It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . the time when we think back on a year of eating, drinking, and devouring all the best food in Fairfield County. We’ve combed through all of our reviews, our posts, our visits, and our meals and we’ve created the ultimate guide to food here in Fairfield County aka The 2015 OmNomys!
Just a reminder: the awards only go to the best restaurants, bars, and shops that we have been to in 2015, not all time. If your favorite didn’t make the list, let us know and we’ll try to head there in 2016!
Ambiance: The National, Greenwich
Heading into Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s new restaurant on The Avenue feels to us like going on a getaway to Miami. You’ll be whisked away to your seat where you’re bound to enjoy the night with some great food and killer cocktails . . . but more on that later in this list.
Appetizers/Tapas: Basso Cafe, Norwalk
We first visited Chef Renato Donzelli’s Basso Cafe back in 2012 and recently returned to check out the new drink menu and dine on the deliciousness we remember so well. We were happy with not only the variety of appetizers on the menu, but also the quality. Some of our favorites from the night were the octopus, the bacon covered dates, homemade gnocchi, and tres leche cake.
Asian: Kawa Ni, Westport
Since our first visit to Chefs Bill and Jeff Taibe’s restaurant in the Saugatuck side of town, we’ve been back for more action. What makes us excited is that every time you visit is a new experience with different flavors and ingredients. This is definitely not your typical Asian food, and we like it that way. And, with Beverage Manager Craig Ventrice behind the stick mixing up amazing cocktails, it’s hard to find a better Asian spot in the 203 . . . or CT for that matter.
Breakfast: Valencia, Norwalk
We have an obsession and serious addiction to the Venezuelan inspired beach food of Valencia. But, our addiction hits new heights when it comes to their breakfast options. They have amazing fresh juices and batidos and dishes like breakfast burritos and the Typico, and you can even just go the arepas and empanadas route if you feel like kicking the day off right.
BBQ: Hoodoo Brown BBQ, Ridgefield
Holy crap, has our world changed so much since Hoodoo opened. It quickly became our go-to spot for amazing beef-ribs, crispy-skin pork belly, and anything that Nestor Laracuente put in his smoker. And, while Nestor has moved on, we’ve heard the quality is still great and we can’t wait to head back.
Beer Selection: Coalhouse Pizza, Stamford
Because 52 brews on tap wasn’t enough, owner Gerard Robertson decided that he wanted to not only have the most taps in Fairfield County but also in the entire state. Now Coalhouse features 85 beers on tap with many of them being hard to find and so drink-worthy. Plus, they have installed a brand new bar in the back that also features a great bourbon selection.
Burger: Mill Street Bar & Table, Greenwich
Even with some expert preparations of seafood on the menu, Chef Geoff Lazlo cooks a mighty fine burger, too. The Pastured Beef Burger is a must order for fanatics that certainly won’t disappoint. We described the burger like this: “The burger itself was served a beautiful medium rare and was served with a housemade mustard, a light aioli, and cheddar, all served on a fluffy potato brioche bun. Each bite was a juicy burst of fresh flavor, definitely something we would order again and recommend if you love your patties.”
Bistro: Bistro Versailles, Greenwich
We really love indulging and going to French restaurants, but the thing we don’t always love is the price tag. At Bistro V in Greenwich, meals are affordable, the quality top-notch, and the flavor’s big. It’s warm and rustic inside and when the weather gets nicer it’s hard to find a quainter spot for sidewalk dining.
Brunch: Amore, Stamford
They have a Bloody Mary bar. Yes, they do. We can probably stop there, but we’ll keep going on why we like Amore for brunch. First off, you can get some of their great pies, but the real deal is when you order their BOH Sandwich which features chicken parm, two fried eggs, and sriracha on bread along with fries, fried chicken with a biscuit, a savory waffle, and even boxes of cereal. Oh, and did we mention Breakfast Shots? Yeah, that. Although we were sad to see Chef Jared Falco leave since we last had brunch there, we’ve heard they have been consistent.
Cheese Shop: Greenwich Cheese Company, Greenwich
Opened just last year, GCC is a great spot to not only get your cheese fix, but also features tastings, classes, and lots of other great artisan goods like our favorite Bacon Jam from Skillet Restaurant of Seattle. And, if you’re a cheese n00b, they’ll gladly help ya out.
Cocktails: The National, Greenwich
The first thing that we tried out at Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s new Greenwich restaurant was the cocktails. He’s always making them on TV and he makes it seem so easy, so we figured drinks would be great here . . . and they were. Actually, they were superb. Some standouts were Greenwich Means Thyme, The Very Last Word, Peach Cobbler-Cobbler, the Hemingway Daiquiri, Mango Picante, and the Smokin’ Margarita.
