An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jul 9, 2014
10:05 AMThe Connecticut Table
Best Connecticut Places to the Watch World Cup With Great Food, Drinks
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Editor’s Note: We’re adding more Connecticut dining venues that are World Cup obsessed to the end of this story as the matches roll toward the final, but a few new additions had to go on top:
As the World Cup Ends, a Brand New Hotspot for the Last Games:
Eli's Tavern in Milford, an Urbane Gastropub
Eli’s on Whitney in Hamden comes up a bit later in this story as a prime spot for watching the intense drama from Brazil, but we had to add the newest outpost (three weeks old) in the growing (but locally-owned and passionately operated) Eli's empire—Eli's Tavern, located in a historic building on curving, quirky, charming Daniel Street, just off the green in a thriving and happening Milford center.
Here's the website summary:
Eli's Tavern, the newest addition to the Eli's Restaurant Group, is a New York City style gastropub, serving tavern food with a modern flair! The urban style restaurant features an eclectic menu including local daily seafood specials, sandwiches, burgers, grilled flatbreads, crisp fresh entree salads and delicious desserts. Our bar features 20 micro brews, 18 wines by the glass and specialty craft cocktails with fresh juices. Whether you are having a business meeting, meeting friends or going on a special date, Eli's Tavern is the place to be!
We went for lunch July 11 and were wowed by the talent of chef David Brooks, a Culinary Institute of America graduate who did an internship at the legendary Le Bernardin in New York City.
Brooks prepares all the proteins (think meat, chicken, even lobster) in the sous-vide method, which yields the most tender bites you've had while retaining and enhancing flavors.
There's a bounty of small bites on the menu, burgers, an awesome lobster roll, flank steak, crabcakes, Chilaquilas (shown at the top), a traditional Mexican dish sometimes called "Mexican lasagna", Philly Egg Rolls (shown above), and so much more—along with 18 craft beers on draught, others in bottles, 20 wines by the glass and a whole menu of creative craft cocktails made from fresh chef-prepared ingredients (Look for a full story on Eli's Tavern early next week.)
Best of all for World Cup fans, not only is one side of the bar lined with big-screen TVs above that are showing all the matches, but behind that are elevated booths that offer a bit of intimacy in the happily wide open space, while also affording the best view of the TVs. And one of them can seat upwards of 15 people. (Check out Eli's Tavern on Facebook.)
For the consolation game with Netherlands vs. Brazil July 12 or the big final with Germany and Argentina July 13, Eli's Tavern is the place to be—or, in the spirit of this story, one of Connecticut's bounty of places to be for the World Cup, as you'll see if you read on.
Whatever Your Team, Try the Luck of the Irish at Molly D'Arcy's in Danbury
In this World Cup, a traditional Irish pub is neutral territory of the best kind, with a recipe devoid of a national stake in the outcome but blessed with a passion for fútbol, a legendary gift for conversation, hearty comfort food and, of course, lots of Guinness.
Molly D'Arcy's in Danbury is an open-arms-welcome venue that's showing all the World Cup matches as part of its Irish hospitality.
Folks online praise the shepherd's pie (above), the potato leek soup, the fat burgers and "delicious, awesome" fries (left, as part of fish 'n chips), along with the always festive, sometimes happily boisterous atmosphere.
After all, is there really a better place to watch great soccer than a true European pub, especially an Irish one?
Vitals: 39 Mill Plain Road #A, (203) 794-0449, mollydarcy.com.
Argentina vs. Netherlands in an Argentinian Steakhouse
Tango Grill Argentinian Steakhouse in Stamford may have World Cup fever that's more personal than the big-screen-TV variety, but with the national team being in a semifinal with Netherlands July 9 and vying for a spot in the finals against Germany, but here's an insider's secret (obtained with a simple phone call) about this upscale venue, known for its juicy steaks, South American wines and tapas: It has a couple of (small) TVs and the World Cup matches are on.
In a bit of serendipity, today's game starts at 4 p.m., which makes it prime time for tapas at Tango:
Our tapas options are a great choice for you and your friends to enjoy great food at small sharable portions or for a romantic dinner made for two. Tapas are ideal for sharing and allow you to try a large variety of dishes in a single meal.
Tapas are not the only romantic feature to Tango Grill. For a romantic night out, you can stop at Tango Grill from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. for our wine and tapas bar offerings. We have paired our wines to perfectly complement many of our tapas plates that awaken the taste buds!
