Some new tunes on the menu at Old Lyme Inn
It looks like the jazz from next door has infused the menu at the Old Lyme Inn. Not only does the historic inn now offer Mid-Week Medleys — specials that don’t go over $15 — but the medleys come with a side of piano music every Wednesday.
Launched earlier this year, Mid-Week Medleys feature dishes “to satisfy all tastes and bring people together,” according to the inn’s website. Think comfort food, expertly prepared with quality ingredients. Even better, the Medley menu changes every week, offering guests the opportunity explore the inn’s culinary range for slightly less coin.
No sour notes emerged during the two medleys we sampled; anything that wasn’t downright excellent was still very good. You don’t often hear the words “excellent” and “open-face hot turkey sandwich” used in the same context, but here we are. When you’ve got a mound of delicately carved turkey drizzled with just the right amount of perfectly salted, almost buttery gravy and topped with cranberry mayo, you’ve got a sandwich worth recommending ($12). That it’s served on four pieces of rustic, wheat-y toast raises the bar again, but I suspect I was happiest to discover modest layers of veggie-laden stuffing folded into the turkey. It sounds filling, and it is, but not overwhelmingly so, thanks to the more petite portion of bread. Paired with a glass of Prosecco ($8), my dinner was a lovely start to a long weekend on a recent Thursday night.
That week’s menu also included Beef Brisket with Grilled Corn Bread ($15), which also gets an excellent rating for a few reasons. One, the brisket indicated our chef understands what brisket ought to be: smoky, flavorful, and tender after proper broil time. Too often we’ve encountered tasteless, gamey brisket here in the Northeast, so it was wonderful to dig into the real deal in Old Lyme, of all places. We suspect the beef’s deep, smoky, mocha flavor came from the addition of Mexican mole sauce or paste; doubling our pleasure was an equally rich gravy atop the brisket and the base layer of particularly delicious mashed potatoes (I regret not asking what variety they were). As for the grilled corn bread, those grill marks were not just for show; it was as smoky delicious as the main attraction.
Our next Medley menu offered one of those situations in which we wanted to try everything on it. After much debate and a consult with the gregarious bartender, Michael, we settled on three of them: Stuffed Meatballs (three for $9), beef stew served with a biscuit ($13), and Pasta Carbonara ($14). Hearty fare, to be sure, but luckily Medley portions are on the smaller side (read: our justification for ordering a beef-heavy app on top of more beef for dinner).
Note: My reporting happened to fall on two robust Medley menu weeks, but past menus have included vegetarian options, such as Chipotle Kale Caesar Salad ($10), Grilled Apple Salad ($11), and Portobello Mushroom Fries ($10), among others. Still, I suggest vegetarians check the menu online in advance for safe measure.
The stuffed meatballs emerged our favorite dish of the night. What’s not to love about mozzarella-cheese-stuffed meatballs served on a bed of outstanding ricotta cheese? Plus, the beef itself presented a lovely fennel note that brightened up every mouthful. We destroyed all three meatballs (each somewhere between a tennis ball and golf ball in size) over cocktails, with ample time for chat and digestion between courses.
When our main courses arrived, it was a contest first between which was more striking: the thick beef stew decked with a nobbly, golden biscuit or the perfect nest of fettucine noodles topped with a quivering egg yolk. The bright yellow yolk clinched it for the carbonara. Be aware: The bartender clued us in ahead of time about the pasta’s egg topper and assured us it’s available without. The egg is meant to be mixed into the hot pasta, cheese, and bacon right at the table instead of in the pot in the more standard preparation.
As for which dish was best, we called it a draw between two quite good offerings. The carbonara carried more flavor and texture interest with its silky construction of noodle-meets-egg and black pepper and bacon-y notes, but in the end the overall flavor fell a wee bit flat. Perhaps more cheese was in order?
Ditto for the beef stew, a thicker variety with ample vegetables and tender beef, which was nonetheless a welcome, satisfying meal on a blustery night. The accompanying biscuit struck just the right balance of starch and butter flavors — and kudos to the kitchen for such a great pairing idea — but the result was a classic case of good not great.
But let’s not quibble: Old Lyme Inn is offering very good eats, indeed, and mixing things up in fun new ways with additions like the Medley menu, drink specials, and dinnertime music. On both nights we visited, the inn was hopping, and all indications point to a steadily evolving scene over in that little corner of Old Lyme.
Old Lyme Inn
85 Lyme St., Old Lyme
(860) 434-2600; oldlymeinn.com
Cuisine: “Country dining with a twist,” according to the inn’s website; read: hearty classics, many inspired by Italian cuisine, with clever updates.
Atmosphere: Welcoming, comfortable, and relaxing space steeped in history; great art, cozily dimmed lighting, and light piano music add nicely to the experience
Service: Not lightning fast but reasonable and professional
Prices: Medley prices are attractive, at $12 to $15 for a smaller than standard by perfectly filling entrée; entrees on the regular dinner menu start at $22.
Accessibility: Tricky. We did not spy a ramp to the inn’s front entrance, which is at the top of a small set of steps; those who can’t do stairs might have to enter through The Side Door Jazz Club. Interior is spacious.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, breakfast and brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Credit cards: Accepted
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