Martha Stewart has lent her name to bath, bedding, and charger plates full of etiquette. But on her 2008 Martha's Favorite Hot Dogs list, she stamped her seal of approval onto the mustard, relish, kraut, and bacon that piles into the buttered bun of a "works" fried hot dog at Rawley's Drive Inn. According to owner Nick Frattaroli, it is now their most popular hot dog, joining the naturally encased ranks of several other specialties. One, the hot Chihuahua dog, is dosed with Mel's Hellish Relish, a recipe Nick would share "if [he] knew it"—he hasn't been able to pry a list of its sweet and spicy ingredients out of his secretive chef.
The "works" has drawn plenty of noncelebrities to this two-story, red roadside restaurant. Locals and repeat customers join diners from as far away as California and Texas who've seen Rawley's featured on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Inside, they're all treated to food that is made to order—including hand-cut fries and thick ice-cream shakes—and old-timey decor that reflects the building's roots in the 19th century. Guests place orders at a short counter before retreating to booths or high-top tables, both surrounded by wood walls that past patrons have thoroughly tattooed with carved initials and florid love sonnets to sausages.
Flipside's brand new menu showcases thousands of different burger combinations, allowing diners to mix and match six different proteins with high-end ingredients including avocado and bacon, as well as creative sauces such as chipotle or pesto mayo. This creative twist as well as Flipside's diverse menu of 13 specialty burgers earned the restaurant a Best of the Gold Coast 2013 award. Farm-fresh sirloin patties anchor a dozen specialty burgers, including the Hawaii Five-O Burger with barbecue pulled pork, bacon, and grilled pineapple and The Goat Burger, which is topped with goat cheese, sun dried tomato, caramelized onion, and honey and balsamic glaze.
Slow-cooked pulled-pork sandwiches provide a sauce-smothered alternative to Flipside's signature creations, as do herbivore-friendly salads that may be repackaged in a whole-wheat wrap. Diners can begin their meals with an array of starters such as a Shrimp Ravioli Trio or Flipside Nachos, with homemade chips or french fries smothered with chili, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Sudsy drafts caterwaul from a dulcet quartet of foam-flecked taps, spurring choreographed pours and surprise visits from Spuds McKenzie behind a triangular bar, where mixologists concoct specialty martinis and margaritas.
Having already earned back-to-back spots on Connecticut Magazine's Best of Connecticut in 2009 and 2010, Liquid Lunch keeps bellies full and spoons out of the unemployment line with a slurp-worthy twist on midday meals. Culinary Institute of America graduate and owner Fred Bialek and his wife, Michele, were inspired to open the first Liquid Lunch in 2004, when they'd grown tired of lunchtime standards such as pizza, burgers, and lightly salted printouts of old PowerPoint presentations.
Today, at Liquid Lunch's still-growing roster of locations, a rotating lineup of gourmet soups cascades across the menu alongside six staple soups, including vegetarian lentil and split pea with ham. For an extra crunch, diners can plunge fork-first into salads, or explore healthy Sammiches, which escort taste buds around the globe with names influenced by their ingredients and spear-pickles engraved with necessary passport information.
After ten hours of slow-cooking, the barbecue ribs at Joe’s American Bar & Grill land on tables tender and ready to fall of the bone. Served with fresh-made coleslaw, these ribs are the centerpiece of a menu overflowing with upscale comfort food. Chefs cut potatoes by hand to accompany bacon cheeseburgers topped with aged cheddar and bread-and-butter pickles made in-house rather than flown in by a talking stork. Grilled pizzas are made fresh to order and never frozen, and hefty sandwiches and hand-cut steaks stack plates with sustenance. On the weekends, brunch dishes come out of hibernation to sate guests with made-to-order omelets and specialties such as eggs benedict and prime-rib hash. Diners enjoy the fresh air on the outdoor patio or cluster around the bar to keep track of sports scores or find out who really got married on Days of Our Lives.
Since 2010, the culinary team at The Shack Hometown Grill has crafted heaps of home-cooked comfort food such as Louisiana crab cakes, full racks of baby back ribs, and chicken pot pies. Along with comfort cuisine, chefs toss salads with bourbon-glazed grilled chicken, dress up burgers with cranberry mayo, avocado, or fried onion grass, and pack sandwiches with sweet italian sausage and broccoli rabe. Flat-screen televisions surrounding the eatery's tables entertain patrons during each lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch. Alternatively, The Shack Hometown Grill hosts live music every Saturday evening and kids movie nights every Friday, where youngsters can enjoy child-friendly features or act out their favorite scenes from Raging Bull.
Bringing an authentic taste of Maine to Fairfield County, Lobster Post's chefs pile tender claw meat into toasted buns and fry crunchy fries to complement them. Lobster bisque and manhattan clam chowder are ladled into cups from pots that are made fresh every day and served alongside freshly fried whole-belly clams and Baja-style tacos.