Asian - Breakfast/Lunch - Classic - Casual - Pizza - Pubs - Upscale - Finds

Our Picks Asian

Meadow Asian Cuisine
There’s a reason Meadow Asian Cuisine has a full house on weeknights when others have empty parking lots — and we’re betting it’s their well-balanced menu of sushi, sashimi, maki rolls, and Pan-Asian entrées, which is nicely rounded out by offerings like rack of lamb chops, sea bass, and steak. Of course, it could also be the harmonious flow of consistently excellent food orchestrated by owner Sam Lin. The white-linen service that’s discreetly attentive. A wine list diverse enough to please. Or the stylish little bar. But all that really matters is that Meadow has a full house on weeknights when others have empty parking lots. That speaks for itself.
532 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

*The Green Papaya
You’ll always be welcome at The Green Papaya — because that’s the kind of restaurant it is. But their popularity goes well beyond the warmth and friendliness of the gracious staff to the menu itself, a delectable fusion of Thai and Laotian cuisine that features a complexity of spices and ingredients — and a consistent quality that somehow remains undaunted by the wide-ranging menu. Indeed, The Green Papaya is enthusiastically praised in reviews from actual customers. And it doesn’t get much better than that.
160 Albany Tpke., Canton

It’s dinner time at Yume and seats are filling up fast. At four of the six Hibachi tables, families are already enjoying their meal — one eye on their beautifully grilled food and the other on the chef, whose versatility with slicing, dicing (and juggling very sharp knives) has them cautiously entranced. Nearby, three sushi chefs are pressed by the demand for Maki, Sushi, Sashimi, and specials like the Rainbow Roll from the weekday menu promising special pricing. And all the while, entrées are whisked out of the kitchen and off to hungry patrons, one right after the other, without missing a beat. So what’s the story? Simple answer. Good food. Fast. And reasonable. And that’s an unbeatable combo
45 South Main St., Unionville

Part of Sakimura’s appeal is the small brownstone building it calls home. Seems the calm, relaxing ambience is ideally suited for enjoying sushi, whether in the cozy dining room or at the sushi bar. But it’s more than that. The fish is fresh, the rolls creatively presented, and the service attentive. And for those who haven’t developed a taste for sushi just yet, there’s a separate space where tempting Hibachi entrees prepared with flair by masterful chef’s draws a loyal following of its own, both for the taste and for the show. You can’t lose.
10 Wilcox St., Fiddler’s Green, Simsbury

*Tan Wong.
A mellow place with attentive service and all the familiar Chinese menu items, Tan Wong has done admirably with no frills — just good, authentic Cantonese cooking. And since you can enjoy a generous meal that’s not only delicious but reasonable at anywhere between $15 and $30, this is the place to go when you’re stressed at work, out of leftovers, sick of fast foods, and watching your pennies. Enjoy.
135 West St., Simsbury

Toshi Izakaya
Once upon a time, there was a popular Japanese restaurant in the Riverdale Farms Silo called called Toshi — beloved by all, near and far. Then one day, a chef named Dan Ma took it over, renovating the space, revising the menu, and renaming it Toshi Izakaya — which, translated, means “a more relaxed bistro-style place with full bar.” Well, soon, the folks with their ears to the ground found out. But they didn’t tell anybody, deciding to keep the good news (and all those tables) to themselves. And for a while, it worked. But a place this absolutely terrific, featuring Japanese cuisine and a wonderful sushi bar, can’t stay a secret for long. And, of course, it didn’t. Indeed, their ploy failed. And in no time at all, Farmington Valley denizens had a “Toshi” to love: Toshi Izakaya. And they’re all eating happily ever after.
136 Simsbury Rd.,
Riverdale Farms
Avon, 860-667-8242

The Elephant Trail
This little gem — once confined to the circuitous path through Old Avon Village — has now ambled east down Rt. 44 a bit. Owned by the Tek family, who never forget a customer’s face, The Elephant Trail offers wonderful service and an extensive Thai menu that’s healthful, delicious, and something of a bargain. You’ll want to stop by and see for yourself. And bring your herd of friends.
85 East Main St, Rt. 44, Avon

