheese and baked prosciutto. Come on a Monday night for half-price bottles of wine.
124 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury
860-659-0220

Max Amore - One of the oldest Max establishments (just following Avon’s Max a Mia), Amore does classic Italian with upscale imagination. Brick-oven stone pies are unfailingly popular for a quick bite, while couples out for a quiet evening dine on fresh Atlantic salmon, wood-fired chicken “sotto mattone” — spice-rubbed and brick-pressed, and Fettuccine al Gamberi with sautéed gulf shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and pesto cream. Leather-backed booths and a classically styled bar encourage patrons to linger a while, perhaps over a liqueur.
140 Glastonbury Blvd.,
The Shops at Somerset Square, Glastonbury
860-659-2819

Max Fish - Come by for Happy Hour (daily from 4 to 6) and take a seat at the white marble bar — or, if you prefer, at the often-crowded raw bar. Specials there go beyond the drinks with dollar oysters and clams on the half shell. Elsewhere, market price seafood comes the way you like it, or choose “from the chef...,” like a lobster pan roast with spring pea risotto, bourbon and vanilla, or grilled Atlantic monkfish with soft polenta and tarragon-lobster jus. They also offer several cuts of excellently prepared steak.
110 Glastonbury Blvd., Glastonbury
860-652-3474

Spicy Green Bean - Bright red, green and purple paint cover the walls of this narrow storefront restaurant, decorated liberally with graphic prints and cartoon art, hand-painted signs, and splashes of neon here and there. You’d think it would be overwhelming, but chef and owner Kathy Denisiewicz makes it work. She consistently draws a crowd with a wildly creative menu, updated each month and featuring things like Enchilada Egg Rolls, a secret-recipe chimichurri burger with vine-ripened tomatoes and melted cheese, “Kooky Konkoction” sandwiches like the Reuben’s Evil Twin, and some spiced-up seafood, steak and pasta dishes. Dinner served Thursday through Saturday (BYOB); breakfast and lunch everyday. And Kathy has opened another fun place, the Shad Shack, at the Rocky Hill ferry landing.
225 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury
860-657-3500

Char Koon - This tiny Asian-fusion hideaway has earned its reputation for surprisingly good food at low prices. Vegetables are always fresh; nice spicy Thai soups, vegetarian plates, unusual and flavorful noodle dishes, and a nice selection of good wine are all offered at reasonable prices. It’s cozy and mellow, so it seems that you always get to meet somebody interesting at a table nearby.
882 Main St., Glastonbury,
860-657-3656

2hopewell - Once a village general store, this very cute country bistro serves contemporary American dishes with creative flair. Upstairs, you get a crisp, white-tablecloth presentation of the seasonally changing menu, featuring such plates as grilled swordfish with butternut squash risotto and a Dijon-panko-crusted New Zealand rack of lamb. Downstairs, there’s a cool, low-ceiling bar room with good music and an eclectic mix of nice people. Just right for South Glastonbury.
2 Hopewell Rd., S. Glastonbury 860-633-9600

J Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks - The emphasis here is on the meat: top-of-the-line signature mesquite grilled steaks have drawn a loyal following. Prime aged cuts of Midwestern-raised Black Angus come with a choice of sides and extras like the raved-over maple-bourbon shrimp and seared George’s Bank sea scallops. Seafood is done well, too: the maple plank-grilled salmon is nearly as popular as the steak. A warmly lit outdoor patio and conservative, elegant décor make it a popular choice for business and birthday dinners alike.
185 Glastonbury Blvd., Glastonbury
860-659-0409

Adriatik’s Family Restaurant and Pizzeria - A not-too-fancy, unpolished little gem of a place where there is never a wait, the portions of the Italo-Greco standards are large, and prices are reasonable. Pasta dishes are a standout, made to your liking with whatever shape and sauce you prefer and served with a salad and fresh-baked bread. Chicken Parmigiana is excellent; the beer and wine selection is small but inexpensive, too.
30 Welles St., Station 35, Glastonbury
860-633-0599

