A trio of hits: Engine Room, Flanders Donut & Bake Shop, and Recovery Room

Engine Room

14 Holmes St., Mystic

(860) 415-8117

You know the food is good when the place is always packed.

That’s pretty much the case for Engine Room, the Mystic eatery that opened about four years ago and is one of a trio of downtown restaurants operated by Dan Meiser and James Wayman.

Engine Room is known for its burgers, beer and bourbon, but there is plenty more to choose from, including interesting sides like roasted beets with crème fraiche and dill and the Brussels sprouts prepared with olive oil and sea salt. The cornbread with rosemary, lemon and maple butter gets rave reviews, as well as the baked macaroni and cheese, with bacon if you’d like.

We went for lunch and dinner and tried a variety of dishes, including razor clams, ribs, and chicken and veggie burgers. The menu at Engine Room changes based on what’s in season and what the chef believes is best, so know when you go there the food will be fresh, and locally sourced, whether it’s beef, fish, or artisan breads.

Comfort food is an apt description of what is served at Engine Room, and it’s not likely that you’ll leave hungry.

If you’re not there for serious conversation, consider a seat at the counter at the chef’s table, where you’ll get a birds-eye view of the food preparation.

One of our most favorite and unique bites during our recent trips was the pickled celery and carrots served with the ribs. They were crisp, and flavorful, and, well, out of the ordinary.

Give Engine Room a try.

— Ann Baldelli

Flanders Donut, Bagel & Bake Shop

327 Flanders Road, East Lyme

(860) 739-6320

I made my inaugural trip to Flanders Donut, Bagel & Bake Shop prepared for a sugar-fueled exploratory mission.

Luckily, a nice selection of savories saved me from certain sugar-coma doom. For example, the bagels. I tried a Cornmeal and an Everything ($1.19 each), and each delivered very good flavor and texture with just the right chewy-to-crisp balance. The stuffed pepperoni bread I sampled ($4.99; available on Fridays and Saturdays) established a trend of great bread prep at Flanders Donut. We enjoyed every aspect of our stuffed bread, from the baked-pretzel-like exterior to the tangy tomato sauce and tasty pepperoni within.

As for the donuts ($1.09 each), we liked most of our selections, and I’d recommend newbies start with classics like the Sugar Raised and Boston Crème. The Peanut Butter and Jelly is particularly inspired, thanks to its sweet and salty peanut butter icing applied in perfect balance to the jelly inside.

If you can get past the many other flavors of donuts, consider a black and white cookie ($1.54 each). It’s more cake-like than cookie-esque and it is delicious, like so much else that comes fresh out of the ovens at this little gem in Flanders.

— Marisa Nadolny

Recovery Room

445 Ocean Ave., New London

(860) 443-2619, recoveryroomnewlondon.com

As long-evidenced by the enduring Recovery Room, the concept of "healing" goes beyond the more traditional medical context as suggested by L+M Hospital, which is just up a block up the street and the inspiration for the RR's name.

Over several and ownership transitions — and with the talented Chris Darling running the kitchen — the Recovery Room is as stalwart as ever, and this latest version is very strong indeed.

Favorites from Darling's tweaked menu include Arancini ($10.95), which includes three tennis ball-sized fried orbs of creamy rice and mozzarella, coated crisply with finely-crumbled bread crumbs, floating in a stunning and luxuriant sauce which is part cacciatore and part pink vodka. Wondrous!

The Signature Tortellini ($17.95) is a platter heaped with cheese-bloated tri-colored pasta clouds, layered with a savory basil pesto sauce and shaved mozz. Adding to the flavor explosion are strips of succulent grilled chicken breast.

And never forget the pizza! New York style, with white and red option embracing traditional faves like pepperoni ($10.95) and creative RR efforts such as the delicious shrimp & artichoke ($14.50) and Thai Chicken ($13.95).

Life may not be eternal, but the Recovery Room seems to be.

— Rick Koster

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