Table 570 Asian Fusion
The Farmington Valley’s latest restaurant entrepreneur has done it again. After opening two winners in Granby’s Han Asian Cuisine and @ The Barn, Jimmy Chen has completely redone the former Green Tea on Hopmeadow Street, opening Table 570 Asian Fusion to rave reviews. The food is excellent, with an eclectic mix of Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines, as well as sushi that rivals the finest of the superb Japanese restaurants our region is blessed with. Another win for Jimmy — and the Valley.
570 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

* = bargain back to top

Our Picks Breakfast / Lunch

Popover Bistro & Bakery
At Popover, healthy ingredients rule — their watchwords being organic, vegan, gluten free, GMO free, free range, grass fed, and locally sourced. Then there are the recipes that make those ingredients sing, like the vegan “chicken” with “beyond meat” chicken strips that amaze, the Sweet Potato and Quinoa Burger, and the Belgian Waffles served with fresh fruits, coconut and almond whipped cream, and maple syrup from Lamothe’s Sugar House. And wait until you taste the fresh popovers, fruit smoothies, wine, beer, and homemade bakery items. Already a fan? Good for you. And we mean that both figuratively — and literally.
928 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

Truffles in Farmington (an old favorite) and Truffles in Avon (a new favorite) are pretty much two peas in a pod — but don’t let their size fool you. They are both bustling with activity. Their bakeries are well-known for their hot and cold sandwiches, hearty soups, green and pasta salads, and of course lush confections, including cakes, cupcakes, cookies, cake pops and mini-desserts, French macaroons — and yes! Truffles. But these days, they also offer casual and formal catering for large and small gatherings. A new food truck, which travels to office parks and sporting events, concerts, and other private affairs by invitation. And they’ve started Meals-to-Go Supper Club for those who want their families to eat well — but don’t have the time to shop and chop their way to the kinds of ready-to-enjoy meals Truffles provides deliciously and nutritiously. I’m not sure how they do it all, but they do. And well.
380 West Main St., Rte 44, Avon
767 Farmington Ave, Farmington

Bushy Hill Orchard
Located in North Granby, Bushy Hill Orchard is not your typical restaurant venue. Indeed, the farm offers a one-of-a-kind breakfast that is truly farm-to-table, with the majority of its products sourced from its own farms (they have three) or other local farms in the region — and seatings Saturdays and Sundays only, from 8 to noon. Of course, they also sell fresh take-out meals, homemade soups, and a full line of bakery items, including their “famous” cider donuts (arguably the region’s best), as well as ice cream and frozen yogurt in warmer weather — and the Orchard also offers on site wedding and catered events, including seasonal farm dinners. But if it’s breakfast you want, mark your calendar and set your alarm, because this is one culinary experience you don’t want to miss.
29 Bushy Hill Rd., N. Granby

New England Pasta Company & Cafe
There’s nothing like fresh pasta. Or fresh sauces. And it’s hard to beat those ready-to-go dinners, like homemade lasagna and ravioli. But not too long ago, New England Pasta not only added an ampersand to their logo but the word Café, introducing uniquely different breakfast and lunch menus that are both good — and good for you. Great service and a crisp ambience make it a pleasure to spend time here, whether you’re picking up something to go or sitting down to eat. But we’d recommend trying both — and often.
300 West Main St., Rte. 44, Avon

Fabiola’s Fine Foods
Fabiola’s is fab. But if you’re too young to know what that means, suffice it to say that this little treasure (well-hidden from all but the lucky — or those with GPS) serves lunch and lunch only. But oh, what a lunch! Superb soups, sensational sandwiches, splendid salads, and terrific crusty bread you won’t soon forget. They cater, too. Find it soon.
195 W. Main St., Avon, 860-674-9113

Peaberry’s Café
Tired of that same old/same old coffee chain? Then head for Peaberry’s, a small-town favorite with a hip vibe. Enjoy a cup of coffee and a pastry, hang out with friends, or simply catch up on some work. Grab a latte and a place on the comfy couch to read. Or get yourself a signature sandwich, like the Turkey Avocado — or the Sunshine Salad, all wholesome and tangy. Word on the street is that their Nitro Coffee thinks it’s an Irish Stout. And don’t forget open mic night! It’s a good time kind of place.
712 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