Bollywood Grill - Authentic, rich, palate-warming Indian cuisine. Perfect for those nights when even the thought of your kitchen is exhausting. The atmosphere is tranquil, the staff friendly, and the house wine’s only $5 a glass. Order the lamb samosas and chicken tikka — or ask the waiter for his favorite. You won’t be let down. Take-out and delivery available.
2333 Main St., Glastonbury
860-734-0001

The Diamond - This one-of-a-kind sports bar has long been something of a Glastonbury institution, with plenty of big-screen TVs, a big horseshoe bar, and a well-rounded, beyond-the-standards menu featuring things like house-marinated steak tip kabobs with a sweet chili dipping sauce. Good comfort food, too: fish & chips, juicy burgers, fresh soups and made-to-order sandwiches. Fifteen beers on tap and plenty more available bottled. Great for a Friday out with friends.
195 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury
860-659-2002

Min Ghung Asian Bistro - Its location, tucked back in a corner of Glen Lochen Mall, has for a while kept it hidden away from the non-local crowd, but the word has now begun to spread: fabulous sushi, sashimi, and other artfully prepared fresh fish creations are too good to miss. A modern, dressed-up dining area and neon-lit sake display provide unexpected ambiance. Eat in, take out, or order delivery within a 4-mile radius.
39 New London Tpke. #311, Glastonbury
860-659-2568

Ken’s Corner - Pancakes are the name of the game at this much-loved neighborhood landmark. Standards, new creations and seasonal specials make up the long list of offerings. The fresh raspberry and blueberry ones — loaded with juicy berries from just down the street — define farm-to-table cooking in Glastonbury. The potatoes that go into the home fries are sourced nearby, too. And although the Southwest Breakfast Wrap may not be inspired by local farm produce, like all of Ken’s food, it gives you that down-home, honest-to-goodness, good-for-you feeling you need to start the day.
30E Hebron Ave., Glastonbury
860-657-9811

Sakura Garden Japanese Steakhouse - This temple of Asian cuisine has it all. The inside is divided between the sushi bar area and a large hibachi room, where the chefs wrangle fresh cuts of meat and seafood in an elaborate tableside show. The sushi menu is creative and fresh, with an extensive selection of maki, nigiri and elegant new-style sashimi. Beautiful cocktails, a nice wine list and an impressive assortment of sake.
120 Hebron Ave., Eric Town Square, Glastonbury,
860-430-5600

Plan B Burger Bar - It’s tough to go wrong with burgers and bourbon — or burgers and beer, for that matter. The gourmet mélange at Plan B spans both coasts, from a New Englander (with fresh lobster) to a Baja (avocado, jalapeños, jack cheese), with plenty in between. The drink menu is twice as long, with over 60 varieties of single-barrel, small-batch and Kentucky straight bourbons, craft beers on tap with regular specials, and a two page list of bottles featuring over 50 varieties in order from “light to dark” — including “brews for two” and “mini kegs.” Torn? Just ask for a suggestion.
120 Hebron Ave. #6, Glastonbury
860-430-9737

Rooftop 120 - Like love and art, restaurants need a joie de vivre, a je ne sais quoi that sets them apart. Here, as you might anticipate, it’s the outdoor ambiance of the roof. Perfect for enjoying a cocktail from their seasonally changing menu en plein air and a plate of oysters or littlenecks from the raw bar. Come on a Tuesday evening for half-off bottles of wine. With its open, trendy design and four-season patio, Rooftop 120 gives you that room to roam that the others lack.
120 Hebron Ave., Eric Town Square, Glastonbury,
860-430-9989

Dee’s One Smart Cookie - There’s always that one friend or family member who has to sadly turn down a slice of birthday cake due to gluten intolerance — or who shies away from anything baked, crusted, or seasoned with nuts. Maybe you’re that person. Maybe it’s someone you care about. Or maybe you’re just trying to eat a little better but you don’t want to miss out on the sweeter things in life. That’s where Dee’s comes in: fresh-baked cakes, cookies, muffins, cupcakes, breads and a whole lot more, all made in a strictly allergen-free environment. Everything is gluten, dairy, soy, tree nut and peanut-free, and there are a number of egg-free items available, too. So delicious, you’d never know.
398 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury
860-633-8000

