As the holiday season approaches, Fairfield’s dining season heats up. Whether planning a romantic dinner for two or a festive gathering of family and friends, you can find a tasteful destination in town. Read on for a sampling of places that know how to set a delicious scene.
Tucked away in verdant Greenfield Hills, Bonda has the air of being an insider’s secret. It’s understandable that those in the know would want to protect “their” place, but what a shame for others to miss out on its charms. So, spread the word. Asked to describe it in three words, owner/Chef Jamie Cooper says: “Sophistication without pretense. Or fun, cozy, homey.”
Cooper, who owned Abbondanza, a gourmet food store and catering business, faces a unique situation now: “We’re so busy, particularly with holiday parties in our private dining room, that there’s no real time to do anything above and beyond what we already do.” His loyal patrons simply crave what they already have, such as Grilled Dorade with baby bok choy in a lemongrass, ginger and coconut broth and Coriander Crusted Chicken Laksa with blackened string beans.
Go here when you’re in the mood to escape to Brigadoon and indulge in fine dining.
75 Hillside Rd., Fairfield; bondarestaurant.com
Every child with a furrowed brow and pout is taught to share his or her beloved toys, yet how many grown-up fans of Liana’s keep it a secret? Part of its charm is finding it hidden away from the busier parts of town. Inside, it’s demure, quiet and friendly. Owner/Chef Liana DiMeglio and her staff will make you feel like lifelong friends and their only wish is to serve you their best Tagliatelle Con Sugo di Carne and Capesante alla Capri— real Italian cuisine for real-food lovers. Go here to get all caught up in the romance of the season. 591 Tunxis Hill Rd., Fairfield, 203-368-1235
Nestled inside a converted freight depot, Paci’s blink-and-you-miss-it location belies the fact that it has been lauded as one of the best Italian restaurants in the state. The twenty-one-year-old place just completed a beautiful remodeling, so it’s time to get reacquainted. The menu remains driven by seasonal ingredients and varies to make the most of what’s fresh; desserts and pastas are hand-crafted; and the Bolognese sauce is a gift to any pasta. Additionally, the Italian wine selection will impress connoisseurs. Go here to re-ignite an old flame. 96 Station St., Southport; pacirestaurant.com
HUB AND SPOKE
The new center of your social circle might be over the border at Hub + Spoke. Serving American tapas and craft beer, the friendly neighborhood restaurant is a natural fit for people who like to share. Perhaps seared ahi tuna, BBQ ribs, fresh burrata, shrimp and grits, Baja fish tacos? Go here to prove sharing-is-caring. 3001 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport; hubandspokect.com
CAN’T MISS LIST
Barcelona Wine Bar: Tapas + wine = good times. barcelonawinebar.com
Walrus + Carpenter: Craft beer, creative cocktails BBQ. walruscarpenterct.com
Brick + Wood: Inspired by Italian street food. lovelifeandpizza.com
“I love winter braises: pork, lamb, short ribs and such. I also love fondue and charcuterie with a delicious baguette, pickled vegetables, apples, roasted mushrooms, boiled potatoes and salad in front of a roaring fire on a cold night.”
Fairfield’s worst-kept secret is Artisan Restaurant at Delamar Southport. Off the beaten path and tucked within the hotel’s charming courtyard, the restaurant is a soothing retreat for frazzled nerves. The cocktail of mellow atmosphere, beautiful design and masterful cuisine will carry you away from the everyday. Indulge in the comforts of the dining area or retreat into the private dining room for special gatherings; in warmer seasons, try the clubby outdoor patio, especially at sunset. Hat tip to partners Executive Chef Frederic Kieffer, Charles Mallory and Rick Wahlstedt for creating a country-estate feel that attracts diners who appreciate the finer things in life.
With the executive chef hailing from France; director of operations, Hicham Ammaau, from Morocco; general manager, Nany Crespo, from Venezuela; chef de cuisine, David Aguirre, from Guatemala; and pastry chef, Reka Csernus, from Hungary, diners can savor international influences that harmonize with every bite. Expect a tasty bounty this fall. “You will see more comfort food with concentrations of flavors: fall spice braised lamb shank, Artisan pot roast paired with tasteful root vegetables, rutabaga, kohlrabi, parsnips, and quince among them,” says Kieffer.
Head here when you’re in the mood to relax with your well-traveled, well-educated, well-fed friends.
