Restaurants on our reviewers’ radar recently

Rosemary & Thyme
The Velvet Mill, 22 Bayview Ave., Stonington
(860) 415-4284, rosemaryandthymecafe.com

There are just 15 things on the Rosemary & Thyme menu, and over several visits with family and friends, I believe I’ve had at least a bite of every single one of them.

And I have never once been disappointed.

How can bagels, breakfast and lunch sandwiches be so good? My guess is the fresh ingredients they use, the chef’s expertise on combining flavors, and the simplicity of what they serve. The Ultimate Grilled Cheese, with applewood bacon, extra sharp cheddar, caramelized onions, and mango-pepper jam on sourdough, well, it’s really good. My own mother, rest her soul, made a terrific grilled cheese sandwich, but sorry, Mom, this one’s got you beat. At Rosemary & Thyme, sandwiches are elevated to a higher level.

Like the Luxemburg Grilled Ham & Cheese, with Black Forest ham, gouda, date and honey cheese spread, caramelized onions, and fig compote on a baguette. It sings as a sandwich.

Rosemary & Thyme is a walk-up window with limited seating and only open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. It’s the perfect spot for breakfast or lunch if you’re visiting the Saturday farmers market or shops at the Velvet Mill, and worth the wait for the food.

Nothing on the menu is more than $10, and for three bucks, you can get a bagel with a schmear. If you’ve never visited the mill — repurposed with artist studios, shops, services, and eateries — Rosemary & Thyme is just one of the many good reasons to go.

— Ann Baldelli

 

The Green Room
345 Bank St., New London
(860) 574-9030, greenroomnl.com

In the great kitchens of the South, over hundreds of years, a style of soulful comfort food has evolved fusing all manners of ingredients, ancestral and culture traditions, and a great deal of creative heart. There's a lot of butter, too.

For some reason, this art has not translated well or frequently here in the Northeast. When it does happen, though — as with The Green Room in New London — that makes it even more special. Each Wednesday through Saturday night, and for a long Sunday brunch, The Green Room serves wonderfully prepared and exquisitely flavored dishes inspired by Southern soul food.

Over the course of a dinner and a brunch visit, four of us could find NO fault with anything we ate — and we sampled heavily across a small but tastefully ambitious menu. Personally speaking, the Seafood Burrito (a $10.95 appetizer that served as an entree) crams hunks of shrimp and whitefish, anchored by fluffy rice and smartly saluted by a spicy cilantro aioli, inside a large flour tortilla. Headliner!

Also magical in that baffling, "How did they DO this?" fashion was my brunch-time Shrimp 'n' Cheese Grits ($19.95 including a trip to the salad/fruit/muffin bar and a Mimosa or Bloody Mary). Served with crisp-edged home fries, this dish featured four large, Creole-dusted shrimp in a rich bowl of the cheesy, perfectly granulated grits. Bonus? The submerged coins of tart Andouille sausage throughout.

— Rick Koster

 

Rise
10 Water St., Mystic
(860) 415-9519, risemysticct.com

If an eatery in New England in January can get its hands on excellent heirloom tomatoes, it's a safe bet the proprietors are serious about their business.

That seems to be the case at Rise in Mystic, a breakfast and lunch café that elevates classics like French toast, omelets, and BLT sandwiches into distinctive and delicious flavor experiences.

Sure, at first I blanched at the $10.50 price point on the BLT, but after a taste of its softly toasted exterior and the bacon-loaded construction within — accented by almost citrus-y perfect tomatoes — well, sometimes you can call a meal an investment in your health.

Less healthy but as wonderful items include the House-Made Brisket Hash ($4), a tender mix of spices, potato, and, apparently, love. If you like pancakes that taste like they're made of actual grains, definitely try the buttermilk pancakes ($3.50 for a side of one, which is quite filling). We also viewed some impressively stacked French toast on our last visit, and that's on the try-it-next-time list for sure. We stand ready to Rise to that occasion very soon.

— Marisa Nadolny

 

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