Coffee: Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters, Trumbull
We’ve had Shearwater coffee many times this year at events, but the highlight of our coffee year was dessert at Back 40 Kitchen. There were many coffee options, so we went with one of the darker brews: their Guatemala Nahula. It was dark, rich, toasty, and had a nice body to it. The coolest thing? Owner Ed Freedman actually came by before their opening to teach the staff how to properly prepare his coffee. How awesome is that?
Cupcakes: Forever Sweet Bakery, Norwalk
As far as we’re concerned, Forever Sweet takes the cake with their awesome cupcakes. Come to think of it, there hasn’t been a year where we haven’t ordered a few dozen or so for parties, celebrations, or just to nom away on. From the beautiful assortment of decorative options (including custom designs), to the SUPER moist cupcake and the not-too-sweet creamy frosting, their cupcakes are the best around, let alone in CT!
Farm to Table: Back 40 Kitchen, Greenwich
Something that makes a meal better is knowing that it came from just a few miles away and that’s definitely the case with Back 40, a new restaurant that opened in Greenwich. At Back 40 they take their farm to table moniker very seriously, actually sourcing a large amount of ingredients from their own farm in Washington, CT. And, what they don’t get from their own farm, they get from other local purveyors and farms. The best part? The way all these quality, local ingredients come together so perfectly on their menu, on your plate, and on your tongue . . . but more on that later.
Food Market: Citarella, Greenwich
Words cannot describe how excited we were when Citarella opened up within walking distance of our house. Not only do they have an amazingly fresh and bountiful produce section, butcher and seafood counters, bakery, and cheese shop, but they also have to-die-for fresh made items all day long. From a counter full of pre-prepped meals to cook at home, a huge salad bar, homemade soups, pizzas hot out of the wood oven, made-to-order breakfast and lunch sandwiches, a coffee bar, fresh juice bar, oh and a carefully curated selection of wine, beer and spirits next door, Citarella is both wonderful and dangerous to have so close to home.
Food Truck: Hapa
You’ll be sure to “hapa” good meal when you stop by for some Hapa. Whether it’s their amazing burger that they serve up with housemade pork belly and a purple yam bun, their amazingly crispy fries served with their Furikake seasoning, or their Korean Short Rib Tacos, you can’t go wrong.
Grocery Store: Stew Leonard’s, Norwalk and Danbury
There aren’t too many grocery stores here in CT where you can have the best time ever, feeling like you’re in an adventure park . . . especially not in a grocery store. But, aside from the great time we have at Stew’s, we’re also so excited when we look at all the food options available. Honestly, it’s kind of overwhelming, but that’s okay because they have legions of fans who come back week after week to try the latest baked item, appetizers, cheese, or local product.
Italian: Bar Sugo, Norwalk
There’s Italian food . . . then there’s Bar Sugo Italian food. Whether it’s fresh, handmade pasta, Chef Pat Pascarella’s classic 6 meatball sampler, his pies, or any of his amazing takes on Italian, Bar Sugo has never disappointed us. Our favorite thing to do is just order a ton of cichetti (small plates) and let the night wind down.
Latin: Valencia, Norwalk
If we could give an award for amazing penmanship, we’d give it to Valencia. Have you seen them write out the specials? Well, we did the last time that we visited for dinner and it was amazing. But, let’s talk about this food. Some of the freshest ceviche around, amazing arepas that are consistently the best around, great cocktails, and exciting specials make Valencia our top spot when you’re looking for that Latin spice.
Liquor Shop: Harry’s, Fairfield
Whatever you’re looking for, Harry’s has you covered! Yes, they have an amazing variety of wine, but their beer selection is also stellar. In addition, they have a great variety of liquor including some exclusive bourbon and whiskey that were distilled just for Harry’s. Oh, and yes, those speciality liquors are legit and so worth it!
New American: Mill Street Bar & Table, Greenwich
Coming from The Whelk, it’s no doubt that Chef Geoff Lazlo would have seafood down well . . . and he does. But, where he’s really shining and showing his culinary prowess is when he spotlights farm-fresh ingredients in a simple, yet kicked-up way. Take his carrot fries, for example. You’d never expect to have so much flavor in a preparation like this, but there it is! Other amazing dishes were the Crispy Duck Ribs, Sweet Potatoes, and the show-stealing Farm Fresh Egg Flatbread.
New Restaurant : Back 40 Kitchen, Greenwich
It might not be a surprise that the same winner of Best Farm to Table is also our choice for Best New Restaurant of 2015. Well, we have so many great things to say about Chef George DeMarsico. His flavors are rich, bold, and he manages to make the most of the freshest ingredients around. Another thing that amazed us about Back 40 Kitchen is how most of the food prepared (except for the buns) is naturally gluten-free. We loved it so much that we actually got Chef Geoffrey Zakarian to go in early October.