Here's the description of Tango online:
Tango Grill is the only high end Argentinian steakhouse in Connecticut. To us this means authenticity, assurance and rigorous attention to obtain the finest quality ingredients at source. This dedication ensures that every time you visit us, you experience the true essence of Argentine life. Its food, its wine, its culture and importantly the passion of the people.
Call it a hunch, but we've got a feeling that after what happened to Brazil, the Argentinians will be more motivated than ever to make sure a team from South America is in the finals for a World Cup playing out in South America—making Tango the place to be.
If we're wrong and the Dutch prevail, then before the final match Sunday at 3 p.m. you'll want to get online and discover Connecticut's specialty Dutch food shop, The Dutch Epicure Shop in Litchfield, or visit in person starting Wednesday, when the shop reopens. Read more about the shop in The Litchfield County Times, and check it out on Facebook.
Vitals for Tango Grill: 700 Canal Street, 203-325-3773, tangogrillstamford.com
Watch Brazil vs. Germany
In Authentic Brazilian Restaurants
In anticipation of the huge semifinal match between Fifa World Cup host nation Brazil and Germany at 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 8, we went looking for some authentic Brazilian restaurants in Connecticut that are showing the matches. Two immediately stood out in terms of soccer fever, tasty homegrown cuisine and authenticity—Pantanal Restaurant & Churrascaria in Bridgeport and Taste Of Brazil in Norwalk.
Judging from the photos on the Facebook pages of each restaurant, fans enjoy watching the matches in the same spirit as players like Neymar, "Hulk," Silva and David Luiz play "the beautiful game."
If you want to watch Brazil play for a spot in the finals alongside Brazilian fans, while enjoying real Brazilian food and libations, these are the places to seek out.
Vitals: Pantanal Restaurant & Churrascaria, 215 Frank St., Bridegport, (203) 335-1071.
Vitals:Taste Of Brazil, 67 Main St., Norwalk, (203) 840-1919.
Watch Germany vs. Brazil
In an Authentic German Restaurant
Let's start with this Facebook post in advance of the Germany-USA game from the new Alpenhaus Restaurant just off Connecticut's longest town green in welcoming New Milford center:
Our sister publication, The Litchfield County Times, recently published a story on Alpenhaus, which opened like this:
.... stepping into The Alpenhaus Restaurant it is as if a person has been whisked into a little corner of Germany, complete with traditional food, drinks, and a European ambience.
This was the goal of owner Manuela Dürre-Young, who closed down her former restaurant, Café Little Europa in Brookfield in 2011, because she had “outgrown” the space. She said that she ran the café for five years but the space was too small and she ended up having to turn customers away frequently when there wasn’t enough room for them.
“They can really enjoy their time and pretend like they’re in the Alps in Germany [rather than New Milford],” Ms. Dürre-Young said.
She said Alpenhaus translates to “Alpine House” and the restaurant serves authentic German cuisine and it features what she calls a Steinbock Tavern, or a sort of indoor beer garden.
Imagine watching potentially the biggest game in recent Fifa World Cup history for Germany over dishes like these:
Bretzel mit Senf — $3.50 (mit Käsesosse $2 mehr)
Pretzel with mustard (add cheese sauce $2.00)
Kartoffelpuffer mit Apfelmuss — $7
Potato pancakes with apple sauce
Strammer Max $10.50
Smoked German Prosciutto with a fried egg on top on a
hearty slice of bread (open faced)
Bratwurst Sandwich — $8.50
One bratwurst with sautéed onions, Sauerkraut and
mustard on a pretzel roll
Schweineschnitzel Sandwich — $10.50
Porkschnitzel topped with mustard, Sauerkraut
on a pretzel roll
Strasbourgburger — $12
Ground beef, smoked German prosciutto, Boursin
cheese, sautéed onions, on a Pretzel bun
Schlemmerburger — $13
Ground beef, sautéed onions and mushrooms, bacon,
cheddar cheese and our special remoulade
on a pretzel bun
Vitals: 59 Bank St., (860) 799-5557, alpenhausct.com
U.S. Women's Team Watches Men Defeat Ghana in Hartford
On Monday, June 16, as the U.S. Men’s National Team defeated archrival Ghana 2-1 in dramatic, nail-biting fashion, a special group of supporters rooted for the men and enjoyed a gourmet dinner at a popular and highly-regarded Hartford restaurant.
