It’s back and better than ever! To create this year’s “Best of Connecticut”® list we debuted a new, souped-up reader survey, and we were blown away by your response! Here now are the winners — and the finalists from which they were chosen — in over 125 categories of food, fun and shopping. It’s our biggest list ever of the best the state has to offer — and we couldn’t have done it without YOU!

Also see the winners and finalists for the Best of Connecticut 2020 in Fun & Leisure and Shopping, and check out our writers’ picks for “More Stuff We Love”

Finalists were nominated by readers and selected by Connecticut Magazine staff (* designates staff picks). The winners were selected from the finalists by our readers. More about the process here.

CHICKEN WINGS

J. Timothy’s, Plainville



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Best Chicken Wings: J Timothy’s in Plainville




Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird walked into the locker room at All-Star Weekend in Chicago in 1988 before the 3-point contest and asked, “Who’s coming in second?” That’s J. Tim’s in the Best of Connecticut chicken wing category. Their big, meaty wings served dirt style (fried and sauced, fried and sauced again) are the standard-bearer in the state. 860-747-6813, jtimothys.com

Chicken Wings finalists: Archie Moore’s, multiple locations • The Blind Rhino, Norwalk • Dew Drop Inn, Derby • Hot Rod Cafe, New London* • Sliders Grill & Bar, multiple locations 

BURGERS

Harry’s Place, Colchester

Harry Schmuckler opened Harry’s Place back in 1920. One hundred years, a few locations and some ownership changes later, it’s being celebrated as having the best burger in the state, further cementing its reputation as a Colchester institution. Harry’s is open March through October, so get there soon before it closes up shop for the winter. The menu is large, with hot dogs, sandwiches and fried platters, but if you’re a first-timer, go for the 8-ounce stacker and see what the fuss is about. 860-537-2410, harrysplaceburgers.com

Burgers finalists: B Restaurants, multiple locations • Get Stuffed food truck, New Haven area • GoldBurgers, Newington* • Haywire Burger Bar, Westbrook* • Heibeck’s Stand, Wilton • Prime 16, New Haven and Orange* • The Pub on Howe, Shelton 

HOT DOGS

Frankies Hot Dogs, multiple locations

During the power outages produced by August’s tropical storm, Frankies put out a message on social media apologizing for long wait times, explaining that “volume was twice what it typically is due to the storm.” Clearly, people were hungry for hot dogs. That demand has been around for more than 80 years, ever since Frankies’ signature foot-longs were born in Waterbury. Today, seven locations serve up dogs with endless toppings, as well as burgers, chicken and seafood. Brookfield, Naugatuck, Waterbury, Plainville and West Haven, frankieshotdogs.com

Hot Dogs finalists: Blackie’s, Cheshire • Cricket Car Hop, Stratford • Dogtown, Milford • Heibeck’s Stand, Wilton • Mr. Mac’s Canteen, Monroe and Milford • Super Duper Weenie, Fairfield 

TACOS

Bartaco, Stamford, West Hartford and Westport

Plenty of restaurants cook up a little something, slap it on a tortilla and call it a taco. But Bartaco is next level. The options run the gamut from sesame ribeye and glazed pork belly to baja fish and tuna tatako to falafel and cauliflower. You also have the choice of foregoing the 4-inch corn tortilla for a bibb lettuce shell. If you need a little something on the side, the street corn is off the hook. bartaco.com

Tacos finalists: El Camion, Woodbury* • La Patrona food truck, Long Wharf, New Haven* • Los Garcia Mexican Fusion, Waterbury* • Lucky Taco Cantina and Tap Room, Manchester* • Sayulita, South Glastonbury 

BURRITOS

Puerto Vallarta, multiple locations

In this time when armchair travel is about the only option, you can take a little taste trip to Mexico via Puerto Vallarta. Yes, the burritos are large, tasty and filled with fresh ingredients, but the restaurants, which are family owned, also feature a plethora of made-from-scratch Mexican treats, starting with their handmade chips and salsa. Top if off with a scratch margarita and you’ve got a winning combination. Newington, Avon, Southington, Danbury, Middletown, Orange and Fairfield, puertovallartausa.com

Burritos finalists: Cuckoo’s Nest, Old Saybrook* • Baja’s, Orange* • Loco Perro, East Hampton* • Broken Symmetry, Bethel* • Los Garcia Mexican Fusion, Waterbury* • MexiPHO, Glastonbury* 

SOUP

Mystic Soup Co., Mystic 

Fresh ingredients are key at this welcoming and casual spot, and many items are gluten free and vegetarian. Interested in trying something different? Then this is your kind of eatery. How about a pineapple, red lentil and shrimp soup? If you’re in the mood for something more robust, try the roasted cauliflower, parsnip and lemon. Alongside a lively soup selection you’ll find a full salad bar and creative panini menu. 860-245-0382, mysticsoupcompany.com

Soup finalists: Bobette’s, Milford • Flanders Fish Market, East Lyme • Gigante’s Too Cafe & Deli, Wallingford* • The Soup Girl, Hamden • Soup Thyme, Monroe

NACHOS



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Best Nachos: Archie Moore’s, multiple locations