Claudia’s Grinder Shop
It’s high noon on Farmington Avenue — and there they are again. Claudia’s fans. Indeed, grinder connoisseurs who not only claim that her little shop makes the best grinders in the Valley, but line up daily to place their order. Oh sure. There are days when they can’t resist her homemade soups, the daily specials, or one of the wicked good wraps. But then, who can. Oh, and don’t let that line thing worry you. When the doors do open, this small but efficient little flavor factory has everyone served in no time. Claudia wouldn’t have it any other way.
1035 Farmington Ave., Farmington

LaSalle Market & Deli
Collinsville’s funky old country store (aka LaSalle Market & Deli) always draws a good-spirited crowd with its comfortably mismatched furnishings, Friday open mic nights, market gallery, and bargain prices. But we’re betting that it’s their awesome breakfasts, hearty lunch sandwiches, homemade soups, pizazzy pizzas, prepared foods, and ice cream cones to go that brings ‘em in — and brings ‘em back. You should go find out.
104 Main St., Collinsville, 860-693-8010

Harvest Café and Bakery
Known as “the kitchen that never sleeps,” Harvest Café and Bakery is where breakfasts have long been legendary — and the lunches actually speak for themselves. Both menus include some pretty simple standards, followed by original recipes, Kim’s Specials, Daily Specials, and Theme Specials, with humor a key ingredient and all of it fabulous. But you’ll want to know that it opens at 6 most mornings (7:30 on Sundays). And while lunch kicks in about 11, breakfast really goes on almost all day (at least until 2:30) so there’s no need to rush. In between, during, and after all that, they bake, cater, create holiday take-out meals, post stuff on their Facebook site, and think up new specials. So if you’re up for a legendary breakfast (or have never heard a sandwich actually talk), put Harvest on your short list. And put it at the top.
1390 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

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Our Picks Classic

Seasons at Avon Old Farms Inn
Uniquely appealing — with its elegant main dining room, Seasons offers guests a reliable hotel-style menu featuring such stand-outs as savory kahlua and coffee-braised short ribs, plump pan-seared sea scallops with a pomegranate honey glaze, and a butternut squash and mushroom lasagna. Combined with a nice wine, good company, and panoramic views of Talcott Mountain Stream, this dressed-up pub is a winner.
Back of the Avon Old Farms Hotel
279 Avon Mountain Rd., Avon

Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Maybe the steakhouse trend came. And maybe the steakhouse trend went. But Ruth’s Chris doesn’t care, because it’s here to stay — and that’s because their signature prime beef is legendary, as are their perfectly cooked rib-eyes, their tender Porterhouse for two, or their full-bodied New York Strip. Fact is, everyone knows that when it comes to beef, Ruth’s Chris does it best. Just follow the sizzle.
2513 Berlin Tpke., Newington,

Piccolo Arancio
While its sister restaurant, Peppercorn’s, is a well-established hit in Hartford, Farmington’s Piccolo Arancio has been making quite a name for itself, too. Trained in Rome, Chef Salvatore Cialfi is known for turning fresh ingredients into authentic, thoughtful, and elegant Northern Italian fare “vivid” with flavor, which he encourages diners to enjoy “leisurely, sensuously, and with gusto.” Take his advice.
819 Farmington Ave., Farmington

Saybrook Fish House
Anchored at the junction of Routes 44, 179, and 202 in Canton, Saybrook Fish House is a good, down-to-earth fish house, featuring all the good, down-to-earth seafood that’s easy to crave — and hard to find, including Fish and Chips, crispy and hot. A raw bar stocked with fresh clams and oysters. Authentic chowders, both fish and clam. Steamers and whole bellies. Broiled oysters and scallops. Mussels. Sole, scrod, salmon, and tuna. Crab cakes or King Crab legs. Lobsters. And yes, for the folks they call “Fish Frowners,” there’s pasta, chicken and some excellent steaks. Need a taste of summer-by-the-sea right now? This is the place.
460 Albany Tpke., Canton

