Though Johnny Prete's dream of a gourmet deli full of go-go dancers didn't quite come to fruition, he reached his goal all the same. More than 30 years ago, Prete conjured up an idea: a place with great food that was both gourmet and un-intimidating. The result was his quaint deli, where daily specials are served alongside hot sandwiches, subs, burgers, and deli classics.
The brilliant baristas at Klekolo pour steaming cups of joe and craft specialty drinks in their funky Court Street location. Using beans from a variety of roasters—most of them organic and free trade—the staff brews each cup ($1.30–$2.25) from the drip bar. Expertly made espresso ($1.25) steams in tiny mugs stolen from caffeinated elves, and specialty drinks such as the Witches' Brew transfix taste buds with a spell of caramel, hazelnut, chocolate, and espresso. Combat severe cases of indecision by filling tankards with smooshies ($5.75), a combination smoothie-slushie that dallies in fruit flavors as well as java incarnations. The pastry case houses a rotating selection of scrumptious sweets ($1.80–$4.95); recent offerings have included rich turtle-cheesecake bars and flaky lemon danish. While sipping from mugs, patrons can gaze at the local artwork dotting the richly hued purple walls, use free WiFi to email lonely houseplants, or admire the 10 cents they saved by bringing in their own bean-juice receptacles.
Stillanos Pikos has gone from watching stock prices fall on Wall Street to watching cakes rise in the ovens at Fusion Bakery & Patisserie. The bakery owner—who is originally from the Greek island of Rhodes—found his original career in finance to be less than fulfilling. After resisting the urge to follow in the footsteps of his family's food business, Pikos decided to enroll in the Connecticut Culinary School. He worked at an exclusive hotel restaurant before assisting friends with their bakeries, which gave rise to the development of Fusion Bakery & Patisserie. Jeff Mill of The Middletown Press notes that the name represents "a combination of European and American desserts,” and that the establishment "is a throwback to a time not so long ago when every town had a bakery, and often more than one."
Pikos and fellow pastry chef Jen McGuinness bake cinnamon rolls, brownies, danishes, baklava, and scones from scratch every morning. They prepare decadent wedding and specialty cakes, including The Very Best Carrot Cake with cream-cheese frosting and optional nuts. As reported by Cassandra Day of Middletown Patch, the bakery ran a "Where's Ginger?" holiday promotion in which patrons guessed the location of a gingerbread man shown in photos around town to win a free pound of cookies and a year of icing-based vinyl siding repairs.
Residing in the historic building that was once the Taft Hotel, Richter's Café invites locals to revel in old-fashioned charm. Sate a thirsty throat by sipping a glass of high-end bourbon or scotch as you chat with friends, or sample some of Richter's 13 beers on draft, available in a half pints, pints, and signature 32-ounce half yards, which are served in 18-inch glasses. The food menu sports an array of crisp salads, tasty sandwiches, fresh-grilled burgers, and handcrafted soups to prevent unused teeth from retracting further into the mouth to write sad songs with tonsils.
Book Trader Café stacks more than 16,000 titles of gently used books on its shelves, combined with second-hand DVDs and CDs that transform the inventory into multimedia brain food. Literary works and academic books on art, architecture, and paper towels line the store, their spines inviting readers to sink into their vivid and educational worlds. A cult-fiction section assembles an apocrypha of fringe scribes, photography books tempt eyes with their luscious pages, and a children's-book section tempts kids to burrow into a fort of words. Most titles average $4.95, and staff carefully curates each one to ensure a quality recycled collection sans fraying bindings or torn pages. While Book Trader Café's inventory rotates frequently, the online store lists troves of its selections and lets bibliophiles reserve books by phone. With new old books in hand, patrons can stroll over to the café to enjoy them and further sate their appetites for letters by reading the menu.