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The Black Seal- It looks a little like an old ship that’s battled through rough seas, but without fail it serves up jolly good chowder, fresh fish, salads and sandwiches with the steady hand you’d expect from an experienced captain — and a steady flow of jolly good cheer from a bar that’s home port for boaters and their mates.
15 Main St., Essex, 860-767-0233

The Griswold Inn - “The Gris” is one of only a few New England restaurants of the old colonial genre that has been able to transcend its time and stay relevant (and stay in business) decades after most have shut their doors and become museums and Chart Houses. The dimly lit tavern with good old-time music and the period dining room bring you back to the days of river captains and deepwater schooners. The Hunt Breakfast is legendary.
36 Main St., Essex, 860-767-0330

Gelston House - Come by land, river, or sea: the stately Victorian Gelston House, set next to the Goodspeed Opera House and above the river in East Haddam village, is a must visit. The restaurant menus and all its dining spaces have been revived and polished up, bringing back the elegance and joie de vivre of its glory days while adding a casual dining option outside. Why not postpone your stifling veggie-packed, gluten-free regime and enjoy the fabulous Filet Mignon or Prime Rib here tonight? Or the wonderful Mothers’ Day feast. This is a lovely spot!
8 Main St., East Haddam, 860-873-1411

Copper Beech Inn. - Once the haunt of Connecticut power brokers, the Copper Beech has undergone numerous transitions over the years. After suffering a period of financial woes, the Inn has now reopened under new ownership, with a new look and a new menu created by master chef Gaspar Stantin. Gone is the flashy Brasserie Pip, replaced by the Oak Room tavern where you can savor entrees like pork belly topped with a cold poached egg hidden under a thatch of greens, local cod over a firm risotto mixed with fava beans and garden carrots or maybe seared diver scallops swimming in a lush natural tomato broth spiced sotto voce. Dessert: a lemon-infused strawberry shortcake with a dollop of home-crafted whipped cream.
46 Main St., Ivoryton
860-767-0330

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Middletown restaurantsRuth’s Chris Steakhouse - In an era where steakhouses stand decidedly outside the trend, Ruth’s Chris continues to buck those trends. It delivers its signature prime beef with no frills, with just a confident aplomb that comes from years of being the best in this business. What about the perfectly marbled, perfectly cooked rib-eye, the tender Porterhouse for two, and the full-bodied New York Strip? You’re getting the message, right? There is something special going on with the beef here. However you want to read it (or cut it), it’s spelled luscious.
2513 Berlin Tpke., Newington
860-666-2202

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Middletown restaurants

Adams Mill Restaurant - It’s a little out of the way in Manchester, but The Adams Mill is worth the trip. The cozy brick-lined interior and comfortable bar seats bring me back time and again for family gatherings, get-togethers with old friends, and oftentimes for a quiet glass of whiskey by myself. I especially like the mac & cheese and the crab cake BLT. Sunday brunch and birthday specials, too.
165 Adams St., Manchester
860-646-4039

Cavey’s - The toughest part about Cavey’s is deciding whether I’d rather eat comme les Francais, a roasted confit leg of duck, perhaps, downstairs in their French restaurant, or go upstairs for Italian cooking to savor a hearty plate of Penne della Nonna alla Bolognese; rich, savory meat sauce over freshly-made semolina pasta… Sometimes, it comes down to a flip of the coin. Heads or tails, I’m happy. There’s a good, tastefully selected wine list on both floors.
45 East Center St., Manchester
860-643-2751

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Shoreline restaurants

Clinton

Taste of China - Without a doubt, this is the finest genuine Chinese cuisine you’ll find on the shoreline. Our dinner date, a regular here, insists we stay away from the ordinary. I have no chance. Cold Sliced Conch and Bang Bang Chicken are among her favorite appetizers. Her friends regularly rave about the dumplings, she crows. “And wouldn’t you know – they usually have at least five fish choices in addition to beef, pork, chicken and shellfish specials,” she sings. Chicken Fingers, Clams with a Black Bean Sauce, Squirrel Fish, and Salt and Pepper Scallops were adventurous. Dating sites always seem to fall short of your expectations. Taste of China exceeds them.
233 East Main St., Clinton
860-664-4454

