Our plates have been full with edible research for this, our annual food issue. What do you like to eat? is one of those questions that gets everyone talking and the variety of possible answers boggles the taste buds. Whether you’re craving top-chef tips on entertaining and cooking or you’d rather hire a pro to do the work for you (for the holidays, parties or every day), there’s a bounty of options. Here’s wishing you a season that’s full of flavor.
No, we’re not talking iPads or Kindles. We mean good eats that don’t require a fork and knife. There are so many options, but these burgers, pizzas and sandwiches are worth getting your hands on.
BURGERS, SHAKES & FRIES
Kory Wollins has been dishing out burgers at this small luncheonette-like joint in Byram since 2007, and carnivores can’t get enough. “We get people coming from over the George Washington Bridge and from Maine,” says the Cornell grad. His famous juicy burger is made with hand-cut prime meat from Master Purveyors, a family-owned butcher, blended with a 20 percent porterhouse grind, cooked to order and served on toasted Pullman-style bread from Rockland Bakery. But Kory, who opened a Darien location in 2010 that has full-service, salads and beer and wine, says his business is as much about hospitality as food. “It’s a combination of best product, level of consistency and the overall feel and atmosphere of this little place. We remember people. We make people leave with a smile. That’s what makes a great restaurant.”
BURGERSSHAKESNFRIES.COM; 302 DELAVAN AVE., 203-531-7433
In spite of its name, the Ugly Burger is one beefy beauty that’s more messy than ugly. Served on a wooden cutting board, this juicy patty topped with melted cheddar cheese and crispy shallots is sandwiched between a challah bun that’s smeared with The National sauce (a blend of ketchup and mayo and maybe some secret ingredients). The pickle pinned to the top of the bun is super crunchy and the tin cup of homemade salt and vinegar chips is the perfect complement.
THENATIONAL-CT.COM; 376 GREENWICH AVE., 203-861-6851
A pescatarian alternative, the salmon and tuna burger is a lunchtime fave. This blend of flaky fish with a crispy exterior is served open-face on a grilled bun topped with avocado and a mix of lettuces. It’s paired with a tangy citron vinegar aioli and a side of beet salad.
ZHOSPITALITYGROUP.COM/MEDITERRANEO; 366 GREENWICH AVE., 203-629-4747
BACK 40 KITCHEN
If your idea of a burger doesn’t involve meat, check out this satisfying veggie burger. It comes with onion jam and toppings of your choosing and the option for a farm-fresh fried egg on top. Served with hand-cut fries.
BACK40KITCHEN.COM; 107 GREENWICH AVE., 203-992-1800
Burger aficionados will love the menu at this cozy comfort-food haven in Cos Cob where there’s a creative option for every appetite. The basic angus beef half-pounder topped with cheese is a hefty treat on its own, but the specialty burgers let your taste buds run wild. The Sriracha ACE comes topped with avocado, bacon, crispy wontons, jack cheese and its namesake hot sauce, while the Going to Graceland channels Elvis with grilled bananas, bacon, cheddar and Thai peanut sauce, just to name a few options. In addition to weekly specials and any made-to-order concoction you can dream up, there are also turkey and veggie burgers.
LITTLEPUB.COM; 531 EAST PUTNAM AVE., 203-717-1147
Old Greenwich and Riverside natives have long relied on Alpen Pantry for good old-fashioned sandwiches, but newcomers to town could miss this hidden gem on Arcadia Road, owned for thirty-two years by Gary Kelley. One of the ingredients that makes Gary’s sandwiches stand out is the black bread (brought in fresh every morning from an old-school New York bakery) that’s a nod to the heritage of the shop, which was opened seventy-three years ago by a German-Austrian family. Try one of the most popular orders from the nineteen specialty sandwiches: the Stilton, the Beef Eater, the Gobbler or the Bearnaise (Gary’s personal fave with a sauce he perfected years ago at a French restaurant), or go off menu and have Gary make you something to order. What keeps Alpen Pantry customers loyal? He says, “Consistency is the key.”
ALPENPANTRY.COM; 23 ARCADIA RD., 203-637-3818
Though many swear by the Croque Monsieur and Madame here, don’t miss the Cubano, an indulgence of flavors with pulled pork, ham, crispy bacon, melted swiss cheese, sweet mustard and cornichons served on toasted cubano bread.
MELIMELOGREENWICH.COM; 362 GREENWICH AVE., 203-629-6153
A best bet on the bar menu is the steak quesadillas. When you’re craving some prime beef but don’t want to mess with a fork and knife, this app does the trick with its tender sliced steak and gorgonzola cheese tucked into a flour tortilla, served with sour cream and fresh guacamole.