Archie Moore’s, multiple locations

Quality meets quantity at Archie’s, where the nachos are piled high and wide. There are a few different options but you can’t go wrong with the buffalo nachos, topped with grilled chicken marinated in Archie’s killer wing sauce and cheddar-jack cheese and served with salsa, sour cream and blue cheese. But the best of the bunch might just be the pulled pork nachos with onions and jalapeños. New Haven, Fairfield, Milford and Wallingford, archiemoores.com

Nachos finalists: Cuckoo’s Nest, Old Saybrook • Geronimo, Fairfield and New Haven* • Tavern on Point, Milford • Willimantic Brewing Co., Willimantic* • Wood-n-Tap, multiple locations* 

PIZZA

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, New Haven and other locations



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Best Pizza: Frank Pepe Pizzeria NapoletanaNew Haven and other locations




Of all the Best of Connecticut winners, none are more nationally known than Pepe’s. The original location on Wooster Street in New Haven’s Little Italy opened in 1925 but only recently have other spots sprung up throughout Connecticut and in our three neighboring states. The original tomato pie is simple but sublime and the white clam pizza has been heralded as the best in the country. New Haven, Danbury, Fairfield, Manchester, Mohegan Sun, Waterbury and West Hartford, pepespizzeria.com

Pizza finalists: Colony Grill, Stamford, Norwalk, Fairfield and Milford • Modern Apizza, New Haven • Mondo, Middletown • Otto, Chester* • Papa’s Pizza, Milford • Roseland Apizza, Derby* • Sally’s Apizza, New Haven • Vero Cucino Rustico, Middletown • Zuppardi’s Apizza, West Haven 

Connecticut Magazine‘s 2021 Best Restaurants Readers Choice survey is now open! Vote for your favorite restaurants in dozens of categories.

PANCAKES

Chip’s Family Restaurant, multiple locations

Chip’s has a vast menu of breakfast items served all day, and the star of the show is the pancakes. Light and fluffy, these beauties are perfectly fine with a little butter and syrup, but some of the concoctions Chip’s has come up with blur the line between breakfast and dessert. The German apple (cinnamon, powdered sugar, raspberry purée sauce) and cinnabun (cinnamon brown sugar rub, powdered sugar glaze) are outrageously delectable. Want something more savory? The buffalo chicken pancakes with cheddar should do the trick. Orange, Fairfield, Wethersfield, Southbury and Southington, chipsrestaurants.com

Pancakes finalists: Cristy’s, Westbrook and Madison • Eggs Up Restaurant, Portland* • King’s Breakfast & Lunch, Newtown • Laurel Diner, Southbury* • Quaker Diner, West Hartford* • Rise, Mystic*

BREAKFAST SANDWICHES 

The Villager, Chester

Put your diet aside and indulge in one of the many creative breakfast sandwiches that the Villager is dreaming up. You can expect to see names like The Monkey Grip (pulled pork hash, onions, cheddar and spinach) as well as other favorites such as the Unschmear (arugula, herbed cream cheese, egg and bacon on a toasted asiago bagel). A limited menu allows for daily specials with fresh local ingredients. There’s a breakfast sandwich for everyone here. 860-322-3114, thevillagerchester.com

Breakfast Sandwiches finalists: Arethusa a mano, Bantam* • Billy D’s Full Belly Deli, Shelton • Bleu Squid, Mystic* • Goldberg’s, West Hartford* • Mike’s Italian Deli & Grill, Milford • Mr. Mac’s Canteen, Monroe and Milford • SoNo Baking Co., Norwalk* • The Tasty Yolk, Bridgeport and Fairfield 

FALAFEL

Mamoun’s Falafel, New Haven

The original opened in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1971, and a few years later the brand expanded to New Haven. The rest is history. Like its NYC counterpart, New Haven’s Mamoun’s gathered a cult following of late-night revelers, Middle Eastern food enthusiasts and anyone who wanted a great — and very reasonably priced — falafel sandwich. 203-562-8444, mamouns.com/locations/new-haven-ct

Falafel finalists: Layla’s Falafel, Fairfield, Westport, Stamford and Trumbull • Lazizah Bakery, Norwich* • Lebanese Cuisine, Bethel* • Noujaim’s Bistro, Winsted* • Olive Tree, Milford • Tangiers International Market, Hartford 

FOOD TRUCK

The Whey Station, Middletown

One bite into a Big Sal — five-cheese blend, prosciutto, roasted red peppers and housemade garlic aioli — and you’ll know this isn’t the grilled cheese your mom used to make. Like it spicy? Another creative grilled cheese called the Nola features andouille sausage, pickled jalapeños and a creamy chipotle sauce. Together, husband-and-wife team Josh and Jillian Moskites have been utilizing their culinary talents to make gooey greatness since 2011. 860-342-8737, wheystation.com

Food Truck finalists: Craftbird Food Truck, Hartford County* • Get Stuffed food truck, New Haven area • The Green Grunion, Danbury* • La Patrona food truck, Long Wharf, New Haven* • Mercado, Glastonbury* • Munchies Food Truck, New London* • The Tasty Yolk, Bridgeport and Fairfield 

