Recent dining excursions by Day food critics
157 West Main St., Niantic
If you haven't been to Haylon's Market in a while, you might be surprised the next time you return. That's because the former prepared foods market has a new name and culinary mission (under the same owner).
Deke's Bagels now offers what are possibly the region's best bagels ($1.50 each) in a wide variety of flavors, from Bacon, Egg and Cheese and Jalapeno Cheddar to Orange Cranberry and French Toast. Deke's ups the ante a little more by offering sweet and savory cream cheese spreads to pair with your ring of soft, fresh-baked bagelness ($1.50 for a small side). Try the chipotle cream cheese if you like a little kick and a lot of pepper flavor.
If you can get past the bagel case, Deke's does sandwiches (on bagels or other breads) of the breakfast or traditional lunch variety (prices range from about $5 to $8) and baked goods, too. We recommend the Dirt Bomb ($2), Deke's donut muffin, which is wonderful with coffee.
— Marisa Nadolny
Scotch Plains Tavern
124 Westbrook Road, Esssex
The Scotch Plains Tavern in Essex is one of the most attractive dining/drinking spots in the region. Spread over two vast floors in the space formerly occupied by Oliver's Taverne, Scotch Plains has a bipartite approach: part fine dining and part upscale sports bar. On a selfish note, my hopes are that the folks behind this place will undertake a massive renovation of New London's Bank Street and Fort Trumbull neighborhood.
We focused on the "fine dining" aspect of the menu. Presentation and service were superb, and they give you huge amounts of food. The cheese curds ($14) and fried green tomatoes ($13) appetizers were clever twists and delicious. Our entrees were mixed. Grilled Atlantic salmon and a 14-ounce ribeye were both enjoyable but a bit bland. Wild mushroom risotto ($19), though, fused woodsy, smoky fungi blended magically with creamy, buttery rice base. Too, a pan-seared fillet of trout ($24), in a white win/citrus sauce, was delightful.
Steamed veggie sides were fresh and tasty, and a chocolate layer cake ($8) offered luxuriant textures and fed four of us with ease. Next trip: the upstairs bar area and a crack at the tavern-y comfort foods.
— Rick Koster
5153 Old Post Road, Charlestown, R.I.
Wilcox Tavern in Charlestown, R.I., now under the direction of Mia Byrne, who previously purchased and improved Mia's Prime Time Cafe in Westerly, is a good choice for people who enjoy traditional New England fare and a classic ambience. The restaurant, which boasts roots dating back to 1730, is housed in a sprawling and cavernous old New England home, with several dining rooms, a crackling fire, and an old-school, unpretentious bar.
Appetizer to try include the stuffed quahogs packed with chopped clams, chorizo sausage, and Ritz cracker bread crumbs ($8), and the Maryland crab cakes ($14), which come prepared with a nice balance of meat and stuffing, served with a zesty remoulade sauce.
For dinner, I enjoted the "Rudy's Pot Roast" ($19) with brown gravy, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and a mix of root vegetables (butternut squash, roasted carrots, and beets), and the farro chicken breast ($16) that came prepared charred and flavorful, served with the old-world grain, spinach, red pepper, and seasonings.
— Alex Nunes
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