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Dining reviews of Mystic venues over the past year

The Mystic food scene is the gift that keeps on giving. So many restaurants to choose from. So many different cuisines. Some more sophisticated and others casual. They are serving up ethnic fare like Mexican or Italian, comfort food like burgers, ribs and macaroni and cheese, and everything in between.

Regardless of whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch or dinner, Mystic will give you choices from just off Interstate 95 at Exit 90 to the historic downtown, and along the Mystic River.

Here’s a sampling of the Mystic eateries I was able to review in the past year, and there are many more to choose from.

Via Emila, 24 West Main St.

My review ran last November, and I described the food as exceptional. I’ve been back several times since and would double-down on my assessment. We have never been disappointed. This is Italian fare, and they make their pasta in-house, with seasonal ingredients and flair. But there’s also fish, chicken, veal, lamb and more on the menu that changes with the seasons. Most entrées run $27 to $38.

Mystic Royal, 35 Williams Ave.

The food here is described as “international Halal cuisine,” and it was tasty when we dined there for my review last September. The husband-and-wife team — she is the chef — hail from Bangladesh and lean on their upbringing and native food culture to create dishes like veggie samosa, spring rolls, kabobs, tandoori shrimp, mint lamb curry, and eggplant in a spicy sauce with tomatoes. Prices are in the $15-to-$20 range, and the owners are gracious and accommodating.

Rio Salado, 8 Coogan Blvd.

We have dined at Rio Salado several times and have always enjoyed the food and service. My review ran in April 2021, soon after the COVID upheaval that kept patrons away for so long, and Rio was a good choice to venture back. Mexican is the specialty here with lusciousness like fresh-made guacamole, chicken taquitos, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and so much more. The margaritas are not to be missed. Prices are mostly under $20, with a few exceptions like the Swordfish Veracruz ($24) and New York Strip ($30).

Bank & Bridge Brewing, 54 West Main St.

This newbie in the Mystic stable of restaurants makes very creative use of space in the circa-1931 former Bank of America building in the heart of downtown. It’s a brewery, but this was a food review and we declared the sandwiches messy and very good. The review ran in December 2021, and a specialty at the time was The Gobbler, basically a Thanksgiving-dinner-on-a-bun sandwich, for $14. The burger was flavorful with cheddar, bacon jam, the house sauce, and lettuce and pickles. With warm weather on the horizon, this is a great place to sit outside, dine and drink, and watch passersby.

Noble Smokehouse, 4 Roosevelt Ave.

Try the brisket. Or the pork belly burnt ends. Or maybe it’s the combination plate with two meats, two sides, two sauces, and the jalapeno cheddar cornbread that’s calling out to you.

Noble fires up the smokers behind their tidy little restaurant next door to the Mystic train station and serves up scrumptious barbecue with all the sides and fixings. Try the roasted chicken and add cowboy beans and southern slaw, or the Texas pulled pork with collard greens and mac and cheese. I reviewed Noble in December 2021, and we’re still frequenting the place. Everything is good, and the pricing is reasonable. Platters run $17 to $38, and sandwiches are in the $15 range.

Kitchen Little, 36 Quarry Road

Located at the Mystic River Marina, this eatery is a local institution that’s been around for almost 40 years and has garnered accolades from locals and the national media. It’s a quaint little place, up some stairs and over a ship’s store, and they make an incredible breakfast. My review ran last July, and among the dishes we sampled were the Surf and Turf Benedict, which was $19.99 at the time, and the Reuben omelet, then $11.99. A peek at the online menu suggests prices have gone up a buck to two since our visit, which is understandable given inflation and supply chain issues. But get the Cinna-Bun with cream cheese drizzle ($5.99) anyway — it’s worth every penny.

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