NOODLE HOUSE

Mecha Noodle Bar, multiple locations

Whether your noodle-broth preferences run to pho or ramen, this Connecticut chain has your slurping needs covered. Inspired by the cross-cultural noodle influences of New York City powerhouse Momofuku, all Mecha Noodle Bars have a sleek, fun vibe and we almost always stop in when we’re nearby. Fairfield, Norwalk, New Haven and Stamford, mechanoodlebar.com

Noodle House finalists: Kawa Ni, Westport* • Pho 501, East Hartford* • Saigon City, Old Saybrook • Sprouts Vietnamese Cuisine, Bethel* • Thai BowL, Watertown* • Tiger Belly Noodle Bar, Granby* 



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Best Seafood Shack and Best Clam Chowder: Bill’s Seafood in Westbrook




BEST SEAFOOD SHACK & BEST CLAM CHOWDER

Bill’s Seafood, Westbrook

Half the fun of getting to Bill’s Seafood in Westbrook is driving over the iconic singing bridge on the Post Road over the Patchogue River. Enjoy a New England or Rhode Island (clear broth) chowder as you watch little boats come and go from the small marina nearby. Here, the views and seafood are always fresh. Don’t forget to grab a cold treat from the Ice Cream Shack before you leave. 860-399-7224, billsseafood.com

Seafood Shack finalists: Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank • Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock, New London • Flanders Fish Market, East Lyme • Ford’s Lobster, Noank • Lobster Landing, Clinton* • The Place, Guilford • Stowe’s, West Haven 

Clam Chowder finalists: Clam Castle, Madison* • Flanders Fish Market, East Lyme • Get Stuffed food truck, New Haven area • The Log Cabin, Clinton • Oyster Club, Mystic*

LOBSTER ROLLS

Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, Westbrook, Madison and New Haven

It’s not summer in New England without lobster rolls and it’s hard to find a better one than at Lenny & Joe’s three locations. Some people swear by the cold version with mayonnaise, but the signature seafood roll here is the hot version served on a buttered roll with a quarter-pound of meat enhanced with clarified butter and lemon. Tastes like summer! ljfishtale.com

Lobster Rolls finalists: Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank • Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock, New London* • Get Stuffed food truck, New Haven area • Heibeck’s Stand, Wilton • Lobster Landing, Clinton • LobsterCraft, Fairfield • Seven Seas, Milford 

SUSHI

Miya’s Sushi, New Haven

Miya’s chef Bun Lai has been redefining sushi in particular and dining in general since joining the restaurant started by his mother in the 1980s. Simply put, Miya’s is a place to expect the unexpected. Dedicated to using sustainable, local and organic foods whenever and wherever possible, Lai has created a menu of culinary wonders, from nine-spice invasive Asian carp sashimi to his signature sakes. Miya’s is closing at the end of 2020, though, so don’t wait to make your visit(s). 203-777-9760, miyassushi.com

Sushi finalists: Feng Chophouse, Hartford* • Ginza, Bloomfield • Ki Asian Bistro, Danbury* • Mahzu, Norwich* • OKO, Westport* • Sushi Palace, Hamden • Sushi Red, Plainville* 

BEST BEER BAR & BEST OUTDOOR BAR

Eli Cannons Tap Room, Middletown

In addition to its always incredible beer list and punk-rock vibe, Eli Cannons has a sprawling outdoor space in the back called “the beach.” It’s a laid-back, roomy beer garden with brightly colored Adirondack chairs, hanging lights, surfboards and a vibe that is pure summer. Some excellent American cuisine and that aforementioned beer list complete the equation. 860-347-3547, elicannons.com

Beer Bar finalists: The Beer Collective, New Haven* • The Blind Rhino, Norwalk • Cask Republic, New Haven, Norwalk and Stamford* • Elicit Brewing Co., Manchester • The Hops Co., Derby • MiKro, Hamden • The Pub on Howe, Shelton • Willimantic Brewing Co., Willimantic 

Outdoor Bar finalists: Cuckoo’s Nest, Old Saybrook • The Hops Co., Derby • Red 36, Mystic • Shell & Bones Oyster Bar and Grill, New Haven • Stonebridge Restaurant, Milford

IRISH PUB

The Inishmor, Colchester



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Best Irish Pub: The Inishmore in Colchester




It doesn’t have to be St. Patrick’s day for The Inishmor to entice us with a cold brew, an authentic corned beef supper and a warm atmosphere. The menu focuses heavily on farm-to-table ingredients. But what’s the best-kept secret? A recipe for shepherd’s pie that comes directly from Ireland, according to owner Alex Levere. 860-603-2369, facebook.com/Inishmorpub

Irish Pub finalists: The Harp and Hound, Mystic* • Maple Cafe, Hartford* • O’Neill’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, Norwalk • The Playwright Irish Pub, Hamden • Tommy Sullivan’s Cafe, Branford • The Trinity Bar, New Haven* • Vaughan’s Irish Public House, Hartford 

BEER

Two Juicy Unfiltered Double IPA, Two Roads Brewing Co., Stratford

Two Juicy is a repeat winner from a brewery that holds the same distinction. It’s cloudy in appearance, hence “unfiltered,” but the supreme taste is clear as day. The New England-style IPAs and their high ABVs have been trendy for a few years now, but some trends can become the standard. Two Roads says this DIPA has notes of grapefruit, pine, lychee, orange and tangerine. We’ll just say it’s the best. 203-335-2010, tworoadsbrewing.com

