Well, here we are, already at the end of 2014. Man, how time flies. But fret not friends, because the end of another year means another celebration of the best of the best in Fairfield County. That’s right, it’s time for the 4th Annual OmNomys! By now most of you know how this works, but for those of you new here, this is a list of the best that we’ve experienced in 2014… NOT necessarily the best EVER in Fairfield County. If your favorite spot or food didn’t make it on here, maybe it was on our list back in 2011, 2012, or 2013… and if not, let us know so we can check it out in 2015!
So, without further ado, here we go:
Best Ambiance: Cask Republic, Stamford
With not one, but two fireplaces, Cask Republic has a warm, rustic, and down-homey kind of vibe going on. It’s hard to think of a chill spot with more class. It’s the perfect place to meet up with friends, have some drinks (from which there are many to choose), and try out some great gastropub grub.
Best Apps: Brick + Wood, Fairfield
We know our burrata, so when we say that the burrata and newly opened Brick + Wood is ridiculously good, like the best we’ve ever had, we mean it. Made fresh at their mozzarella bar, they have plenty of choices of fresh cheese, nice antipasto plates, and other fantastic dishes to pick from like their pizze fritte, arancini, and crochet. Their apps they take diners into the streets of Italy for a taste of what you could pick up at a market or small vendor.
Best BBQ: Farmboys Smokin’ BBQ, Darien
Farmboys stays at the top of our list and we’re sure they’ve gained even more fans this year since they’ve been at pretty much every single brewery in CT this year. Still, we can’t get enough of their brisket and especially that crazy amazing smoked mac & cheese. Excellent food from a mobile smoker!
Best Beer Selection: Coalhouse Pizza, Stamford
There are plenty of places in Fairfield County to get a beer, but not as many where you can get a wide variety of great craft beer, and even fewer that also carry hard to find and rare beers. Well, Coalhouse Pizza in Stamford is one of them. With 52 VERY carefully selected brews on tap, tap takeovers, and other special beer events, few restaurant owners know beer like Gerard. In fact, we credit Gerard with the awakening of our addiction to good craft beer.
Best Bistro, Casual : Craft 260, Fairfield
New to the scene, Craft 260 has become even more popular as word began to spread about their careful selection of beer and their delicious takes on classic American comfort food. What makes this spot even better is that the prices are good and not out of control like some other restaurants in the 203.
Best Brunch: Washington Prime, Norwalk
While great brunches can be found all over the place, there are very few that are buffets . . . and good buffets, at that. Well, Washington Prime has changed that with their $29.95 buffet that includes, a mimosa or Moscow mule, breads, pastries, lox, raw oysters (did we mention all you can eat?), shrimp, your typical breakfast items, prime rib, an omelet station, a free brunch drink, and lots more. The quality of the food was quite good and surprising for a buffet. They definitely put a good amount of care they put into the buffet, obsessively checking the temperatures, quality, cleanliness, quantity, etc. A great deal and a perfect place to relax and spend a lazy Sunday.
Best Burger: Little Pub, Greenwich, Wilton, and Ridgefield
We love our burgers here in FC, and it’s no mystery that this category was a tough one to pick. But, when it comes down to it, we can’t get enough of Little Pub’s burgers. Our drugs of choice are the Jamburger (roasted garlic spiked cream cheese, jalapenos, homemade bacon jam), Route 102 (Montreal spices, caramelized onions, sweet & hot peppers, melting provolone), and Graceland (Crispy smoked bacon, grilled bananas, melting cheddar, Thai peanut sauce). To be honest, we have to practice massive self-control since we live by the new Greenwich location and Kristien works by the Wilton spot.
Best Cafe: The Granola Bar, Westport
If you want your classic cup of java or want to take things up a few notches with creative drinks like a Turkish Latte, then The Granola Bar is definitely your spot. Add in some great breakfast foods like homemade lox, perfect deviled eggs (seriously the best), or their newly expanded menu for an all day experience, and you’ve got a great spot to hit up.
Best Cheese Shop: Greenwich Cheese Company (also in Fairfield)
Some grocery stores or speciality shops just so happen to have a big cheese section, but they sell it without much knowledge. But at Greenwich and Fairfield Cheese Company, cheese is their passion and speciality. They’ve been all over the world learning about cheese, competing as cheesemongers, and procuring the absolute best selection for us FC’ers. Whether you’re looking for soft, mild, strong, smelly, extra-smelly, or your plain ol’ standards, they’ve got you covered.
Best Coffee (locally brewed): Raus Coffee
Once you’ve had a Cold Roman, you’ll never go back to your regular old espresso drinks. Just shake and activate and you’re ready to go! Super smooth, creamy, and slightly sweet, it really is the perfect coffee drink. The good news is that it’s even easier to find Cold Romans at local markets and shops, including The Granola Bar.