Hanami Japanese Sushi
& Hibachi Steak House
- This is the star of the Shoreline when it comes to sushi. Regulars often order without looking at the menu, quickly create their own dish, or maybe take a tip from the one of the savvy servers. They’re confident that they’ll get what they have come to expect: fresh, perfectly made and beautifully plated. At 2:45 on this dreary Tuesday in Clinton, the place is still humming. Today, we especially liked the Hanami Special Roll. They have opened their second Hanami in Branford. The minimalist new design concept there is striking, but the layout and soft music make it surprisingly serene. And the food – well, you already know.
114 E. Main St., Clinton
860-664-9268
Hanami II
906 West Main St., Branford
203-208-1207

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Old Saybrook

Liv’s Oyster Bar - Creative specials and an extensive variety of raw bar oysters and clams served up in this perfectly restored former movie house are some of the reasons why we love Liv’s. But more than that it’s the good-natured staff that makes us happy as a clam. For example, last Friday our server told a story of how, not long ago, a 40ish couple loved the Sashimi Yellow Fin Tuna Pizza appetizer so much that they decided to buy it for everybody at the bar. Anyone who didn’t love it could send it back. None did.
166 Main St., Old Saybrook
860-395-5577

Rosemary & Sage - Here’s an original. Unexpected takes on simple calamari and complex Mediterranean, all prepared with a special touch, a full bar and an extensive selection of reasonably priced wines — along with Nancy and her attentive staff — make every visit a memorable one.
1080 Boston Post Rd., Old Saybrook
860-388-1166

Alforno - The lovely thin-crust (New Haven-style) roasted veggie pizza and the house special Pan-Roasted Pacific Flounder Livornese (fresh tomato, green and black olives, fresh sliced garlic cloves, sweet onion slivers and capers over fresh spinach) with four fat chunks of just-made crusty Pane Toscano show why the well-loved brick-oven pizzeria that started twenty years ago has become an obviously content and comfortably welcoming Trattoria — and nothing was lost in the translation.
1654 Boston Post Rd., Old Saybrook
860-399-4166

Fresh Salt at the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa - Fresh Salt is a top contender for “where to be seen” along the coast, offers stunning water views, seasonal outdoor dining, an innovative approach to locally-sourced American cuisine, the day’s fresh catch and a raw bar. If you’d joined us last Saturday, when three weddings, a few large birthday parties and a convention of Yale-New Haven specialists were all performed simultaneously, you would agree that the precision of the SPI is absolutely surgical.
2 Bridge St., Old Saybrook
800-243-0212

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Branford

Lenny’s Indian Head Inn - If you want flavorful seafood bisque, clear broth clam chowder and big portions of fresh fish dinners, here it is. Their Tuesday lobster special is a bargain and their bar is a classic. They serve small (8oz.) glasses of frosty draught beers, if you choose. This is smart. Nothing is worse than a warm, flat pint. The restaurant sits on a breezy saltwater marsh and now accepts plastic.
205 S. Montowese St., Branford
203-488-1500

G-Zen - Long recognized as one of Connecticut’s finest vegetarian chefs, Mark Shadle has cranked up his mastery of green foods’ sustainability and married it with a blissful embrace of Buddhism. The result is that the flock of fans that filled his acclaimed Middletown creation, It’s Only Natural, has followed him to his new one in Branford. A wonderful array of both vegan and vegetarian offerings that will please even the most discerning.
2 East Main St., Branford
203-208-0443

Parthenon Diner - While it offers the best of the diner tradition, this place is a thoroughly modern version with lots of pizzazz and portions you never saw in those little old boxcars.
374 East Main St., Branford
203-481-0333

