Recent highlights from The Day's food writers
Old Lyme Inn
85 Lyme St., Old Lyme
(860) 434-2600; oldlymeinn.com
There's something extra cozy about eating a meal at an inn. You know that, tucked elsewhere in the building, folks are relaxing, chatting, maybe toasting a vacation, and that getaway vibe infuses the whole place.
When you've got a chef on staff who creates a special comfort-food menu to, per the menu, "satisfy all tastes and bring people together," the welcome feels that much warmer. Try it for yourself at Old Lyme Inn during the dining room's Mid-Week Medleys on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights.
The Medley menu changes every week, but it always offers approximately six competitively priced American-pub-inspired dishes with a twist. Example: This week, take your choice of Turkey Empanadas with Cranberry Coulis ($9); Baked Garlic Shrimp ($13); or Philly Burger with Pepper Jack ($14), among other options. Bonus: Live, soft jazz and blues music on Wednesdays and, apparently, as available; on a recent Thursday visit, my meal came with a free side of soft piano.
— Marisa Nadolny
26 West Main St., Niantic
(860) 739-2975, charliesplacerestaurant.com
If you own a popular, well-established casual restaurant noted for its expansive, "let's please everyone" menu, what's the priority when you bring in a new executive chef?
Why, expand the menu! Or so it would seem with Charlie's Place in Niantic when Pete Daversa was appointed the new kitchen wizard earlier this year. In addition to his all-around culinary skills, Daversa is also a barbecue pitmaster with a resume including stints at New York's Hill Country and Daniel's Danny Meyer's Blue Smoke as well as apprentice time at Kreutz's Market in Lockhart, Texas. Translation? The dude knows barbecue and, particularly in this part of the world, that's a delicate commodity.
And so, longtime and new fans of Charlie's continue to enjoy the many established culinary offerings as well as Daversa's finely smoked and rubbed BBQ. I'm particularly fond of the lean brisket, flavor-happy St. Louis ribs and toothsome pulled pork — all complemented by Deep South sides such as mac 'n' cheese, collard greens and brisket-flecked pinto beans.
— Rick Koster
The Black Sheep
247 Main St., Niantic
What Black Sheep in Niantic does well, it does well. Try the thick and chunky clam chowder ($6) with generous amounts of clam, potatoes, and bits of bacon. The shepherd's pie ($15) with savory ground beef, a mix of carrots and peas, fluffy whipped potatoes, and cheddar cheese topping is a sure bet on the entree menu. And a classic Atlantic cod fish and chips with seasoned fries and homemade slaw ($14) is also worth your time.
Beware of some of the more boundary-pushing appetizers, like the plate of house fried potatoes ($10) I had the displeasure of sampling: gloppy garlic cream sauce, scallions, and an overloading of Cashel blue cheese. However, the atmosphere — relaxed, unpretentious, dimly lit and cozy — and extensive beer and wine list is certainly redemptive.
— Alex Nunes
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