Pananas Restaurant continually surprises diners with a selection of upscale entrees that change with the season. The spring menu promises fresh options such as the grilled salmon, which is sautéed in creamy pesto before it comes to rest atop bitter greens and risotto-stuffed tomato ($21). Ensconced in an au poivre crust, the 16-ounce bone-in Delmonico steak frolics through sprinklers loaded with balsamic grilled onion and gorgonzola cheese sauce ($28). Pasta options abound, including farfalle aglio e olio, which adds zing to bow-tie pasta with breaded chicken and broccoli rabe sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper ($15). The stuffed artichoke Francese brims with sundried tomatoes, boursin cheese, and lemon butter sauce ($8). Since main courses rotate seasonally, chefs can take advantage of the migratory patterns of vegetables to guarantee access to the freshest ingredients.
In Captain Jack’s kitchen, the crew assembles a concise menu. With the fryer bubbling and the scent of salt and oil in the air, the cooks prepare fresh scallops, whole-belly clams, all-natural beef, free-range chicken, and hand-cut french fries. The menu appears selective because it is. They use only humanely treated animals from regional farms to make their house-made burgers and hot dogs, and all their veggies come from local purveyors who practice sustainable farming. In fact, everything at the roadside shack is so fresh that they don’t even own a freezer, which assures their ingredients are served in a timely fashion and that penguins never claim squatter’s rights.
Crepes Tea House is a cozy, sun-drenched eatery that offers homemade crepes, more than 100 varieties of tea, and Eastern European specialty dishes for every meal of the day. As customers sink into one of the cafe's big, plush couches, artisan chefs make savory crepes with beef, pork, and turkey, or sweet ones with fresh fruit, warm chocolate, or honey. Items such as zucchini, potato, or farm-cheese pancakes and Polish sausage are served at breakfast, while lunch sees plates of Siberian pelmeni dumplings packed with ground beef and stacked to form a wall that can be seen from space. At dinner, the restaurant's chefs glaze fresh salmon with honey and pan-fry whitefish and tuna cutlets until golden brown. Whether patrons carry a conversation at one of the eatery’s tables for a full meal, or settle at the sleek bar for a quick cup of tea or coffee, the teahouse’s vibrant orange walls and floor-to-ceiling windows make for a comfortable experience.
Years ago, the building now occupied by O'Porto Restaurant built bicycles. Today, the converted factory still carries an industrial-themed appearance and echoes with the distant dings of ghost bikes. But the space now churns out traditional Portuguese cuisine—a service that earned O'Porto the honor of "Best Portuguese Restaurant" from CT.com for 2013. Executive chef Adelino de Sousa relies on many of the ingredients from Portugal's former colonies: rice from Asia, hot peppers from Africa, and cinnamon from India, just to name a few. He transforms those elements into artfully presented dishes, including seafood-based entrees, such as baked salmon stuffed with shrimp and crab and grilled filet of sole.
Voted Best Fish Market by readers of the Hartford Advocate, City Fish Market offers a menu of freshly prepared seafood meals. Lobster lovers can dig their claws into the hot lobster roll, pincered together with fries or a small chowder ($15.99). Ex-Red Coats can sample the fried fish and chips ($9.99) while pondering the best place to get their useless uniform tailored into a fashionable suit. Clammy hands find an accepting home around a bowl of fresh New England chowder ($3.50 half pint, $5.99 pint, $9.99 quart). Children can also wet their seafood appetites with kids' menu offerings such as clam strips and fries ($3.99).
When The Saybrook Fish House Restaurant first opened in 1978, its chefs would scrawl their menu on brown paper bags each day, constantly updating dishes according to the freshest catch available. Today the menu is printed, but the chefs continue to follow in their predecessors' footsteps by serving only freshly caught seafood from New England waters.
Amid the wooden panels and hanging lanterns of the restaurant’s four cozy dining rooms, baskets of fried seafood meet with iced clams and oysters from the raw bar. The staff provides full meals complete with warm bread, salad, and fresh fruit, along with a hot towel and an original poem written by the busboy.