There isn’t a lot of New York-style haute cuisine in the Greater Hartford area, largely because Greater Hartford isn’t New York. But there is one downtown restaurant that is rather hauty without being haughty — and it’s called ON20, because it’s on the 20th floor of One State Street, which the venerable Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company calls home. The service is polished and unobstrusive, while the culinary team, led by Chef Jesse Powers, prides itself on serving an innovative menu that includes everything from a 50-Day Dry-Aged Côte de Boeuf to a piquant Confit Filet of Arctic Char. And for those who take their vegetables quite seriously, a platter of cauliflower, slow-roasted with a raisin caper emulsion, meyer lemon curd, brown butter, and marcona almonds, promises to please. Needless to say, the view is extraordinary.
400 Columbus Blvd., Hartford

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Our Picks Casual

Portobello’s has just about everything you might want in a good family restaurant. A huge menu of remarkably tasty grinders, pizza, big fresh salads, and daily specials. Budget-friendly prices. An atmosphere as warm and welcoming as you’ll find anywhere. And a comfortable bar where you can eat, drink, and make new friends. It’s a keeper.
107 Main St., Rt. 44, New Hartford

There’s no doubt about it. Antonio’s is a restaurant, alright. And a good one, too, if you ask the kids and their families always scarfing down pizzas and burgers after a tough game — or couples enjoying serious fresh fish, steaks, and Italian standards on any given evening. But it’s also an experience, because this delightfully amusing spot — the creation of owner Steve Antonio — is also a tribute to ‘50s and ‘60s Americana, with its vast collection of memorabilia that includes vintage juke boxes, pinball machines, wanted posters, and Coke coolers now adapted for wine storage. Even the menu offers a taste of Steve’s humor, featuring a Chicken Marsala that has exactly 108 noodles. (You can count, but your food will get cold.) And you’ll be glad to know it’s all affordable.
1185 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

Dish ‘n Dat
From its everything-for-everyone menu to its retro-chic diner décor, Dish ‘n Dat is a wonderful throwback to the ‘60s. The anytime breakfast menu has omelets cooked to any taste, pancakes in six varieties, and countless sides. There are all kinds of burgers, salads, soups, shakes, wine, beer, drinks, appetizers, and sandwiches — including a good mac ‘n cheese and the blue-plate specials some of us still remember. And Happy Hour starts at 3 p.m. every day!
The Shoppes at Farmington Valley
110 Albany Tpke., Rt. 44, Canton

River’s Edge Bistro
Set among a stretch of non-descript storefronts, River’s Edge Bistro looks a bit plain from the street. But once inside, all that changes. Simple but stylish, with both comfortable booths and tables, it’s just the spot to enjoy a menu featuring the cuisine of Mediterranean countries like Morocco, Algeria, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Entrees like tuna steak, mousaka, and their mixed grills of meats and veggies are deliciously fresh and intriguing. Their soups are robust. Their salads substantial. And the burgers delish. And if you get the Turkish coffee, you’ll learn how fortune tellers read the future from the tracings inside the cup. BYOB.
45 S. Main St., Unionville

*The Lion Four Tavern
Open every day at 11 from April through October, The Lion Four Tavern at Tower Ridge Country Club is a serious seasonal favorite with a surprisingly big menu. Start with an appetizer, like meatball sliders with fries — a whole meal by themselves. And if you’re not full yet, try a big burger or one of their excellent wraps. Bountiful weeknight buffets, featuring dishes like pasta with mussels, BBQ-cooked chicken, and ribs, go well with frosty pitchers of beer. And the stunning views of the golf course are on the house. Mark your calendar. April will be here soon.
140 Nod Rd., Simsbury

*Blue Sky Foods
This place is fun and fabulous, with a whimsically wild beach-cottage décor sure to make you smile and a menu of beach food sure to bring you back — including lovely whole bellies, oysters, and lots of snappy fried fish. For landlubbers (and regulars needing a change of pace), there are Key West Cubans you’ll fall for and hamburger hunks. And no sweet tooth ever left here unsatisfied, thanks to their good old-fashioned shakes, floats, and sundaes. Need a lift? This is the place to go. Of course, you’ll have to wait for spring, since they close in the winter. But daydreaming about that first meal of Blue Sky’s fried clams should help get you through February.
431 Main St., Rt. 44, New Hartford