Beer finalists: Buddy Sprinkles Saves the Day IPA (Kent Falls Brewing Co., Kent)* • Burst IPA (Fox Farm Brewery, Salem)* • Headway IPA (Counter Weight Brewing Co., Hamden)* • Ice Cream Man IPA (Back East Brewing Co., Bloomfield)* • #NoFilter IPA (Thomas Hooker Brewing Co., Bloomfield)* • Pond Point Lager (Milford Point Brewing, Milford) • Sea Hag IPA (New England Brewing Co., Woodbridge) • Seedless Sour (Tribus Beer Co., Milford) 

BREWERY TO VISIT

Two Roads Brewing Co., Stratford

The state’s largest brewery continues to impress with its diverse lineup of beers and showstopping visitor experience. In 2019 the brewery opened a second brewing facility called Area Two that is across the parking lot from the original Two Roads and specializes in sour and barrel-aged beers. Both brewing “areas” have ample indoor and outdoor seating and together they form a brewing campus that is a must-visit for any state beer fan. 203-335-2010, tworoadsbrewing.com

Brewery to Visit finalists: Counter Weight Brewing Co., Hamden* • Fat Orange Cat, East Hampton • Fox Farm Brewery, Salem • Kent Falls Brewing Co., Kent* • Milford Point Brewing, Milford • Stony Creek Brewery, Branford • Tribus Beer Co., Milford 

DIVE BAR

The Monkey Farm Cafe, Old Saybrook

For over 50 years, “Old Saybrook’s favorite hangout” has been capturing the hearts of locals and beachgoers alike with its unique history and ever-evolving menu. Seafood is fresh daily, and you can’t go wrong with a classic lobster roll or baked stuffed shrimp. Indoor and outdoor dining creates a family-friendly atmosphere in one of Connecticut’s classic coastal communities. 860-388-4866, themonkeyfarmcafe .com

Dive Bar finalists: Dew Drop Inn, Derby • Liberty Rock Tavern, Milford • Randall’s by the Swamp, West Haven • Seven Seas, Milford • Three Sheets, New Haven • White Dog Cafe, Portland 

SPORTS BAR

Sliders, multiple locations

The original Sliders opened in Plainville in 1993 and now there are six locations in four different counties. Always in the conversation for best wings in the state, and with more TVs than a Best Buy, sports fans flock to Sliders from spring training through the Super Bowl. In addition to the menu being a bar-food bonanza, the beer list is an all-star lineup of craft favorites and old standbys. Berlin, Plainville, Middletown, Southington, Torrington and Wallingford, slidersgrillbar.com

Sports Bar finalists: The Blind Rhino, Norwalk • Bobby V’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, Stamford and Windsor Locks • Chicago Sam’s, Cromwell and Enfield • Gipper’s Restaurant & Ale House, Milford • Matty’s Next Door Sports Bar, Middletown* 

ROOFTOP BAR 

Rooftop 120, Glastonbury

Dining al fresco as the sun sets is one of the most rewarding ways to end a hot summer day. There might not be a better place in Connecticut to do it than at Rooftop 120, which features the largest four-season rooftop deck in the state. The setup allows you to transition effortlessly from fine dining — a “cleverly curated” menu boasts a variety of shareable small plates — to a trendy nightlife scene. 860-430-9989, rooftop120.com

Rooftop Bar finalists: Cava Restaurant, Southington* • Ecco Rooftop at La Zingara, Bethel* • The Elbow Room, West Hartford • Elm City Social, New Haven* • Evarito’s, Norwalk* • High George at The Blake Hotel, New Haven 

Connecticut Magazine‘s 2021 Best Restaurants Readers Choice survey is now open! Vote for your favorite restaurants in dozens of categories.

HARD CIDER

New England Cider Company, Wallingford



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Best Hard Cider: New England Cider Company




Owners Miguel Galarraga and Seth Hart started making hard cider in their backyard in 2009 and founded their company in 2013. Fresh Blend is the flagship cider and always on draft and there are more than 20 other varieties that rotate in and out of the lineup. Purple Rain is a delicious blueberry-ginger blend and their hopped cider bridges the gap between the beer lover and cider connoisseur. The company began distributing throughout the state in March. 203-793-7646, newenglandcider.com

Hard Cider finalists: B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill, Mystic • The Cidery at Averill Farm, Washington* • Spoke + Spy Ciderworks, Middletown • Stafford Cidery, Stafford Springs • Yankee Cider Co., East Haddam*

DISTILLERY

Litchfield Distillery, Litchfield

When COVID-19 first entered the state in March, Litchfield Distillery switched much of its production over to producing hand sanitizer that was donated to organizations in need of it. That’s one great reason to seek out products from this distillery; another reason is its spirits. From sought-after bourbon to smooth vodka and ready-to-drink cocktails sold in cans, Litchfield offers something for every drinking preference. The tours offered at the distillery are also not to be missed. 860-361-6503, litchfielddistillery.com