Assaggio “A Taste” - This is a spiffy white tablecloth spot, about as cute as can be, where an intimate dinner can slowly become a romantic interlude as the lights are dimmed, candles lit, and conversations hushed. A creative presentation of contemporary Northern Italian fare in a beautiful dining room makes this a special experience. Their signature dish, the Chilean sea bass with risotto, is a winner.
168 Montowese St., Branford
203-483-5426

Donovan’s Reef - A Branford landmark located in the old Yale Lock Company. The menu ranges from standard burgers to dressed-up fish, pasta, and meat dishes. You can sit down and be casual at the bar, or you can sit at a candlelit dinner with a nice bottle of wine. Rock bands and big-screen pro football bring loyal fans on weekends.
1212 Main St., Branford
203-488-5573

Nellie Green’s - She’s down behind some roughed up buildings at the marina. Inside and out, she’s a very plain Jane, playing hard to find. Exec Chef/Partner Jason says wistfully, “Well, that’s her charm.” We had Rockport Lobster Cavatelli, a lovely dish of homemade pasta swimming in natural sauce with big chunks of hand pulled lobster, lusty peeled organic tomatoes, crunchy zucchini, basil and fresh garlic slices. They also have breakfast and lunch here. Nellie may hide, but once you’ve found her, she’s hard to resist.
50 Maple St., Branford
203-483-8400

Home - Small businesses always take on the personality of the owner. Here, co-owner Jared is genuinely hospitable, with a warm spirit that carries through to the wait staff, kitchen crew, and even the customers — all of whom seem to be smiling. The food is modern American/Italian fusion. The Chef’s Salad, with a delightful homemade balsamic and blood orange dressing, was a hit for us, and the bulging medium-rare burgers with a pile of snappy fries did very well with our sidekicks. Have a Thimble Islands Ale on us!
1114 Main St., Branford
203-483-5896

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Old Lyme

The Chestnut Grille at the Bee & Thistle Inn - A gem in Old Lyme, the Chestnut Grille welcomes you with a classic barroom and a variety of quiet, tasteful dining spaces looking out over gardens and the river beyond. The cuisine will impress even the most fastidious of critics, as Chef Kristofer Rowe’s award-winning menu blends fresh and local ingredients into such offerings as Coriander Spiced Monkfish with grilled fennel and asparagus, Slow-Roasted Duck Breast, New England Clam Cakes, and numerous specials that rotate regularly with the changing of seasons. They’ve got an extensive wine list and creative cocktails too.
100 Lyme St., Old Lyme, 860-434-1667

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Madison

Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale - Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale is a true Shoreline legend that turns out a big comfort-seafood menu that’s drawn crowds of loyal followers, hooked for years. The lobster roll is king, but scrod, fried scallops and the salt potatoes are right up there in the hierarchy. Eat in or take out and picnic. Lenny and Joe’s is fast, fresh and never flounders.
1301 Boston Post Rd., Madison
860-245-7289
86 Boston Post Rd., Westbrook
860-669-0767

501 Long Wharf Dr., New Haven
203-691-6619

Zhang’s - Zhang’s already has a remarkable following, making it one of the hottest restaurants in the Madison and Guilford area — especially on the weekends. Beautifully prepared Chinese dishes like the Jumbo Shrimp with a white Marnier sauce and Crispy Orange Beef. Japanese specialties like Donburi, Udon and sushi. Or try a combination of Chinese and Japanese favorites and you won’t ever be disappointed.
44 Boston Post Rd., Madison
203-245-3300
455 Boston Post Rd., Old Saybrook
860-388-3999

Elizabeth’s Café - It’s no secret that Elizabeth’s knows a thing or two about gourmet cooking. They know how to make a good drink, too: colorful peach and pomegranate martinis and grapefruit Cosmos, their specialties, get whisked past our table to eager patrons. It’s a little, country-style place but the elegance of the food itself defies expectations. Last week, the Rigatoni a la Vodka with chunks of fresh Maine lobster, the Pan-Seared New Brunswick Salmon with a white wine-cream sauce and four shared desserts, all handmade by master pastry chef Nina Maynard, left us breathless.
885 Boston Post Rd., Madison
203-245-0250

