Lee White's top restaurants of 2009

The Day asked food writer Lee White for a list of her favorite restaurants for 2009:

The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville
860 862-8888
My perfect pizza has a fairly thin bottom crust (but not so thin that it drops its toppings) and isn't covered by too much toppings (preferably nothing more than tomato and a little mozzarella). The medium Original Tomato Pie with Mozzarella at Frank Pepe at Mohegan Sun is, very simply, pizza of the highest order — true heavenly pizza. The crust is thin, somewhat blackened, and so fresh you still can smell the yeast. The tomato is more tomatoes than sauce (if it is sauce at all) and the mozzarella is sprinkled with a judicious hand. Amazingly, the medium original with mozz is $13, which would serve two or three. Well, make that two.

Jack Rabbit's
254 Main Street, Old Saybrook
860 510-0048
How could I be so out of the loop that I didn't know Jack Flaws was opening yet another food venue? I have been a fan and friend of Jack since his first foray into food as Three Fish in Westerly.
Since then, his culinary artistry included Richard Rosenthal's Max Downtown, Jack's in Old Saybrook, the seasonal Jack's Harborside, near Saybrook Point Inn, and now Jack Rabbit's, where the food is down-home rather than white-cloth dining.
All the Harborside hot dogs are served here ($2.75 to $4), and they are terrific. His incredible entrée-sized salads are available, too, as are wings, spring rolls, crab cakes and portabella mushroom quesadillas. But it's the burgers that almost made me cry. Sliders are $2, served simple, or you can order Original sliders, which are topped with caramelized onions, bacon, American cheese, and "magic" sauce, or there's chili, jalapeño, 'shrooms, goat cheese, and Philly sliders. Regular burgers are $7 or less. Add sides like fries or onion rings for another $2. I am in heaven.

Chester's Barbecue
943 Poquonnock Road, Groton
860 449-6868
We discovered Chester's Barbecue in New London after Steve Slosberg discovered it, for which we thanked him a lot. But it was so tiny — with only a few tables inside — we didn't go often.
Now there's another in Groton. I stopped in for a sandwich and got a Carolina pulled pork sandwich served on Texas-cut white bread. The vinegary pork was just delicious (even though I usually avoid vinegary anything), it needed no sauce, and the cup of sweet potato mash was like dessert.


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