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"Best of the Best" Shoreline Connecticut Restaurants & Eateries
I enjoy going out to eat. But not if I can make it better myself for less. So if I’m going out, it better be worth it. If you are on a limited dining-out budget and don’t want to waste the experience, here are my reviews for the best in the area that are worth the money. Please feel free to add your own favorites and comments at the bottom.
BEST RESTAURANT – By far it is BAR BOUCHEE in Madison. This is not a place to eat. This is a place for a culinary experience. Every bite of whatever you get is to be savored. A real restaurant, with a real chef, with real top-quality dishes and an excellent wine list. You’d think you were in a big city, but it is right in my own backyard! NOTE: You will have a difficult time getting in without reservations. The place is small with limited seating. Expect to dine for at least an hour. It is more expensive than most other local restaurants, but for what it is, it is very reasonably priced. 8 Scotland Ave, Madison, CT 06443 | 203-318-8004. (Also of merit is the other restaurant owned by the same people, Moxie, also in Madison.)
BEST PIZZA – BAR in New Haven. Yes, I’ve had all the Wooster Square pizzas, but they don’t deliver what Bar does. Crisp crust, not overly greasy, unique toppings, including mashed potatoes. Great ambiance, with an oversized pool table in the bar. Not sure where they got that, but it sure is fun to play on! Bar, 254 Crown St, New Haven, CT 06511 | 203-495-1111. (Second choice is Bertucci’s in Orange for the best margherita pizza ever. I also recommend getting Pepe's white clam pizza with mushrooms instead of clams. That is one awesome pizza if you must go to Wooster Square.)
BEST SEAFOOD and BEST VALUE – U.S.S. CHOWDER POT III in Branford. There is a lot of good seafood on the shoreline, but for consistent quality and great value (the portions are huge), you can’t beat The Chowder Pot. The lobster mac & cheese is a fave to everyone, and the prime rib is excellent. They have a huge bar, too, with a great Happy Hour – ½ price appetizer with any drink, plus free samplers such as hot dogs, burgers, and a small free buffet on Fridays. 560 E Main St, Branford, CT 06405 | 203-481-2356
BEST CHINESE – TASTE OF CHINA in Clinton. This is for dine in, not take-out. They remodeled a couple of years ago and the ambiance is very classy. They have dishes that you would normally expect, plus more traditional dishes as well. For instance, the cuttlefish dish is beautiful and excellent, and so are the Thai cold noodles. This is one of the few Chinese places that uses all white meat chicken, and lean beef and pork in their cooking. Never disappointed. Only thing is that the waitstaff has gotten a bit pushy lately about recommending dishes. If they steer you in a direction you don’t want to go, just insist on your original choice. 233 E Main St, Clinton, CT 064 | 860-664-4454. (Also of merit is Mr. J's in Guilford and 9 East in Branford.)
BEST MEXICAN – BAJA in Orange. Anyone who grew up eating authentic Cal-Mex food like I have, will tell you this. Su Casa is pretty good, Jalapeno Heaven is pretty good, Margarita’s is good but kitsch, and Cuckoo’s Nest is just plain nasty! For authentic restaurant Mexican food, including fish tacos and excellent rice and beans, the only contender is Baja. Also of note are the freshly fried chips, the great salsa bar, and authentic moles in the dishes. Baja’s, 63 Boston Post Road, Orange, CT - (203) 799-2252. (Also of merit are Four Burritos in West Haven, and Senor Salsa in Fairfield.)
BEST VIETNAMESE/THAI – SAIGON CITY in Old Saybrook. Excellent food, great portions, nice ambiance in an old historic home. Waitstaff can be a bit hoighty toighty, but it is bearable. You will definitely walk away feeling like you ate healthy. (Second choice is Bangkok Gardens in New Haven. Chicken on the Green is an excellent dish with a great peanut sauce.) Saigon City, 1315 Boston Post Road. Old Saybrook, CT | 860-388 6888.
BEST VEGETARIAN – For dine-in, the SHORELINE DINER AND VEGETARIAN ENCLAVE in Guilford. For items to go, or for general grocery, THE FOODWORKS also in Guilford. Georgie’s Diner in West Haven is also owned by the Shoreline Diner and has the same menu. (Second choices - Mediterrania and Sahara, both in New Haven. Mediterranea also has a hookah bar and reclined Mediterranean seating.) Shoreline Diner, 345 Boston Post Rd Guilford, CT 06437 | 203-458-7380. The Foodworks, 450 Boston Post Road, Guilford, CT 06437 | 203-458-9778.
BEST SALAD BAR - SHORELINE CAFE AND CATERING in Branford. The salad bar is huge with an incredible selection. For both dine in and take out. 1247 Main St. Branford, CT 06405
BEST OUTDOOR BAR – BILL’S SEAFOOD in Westbrook. Great outdoor bar with access by car or boat. Casual local feel. It is also the best casual seafood eatery in the area. Great tuna salad and burgers. 548 Boston Post Road, Westbrook, CT 06498 | 860-399-7224.