Distillery finalists: Continuum Distilling, Waterbury* • Full Moonshine, Canton* • Hartford Flavor Co., Hartford • Mine Hill Distillery, Roxbury* • SoNo 1420 American Craft Distillers, Norwalk* • Westford Hill Distillers, Ashford* 

COCKTAILS

Elm City Social, New Haven

This Elm City bar has offerings that range from classic cocktail creations such as the Sazerac and Irish coffee to unique libations like the rubber ducky (gin infused with hops, grapefruit, basil lemon and champagne). They are all served in a sleek bar with a modern speakeasy feel. 475-441-7436, elmcitysocial.com

Cocktails finalists: 116 Crown, New Haven* • Conspiracy, Middletown • Little River Restoratives, Hartford* • Marlborough Tavern, Marlborough • Ordinary, New Haven* 

WINE

Jones Winery Woodlands White, Jones Winery, Shelton

Woodlands White is the original wine produced and sold at Jones dating back to 2004. It took home a gold medal at last year’s Big E Wine Competition and was also named best grape wine and best Connecticut wine. A blend of Cayuga white, Vidal blanc and Seyval blanc grapes, it is cold-fermented in stainless steel for seven to nine months. Woodlands White is crisp, slightly sweet on the finish and perfect for fans of riesling. 203-929-8425, jonesfamilyfarms.com/winery

Wine finalists: Cassidy Hill Vineyard Heritage (red)* • Hopkins Vineyard Estate Bottled Ice Wine* • Priam Vineyards Riesling* • Rose Vineyards Petite Petit (red)* • Sharpe Hill Vineyard Fleur Rouge* • White Silo Winery Rhubarb (dry)* 

WINERY TO VISIT

Gouveia Vineyards, Wallingford

Budding sommeliers, weekend sippers, those simply inspired by a recent viewing of Sideways, there’s something for everyone at Gouveia. There’s a wide selection of bottles and glasses — we recommend the Chocolate Epiphany Reserve — and the sunset will leave you swooning. Bring a picnic to the sprawling, recently expanded patio or warm up inside by the fireplace during the colder months. 203-265-5526, gouveiavineyards.com

Winery To Visit finalists: Chamard Vineyards, Clinton • Jonathan Edwards Winery, North Stonington • Jones Winery, Shelton • Taylor Brooke Winery, Woodstock • White Silo Farm & Winery, Sherman 

WINE BAR

Barcelona Wine Bar

Multiple locations

Built to share with your date or the whole gang, tapas-style plates at Barcelona Wine Bar are inspired by founder Sasa Mahr-Batuz’s time in Spain and Portugal. Think simple but robust dishes flavored with olive oil, lemon and smoky paprika. And to live up to its name, the restaurant offers a list of wines by the glass from around the globe, especially those hailing from lesser-known regions of Spain and Portugal. Fairfield, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford, and West Hartford, barcelonawinebar.com

Wine Bar finalists: Ballou’s Restaurant & Wine Bar, Guilford • The Griswold Inn, Essex • M/Bar, Mystic • Nouveau Monde Wine Bar + Bistro, Newtown* • Sarah’s Wine Bar at Bernard’s, Ridgefield • Station House, Stratford 

LOCAL WINE SHOP

Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits, Danbury, Newington and Norwalk

Shopping for spirits at Stew’s Wines is as fun as a visit to the vineyard, with a tasting table and an array of wines by the region. You’ll find varietals from family-owned vineyards around the world as well as big-name makers. The store also stocks a vast array of craft beers and spirits at bottom-of-the-barrel prices. stewswines.com

Local Wine Shop finalists: Ancona’s Wines & Liquors, Ridgefield and Wilton • Country Roads Wine & Spirits, Marlborough • The Crushed Grape, Milford • Harry’s Wine & Liquor Market, Fairfield • The Wine Thief, New Haven • Wines and More, Milford 

BUTCHER SHOP 

Ferraro’s Market, New Haven

Now more than ever, people are choosing to stay in for a home-cooked meal. This old-school market and its specialty Madison shop, The Meat King, have all the ingredients you’ll need to become a home chef. You can expect to find boneless New York strip, Italian sausage, lamb, turkey, veal and countless more cuts. Shop the market online or visit a variety of shoreline stores that stock their products. Local pickup and delivery is available. ferraromarket.com, themeatking.com

Butcher Shop finalists: Fleishers Craft Butchery, Greenwich and Westport* • Grass & Bone, Mystic* • Liscio’s Meatland, Bridgeport • The Lucky Goat Butcher Shop, East Hampton • Salem Prime Cuts, Salem • Walt’s Food Market, Old Saybrook 

FISH MARKET

City Fish, Wethersfield

Dedicated to the freshest of fresh, this family-owned business has refrigerated trucks that travel to fishing hubs like New Bedford and Gloucester, Massachusetts, to make sure their seafood is the quality they want. The seafood oasis includes a retail market with everything from squid to shark. The restaurant’s catch is just as loaded, with fish and chips and killer lobster rolls (hot or cold, you pick), as well as fried squid and more. 860-522-3129, cfishct.com

Fish Market finalists: Atlantic Seafood, Old Saybrook • Bud’s Fish Market, Branford • Fjord Fish Market, Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan and Westport* • Flanders Fish Market, East Lyme • Star Fish Market, Guilford • Uberti’s Fish Market, Stratford 