BLACKSTONESGREENWICH.COM; 28 WEST PUTNAM AVE., 203-661-8700
There are so many appealing salads and entrees on the lunch menu at this French restaurant on Greenwich Harbor, but once in a while we highly recommend indulging in Croque Monsieur. This is a traditional rendition of the classic ham and cheese, served on brioche white bread topped with béchamel sauce and Gruyère—all baked to golden perfection. You can remercier us later.
LESCALERESTAURANT.COM; 500 STEAMBOAT RD., 203-661-4600
Since 1972 this pizza joint in Cos Cob has been a favorite for its classic medium-thin crust pie, and it still draws big business in spite of the no-delivery policy (yes, people are willing to wait in line on Friday nights to pick up this pizza). Pizza Post was first opened by Luca Criscuolo, who spoke no English when he came to this country at age thirteen from Naples, Italy. He finished high school, served in the navy and studied engineering before getting into the pizza biz. The pizzeria has remained in the family and is now owned by Luca’s son, Matt, who has been working there since he was a kid. “Our pizza is the original recipe, and we always use the top ingredients—you don’t mess around with that,” says Matt, who adds that everything is fresh and the meatballs and sausage are made in-house. He serves at Touch-a-Truck and other festivals and also waives his no-delivery policy to cater to school sports teams and clubs around town. Matt recently purchased some portable ovens and now does some private parties at people’s homes. “I love being part of the town,” he says.
THEPIZZAPOST.COM; 522 EAST PUTNAM AVE., 203-661-0909
Any restaurateur would envy the longevity of this thin-crust pizza mecca: The Stamford location has been turning out outstanding pies since it opened in 1935. What keeps pizza lovers hooked? The super-thin pie with its crispy, browned edges topped with light sauce and cheese; besides the basic cheese, the hot-oil pie is among the most popular with its pepper-induced sting. Though the bar room and dining room with its wooden booths seem like places where time stands still, the pizza joint has evolved with the times, even offering a gluten-free crust. Over the summer Colony launched its Hot Oil Rig, a pizza truck for serving at parties and corporate catering.
COLONYGRILL.COM; 172 MYRTLE AVE., 203-359-2184
TERRA RISTORANTE ITALIANO
The distinctive scent of the wood-burning stove as you walk down the Avenue is enough to draw anyone to this ever-popular Northern Italian eatery. Pizza cooked over the embers develops a charred flavor in its crust. Best savored outside on the patio, this is pizza with a side of people-watching, as the restaurant is also a known celebrity hangout. For an earthy alternative to the basic pie, try the Gorgonzola Dolce with figs, arugula and roasted walnuts.
ZHOSPITALITYGROUP.COM/TERRA; 156 GREENWICH AVE., 203-629-5222
FAMOUS GREEK KITCHEN
When you’re in the mood for deep-dish style, Famous Greek in Byram hits the spot, each pizza bubbling with enough cheese that you’ll think you ordered an extra-cheese pie. The crust is indulgent and a tad greasy—but in a good way. We’re partial to the basic twelve-inch cheese, but you can also request a white pie or the unusual seafood version with lemon, pine nuts and basil. Paired with a terrific Greek salad (or not), this pizza is a real meal.
FAMOUSGREEKKITCHEN.COM; 10 NORTH WATER ST., 203-531-6887
HAND IT OVER
Our annual food issue always stirs up a fair amount of discussion—and the occasional debate—among our staff. Here, we asked which burger, sandwich or pizza keeps them coming back for more.
“The Tuna Melt at Caren’s Cos Cobber—a giant mound of tuna, bacon, tomato and cheese on top of an open-faced English muffin. Long on goodies, short on bread, just like I like ’em. Triple yum.” — DONNA MOFFLY, FOUNDING EDITOR
“Pastured Beef Burger from Mill Street Bar + Table. Mustard, aioli, cheddar cheese and lettuce on a brioche bun. Sounds simple, but the potato rolls are made on-site and are ideal for soaking up the juices from the blend of Fleisher’s beef cooked to medium-rare perfection.” — MEGAN GAGNON, MARKET EDITOR
“The Avocado and Sprout Sandwich on whole grain bread at Aux Delices is not only delicious but quick and healthy. It feels like you’re being bad, but you’re not. Even half does the trick and keeps me on the go all afternoon.” — TRISH KIRSCH, PUBLISHER
“Joe B’s Burger from Terry Market [burgers are only made on the weekends]. The mixture of the fixings—bacon, fontina cheese and onion jam—are the perfect mix of salty, creamy and sweet. A must-try if you like burgers all dressed up.” — GARVIN BURKE, ART DIRECTOR
“The Piri-Naise Sandwich at Douro. Light and crispy panko- crusted chicken with piri-naise (think spicy mayonnaise) and lettuce on grilled country white bread. Go for the mixed greens instead of the house-made potato chips on the side and you may feel less guilty—or maybe not. Either way, it’s totally worth it.” — CRISTIN MARANDINO, EDITOR
“The thin crust, whole wheat, fresh mozzarella and basil pizza from Planet Pizza on Railroad Ave is delicious, light and satisfying, but it doesn’t leave you in a food coma or worrying that you’ve gone up a size in your skinny jeans.” — ALI NICHOLS GRAY, SOCIAL EDITOR
LET’S MAKE A DEAL
Come on, get happy (and well-fed) for less with our roundup of happy hours and special deals on good eats.
