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The Day's dining reviewers look back on 2017

The Day's dining critics recall some notable dishes and experiences from their 2017 reviews.

Best Approximation of My Home State

Texas-style brisket

Charlie's Place, 26 West Main St., Niantic

With what has historically been one of the most wide-reaching menus in the area, Charlie upped the ante by hiring Niantic native Pete Daversa as executive chef and barbecue pitmaster. I focused on the latter part of his job description and was particularly delighted with Daversa's smoky, Texas-style brisket ($16.95 with two sides). You can order lean or fatty (or both). The meat is redolent of sweet smoke, it's fork-friendly, and has that crisped exterior for contrast. Oh, and the sauce is seductive, wine-dark, and lingers with peppery satisfaction.

— Rick Koster

Best use of tuna

Paulette panini with tuna

Bogue's Alley, Pawcatuck

This is not a category you're going to be seeing at the Oscars anytime soon, which is a shame, really. But, in my mind, there are few things more satisfying and delicious than a Paulette with tuna ($6.95) at the West Broad Street market and sandwich shop. The Paulette comes on Panini-pressed focaccia bread with sprouts, cheddar cheese, cucumbers, tomato, red onion, and sunshine sauce (mayonnaise mixed with yellow mustard). The menu suggests "add Tuna if you wish," which I think is the only way to go. I have suggested this option be called the "Petunia," but so far it's not catching on. (A true genius is never recognized in his time.)

— Alex Nunes

Local Flavor Award


30 Broadway Ave., Mystic

Not only is the food at M Bar in Mystic terrific, but the entire enterprise is an exercise in creativity. What was once a gas station is now a bustling coffee shop/wine bar/lunch spot/dinner destination staffed by one of the friendliest crews I've encountered this year. Plus, the wine bar is stocked with the fruits of several local wineries.

— Marisa Nadolny

Restaurant I've Raved About for Months


1458 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook; (860) 876-2697

Shakahari in Old Saybrook, a vegetarian Indian restaurant, has many menu standouts, but the eatery's wizardry is best expressed in its patra ($5), an appetizer made from elephant ear leaves and chickpea flour. I certainly never thought such a thing would be delicious, but Shakahari is full of surprises. The restaurant's dedication to its cuisine and its food ethos makes the meal an adventure for the average Connecticut omnivore, guided by kind and knowledgeable staff.

— Marisa Nadolny

Best "Hold It, Warden, I'm Not Finished Eating" food

Portuguese Toast

B&B Dockside

19 Margin St., Westerly

In my review of this fine breakfast/lunch spot earlier in the fall, I cleverly relied on the ol' "If you were going to be executed, what would your last meal be?" trope. What a moron! Still, the B&B Portuguese Toast would have all of the prison guards and the warden drooling. Even the executioner! Get ready for two helium-light bread slices caressed by a blend of vanilla, cinnamon, crushed cornflakes and warm maple syrup. I'd like to add that this is available in half- or full orders ($6.95 full order, $3.95 half), but don't even pretend a half order is enough.

— Rick Koster

Best appetizer for someone way too hungry to wait for his main entree

Crispy calamari

Pink Basil, Olde Mistick Village, Mystic

If you're sitting down to a late dinner after a light lunch and a busy day, there is perhaps no more beautiful a sight than a heaping plate of crispy calamari ($10.95) being delivered to your table at Pink Basil. Not only does this appetizer come with a generous portion of sliced, battered and deep-fried squid, it also arrives with a mix of broccoli, bell pepper, onion, and carrot battered and fried alongside the main draw. The sweet and spicy sauce with crushed peanuts rounds out the meal impeccably. Just be sure not to overdo it before your main course comes out.

— Alex Nunes

Everyone Needs a Little Fancy Sometimes Award

Old Lyme Inn, 85 Lyme St., Old Lyme

The Old Lyme Inn launched a wildly successful Happy Hour-esque menu this year. Three days a week, the inn's kitchen offers a Medley Menu of smaller-plate specials meant to appeal to a wider swath of patrons. It's tempting to call Medley items comfort food (think burgers, rustic pasta dishes, quesadillas and beef stew), but the treatment they get in the kitchen raises them to, let's say, casual-chic. Think of the Medley Menu as a friendly invitation to sit in the inn's dining room, bar, or patio for a laidback, less expensive (Medley items are $15 or under) evening out.

— Marisa Nadolny



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