HEALTH FOOD STORE 

It’s Only Natural Market, Middletown

We know it can be hard to find specific organic ingredients when big-box grocers seem to be on every corner. In Middletown, It’s Only Natural is making that quest a little bit easier. The market specializes in fresh, local, organic foods and wellness products that can be hard to come by elsewhere. For more than 35 years the Sataline family has owned and operated this Middletown staple. For unique recipes and wellness tips, visit their Facebook page or stop by the store. 860-346-1786, facebook.com/ItsOnlyNaturalMarket

Health Food Store finalists: The Common Bond Market, Shelton • Edge of the Woods Natural Market, New Haven • Fiddleheads Food Co-op, New London • FoodWorks Natural Market, Old Saybrook • Nature’s Way Health Foods, Stratford • New Morning Market, Woodbury* • Thyme & Season, Hamden • Willimantic Food Co-op, Willimantic* 

CATERER

The Original Vazzy’s, Bridgeport

While there are several Vazzy’s locations across the Nutmeg State, nothing beats The Original. Here, the restaurant specializes in old-school Italian classics: penne vodka, stuffed shells, eggplant parm, sausage and peppers, chicken marsala — you name it. Host a team sports event or family celebration at the Bridgeport location or let the delicious goodness come to you. 203-371-8046, theoriginalvazzys.com

Caterer finalists: Cinch, Fairfield • Cloud Nine Catering, Old Saybrook • Fitzgerald’s Foods, Simsbury • Flanders Fish Market, East Lyme • La Cuisine, Branford* • Sarah Bouissou Catering, Ridgefield*

FARM STAND 

Bishop’s Orchards, Guilford

Founded in 1871 by Walter Goodrich Bishop as a vegetable and dairy farm, it soon expanded to become a commercial apple orchard. Today it is also a winery and bakery — known for its apple pies — and has a well-stocked and ever-popular farm stand. Nearly 150 years since its founding, the Bishop family still operates the farm and continues to share the produce of the local land. 203-453-2338, bishopsorchards.com

Farm Stand finalists: Cold Springs Farm, Colchester* • Killam & Bassette Farmstead, South Glastonbury • Robert Treat Farm, Milford • Rosedale Farms & Vineyards, Simsbury • Scotts’ Farms, Essex • Stone Gardens Farm, Shelton 

CHEESE SHOP

Cato Corner Farm, Colchester



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Best Cheese Shop: Cato Corner Farm, Colchester




Whether you like your cheese creamy or with some bite, Cato Corner Farm has plenty of choices. Renowned for its cheeses made by hand from raw milk on its farm, Cato has a herd of free-range grazing cows, and its cheeses ripen to peak flavor in an underground cave. Among award-winning favorites are Dairyere, similar to a Gruyère, or Womanchego style, aged several months, that is reminiscent of a young Manchego. 860-537-3884, catocornerfarm.com

Cheese Shop finalists: 109 Cheese & Wine, Ridgefield and Kent • The Cheese Shop of Centerbrook • Fairfield and Greenwich Cheese Co., Fairfield and Greenwich • Fromage Fine Foods & Coffees, Old Saybrook • Liuzzi Gourmet Food Market, North Haven • Madison Cheese, Madison • Mystic Cheese Co., Groton* • Spread Cheese Co., Middletown 

DINER

O’Rourke’s Diner, Middletown

Housed in a classic diner car at the edge of Middletown’s downtown, O’Rourke’s has been serving amazing breakfast and lunch items since 1941. The place is so beloved that after a fire decimated it in 2006, the community pitched in to help reopen it the following year. We’re glad they did. 860-346-6101, orourkesmiddletown.com

Diner finalists: Bridgeport Flyer Diner, Milford • Georgie’s Diner, West Haven • Laurel Diner, Southbury • Quaker Diner, West Hartford* • Sandy Hook Diner, Sandy Hook* 

DELI

Rein’s Deli, Vernon

The best part of driving along Route 84 in the Hartford area? Rein’s Deli. The iconic New York-style Jewish deli started in 1972 when Bob and Helen Rein, along with his brother Bernie, were on a quest to bring a decent (read New York-style) corned beef sandwich to Connecticut. Today, the expansive menu features everything from homemade soups and hand-cut lox on cream cheese-laden bagels to knishes, blintzes and handmade cheesecake from New York. And that’s just a very partial list. If you’re a chopped-liver fan, go here. Full stop. 860-875-1344, reinsdeli.com

Deli finalists: Gaetano’s Deli, multiple locations • Katz’s Deli, Woodbridge* • Mike’s Italian Deli & Grill, Milford • Nardelli’s, multiple locations* • Sorrento Importing, Fairfield • Vinny’s Deli, Wallingford* 

COFFEEHOUSE

Perkatory Coffee Roasters, Middletown and Southington

Perkatory’s sprawling Middletown space has the converted-factory, exposed brick-lit-by-Edison-bulb feel of many breweries. That feel has been recreated, albeit on a smaller scale, at its second location, which opened earlier this year in Southington. Both locations serve the same high-quality, house-roasted coffee brews that have made the brand a favorite statewide. perkatoryroasters.com