GREENWICH RESTAURANT WEEK
NOVEMBER 10–NOVEMBER 20
GREENWICH magazine’s Restaurant Week is packed with great meals and hot deals. The annual event kicks off with an opening night party on Thursday, November 10 at the J House from 6 to 9 p.m. (greenwichrestaurantweek.com for tickets) Restaurants all over town will be offering special pricing through Sunday, November 20. We’ll all have an easy answer to the ubiquitous question, “What are you making for dinner?” (Reservations, of course.)
J HOUSE RESTAURANT
During Social Hour, Monday through Friday, 5 to 7 p.m., cocktails and specialty drinks are half price. Be sure to try the signature J House Fizz, a mix of Valdo Prosecco and St. Germain elderflower liqueur with a sprinkle of hibiscus powder.
JHOUSEGREENWICH.COM; 1114 EAST PUTNAM AVE., 203-698-6980
FLEISHER’S CRAFT BUTCHERY
3RD THURSDAY EVERY MONTH
On the third Thursday of every month, Fleisher’s Craft Butchery in Cos Cob hosts a free burger-and-beer night from 5 to 7 p.m. Sample some of their awesome sliders and whatever brew is on tap that night (Sixpoint Brewery’s Sweet Action was a recent pour). They also showcase other specialty food companies, offering a taste of everything from cold-brew coffee to homemade pies.
FLEISHERS.COM; 160 EAST PUTMAN AVE., 203-900-1800
Pop in for half price wine by the glass and beer seven days a week from 4 to 6 p.m. The Sunday Brunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. includes bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas.
ZHOSPITALITYGROUP.COM/EASTEND; 409 GREENWICH AVE., 203-862-9200
Check out social hour at this Cos Cob neighborhood Italian eatery: Monday through Friday 4 to 6 p.m. for classic and hearty apps such as homemade meatballs and sweet sausage bites for $6; wine, sangria and cocktails for $7 and draft beer for $4.
LOUIESRESTAURANTBAR.COM; 136 RIVER ROAD EXT., 203-422-2177
Serves a two-course prix fixe lunch every day for $20.16 and its sister restaurant, Artisan in Southport, offers a prix fixe lunch for $19.
LESCALERESTAURANT.COM; 500 STEAMBOAT RD., 203-661-4600
MILL STREET BAR & TABLE
Celebrate Wine Wednesdays with half off select bottles of wine. Thursday through Sunday, indulge in Stella Mar oysters (grilled or raw) for $1 each.
MILLSTREETCT.COM; 230 MILL ST., 203-813-3323
SIGN OF THE WHALE
On Mondays, crack into all-you-can-eat crab legs for $29.95. Thursdays there’s a two-piece jazz band at 5 p.m., plus happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. featuring $5 beers, $6 mixed drinks and $2 off every wine by the glass.
SIGNOFTHEWHALECT.COM; 6 HARBOR POINT RD., 203 883-8282
TAWA INDIAN CUISINE
At this brand new restaurant space and patio in the Glenbrook section of Stamford, drinks are $8 each, every day. On weekdays there’s a lunch buffet for $10.95 and on weekends a brunch buffet for $14.95.
TAWAONLINE.COM; 487 GLENBROOK RD., 203-359-8977
BACK 40 KITCHEN
Between 5 and 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday there’s a two-course dinner for $25
and beer and wine by the glass are half price.
BACK40KITCHEN.COM; 107 GREENWICH AVE., 203-992-1800
During the daily happy hour at this new Spanish-Mediterranean restaurant in SoNo, glasses of red, white sparkling and rosé are $5 each, oysters are $1 and cheese croquettes, $4. Bottles of wine are 50 percent off on Wednesday and Sunday, and there’s a late-night menu Sunday to Thursday.
TABLAOSONO.COM; 86 WASHINGTON ST., NORWALK; 203-939-9602
ON A ROLL
A far cry from Street Meat, gourmet-on-the-go is all the rage.
It’s a food trend that’s on a roll. More chefs are opting to cook outside the brick-and-mortar restaurant box, taking their skills and fare out on the road in food trucks, at pop-up restaurants or as guest chefs at farm dinners and special events. From a business perspective, food trucks have a lower cost of entry, and the flexibility lets their owners shift course and location as it suits them, often meaning more creative food for customers. We talked to some local (well, at least for the moment) nomadic chefs to see what their gigs are all about.