*Marco’s Restaurant
Having weathered both a tough economy and changes at the helm, Marco’s Family Ristorante continues to be a local favorite. The menu remains nicely affordable while offering everything you’d expect at a good Italian restaurant — and then some. (How about a grilled Delmonico steak as tender as it is tasty? Or their Cioppino’s savory blend of shrimp, clams, scallops, mussels, and calamari over linguine?) The kids menu is child tested, parent approved, and wallet friendly — and the pizza, reliable as always. There are still seven wines by the glass. And the remarkable bubble gum machine continues pumping out bubble gum. Of course, you’ll want to check that gum machine for yourself, so while you’re there, enjoy a nice meal. It’s just the place to mangia.
32 Main St., Tariffville

J. Timothy’s
People just love this place. Built as Cooke’s Tavern in 1789, the name of the game here is wings. More specifically “Dirt Wings.” Fact is, having sold more than 8 tons of them (including 3,000 buckets sold on one Super Bowl weekend alone), those Dirt Wings are the odds-on favorite with area wing wonks. Not a wing wonk? Fear not. There are a whole bunch of straight-and-narrow comfort foods, from juicy burgers, tangy Reubens, and a short-rib grilled cheese sandwich to the Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘N Cheese dinner, Chicken Pot Pie, and some spiffier entrees — plus there’s plenty of dining spaces, up and down (some haunted, we’re told). But we’ll let the good spirited staff and owners tell you more.
143 New Britain Ave., Plainville

Tangiers International
A while back, Tangiers relocated a little ways down Farmington Avenue, just over the border in Hartford. Still, we worried. Well, we’re glad to report that the only thing that changed was their address — with everything else remaining as great as ever. At lunchtime, order the falafel, which is made from a generations-old family recipe. It’s uniquely seasoned and served with tangy, herby tzatziki or tahini. Or try a gyro, authentic and flavorful. The pita bread is baked daily. The hummus superb. And the service always friendly. And while you’re there, browse their intriguing selection of imported groceries. Good stuff.
550 Farmington Ave., Hartford

* = bargain back to top

Our Picks Pizza

Harry’s Bishops Corner
What is it about Harry’s that has everyone hooked? Well, for starters the pizza is absolutely terrific. But that’s because they keep it simple and they keep it as fresh — like last fall’s seasonal specials, which were layered with fresh tomatoes, basil, and red peppers from nearby Rosedale Farm. But they also keep things flexible, so if you want good, healthy whole-wheat dough, just ask. And Harry’s is easy on the wallet, stocking 21 different wines and pitchers of beer at nicely affordable prices. Expect a wait on nights near the weekend. But it’s well worth it.
732 N. Main St., West Hartford

Lisa's Luna Pizza
Lisa’s Luna Pizza is a legend around here, thanks to consistently outstanding reviews for their thin-crust pies made with fresh ingredients. And you can’t beat it for a quick Margherita or beer before the show — or a few larges for the game. Eat-in, take-out, or ask for delivery. There’s no way to go wrong. Not at Lisa’s.
530 Bushy Hill Rd., Simsbury
860-651-1820 and Takeout: 860-651-6591
or orderstart.com/lunapizza

Little City Pizza
If the path to Little City Pizza’s door looks a little worn, it’s because soccer Moms and hockey Dads know what’s best for their kids. And whether you eat in or take out, you can expect an excellent thin-crust pizza, good hearty grinders, home-style soups, satisfying salads, daily lunch and dinner specials, and some beer and wine for the parents. Score!
926 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

Joe Pizza
The question? Where can you count on getting great New Haven-style pizza, one seriously lusty hamburger, mouth-watering calzones, powerhouse pasta plates, Sicilian salads made with love, and good kids meals — all for the best prices around? The answer? Joe Pizza, in Simsbury or Canton. Take your pick.
140 Albany Tpke., Rte. 44, Canton
860-693-1265 website
2 Wilcox Street, Simsbury

Naples Pizza
As generations of Miss Porter’s grads will attest, the pizza at Naples is at least a few slices better than the rest. Indeed, the real deal. Always perfectly crusted and ready to be piled high with fresh toppings, for a New York-style pizza Napoletana right here in the heart of Connecticut. Take it home to enjoy, if you can wait. But feel free to grab a seat and dig right in. It’s that good.
838 Farmington Ave., Farmington