Coffeehouse finalists: The Coffee Pedaler, New Haven* • Common Grounds, Branford, Hamden and Shelton • Giv Coffee, Canton* • Molten Java, Bethel • Rebel Dog Coffee Co., Plainville • Shearwater Coffee Roasters, Fairfield and Westport* • Source Coffeehouse, Bridgeport* • Story and Soil, Hartford* • Tusk & Cup, Wilton and Ridgefieldca



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Best Pick-Your-Own Farm: Lyman Orchards in Middlefield




BEST PIES BEST PICK-YOUR-OWN FARM

Lyman Orchards, Middlefield

It doesn’t get fresher than straight off the tree (or bush, patch — you get the idea). Lyman Orchards has delicious fruits to pick yourself all summer and fall. Think strawberries, jostaberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, pears and pumpkins. Take home a bagful to enjoy or bake yourself something sweet. Or leave it to the pros and try one of the farm store’s lauded pies (looking at you, strawberry rhubarb). 860-349-6015, lymanorchards.com



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Apple pie from Lyman’s Orchards in Middlefield, winner of Best Pie




Pies finalists: The Bakehouse, Litchfield • Bishop’s Orchards, Guilford • The Drunk Alpaca, Shelton • Granny’s Pie Factory, East Hartford • Oronoque Farms, Shelton • Soleil & Suns Bakery, Woodstock* 

Pick-Your-Own Farm finalists: Bishop’s Orchards, Guilford • Dondero Orchard, Glastonbury* • Glendale Farms, Milford • Jones Family Farm, Shelton • Scott’s Connecticut Valley Orchards, Deep River • Silverman’s Farm, Easton

BAKERY

Sift Bake Shop, Mystic

Pastry chef Adam Young and his wife Ebbie run this visitor-friendly bakery that is a Willy Wonka-esque land of fresh breads, croissants, cakes, cookies, muffins and more that are as tasty as they are beautiful to look at. The bakery space itself is roomy with lots of tables and there’s an espresso bar and full regular bar. There’s also a second location over the Rhode Island border in Watch Hill. 860-245-0541, siftbakeshopmystic.com

Bakery finalists: The Bakehouse, Litchfield • Dee’s One Smart Cookie, Glastonbury* • The Drunk Alpaca, Shelton • Pure Love, Avon* • Savour Cafe & Bakery, Centerbrook* • Scratch Baking, Milford • Soleil & Suns Bakery, Woodstock 

BAGELS

Cohen’s Bagel Co., Madison

Made from scratch and baked daily, Cohen’s bagels attract a loyal following. While its selection changes every so often, favorites here include the French toast, cheddar everything, habanero bacon, cranberry orange, and sun-dried tomato. Breakfast bagel sandwiches are a great way to start out the day, but their signature lunch sandwiches also can’t be beat. 203-318-5090, cohensbagelcompany.com

Bagels finalists: Arethusa a mano, Bantam* • Brookside Bagels, Simsbury* • Devine’s Bagels & Cafe, Milford • Fancy Bagels, Southington and Farmington* • Olmo, New Haven* • Steve’s Bagels, Manchester* 

BREAD

Hartford Baking Co., West Hartford and Glastonbury

With two locations, this bread-centric bakery and coffeehouse continues to impress. From baguettes and ciabatta to sourdough and challah bread and much more, the Hartford Baking Co.’s team creates fresh loaves daily using sugar water and high-quality flour and yeasts. It’s a laborious and time-consuming process, but the payoff is clear when you bite into the bread. hartfordbaking.com

Bread finalists: Atticus Bookstore Cafe, New Haven* • The Bakehouse, Litchfield • Bantam Bread Co., Bantam* • Bread & Chocolate, Hamden • Flour Water Salt Bread, Darien • Yolanda Bakery & Deli, Derby 

CUPCAKES 

NoRA Cupcake Co., Middletown



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Best Cupcakes: NoRA Cupcake Co. in Middletown




When culture and cupcakes come together, you get a lavender lemonade cupcake. Bite into the lemon cake and you’ll be met with a zesty lemon curd filling and lavender buttercream, one of the many creative taste combinations to be found here. If you find yourself with a hankering for a sweet treat this weekend, you will definitely want to consider a Saturday curbside pickup at NoRa. 860-788-3150, noracupcake.com

Cupcakes finalists: The Bakehouse, Litchfield • The Cake Box, Ridgefield • Cake Gypsy, Avon and Granby • The Drunk Alpaca, Shelton • Sugar Bakery, East Haven • Sweet Cupcasions, Milford 

CAKES

Sweet Maria’s, Waterbury



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Best Cake: Sweet Maria’s in Waterbury




Owner Maria Sanchez has always loved to bake, learning from her family to use only the finest and freshest ingredients. This became the core of her business, renowned for its cakes, cupcakes and cookies that are both attractive and delicious. Her motto of “more than just another pretty cake” has stood the test of time with such classics as red velvet, carrot, Boston cream and lemon coconut. 203-755-3804, sweet-marias.com 

Cakes finalists: The Bakehouse, Litchfield • Chimirri’s Italian Pastry Shoppe, Wethersfield* • The Drunk Alpaca, Shelton •* • JCakes, North Branford* • Savour Cafe & Bakery, Centerbrook • Take the Cake, Guilford* 