275 Old Post Rd., Southport; artisansouthport.com
In an area awash with quality seafood, Toto (formerly Osianna) manages to stand out from the crowd with its well-crafted Mediterranean specialties from the sea. Try the Crackling Calamari Salad, with a miso and spicy lime dressing atop a bed of romaine and frisee and crispy calamari. If you don’t have a taste for fish, there are plenty of options, ranging from pork scallopini to gnocchi with meat sauce, as well as a selection of small plates. Go here to make a splash with the in-laws. 70 Reef Rd., Fairfield, 203-254-2070
With all the makings of a French bistro, Martel will quickly have you imagining that you’re spending the evening in the City of Light. Consider beginning your culinary expedition with escargot or Coquilles St. Jacques, baked scallops in a white wine and mushroom sauce and topped with Gruyere. Then move on to the Duck Confit or the Lobster Risotto with red curry and edamame. Finish your meal with classic beignets, or the pots de crème trio. Go here to pat your belly and shake hands with new friends. (No reservations, except on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.) 2316 Post Rd., Fairfield.; martelrestaurant .com
U.S.D.A.-certified prime beef. Usually that’s all anyone needs to hear when picking a steakhouse, but here you’ll be all ears for specifics, such as: Cowboy Ribeye, Twenty-One-Day Dry-Aged New York Strip, Porterhouse. Try this: Steak au Poivre—filet mignon crusted with crushed black pepper and topped with a cognac cream sauce, served with mashed potatoes and asparagus. You’re likely to find yourself open to such appealing sides as creamed spinach, scalloped potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and hand-cut French fries. Go here to treat your parents to a special dinner out. 238 Post Rd., Fairfield; michaelgennaros.com
CAN’T MISS LIST
Café Madeline: A quaint French bistro with good menu choices; stay for dessert. 203-259-5800
Centro: Twenty-seven years of Italian comfort food, served in a cozy spot downtown. centroristorante.com
The Gray Goose: A popular New England tavern/English pub with standard favorites and creative, healthy options. thegraygoosecafe.com
Old Post Tavern: An American gastropub that will please today’s foodies with traditions with a twist. oldposttavern.com
“For Thanksgiving, we have an all-day prix fixe dinner. In December, we celebrate with a Scandinavian-inspired smorgasbord paired with Aquavit, then Christmas dinner specials with roasted goose, baked ham, candy cane cheesecake and everything in between. New Year’s Eve is always very special, combining great food, Champagne and a live band, which is the best way to end the year.”
Steak and seafood lovers, rejoice. Blackstones has settled into Southport. With bright red walls and black accents, its chic dining area is staged for drama that will have you snapping out your white linen napkin like a matador. With lobster, crab, oysters and scallops, the only produce you’ll need are lemon wedges (though the salad menu is appealing). As for tenderloin medallions and the porterhouse, the seconds you’ll think of first are a sharp knife and good wine.
Blackstones is owned by Edin “Eddie” Ahmetaj and Alij Ahmetaj. With decades of experience, Blackstones Steakhouse Group prides itself on impeccable service, ambiance and crowd-pleasing food, like fresh seafood, a raw bar, juicy cuts of dry-aged steak. Large party? Use the private dining space.
Head here when you’re in the mood to eat like
a paleo devotee dining with Dionysus.
2600 Post Rd., Southport (also Norwalk and Greenwich); blackstonessteakhouse.com
Turn up the heat at Geronimo, one of the hottest spots in town. Authentic Southwest flavors like Navajo frybread and Buffalo Chile combine with well-loved meals likes tacos and quesadillas for a crowd-pleasing menu. As always, start your night with guacamole for the table, and be sure to try a few cool options from the extensive and creative drinks menu, from the classic margarita to several oak-aged tequilas. Save room for dessert, even if you’re sharing yours with the table. Go here to let loose and have some fun. 2070 Post Rd., Fairfield (also in New Haven); geronimobarandgrill.com
Although Craft 260 isn’t in the center of town, an extensive drinks menu and delicious takes on American classics make it a hot spot for hanging out and having a good time. The beer-soaked, flash-fried Brussel sprouts with goat cheese and bourbon ketchup starter will win you over. Then sink your teeth into the Craft 260 burger, which has all the standards of a great burger taken to the next level of flavor. And don’t miss the thin cut, perfectly crisp fries. Beer aficionados will swoon over the fifty-plus beers available, and the whiskey menu includes a wide selection of bourbon, rye and Scotch. Go here to have your old favorites, with a new twist. 260 Post Rd., Fairfield; craft260.com
MECHA NOODLE BAR
While slurping is appreciated at this traditional noodle bar, it would be a mistake to think it’s lax on manners. If anything, it’s the opposite, because it respects the cultural norms of Vietnamese pho, Japanese ramen and all the irresistible flavors of southeast Asian street food. Slurping noodles implies you’re enjoying your food. And, please, don’t take it to go; fresh noodles are best eaten right away. The ultimate comfort food, noodles are as belly-filling as they are tasty. Consider Pho Tai with slices of beef, broth, cilantro, rice noodles, scallions and onions. Add steamed boas, like Korean fried chicken, gochujang, pickled daikon-carrots and kewpie. The sake, beer and bubble tea play their part, too. Go here to escape far, far away from the everyday, but get up for work the next day. 1215 Post Rd., The Brickwalk, Fairfield (also South Norwalk and New Haven); mechanoodlebar.com
CAN’T MISS LIST
The Chelsea: Popular and fun place, located in the heart of downtown, has imaginative, fresh and really tasty dishes. thechelseaff.com
55 Wine Bar & Wood Grille: Mediterranean dishes with just about any wine you could want. 55winebar.com
Flipside Burgers & Bar: Lunch, Happy Hour or dinner, this hoppin’ place is made for fun. flipsiderestaurant.com
Quattro Pazzi: Watch the downtown street scene with your order of contemporary Italian food. quattropazzi.com
Wild Rice: Lots of sushi, Asian favorites and good-time vibes. wildriceffd.com
“For the upcoming holidays we create signature craft cocktails designed for the season and with the latest trends. We will be offering cider Bellinis and pumpkin beers, along with specialty bourbon drinks for the fall and peppermint martinis for the holidays.”