Pizza: Bar Sugo, Norwalk
While it’s no contest that Chef Pascarella and crew take down the Best Italian category, the pizza contest is definitely more heated. And, even though there are a ton of contenders for best pie around here in FFLD, we went with Bar Sugo’s. Pat Siciliano, who is usually the pizzaiolo in charge, pumps out awesome pies that are just the right thickness and have that beautiful bite and give. On a recent visit we had the Potato pie which featured crispy Brussel Sprouts, ricotta, and a rich and fragrant truffle honey.
Seafood: The Whelk, Westport
Although contrary to logic, being a coastal county, there are so few places here in FFLD who do seafood right. The Whelk is proof that your seafood doesn’t have to be thickly breaded and fried to be enjoyed. They have a carefully curated selection of oysters, serve the freshest fish, and offer inventive, incredibly delicious dishes from Chefs Bill Taibe and Anthony Kostelis.
Social Media, Facebook: Fortina, Stamford (Rye, Armonk too)
We can’t even. Have you seen their amazing posts, memes, and comments? Truly, your life isn’t complete without their amazing quips or videos that feature the Fortina crew fishing for some Italian food or protecting people with a flash pizza flood warning as slices rain down!
Social Media, Instagram: Elm Street Diner, Stamford
With over 1,782 followers, Elm Street Diner is a great account to follow on Insta. Then again, maybe it’s because their food looks so damn delicious. Keep up the great work and happy picture snappin’.
Special Event, Beer Festival: Harbor Brew Fest
Every year we are amazed at how this beer fest gets better and better. Well, this year was certainly a ton of fun with a great representation of CT breweries and even ones who are on the way. It’s great for the beer drinker who’s just learning, but also great for the beer geek who wants to try more and more. And it’s incredibly well run to boot!
Special Event, Food Contest: Chowdafest
Organizer Jim Keenan has taken Chowdafest from a tiny contest with a few entries to a humongous food contest that is now the biggest in all of New England. This year’s event saw restaurants from across the state and country competing to see whose chowders and soups reigned supreme. In addition to this, Chowdafest was held at Sherwood Island in Westport which made for a perfect day with chowda booths spread out nicely and ample parking.
Special Event, Food Festival: Greenwich Wine & Food Fest
We don’t understand how this festival can keep getting better, but it does. This year seemed to be even smoother than before and had even more things to eat, drink, and check out. For us, the big difference was opening up more of the side experiences to all ticket holders so that you could literally stay the whole day. We can safely say we can’t live without this event.
Best Outside of Fairfield County
Cocktails: Elm City Social, New Haven
We had one of the most epic days recently where we went to the Elm City Brew Fest. Then, nicely buzzed, we rambled on down the street to Elm City Social, lead by Chef John Brennan. What followed was probably one of the most exciting cocktail drinking episodes this year. While all the cocktails had a nice balance, it’s hard to pass up the aptly named Rubber Ducky which features a baby rubber ducky that floats atop your drink. All kitsch aside, it’s our favorite drink on their menu, though the Cereal Milk Punch is a great way to end the night with beer barrel bourbon, Kelt VSOP cognac, cereal milk, and Lucky Charms floaters.
Food Experience: Saybrook Point Inn & Spa, Old Saybrook
We had one of the best times in the history of our blog at Saybrook Point Inn during a special weekend. Billed as the Food Lovers Weekend, we met up with couples on a Friday night for some snacks and some drinks. Then, Saturday it was all business as we learned how to cook French food and even prepared our own lunch and dinners! We were also given gift certificates for participating that allowed us to eat dinner and brunch at their amazing and award-winning restaurant, Fresh Salt. And although not food related, the accommodations were fabulous with our very own fireplace and jacuzzi tub. Truly awesome!
Gastropub: Mikro, Hamden
This was the first year that we visited Mikro, but we’re gonna tell ya: it won’t be our last. The beer selection is great with plenty of rarities and hard to find brews on tap and the food choices are top-notch. Our favorite part of dining there was just ordering a bunch of apps to pair with our brews. A definite must visit.
Pizza: Zuppardi’s, West Haven and Food Truck
We have heard so much about Zuppardi’s, so when we heard they would be bringing their food truck to Stony Creek Brewery over the summer, we were down . . . so down. And, boy, are we glad we made the trip! Beautiful medium crust pies, nicely balanced sauces, and punch you in the face flavorful ingredients made for some great pies. We loved their Spicy Fresh Clams Casino that included clams shucked right on the truck, mooz, hot cherry peppers, garlic, and bacon.