Darlene Andersen and Diana Hall, longtime friends and entrepreneurs from Stamford, began their gourmet grilled cheese business, a modern take on a favorite comfort food, when they purchased a paddy wagon from the White Plains police department in 2012. The launch of their food truck was captured on television on a reality show called Three Days to Open with Bobby Flay. Four years later, the truck has been awarded Best of the Gold Coast multiple times, striking a culinary chord with its specialty sandwiches such as the short-rib meatball (one of the most popular) and the white truffle melt. “Our biggest business these days is catered events,” says Darlene, who went to Greenwich High School. The menu created by Diana, who trained at The French Culinary Institute, goes well beyond the basic grilled cheese, extending to versions like the meatballs in marinara, goat cheese melt (whipped goat cheese and brie with basil and chives) and the spinach-artichoke melt, which is reminiscent of the popular dip. Dessert gets especially decadent with cheesecake melts; grilled pound cake with caramel and bananas and fluffernutter; strawberry supreme with nutella and vanilla-infused mascarpone; s’mores melts; cannoli melts and a Girl Scout cookie spinoff, the Samoa melt. The concept has been so successful that the pair is now introducing a franchising opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to get into the food truck biz.
Printed on the truck is the definition for Hapa, a person of mixed racial heritage with roots in the Pacific and Asian islands. The food here reflects a mélange of cuisines that blend into super-tasty street food. Chef-owner Chris Gonzalez grew up in the Philippines and traveled all over Asia at the age of eighteen. He wound up living in Hawaii for a number of years and working in restaurants there. His food reflects his travels and the island influence. “The food in Hawaii was very fresh, a cool fusion that we couldn’t find here,” Chris says.
Why a mobile biz? “We wanted to find other ways of presenting food,” says his wife Nicole, who’s also involved in the business. “It’s more creative and you can change the concept if you want to.” Right now that concept involves tacos with offerings like Korean short rib, chicken adobo, and crispy cauliflower (a vegan option), as well as the outstanding and distinctive Hapa Burger, topped with pork belly, caramelized onion, cheddar and served on a bun that’s colored purple from the ube flour. Ahi tuna burgers are prepared “only when I can get tuna that’s completely fresh,” says Chris. There are menu add-ons when inspiration strikes, such as a recent lobster quesadilla, and the standard sides are addictive: crispy Brussels sprouts with papaya seed dressing and amazing furikake fries, which are topped with a house aioli sauce and a Japanese seaweed and sesame seasoning.
All of this Asian-island goodness draws crowds to the beer garden at Shippan Landing Wednesday to Sunday, and on weekdays the truck rotates between different corporations; locations are posted on Instagram and Facebook.
All About Lobstah
You don’t have to hit a pricey seafood place to indulge in New England’s favorite dish. LobsterCraft, founded by Capt. Mike Harden and Trond Fletcher, is on a mission to bring the freshest crustaceans to lobster fans (its motto is “from boat to bun”). The team has two full-service trucks on the streets in Connecticut and New York, bringing their signature lobster rolls and other fare to lunch crowds, events and all kinds of private parties, especially rehearsal dinners or post-wedding get-togethers. Besides the classic hot-buttered Coastal roll, the menu features a version with spicy habanero and serrano-infused butter (Heat Wave), an LBLT (one of the most ordered sandwiches), lobster mac and cheese, a creamy bisque and more. This summer, the truck was rolling in Greenwich, on the Avenue, at Greenwich Patio and at Greenwich Tobacconist, among other locations in town, as well as at Pinkney Park in Rowayton and in Darien for the town fireworks.
Inspiration for this Italian coffee-and-panini mobile came to Maria Pietrobon, who once ran the Arcadia Coffeehouse, while she was watching her son play soccer one morning at Binney Park. It was an early practice and she had no time to grab a coffee on the way. “I saw all of these kids with their moms, and I thought if someone would be here right now with a good cup of coffee and hot chocolate, it would be like a dream come true,” says Maria, the Riverside-based entrepreneur who is originally from Northern Italy.
Today she is that mirage-come-true for her many customers who line up at town hall, the farmer’s market, Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, events and schools and, yes, at sports fields to order lattes, cappuccinos, Arnold Palmers (made with fresh-squeezed lemonade and Harney’s tea), sandwiches and homemade desserts like tiramisu. Customers rave about her hot chocolate and her coffee, which is brewed using a special Italian machine. During six years in business, she has become a sought-after presence at school events and some private fetes, too. Nicole Kidman’s production company hired her to do coffee and food while they were shooting The Family Fang in town. Maria has also handled post-wedding brunches.
This fall, in addition to operating Caffe Bon, Maria will be launching a gourmet hot chocolate line called Ciobon, available online, in grocery stores and wholesale.