*Hot Heaven Pizza
They don’t call this place Hot Heaven for nothing. Fact is, their New York-style pizza crust is always just right. The toppings are fresh and varied. There’s a modest dining room where you can get yourself a good pasta dinner — and the kiddos something yummy from the children’s menu. And not only are you invited to BYOB but if you forget your Pinot Noir, there’s a wine shop next door! And everything is really reasonably priced. Really.
33 East Main St., Avon Village Marketplace, Avon, 860-470-0257

* = bargain back to top

Our Picks Pubs & Taverns

Cambridge House Brew Pub
Best known for their big selection of award-winning house-made brews — and a nice, low-key atmosphere, Cambridge House also offers a great selection of pub-food favorites, with plenty of entrees (the beer-battered fish is wonderful); sandwiches and wraps (give the salmon BLT a go), and burgers (be sure to try the Jalopeña Swiss Turkey Burger). Grab a table and enjoy.
357 Salmon Brook St., Granby

Cracker Barrel Pub
The Cracker Barrel isn’t just a pub. It’s a Tariffville institution that draws an eclectic crowd from here and there, between and beyond. There’s a big boisterous bar, an informal dining room, and a comfortable deck (in season) where some solid grub (burgers, sandwiches, and pizzas of all kinds) is served for lunch and dinner. And with 24 beers on draft (15 by the pitcher) and lots of crafts, it’s a good place to spend an evening, watch a game, or meet friends. Everyone knows that.
30 Main St., Tariffville, 860-651-0598

Plan B Burgers and Brew
OK, the burgers here are a little pricey, but sometimes, you get what you pay for, and frankly, they are very, very good — as is the beer (all 70 choices) and the bourbons (all 60, including small batch, very small batch, and sustainable). And “a nip, three fingers, a flight, on the rocks, in a cocktail, for breakfast, shaken, stirred, bruised, or anyway you like it is the way they pour it.” It’s a unique kind of place (unique being a very, very good thing). Give it a go.
4 Railroad St., Simsbury, 860-658-4477

The Red Stone Pub
In some English towns, where thatched roofs, narrow lanes and old stone walls prevail, places like The Red Stone are called “snugs” — or small, hard-to-find, dimly lit meet-ups with high backed booths that offer a lovely privacy perfect for those ready to unwind. Beer is, as might be expected, king here, with a long list of hard-to-find bottles scrawled on the chalkboard and fresh-tapped kegs, but the pub-fare sandwiches are hearty and good, and their snacks just right for settling in. Hungry? Thirsty. And maybe a little stressed? Head to The Red Stone.
10 Mall Way, Simsbury, 860-217-1744

Lisa's Crown & Hammer Restaurant & Pub
Set in the Collinsville’s old and very diminutive wooden train station, this is a neat little spot to rendezvous with friends, enjoy live music, sample some good craft beers, or enjoy choosing from a contemporary working-person’s menu that ranges from burgers and big steaks to hearty bowls of bargain-priced pasta. You’ll have to squeeze into the bar area. But then that’s how many a good long-term relationship has begun.
3 Depot St., Collinsville, 860-693-9199

*Old Well Tavern
Let’s play Truth or Dare. Here goes: the world can be kind of an uptight place as far as let-your-hair-down fun goes. Dare: This is the antidote — an actual dance hall with top local bands like Eight to the Bar and Jeff Pevar, one awesome jukebox, a competitive APA pool league, a no-frills bar room, and a really good menu, including crowd favorites like the Tavern Burger — or “The Beast,” which is piled high with fresh pulled pork, coleslaw, and onion rings. And the rest of the menu includes some roll-up-your-sleeves ribs, big sandwiches, and a hefty prime rib special, all at moderate prices. Go if you dare. Or if you’re just plain hungry for some good food, some good music, and some good fun. Because at the Old Well Tavern, it’s all good. And that’s the truth.
20 Tariffville Rd., Simsbury

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Our Picks Upscale Contemporary

