Best of recent Day food writers' reviews

Ella’s Fine Food & Drink

2 Tower St., Westerly

(401) 315-0606

www.ellasfinefoodanddrink.com

After my recent review of Ella’s, which gave high marks to the food, friends told me that they went once years ago and never returned because the waiter was so pretentious.

I told them they ought to go back.

The cuisine at Ella’s is sophisticated and, in some cases, expensive, so that may explain why a onetime waiter put on airs. But we have always had knowledgeable and courteous waitstaff, and have never been oversold on our choices.

The restaurant’s menu is varied, and a diner can get a high-end burger for $17 and gussy it up by adding foie gras for an additional $12. But we have settled on a couple of the more affordable entrees as our favorites — the Shrimp Tempura for $26 and the Momma’s Chicken at $24. The chicken is drenched in buttermilk, fried in duck fat and served over grits with cheddar cheese. What’s not to like about that? And the shrimp dish is a generous serving that comes with mixed greens with a miso vinaigrette and pickled ginger.

There’s also a Shrimp Noodle pasta for $26 and Duck Udon for the same price, and if you have a hankering for the Steak Fries, it’s a 14-ounce New York strip with truffle fries for $38.

Typically, there are several specials on the menu at Ella’s, including appetizers and desserts. Patrons have a choice of the dining room or the more casual bar. And recently, I have been seeing newspaper ads for a three-course fixed price menu on weeknights that appears to be a really great deal. If you do dine at Ella’s, chef and owner Jeanie Roland is almost guaranteed to stop by your table to make sure you are satisfied. Routinely, she makes frequent forays out to see her customers.

— Ann Baldelli 

Little Pub

1231 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook

(860) 339-5591

www.littlepub.com/oldsaybrook

When’s the last time you saw falafel on the menu at your local pub? If you’ve adopted Old Saybrook’s Little Pub as your new local, then you’ve likely sampled or considered sampling the Midtown Falafel ($11), one of the top dishes this reviewer tried during a recent visit.

Of course, if burgers, fish and chips, and cheese steaks are more your speed, Little Pub can accommodate with aplomb.

Classic-meets-fusion is the name of the game at Little Pub, which leaves diners with a wealth of options from creative cocktails to nouveau classics like Lobster Mac and Cheese ($18) and Moo Shu Pork Tacos ($12 for three).

Since its opening a few months ago, the parking lot at Little Pub has been packed, and regular live music will likely keep the place busy going forward.

Since Little Pub doesn’t take reservations, be advised to arrive early for dinner, or go for lunch if you’re too hungry to wait for a table. You’ll be glad you did once you pull up a chair in the warm, cheery dining room and begin the task of narrowing down what you’d like to order.

— Marisa Nadolny

Ortega's Mexican Restaurant

108 North St., Groton

(860) 405-1275

Moving up here 21 years ago, we discovered with horror that the region was pretty barren of any authentic Tex-Mex. It's much better these days, with plenty of quality options, but the first to really resonate with us was and is Ortega's in Groton.

One thing still missing, though, was the comfort of a Tex-Mex breakfast, something we associate with our wild youth in Dallas where hangovers were cured — or at least made more pleasant — with a variety of Tex-Mex staples.

I don't drink anymore, but I was still damned happy to see Ortega's has opened with a daily breakfast menu. Plenty of indigenous offerings are beautifully and flavorfully prepared, including Chilauquilies ($11.95), which is a platter comprising quick-fried strips of corn tortilla chips and topped with fresh salsa and tongue-spangling queso fresco; scrambled eggs so light they seem to defy gravity; creamy refried beans spiced with bits of chorizo sausage; and wonderful, home fried potato cubes punctuated with green pepper and onion.

Also fun was Huevos a la Mexicana ($10.95), a true staple of the cuisine boasting scrambled eggs mixed with chunks of fresh tomato, coins of snappy jalapeno and chips of onion. It's simple — even basic — but so good.

As folks around here are perhaps being initiated into the idea of Tex-Mex breakfast, Ortega's offers plenty of American staples, a highlight of which was a slab of buttery Texas toast ladled with thick, pepper-flecked sausage gravy ($8.95) — and, yes, specks of chorizo are plentiful.

It's a great time to introduce yourself to new breakfast possibilities or even explore new twists on your old favorites. 

— Rick Koster

 

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