BEST SEAFOOD SHACK – THE CLAM CASTLE in Madison. Menu includes fried and grilled fish dishes, as well as great non-seafood options including burgers and hot dogs. Interior is clean, bright and deliciously retro! 1324 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT 06443 | 203-245-4911
BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH – Everyone knows that is LA LUNA’S in Branford, but there is another choice as well – DARBAR INDIA in Branford. For a more traditional brunch, La Luna’s offers an incredible spread of anything you can imagine. Including the enormous tray of bacon which, for me, is the centerpiece of any breakfast buffet. They also have an array of salads, pasta, meat and seafood dishes. This runs $22/person on non-holidays. Reservations recommended. As for Darbar, if you like Indian food, this is the best value for a Sunday brunch AND for eating Indian food. $9.95/person gets you an incredible limitless buffet. Items that, if you ordered separately to eat Indian style, would cost over $40. La Luna’s, 168 North Main Street, Branford, CT 06405 | 203-483-9995. Darbar India, 1070 Main St, Branford, CT 06405 | 203-481-8994.
BEST BURGER – CHOWDER POT or DUCHESS. This if for your average burger, nothing fancy. Yes, I’ve had Louis Lunch, and the CT steamed cheesburger, but they are not as satisfying as the two I mentioned. For a great meaty restaurant burger, the quality and size of the Moby Burger at the Chowder Pot can’t be beat. If you want a gooey, fast food burger that is comparable to some of the favorites in California, the double cheesburger at Duchess is absolutely fantastic. Chowder Pot address mentioned above, and Duchess has several locations.
BEST CRAFT BURGER/BEER BAR - HAYWIRE in Westbrook. Everything on the menu is delicious, and organic and local. It also a great place to eat healthy with no-bun options for the paleo diet. They also have the largest draught selection on the shoreline, all of them local craft beers. 730 Boston Post Rd. in Westbrook. (Also of merit is GW Carson's in Branford. The decor is awesome!)
BEST SOUP – CRISTY'S in Westbrook. Whether you get the chicken noodle or beef vegetable, you are in for a treat. But don't stop at the soups. Pretty much everything on the menu is great and the portions are HUGE! For instance, their hot dog is the size of a foot-long sub! 1261 Boston Post Road in Westbrook.
BEST FRIES – FIVE GUYS Orange and other locations. To me, the Five Guys burger tastes no better than one from Wendy’s. But the fresh-cut fries can not be beat, except by other places that make them the same way such as Ranch 1 (Stamford) and Nelly Green’s (Branford). Plus, the portion is enormous, so one serving of fries could serve 1-5 people, depending on how much you want to share. 440 Boston Post Rd, Orange, CT 06477 | 203-298-9336.
BEST CORNED BEEF - TOMMY SULLIVAN'S in Branford. I didn't like corned beef until I tasted it here. They make it the way it should be made. Fresh, tender, thinly sliced. No other Irish pub in the area comes even close to this heavenly treat! 240 N Main St, Branford, CT 06405 | 203-488-8454.
BEST FAST FOOD SUB – JERSEY MIKE’S in Branford. All of their high-quality meats are sliced to order. To me, these subs are the freshest, healthiest and most filling. Staff is friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. 845 W Main St Ste D, Branford, CT | 203-481-8050.
BEST NACHOS – CHILI'S in East Haven, Milford or Hamden. Why, you ask? Because Chili’s is the ONLY place that makes nachos the way they are supposed to be made. Individually, not in a pile. A nacho is intended to be a mini tostada. I commend Chili’s for taking the time to do these right. It reminds me of my childhood before nachos became a messy bar food. My favorite nacho to order is cajun chicken. Various locations. (A close second in Four Burritos in West Haven.)
BEST LOCAL DESSERT PIE – LYMAN ORCHARDS red, white and blue pie. This is a combination of apples, blueberries and cherries. While this pie is da-bomb, any Lyman’s pie is better than most. This pie may be purchased directly at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, or at any shoreline Big Y supermarket. Worth the money, for sure, but save your Big Y coins for discounts.
BEST BACON, EGG & CHEESE SANDWICH – DELI UNLIMITED in Guilford, at the Sunoco gas station. Also an excellent place for a to-go sandwich. I go there all the time. 1099 Boston Post Rd, Guilford, CT 06437 | 203-453-2473. (A good alternative is Circle Pizza in Madison, who makes a bacon, egg and cheese almost identical to Deli Unlimited.)
BEST DINE-IN BREAKFAST - . CRISTY'S in Westbrook or Madison. Enormous portions, delicious food, with the biggest pancake selection I have ever seen. Be prepared for a wait if you drop in on a Sunday. 1261 Boston Post Road in Westbrook, 73 W. Wharf Rd. in Madison.
BEST CHAIN – CRACKER BARREL in Milford, OLIVE GARDEN in Orange, North Haven or Waterford, or PANERA, several locations. Cracker Barrel is fantastic if you have a hankerin’ for soul food or down-home cooking. Olive Garden has excellent salad and entrees. I have figured out how to make a lot of my Olive Garden favorites, but it is still nice to go out there, especially for all-you-can-eat soup and salad. Panera, for café-style dining, it is just plain good with lots of healthy choices. All chains are reasonably priced. Various locations.