Best Cupcakes: Forever Sweet Bakery, Stamford
Everybody loves a cupcake. What’s not to love? They’re the perfect size sweet snack, they’re soft and gooey, and they’re whimsical! And, there’s nothing to not love about Forever Sweet’s cupcakes. They are not only rich, decadent, and full of flavor, but they are some of the moist cupcakes that you’ll ever taste. Simply fantastic!
Best Drinks: Bailey’s Backyard, Ridgefield
Bartender and drink manager Bryan Walsh knows his way around cocktails. Not only does he keep them seasonal, but he also tries to use local ingredients whenever possible. In particular, he keeps people getting buzzed with his infused liquors that we just can’t get enough of.
Best Entertainment: Coalhouse Pizza, Stamford
From beer dinners, to brewery flight nights, to live music, to trivia night, to classes on beer and bourbon, to special tap takeovers, even to fundraisers for local organizations, Coalhouse Pizza has it all. It’s hard to find a better place where there’s always something new going on every night.
Best Farm-to-Table: Bailey’s Backyard, Ridgefield
While we’ve been to many restaurants in Fairfield County that use farm fresh food and try to keep things local, Bailey’s Backyard takes it a few steps further. They go out into the local markets and shop, and they even visit the farms for fresh veggies and to source their meat. And, while local food is fresher and tastes better in general, it takes a talented chef to transform that into something amazing. That Chef would be Forrest Pasternack. Whenever we’re asked about our favorite spots, we tell people Bailey’s, hands down.
Best Food Truck: Vanchetta
After attempting to run the Half Full 5K over the summer, it wasn’t as bad when we realized that Vanchetta was at the finish line. Yes, waiting for us with those amazing porchetta sandwiches. Seriously, those are some of the best sandwiches you’ll find around whether it’s a food truck or a deli. Vanchetta trumps them all.
Best Ice Cream: Tea•rrific Ice Cream
We’ve known about Tea•rrific for a while, but what put them over the edge for best ice cream of 2014 was their newest flavor. You ready for this? Brown Butter Sticky Toffee! Dear God, it’s an amazing flavor, but it’s only available for a limited time, so get to Whole Foods or your local grocery store and snag it.
Best Italian: Bar Sugo, Norwalk
Look, paesano, we’re Italian so we know good Italian. And, we’ve been to plenty of Italian spots, but none of them seem to be able to reach the quality of the food at Chef Pat Pascarella’s Bar Sugo. Whether it’s his pies that are coming fresh out the oven, his amazing housemade pasta, his meatballs (which are the BEST we’ve ever had besides Kristien’s Nana), or any of his Italian small plates, Pat keeps it real. Capiche?
Best Latin: Valencia Luncheria, Norwalk
If you want a good, solid, dependable meal with some Latin flair, Valencia’s your place. In addition to their great drinks and green sauce (we consider that stuff a drink), you could spend weeks coming back to try all the varieties of arepas that they are serving. Throw in some ceviche, empanadas, and/or specials and you’ve got a great meal. Our advice? Get The Works which includes soup, an arepa, an empanada, rice and beans, plantains, tostones, and even ceviche! Also, it’s a not to miss breakfast if you’re looking.
Best Mexican: Bodega Taco Bar, Darien and Fairfield
There are lots of great Mexican spots in Fairfield County, but the best we’ve had this year comes from Bodega Taco Bar. How much do we love it? Well, we started our new year with them by devouring taco after taco and dish after dish as well as drinking like a fish. And, Kristien hired their food truck for her company picnic. Always keep an eye on their specials board for something awesome like their fried chicken waffle tacos. Mmmm!
Best New American: South End, New Canaan
Best. Octopus. Ever. And that’s saying a lot! We love our octopus. But, really, whatever you order here is a sure bet whether you’re talking about their fresh housemade pastas, their creative takes on game, or their kicked up takes on classic dishes, we love this place. A sure bet every time!
Best New Restaurant: Kawa Ni, Westport
Chefs Bill and Jeff Taibe opened up Kawa Ni this past year and, immediately, the place was packed. Yes, people would follow the Taibes to the end of the Earth, but the food they’re serving speaks volumes: creative, fun, and playful twists on Pan-Asian dishes like bowls of ramen and rice balls. Don’t worry, they include a glossary of terms on the back of the menu if you’re not sure what an ingredient is. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Jeff Marron is tending bar and shaking the place with sake bomb gongs.
Best Pizza: Stanziato’s, Danbury
Really, if you’ve never been to Stanziato’s, you need to get there. Just be prepared to wait because this spot is always packed because people know it’s da bomb! While you definitely need to order their typical pies like their Margherita, Figgy Smalls, Totes McGoats, and Piggy Piggy, Matt always has a surprise pie ready that you’ll need to check out when you arrive. When we went recently, we couldn’t get enough of the Breakfast Pizza that featured French fry sticks, breakfast sausage, soft-boiled eggs, and hot peppers. Amen.
