There isn’t much posting about the central CT shoreline. In the old Chowhound days we had some active posters. I decided to start a thread and see if we can generate some more traffic (but not the I-95 kind).
Clam apizza is an iconic Connecticut dish. Zuppardi’s in West Haven in my experience makes the best. Expensive but worth it. I’ve had friends come to visit to go here. The beach was beside the point.
Clam Castle in Madison used to be my favorite place for New England style fried seafood. It went through an ownership change many years ago when the Irish bar next door took over it. When we first went after the change, it clearly wasn’t the same. Took them a year or so to figure out how to properly season and fry clams. But they got the hang of it. Owners changed again this summer. I was distressed to hear that it was becoming a taco place with some items from the old menu carrying over. We went and looking at the menu it was evident that while the place looked the same, it had lost something. It used to be challenging to find a place to park and there would be a line at the window to order. Plenty of parking, no line.
Got a Caesar salad and fried bellies to share with the lovely wife. Salad was decent but the bellies were a disappointment. Overcooked and not crispy at the same time. Like the oil wasn’t hot enough. On the small side. More like tiny. No more onion strings. Precoated fries instead. It wasn’t terrible but it’s no longer worth going out of the way for. I had no desire to try their tacos. What’s the point when I could just go to New Haven?
Friki Tiki closed at the end of last summer. There used to be a food truck that I would see parked outside. Little Riggs. Well the owner of the food truck took over the space. It opened a few weeks ago so we got there to try it for lunch this week. Open for breakfast and lunch only right now.
She really enjoyed the dish. When I tasted it, I noted a lot of cheese and what I suspect was polenta and not grits or maybe instant grits. How would I know you ask? My mom made plain grits with a pat of butter and a fried egg for breakfast at least once a week for me when I was in elementary school. This dish of grits wasn’t gritty at all. Still really good though.
I ordered pork belly with compressed watermelon and a side of roasted carrots with hummus to share. Small portions but tasty. Very cheffy.
Many years ago, there were a bunch of food trucks that used to park in the dirt along the access road running between I-95 and the harbor in New Haven. The primary customers used to be day laborers. A taco cost $1. Back in those days I used to be able to get lunch for two that was 8 tacos with two drinks for $10. Then more people started coming. The vendors learned to speak English. They started taking credit cards. Then the town put in paving, parking and power for the trucks to plug in and a big sign on the highway announcing the Food Truck Paradise.
The lengua was a bit bland but the spicy salsa kicked it up. The chorizo was very spicy and tomatillo salsa smoothed the rough edges. Sat on the lawn looking out over the harbor. We were watched by some hungry looking gulls. A very pleasant Saturday lunch.
Hachiroku Shukudo & Sake Bar opened up during the pandemic in New Haven. We went soon after they opened. Loved being able to find a Japanese place that isn’t sushi and teriyaki and udon and yakitori and tempura and …. restaurant. But that name is a mouthful. No prize for brevity. I’ve posted reviews in the past. Well I read on their instagram feed that they opened a new restaurant. With a somewhat shorter name of Hachiroku Handroll Bar. Tells you right away what it’s about. Went for the first time this weekend.
Looks very different. The sake bar looks like it could be a pub from the outside. Inside it’s all bricks and high ceilings from what could be a former industrial space. The Handroll Bar is sleek and minimalist.
Only bar seating. The lovely wife thought the space was beautiful and the furniture equally lovely but she hates backless bar stools.
The menu has a bunch of small plates on one page and hand rolls on the other side. We had the Jako salad which is a carryover from the original restaurant. Love it. The tiny crispy fried fish really make the dish for us. As usual I only thought to take a picture after starting. Oozy cold soft boiled egg dripping on my plate doesn’t look appetizing. The beer was a very nice Japanese ale which was a pleasant change from the usual lagers.
Again for the next two dishes we had started before I had to interrupt my impatient wife to take a picture of half eaten food. An anchovy potato salad that was a bit mustardy and not to my liking and a cold chawanmushi with crab and ikura which was good but not spectacular. I think it would have been better if it was not refrigerator cold, maybe warm even.
We had some guests over the Labor Day Weekend. The weekend started cool but got hotter as each day went by. Thankfully the water of the Sound stayed cool
On Monday we started discussing where to go for lunch. All the sudden I remembered a place we have not been to since before Covid and I turned to my lovely wife and asked her why don’t we go the the place. She gets excited and says we haven’t been to the place in forever. Let’s go to the place. Our guests are thinking we are speaking about some place with inside knowledge they don’t have and ask where are we going? I respond “The Place.” What place? The Place! The conversation is going all Abbot & Costello.
I remember first learning of The Place through the writings of Calvin Trillin when I was a 20-something. And to this day, I still haven’t been (and we pass through Guilford on our way to visit family in Westchester and Greenwich so no excuse).
Growing up in Stamford before big box fast food chains took over, every hot dog stand also offered fried (whole belly) clams. Now the price for shucked clams has soared along with most all other seafood. Places like the Clam Box (Greenwich & Westport), Skipper’s (Norwalk) King Neptune (Ridgefield) where you could get a huge platter of expertly fried shrimp, scallops, flounder, along with French fries and onion rings for maybe eight dollars are just a distant memory. Now you would have to charge at least $50.00 for the same thing. For fried belly clams, I like Westfair Fish and Chips on the Westport/Fairfield line but it’s mostly a takeout place.
Did someone say bellies? Finally got back to Lenny’s. We have been going here forever. Since the oldest was a baby. Even though we have been going long enough to know the family that owns the place, I honestly think some of the best fried clams in New England are here.