BEST CANNOLI & BEST COOKIES

Mozzicato DePasquale Bakery and Pastry Shop, multiple Locations

Want the perfect ending to a meal or a little sweet to accompany your coffee? Mozzicato DePasquale Bakery and Pastry Shop’s cannolis are winners for our readers. Fillings include chocolate, vanilla or ricotta — you choose and then pick what you’d like sprinkled on the ends, too, from chocolate chips to nuts, cherries or just plain. The bakery has traditional Italian cookies galore as well, from anise-flavored biscotti and taralli to quaresimali and pignoli. Hartford, Plainville, Wallingford, Middletown and Rocky Hill, mozzicatobakery.com



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Cannoli finalists: The Bakehouse, Litchfield • The Cannoli Pie Co., Bridgeport* • Del Prete Italian Pastry, Bridgeport • Julia’s Bakery, Orange • Libby’s Italian Pastry Shop, New Haven* • Russo’s Bakery, Enfield* • Varano Bakery, Bethel* 

Cookies finalists: The Bakehouse, Litchfield • Connecticut Cookie Co., Fairfield* • Del Prete Italian Pastry, Bridgeport • The Drunk Alpaca, Shelton • Kathy’s Famous Cookies, Milford • Sweet Maria’s, Waterbury 

DOUGHNUTS

Neil’s Donuts, Wallingford

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone in Wallingford who doesn’t rave about Neil’s. Luckily for the rest of the state, the branching out has begun. Neil’s plans on opening a second location in Middletown this fall. These New York-style rings of fire include flavors like Oreo and Reese’s peanut butter crumb in addition to filled options like Key lime and chocolate buttercream. 203-269-4255, neilsdonuts.com



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Doughnuts finalists: Beach Donut Shop, Clinton • Brooklyn Baking Co., Waterbury • Donut Crazy, multiple locations • Dottie’s Diner, Woodbury* • Flanders Donut Bagel & Bake Shop, East Lyme* • Whitney Donut and Sandwich Shop, Hamden 

CHOCOLATE MAKER

Munson’s Chocolates, multiple Locations

The original name of Munson’s, founded by Ben and Josephine Munson in 1946, was the Dandy Candy Company. Pretty much sums up most people’s feelings about Munson’s, which is known for mouth-watering homemade chocolate. All the chocolate is fair trade and the company buys its milk, butter and cream from a farm down the road from its Bolton headquarters. You can feel good while eating something delicious. Bolton, Avon, Newington, Mystic, Orange, South Windsor, Glastonbury and West Hartford, 888-686-7667, munsonschocolates.com

Chocolate Maker finalists: Bridgewater Chocolate, Brookfield and West Hartford • Divine Treasures, Manchester • Fascia’s Chocolates, Waterbury • Thorncrest Farm & Milk House Chocolates, Goshen • Tschudin Chocolates & Confections, Middletown 

SMOOTHIES 

The Fresh Monkee, multiple locations

After years of working as a financial adviser, Judy Flynn decided to follow her dream of opening a smoothie shop. The Fresh Monkee was founded on the principle that food should be clean. No artificial sweeteners, flavor shots and other unknown “junk,” Flynn says. Some unique flavors you can expect to find here are blueberry pie (milk, vanilla protein, graham, spices, blueberry) and Maui colada (coconut milk, OJ, vanilla protein, coconut shreds, pineapple and mango. Yum! Wethersfield, Glastonbury, Manchester, Berlin and Southington, thefreshmonkee.com

Smoothies finalists: Boost Bowls, Bethel and Southbury* • Dexter’s Smoothie & Coffee Vault, Norwich* • Fresh Greens & Proteins, Watertown* • Life Bowls, Madison • Pure Alchemy Conscious Cafe, Wallingford* • Sweetwater Juice Bar & Deli, New Britain* 

ICE CREAM

UConn Dairy Bar, Storrs

With apologies to the women’s and men’s basketball teams — when we think about UConn we think about the rich flavors of UConn’s legendary campus ice cream shop and dairy bar. Opened in 1953 to sell dairy products, the creamery still makes ice cream according to its original recipe. Flavors include banana chocolate chip, black raspberry, blueberry cheesecake, salted caramel crunch, and toasted almond amaretto vanilla. 860-486-1021, dining.uconn.edu/uconn-dairy-bar

Ice Cream finalists: Ashley’s Ice Cream, New Haven and other locations • Dr. Mike’s Ice Cream Shop, Bethel* • Ferris Acres Creamery, Newtown • Il Bacio Ice Cream, Danbury* • Mel’s Downtown Creamery, Pawcatuck • Rich Farm Ice Cream, Oxford • Salem Valley Farms, Salem • Scoopy Doo’s, Milford • Walnut Beach Creamery, Milford

Connecticut Magazine‘s 2021 Best Restaurants Readers Choice survey is now open! Vote for your favorite restaurants in dozens of categories.

Also see the winners and finalists for the Best of Connecticut 2020 in Fun & Leisure and Shopping, and check out our writers’ picks for “More Stuff We Love”

Best of Connecticut 2020: Food & Drink | Features

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