Francesca’s Wine Bar & Bistro
Looking much like an actual sidewalk ristorante in Portofino, Francesca’s is decidedly charming, inside and out —the food a lovely indulgence both for the palate and the eyes. A Butler-family venture since June of 2017, this delightful little place in the heart of Collinsville (right near the bike trail!) is an ideal setting for Francesca’s uniquely innovative menu of Mediterranean and American cuisine, all creatively rendered by accomplished Chef Sean Butler, whose commitment to seasonal farm-to-table cooking and locally sourced ingredients from neighbors like Bristol Farms and the Canton Creamery further enhances authenticity. And the wine list is equally exceptional, with libations including a good selection of beers and mixed drinks. If you haven’t been, go. And if you haven’t been lately, go again. It’s fine dining in a delightfully casual atmosphere — and superbo.
105 Main St., Collinsville, 860-352-8157

Max-A-Mia is, by far, the Valley’s most consistent purveyor of up-market food and drink for those whose taste demands it — for those whose budget allows it. The sensibly trendy neo-Tuscan booths and the solid bluestone bar make many Valley professionals and their friends feel secure here. The lunches, including wonderful soups, salads, exceptionally fine fresh fish, and their signature bread served with fresh-roasted garlic are a welcome treat, too. And don’t rush. Have a cappuccino. It’s a lovely place to duck the late-afternoon frenzy at work and linger until necessity pulls you away.
70 E. Main St., Avon, 860-677-6299

Feng Asian Bistro
When Feng Asian Bistro debuted in downtown Hartford more than a decade ago, it was a hit. Now, its Canton location, featuring a full bar, a sushi bar flanked by two dining areas and a hibachi room with eight tables, has done the same — conquering the huge space at the front gate of The Shoppes at Farmington Valley by deftly combining the flavors of East and West without sacrificing authenticity. In fact, the menu is fusion genius, moving from a not-too-exotic sushi selection to a dim sum platter, pad Thai, and wild salmon with risotto in a lobster sake sauce. Don’t put off going.
110 Albany Tpke. (Rt. 44), The Shoppes at Farmington Valley, Canton

Abigail’s Grille & Wine Bar
Historic Pettibone Tavern, now Abigail’s, is undoubtedly the Valley’s most popular restaurant. And really, the reason is very simple: They give the people what they want, thanks to a variety of menus that offer excellent meat and fish standards, stone pies, kids plates, and raw-bar fare, as well as standouts like the pan-seared rack of lamb, blackened red fish, and wonderful Maine lobster pasta. They also have a Happy Hour on weeknights until 7 p.m., a reasonably priced seasonal three-course dinner, a no-nonsense express lunch, and a special tavern menu with small plates, burgers, hearty sandwiches, and salads. Oh, and they also have a ghost that refuses to leave. (Now, that’s the spirit!)
4 Hartford Rd., Rts. 185 and 202
Simsbury, 860-264-1580

Metro Bis
Located in the stately Simsbury 1820 House, one of the town center’s most charming buildings, Metro Bis is Simsbury’s gem — a top-rated, country-style French bistro where acclaimed Chef Chris Prosperi creates a superb menu, drawing from the latest culinary trends for foodie palates. And while the bill of fare changes daily to leverage both the freshest ingredients and Chef Prosperi’s inspired imagination, this culinary treasure never disappoints. Ever.
731 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury

Millwright’s Restaurant
Set in a beautifully restored late-17th century gristmill, Millwright’s window views of the waterfall and its downstairs tavern are worth the price of admission. Factor in Chef Tyler Anderson’s impressive credentials (including awards, trophies), his epic win on Food Network’s “Chopped” competition, and his remarkable ability to fashion simple, delicate creations from carefully selected, New England-sourced ingredients — and Millwright’s becomes one restaurant you do not want to miss.
77 West St., Simsbury

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Our Finds
These are some of the “off the beaten path” spots we enjoyed discovering — and a few old favorites we enjoyed rediscovering — this year. You will, too.