Friends & Company - Friends, as its name suggests, is a family’s favorite restaurant that turns out comfort food by the boatload — homemade soups to homemade breads, excellent salads and dressings, pasta and sandwiches as well as full entrées, salmon, chicken and all kinds of fresh veggies.
11 Boston Post Rd., Madison
203-245-0462

Café Allegre - Their lobster bisque is silky smooth, swimming with a fresh catch. Salads are tip-top and the bar is a spirited spot to hang out. It’s hard not to love Chef Silvio’s legendary red sauce, too.
725 Boston Post Rd., Madison
203-245-7773

Old Schoolhouse Deli - The Old Schoolhouse Deli serves up gourmet sandwiches, their creations or what you’re craving. Grilled specials, wraps, salads and hot lunch specials. Roast beef, cooked daily, or Boar’s Head sandwiches on fresh-daily NY bread tingle your taste buds and quiet your restless stomach. On Tuesday, we get the Veggie Supreme Wrap and add avocado. Or, on Wednesday, we get the hefty Roast Beef Hero, no Swiss. The prices and the staff are both pleasant.
268 Boston Post Rd., Madison
203-245-3354

Bar Bouchée - Styled after neighborhood bistros in Lyon, France, called bouchons, the emphasis here is on French comfort food and casual conviviality. As they arrive, guests often say at least a few French words or phrases to the maitre’d. A lot of “nice to see you” kisses are passed around. The whole room, once a neighborhood bakery, has been restyled with many of its fittings coming directly from France. On the patio tonight, ladies slowly sip champagne. The Madison Ave. is the drink special. Our Duck Leg Confit, with just-roasted potato galette on top, sits on diced apple. The chilled Soup du Jour is carrot with a delicate brush stroke of fresh chives, tarragon and cilantro. Our delicate red wine pairs perfectly. This is an absolutely lovely little spot.
8 Scotland Ave., Madison
203-318-8004

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Guilford

Maritime Grille - Fresh, New England fare cooked to your liking – grilled, broiled, baked or seared, you’re sure to find a favorite. Fresh seafood, prime cuts of steak, crisp green salads and a raw bar. Grab a seat on the patio during the summer months, or unwind in the cozy lounge after dark and enjoy the music of the area’s finest acoustic musicians.
2548 Boston Post Rd., Guilford
203-453-0774

Som Siam - Despite its somewhat inconspicuous location off Guilford Green, this place stops you in your tracks with the hard yellow clapboards that cover its mini-saltbox shape. People who know great Thai food have, over the years, beaten a path to this citadel of award-winning Thai cuisine. The loyal following raves about the fresh veggie and seafood-combo stir-fried specials, the signature sticky rice and the “to live for” mango dessert. And, it’s got a take-out window!
63R Whitfield St., Guilford
203-458-0228
45 Mill Rock Rd. East, Old Saybrook
860-388-5400

The Place - Their roadside sign promotes it as “An Unusual Restaurant.” And that it is. You’re invited to “Put your rump on a stump” that will be your chair at one of the big, round picnic tables, near the huge cinder block grill. As evening falls, strings of lights suspended on poles light up. So much for the ambience. Their specialty is fresh clams on the half shell with butter and cocktail sauce grilled over an open fire. We like having the smoky roasted lobster rather than the boiled. Don’t miss out on the roasted corn and the steamed shrimp in a foil packet. BYOB and BYOF (fries), but not your credit card.
891 Boston Post Rd., Guilford
860-453-9276

Quattro’s - If you’re a mature adult with taste for exceptional tapas and a good time bar where you can linger awhile, Quattro’s is just what you want. Last Thursday, the lobster stuffed artichokes, the pinchos, and the sprightly server couldn’t have been better. If you get a chance, peek through the kitchen door windows where you can catch a glimpse of the four slammin’ chefs, skillets flying, as they turn out their tasty, small plate creations with fury.
16 Water St., Guilford
203-453-6575

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