Recent restaurants visited by our food writers

Parke's Place

678 Colonel Ledyard Highway, Ledyard

(860) 381-5778

Finding the "diner where the reg'lars eat" in any given town is an exotic adventure — sort of like being a spaceman and getting to drop in whenever you want to explore alien planets. With the bonus that all of the resident are typically very friendly and outgoing as opposed to firing rayguns at you.

It was in this context that I recently discovered Parke's Place in Ledyard. A family-owned outfit for over a decade on Route 12, the restaurant moved a few years ago to a new location off Colonel Ledyard Highway. It's a great, comfy wooden building with one room devoted to a U-shaped counter — where the daily customers hold court — as well as a separate dining area where larger parties gather to eat and enjoy one another's company.

The menu at Parke's place is simple, no-frills diner fare, expertly and lovingly prepared. In fact, it was all so good that nothing particularly stood out. But favorites would include:

The Reuben ($12.95 with coleslaw, a pickle and a choice of potatoes) — Two slices of buttered and grilled rye bread as a support system for a heap of lean and savory corned beef, tart and crunchy sauerkraut, tangy Swiss cheese and that sweet dollop of Russian dressing. Masterful.

Cinnamon French Toast ($6.50, a "regular" whiteboard special) — Thick slabs of Texas toast-style bread, layered across one another in and expansive sprawl of goodness, were the tawny color of liquid gold and infused with bits of ground cinnamon. The vanilla flavor was mellow and worked in harmony with the spice. I nuanced with a bit of melted butter and maple syrup and, magically, the whole batch vanished at top speed.

— Rick Koster

Vue 24 Sky Brunch

24th floor of the Grand Pequot Tower, Foxwoods Resort Casino

(800) 369-9663

Upscale food often comes in very small portions, but that's not the case at Sunday Brunch at Vue 24, at the top of the Grand Pequot Tower at Foxwoods Resort Casino.

The "small plates" on Sunday mornings are reasonably sized, and even better, you can order as many of them as often as you'd like. A full belly is the only thing that's going to stop you.

We went hungry and got more than our money's worth, starting with the cold buffet table and adding a variety of the delicious, and beautifully plated, small plates. It's $40 per person, and in addition to the cold and dessert buffets, diners may select from a menu of small plates, such as Roasted Salmon, Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffles, Stuffed Brioche French Toast, Bacon Steak, and others, to complete their meal. The service was attentive, and the food, exceptionally good. Everyone there the day we dined seemed to be enjoying the view of the Great Cedar Swamp, enjoying refillable cocktails ($15 or $20 per person, additional, depending on the drink), and leisurely enjoying a variety of the hot dishes, while making repeat trips to the cold and dessert buffets.

The buffet is served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays, and it's a good idea to make a reservation. The day we dined, there was a DJ spinning Motown hits, and the music, along with the fine food and service, made for an excellent Vue 24 Sky Brunch experience.

— Ann Baldelli

Braise & Brew

1835 Boston Post Road, Westbrook

(860) 399-8888

As the name suggests, Braise & Brew in Westbrook will appeal most to fans of beer who appreciate a slow-roasted approach to carnivory. Yes, you'll find a few well-executed veggie apps and dishes (including the intriguing Beets and Sweetened Cranberries salad; $12), but B&B is pretty devoted to meat-based dishes, and, fortunately, its kitchen takes the time to present them in unique ways with well-curated ingredients. See also the very tasty Braised Pork Panini $12, crafted with braised pork shoulder, brandied apples, Gruyere, and caramelized onions. The apples raise the bar on the overall flavor profile and landed the panini on our order-again list. We've got our eye on the Brisket and Fig Jam sandwich ($13) for next time, too. Other standouts for us included the Beef Barbacoa entrée ($25), a hearty combination of braised beef, quinoa, corn and black beans; and the wonderful Braised Chicken Stew ($16), which features the very cool addition of farro to the recipe.

If you've got a hankering for smaller plates, B&B offers an equally clever selection of apps. If nothing else, try the Bavarian hot pretzels with Fat Tire beer and cheddar dip ($8), although it might be hard to pass up other items like the Beer-Braised Mussels ($12) and Philly Cheese Spring Rolls ($10), which we've also placed on the next-time list.

And if you don't do beer, a creative cocktail list and decent wine selection (for a pub) should quench most thirsts.

— Marisa Nadolny


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