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When we moved here almost 14 years ago, the building on Colman Street was a franchise in the Roadkill Café chain, a restaurant known more for its spectacularly ill-advised name than for anything interesting to eat. When that failed - surprise! - the building becamse the Gridlock Grille, and then the New London Diner. Each operated with varying success and momentum.
All along, though, we kept hearing about "back when it was Goldy's" - the inaugural restaurant to occupy the spot - a place that closed only a few months before we got here.
Well, as Captain Beyond sang, "Everything is a circle."
Goldy's is indeed back in the hallowed space, and the daughter and granddaughter of the original owner, Shelly Goldstein, are in charge. It's a beautiful thing.
Because Goldy's was and is again one of those restaurants that are indelibly meant for a city or neighborhood. Similarly, there's the Hideaway in Old Lyme, Ed's Kitchen & Creamery in Uncasville, or the Waterford and East Lyme Shack establishments (just to name a few). These are places where you at once feel comfortable and welcome, where the food is good and plentifuly served, and, after the first visit, the owners and staff become pleasant acquaintances who are always, genuinely happy to see you.
In the spirit of the mission, Goldy's offers a busy menu with dozens of breakfast, lunch and dinner possibilities. The goal isn't to win any James Beard awards - if you want the sort of culinary experience where the main course is squab in a fennel/English pea foam and costs $400, you're in the wrong place. Rather, Goldy's will satisfy virtually anything you might be hankering for, and they'll do so in pleasing fashion.
The main dining area extends from the hostess kiosk and doglegs into a greenhouse-style room. Both are spacious and offer plenty of natural lighting through expansive windows. At the opposite end from the greenhouse is a small pub with bar seating and a series of tables divided by a low partition. It's a full service bar with a nice tap selection and three screens to cover any sports-watching requirements.
The Wife Unit and I have been twice lately. Let me address this first: Goldy's was renowned for its fish 'n' chips, which is admittedly a standard dish in these parts. But Goldy's can bring it. The lunch special ($7.99), which comprises two planks of fresh cod, a massive serving of classic Goldy's waffle fries and coleslaw, is just damned hard to argue with.
The batter is delicate and flash-fried for a thin but crunchy exterior, and the fish is moist and flaky and flavorful. The criss-cross wafflers take the Art of the French Fry to a new and fun level, and the coleslaw is tangy and mercifcully not saturated in mayo.
A garden burger ($6.99) satisfied, featuring a grain-stoked patty that included carrots, mushrooms and onions, topped with cheese, lettuce and tomato. A side of red-potato salad was peppery and with a perfect consistency.
There was also a dinner visit. From an appetizer menu that reflects bar 'n' grill and raw bar influences, homestyle onion rings ($3.49) were made on-site and just wonderful. They're huge, battered flavorfully as by angels, with a spicy snap and zero grease presence. Also great: an order of 10 wings ($6.99). They come in varying degrees of torque; we went for the hottest, billed as "Killer."
They weren't being modest. Terrific wings - meaty, lean and with an almost papery crust, and the heat was amazing and blisteringly fun.
On to the entrees. Garlic chicken ($11.99) was a plateful of penne pasta and sliced breast meat in sauce. Truth told, there wasn't much of a garlic presence and the pasta wasn't as al dente as preferred, but the bird was juicy and the whole thing went down pleasingly.
We also liked the broiled swordfish salad ($11.99): Crunchy, chilled fresh greens with plenty of veggies and a sliced filet of beautifully cooked swordfish awesomely accented with lemon and pepper.
566 Colman St., New London
(860) 442-7146, goldysrestaurant.com
Cuisine: Well prepared, basic Americana with New England accents. Plenty of breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Everything's done well without any pretense of gourmet.
Service: Always happy, efficient, and familial. Home-away-from-home friendliness.
Handicap access: Steps and then double doors make it a bit of an obstacle.
Prices: Appetizers, salads and soup $4.99-$11.99, burgers and sandwiches $5.99-$10.99, pasta, seafood and beef entrees $8.99-$14.99 - and very cheap daily lunch specials.
Credit Cards: All major.
Reservation: Not required.