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.
Lanza Restaurant's chefs plate a menu of authentic, upscale Italian dishes as guests drink in live entertainment. Taking inspiration from matryoshka dolls, diners can fill bellies with stuffed selections such as the ricotta-stuffed ravioli ($11.95) and the eggplant rollatini, in which a trio of ricotta, provolone, and prosciutto crowd into a golden eggplant topped with mozzarella and marinara ($13.95). In the veal piccata, a sautéed veal cutlet bathes in herbs, capers, and a luxurious lemon-butter sauce ($17.95), and the swordfish oreganto pairs a sautéed swordfish steak drizzled in roasted-garlic butter sauce with potatoes—Italy's most famous carbohydrate ($18.95). As diners captivate taste buds with savory sauces and pastas, live music and comedy acts thrill eardrums on Lanza’s stage, and a dance area lets couples practice for upcoming line-dancing marathons.
Each Wood-N-Tap restaurant’s kitchen serves a menu of casual American food that ranges from burgers and sandwiches to pasta, pizza, and entrees. The eatery partners with farms from New Jersey to Maine to cultivate 100% all-natural meats for their homegrown burgers, which feature tender hormone-, steroid-, and antibiotic-free meats such as Wagyu beef, bison, free-range turkey, and pork. Chefs grill entrees including swordfish and bourbon-marinated grilled sirloin, as well as signature items such as mac ‘n’ cheese pizza and Bar Bites sliders constructed with bison, Angus beef, turkey, or a baseball.
Wood-N-Tap blossomed from the fitting combination of its owners’ skills—Mike scouts the locations, Phil markets the brand, and Wil and Kenny manage the daily operations of the various locations. More than a decade ago, after forging a friendship as strong as oak and a partnership as strong as steel-reinforced oak, the crew opened the first Wood-N-Tap location in 2002—and they have expanded to seven locations and counting.
Homespun comfort meets upscale refinement at Jeffrey's Restaurant, which "successfully defines American bistro as well as any place I have tried in Connecticut," according to Stephanie Lyness of the New York Times. Expansive views of the surrounding marshland and the nearby Long Island Sound are just a peek just outside the eatery's windows, although the interior itself is a cozy landscape for dining with its granite-topped bar and glowing fireplace. Friday and Saturday nights give diners yet another layer to experience with live entertainment.
The food at Jeffrey's complements that goal of creating an experience that's simultaneously inviting and well executed. Beginning with a choice selection of seasonal ingredients, the chefs prepare eclectic menus that Zagat reviewers scored in the Extraordinary to Perfection category. In addition to sandwiches made with Maine lobster, the menu also features contemporary-minded entrees with European, Asian, and traditional American flavors. The sesame-crusted wild king salmon arrives on a bed of mint-infused jasmine rice and chefs introduce duck breast to its soul mate, a port wine foie gras in a dried cherry berry sauce.
When he cofounded his first sandwich shop in 1965, 17-year-old Fred DeLuca planned to use his profits to pay his way through medical school. But the combination of quality ingredients and friendly service at the shop—then called Pete's Subway—proved so popular that nine years later, he and his partner found themselves in charge of 16 locations across Connecticut, and Fred left behind his doctoring plans for a career in business.
Today, Subway boasts more than 34,000 locations around the world—almost as many shops as there are sightings of Elvis buying cold cuts. At each location, staffers pile sliced ham, marinara-slathered meatballs, and other fillings into halved loaves of bread before customizing handhelds with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and other healthy toppings plucked from chilled containers behind the counter. Salads free crisp veggies from bread's overprotective embrace, and crunchy baked chips or apple slices accompany entrees to tables. Subway’s website also facilitates health-conscious eating by listing each item's nutritional information and fastest mile time online.
Although it may have fallen out of Top 40 rotation in the 70 years since it was sung by a burger-shop owner’s barbershop quartet, the song “When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along)” lives on in the legacy of a Seattle-based burger joint. The Red Robin franchise has spread its wings far and wide, now serving locations throughout North America with sustainably grown, environmentally conscious burgers and sides that marry classic American flavors with savory twists such as onion straws or bruschetta. Most of the shop’s fire-grilled burgers, chicken sandwiches, and entrees come with a side of bottomless steak fries, allowing patrons to soak up the juicy Whiskey River barbecue sauce, melted blue cheese, and edible fedoras that top the menu’s varied eats. The staff are happy to help patrons pair their sandwiches with one of the full bar’s microbrews or specialty mixed drinks, keeping glasses filled while athletic superstars battle it out on the eatery's big-screen TVs.