Best Service: Char, Greenwich
Quick, friendly, and knowledgable, the staff and servers at Char are eager to please. If you have a question about the menu, they can help. If you need something customized or left out a bit, they can help. If you need diffuse that bomb and you’re not sure which wire to snip, well, you’re screwed.
Best Spanish: Ibiza, Danbury
There is no shortage of Spanish restaurants in Fairfield County, but Ibiza is definitely at the top of their game. They feature an extensive menu that is good for any kind of eater whether you’re vegetarian, gluten-free, or a heavy-duty carnivore. Having been to Barcelona, Spain, we can confidently say Ibiza is the most authentic we’ve had around these here parts.
Best Special Event, Dinner: Sourcopia w/ Chef Plum
Two Roads hosts special dinners twice a year (though they’re probably doing more soon) to celebrate the new release of their brews. This year they released some great sour beers and Chef Plum of Newtown created a menu to highlight each one. In addition, each course had a beer inside the dish, bringing everything full circle. But, the most amazing thing about this meal is that Chef Plum and Sous Chef Justin Kern made this feast from a makeshift kitchen in the room where they normally serve beer.
Best Special Event, Beer Festival: Harbor Brew Fest, Bridgeport
This year’s festival was not only the best beer fest in Fairfield County, but also the best in their history. There were handfuls of food trucks and an improved setup of beer tents that spanned nearly the entire baseball field. And with barely any wait for beer, ever, we could get all the tastes we wanted!
Best Special Event, Food Festival: ChowdaFest VII
A food fest so big that it had to expand out into bigger digs, even if that meant leaving an arena. Yes, the arena was too small. Instead, Chowdafest was held right at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk. There was not only plenty of room and plenty of great soups, but there was also beer and wine, making this a really awesome event.
Best Special Event, Food Festival: Greenwich Wine & Food Festival
We’re naming a second best special food festival because there is quite a price difference between Chowdafest and the Greenwich Wine & Food Festival. But, even though you pay more, the cost is well worth it! There are endless tastes of the area’s best food, chances to see demos from your favorite celebrity chefs, and drinks galore. Going to GW&FF is always one of highlights of our year.
Best Sushi: Matsu, Westport
Sometimes newest isn’t always best, as you can see with Matsu of Westport. They’ve been around for years and are a mainstay in Westport . . . here’s why: the fish. It’s so fresh (we recently ate live sliced scallops) and so flavorful. Whether you are getting sushi, sashimi, or rolls, Matsu has you covered.
Best Waterfront Dining: Dolce Cubano, Stamford
The drinks, the food, the ambience: all of these come together to form a good restaurant. But, Dolce Cubano ends up being an excellent choice because of the amazing waterside views. If it’s cold out, you can sit down at a table by the large glass-paned windows and think about how much you miss summer. And, when it’s nice out, those custom-made windows unfold so you get an open-air experience. And, if that’s not enough for you, you can also eat outside in the bar area.
Best Wine Selection: Morello Bistro, Greenwich
Set in a classically stunning setting right on The Avenue, Morello Bistro makes fresh and creative Italian. And, you know that the best way to celebrate having an Italian meal is pairing it with a great bottle of wine, right? Of course, and Morello is the place to get your wine fix on with an extremely carefully selected menu that highlights the best of wine.
Best Wings: Dinosaur Bar-b-que, Stamford
Although we search and there are always some contenders like Stanziato’s and Vinny’s Backyard, we still can’t find better wings than at Dinosaur Bar-B-que. The thing that takes them up the next level? They’re grilled. Yeah. It’s amazing how much flavor that adds. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that their sauces are excellent, too.
Top 3 Within Reach (noming just outside Fairfield County)
Port Chester Beer: Port Chester, NY
If you love beer, this is your spot. There is no particular beer section of the store because the entire thing is devoted to that liquid goodness. It’s aisle after aisle of great beer and ciders with lots of hard to find brews mixed in for good measure. We’re addicted. Seriously. We’ve got a problem.
Fortina: Armonk (Rye Brook and Stamford coming soon)
Fortina will be a major contender for best Italian and Best Pizza next year when their Stamford spot opens. But, for now, you’ll need to get on down to Armonk where you’ll find Fortina. Great pizza, great drink choices, and great Italian food. Plus, really, can you think of a better restaurant to follow on Facebook? They always make us laugh.
Dew Drop Inn: Derby
Do yourself a favor, and check out Dew Drop Inn. It’s a tiny little dive bar, but everything is great there and you won’t bust the bank. Our favorite thing there? Their wings! Over 50 varieties with our favorite being the Parmesan Bacon Garlic and Peanut Butter and Jelly wings. Hot damn, that’s great stuff. Great rotating taps of craft beer, excellent burgers, and some of the nicest waitresses around make this place awesome!