Lotus Grill
College students may not know everything. But they know food. Good food and affordable food. And the steady stream of undergrads flowing in and out of this modest little place on Route 4 is evidence that the food is both. The menu is rich with traditional Vietnamese cuisine and diverse, with a large selection of tasty appetizers and hearty Pho (or noodle) soups, and an equally generous selection of savory fish, beef, pork, and chicken entrees, all served with Jasmine rice. (They aren’t shy about characterizing their peanut sauce as the best you’ve ever had — probably because it is!) And they now have a new location in Burlington called the Lemon Grass Asian Grill, so if you haven’t tried either or both, you’re in for a treat.
979 Farmington Ave., Farmington

@ The Barn
And the hits just keep on coming for Jimmy Chen — owner of the always-popular Han Asian Cuisine right around the corner, whose newest venture, @ The Barn, has been drawing big crowds since shortly after it opened. Rustic on the outside, contemporary on the inside, @ The Barn is spacious and light, featuring booth or table seating, as well as a patio for warm-weather dining. The menu is upscale, well-executed, and beautifully presented. Top-grade steaks are the highlight, but they don’t overshadow a menu is that is widely varied and thoroughly enticing. (The Pork Tenderloin, with Luxardo cherry demi, duck fat fingerling potatoes, and green beans is especially tasty.) Their wine list, by the bottle or glass, is very extensive, and the bar has all the right stuff — including comfortable seating for casual meals. In fact, it’s all really top-notch and the cognoscenti know it.
17 E Granby Rd., Granby,

Mikado Asian Bistro
Formerly Rice Fields Restaurant, Mikado Asian Bistro has been totally renovated — and delightfully revived. Comfortably contemporary, with cozy booths, striking colors, and a full service bar that rounds out the welcoming atmosphere nicely, Mikado offers just the right atmosphere for their menu, which features a unique combination of the Japanese, Chinese, and Thai culinary traditions. The presentation of all the dishes is beautifully done, and they have all the usually hard-to-find items that discerning sushi fans are always happy to find. Don’t miss their Crispy Red Snapper with mixed veggies and Thai Basil Sauce. It’s lovely.
220 Albany Turnpike, Canton

Han Asian Cuisine
For a long time, Granby longed for a good restaurant. A place that offered more than run-of-the-mill breakfasts, sandwich and salad lunches, and pizza, pasta, or burgers for dinner. And that’s just what they got when Han Asian Cuisine opened its doors. Truth is, whether you dine in or take out, this little gem serves a nicely varied menu of Japanese, Chinese, and Thai cuisine, featuring no less than 27 different excellent entrees, including noodles and sushi, sashimi, rolls, and pan-Asian offerings, all exquisitely presented. And the bar is perfect for gathering and relaxing.
10 Hartford Ave., Granby,

Got a bad case of the ho-hums? Well, Cure may be the cure. Trendy, with the rustic urban look of high ceilings, high-top tables, and a great cherry bar, it’s comfortable, accommodating, and a lot of fun. The bartenders actually know their stuff, with recipes from NYC, of course. And the menu, whether lunch or dinner, offers its own delights, including a gourmet version of everyone’s favorite — Macaroni and Cheese — made with white truffle oil, house-made bacon, caramelized pearl onions, and scallions. Add your choice of chicken, steak, or lobster and it’s more than a meal. It’s one of their many remedies for those dreaded ho-hums.
55 Mill St., Unionville,

Dom’s Coffee
They say never judge a book by its cover — and this little place is proof. At home in an old fashioned residence along Rte. 44, its interior reveals a stunningly minimalist Euro-design interior that enhances the lovingly laced lattes, beautiful pastries from la Petite France, and delicious Lithuanian cheeses that Valley coffee connoisseurs have come to savor. So check it out. And feel free to linger with your computer or relax with a friend, depending on who or what you like better.
20 W Main St., Avon,

Avon Country Deli
Stop by this popular local deli on a Sunday morning, and you, too, will wonder how so many people found this little place, tucked in amongst the dozens of shops and restaurants at Riverdale Farms. But once you’ve found it, ordered your crepes or pancakes or Irish Eggs Benedict and taken that first bite, the answer is obvious: they serve wonderful breakfasts all day — every day. (The lunches rock, too.) And the coffee. Can coffee really taste this good? Truth is, this place is the place to dawdle over a second cup any day of the week. Go see for yourself.
136 Simsbury Rd., Avon,

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