The fans? None other than the U.S. Women’s National Team—the entire team, including star forward Alex Morgan—which is in Connecticut for a game Thursday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford against France, ahead of World Cup qualifying that begins in October.
The restaurant? Dish Bar & Grill.
As owner Dan Keller tells the story, a manager for the women’s team called about a month ago to make the reservation, without revealing who it was for.
The day before the big “Group of Death” game for the U.S. team, Dish learned who its special guests would be, and was asked to keep mum.
The women’s team members arrived about 20 minutes before the game started, watched the action in the bar (above) and had a full meal, leaving just after the game ended. (Keller noted that the players didn’t have any alcohol, in case anyone wondered.)
“A lot of the girls were in their uniform shirts,” said Keller, who was thrilled with the team’s visit and the results of the men’s game.
Dish has big-screen TVs in its bar and is showing all of the World Cup games. Making the equation of watching at Dish a four-star one, the restaurant serves classic American food—think comfort food—with contemporary twists. (Above, a shrimp dish from Dish's Facebook page. Right, seafood ceviche, a fitting dish for a World Cup in Brazil.)
Vitals: 900 Main St., (860) 249-3474, dishrestaurantgroup.com.
Now back to the original story:
World Cup 2014 got underway June 12 in Brazil, and whatever you think of the U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s pronouncement that our side can’t win it all, (especially after the team defeated Ghana 2-1 on July 16) or his decision to leave longtime star player Landon Donovan off the final roster, this fútbol (soccer) conclave is the biggest sporting event on the planet—and this is your opportunity to catch the fever of “the beautiful game” through a European style of enjoyment that translates so well to the Connecticut landscape.
In countries that live and breathe soccer, watching World Cup matches is a communal activity best done in bistros and cafes where the food and the libations are every bit as good as the action on the pitch (field).
Without further ado, for your dining and viewing pleasure we offer a list of Connecticut hotspots where the World Cup will be on big-screen TVs and artisan beer, fine wines and creative cocktails will accompany everything from awesome burgers to thin-crust wood-oven pizzas and fine dining entrees.
Note: This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive or a best-of hierarchy, and the order isn't an indication of favorites. And we're still adding places; in fact, after publishing intially we were scolded on Twitter for not including great soccer pubs. If we missed a spot you love, or if you discover a place where soccer and great food come together, let us know. We’ll check them out and add them to this story before a champion is crowned in Brazil. The new additions are being posted at the end.
Plan B is a burger connoisseur's paradise that takes its craft beer and bourbons, and everything else, very seriously—without sacrificing any sense of fun in the casual-upscale environment. The World Cup will be on TVs live at this hotspot, which, conveniently for Connecticut residents, has locations in Milford, West Hartford, Simsbury, Glastonbury and Stamford.
To whet your appetite, here are the burger specials running through June 15 in West Hartford—the Throw Down (shown here); all-natural beef patty topped with blue cheese, tomatoes, raw onions, bacon, jalepenos, fresh chips and blue cheese sauce ($13.99)—and in Milford: Beef Florentine Burger; all-natural beef patty, swiss cheese, bacon, egg, caramelized onion, garlic mayo, spinach and garlic on a bread pudding bun. ($15.99)
With more than 50 beers on tap at both the Stamford and New Haven locations, you’ll definitely be able to find a brew in the style of whatever country you are cheering for. From Belgian Sours, to German Witbier, to French farmhouse ales and American craft beers, Cask Republic almost literally has it all. And for hungry soccer fans, the menu is full of mouthwatering options.
As we wrote in our May feature on the bar: “It is owned by Christian Burns, a French Culinary Institute graduate who worked under celebrity chef Bobby Flay at the Bolo Restaurant in New York. Burns’ culinary flare shines through at his pubs, which offer nifty high-end cuisine that is light years away from stereotypical bar food.” If you’re in the mood for appetizers order the cheese platter and ask your bartender or waitress to suggest a beer pairing that will go well with the cheese served. All World Cup games will be broadcast at the tavern, which will be offering international food, beer and drink specials all tournament long.
With 18 high definition TVs, this laid-back neighborhood bar is the perfect bar to watch the World Cup without missing any of the action. Billed as “the place where everybody knows your name,” Eli's is where you can join the friendly locals and cheer on the U.S. team while enjoying some finally crafted American cuisine, burgers, steaks, salads, enticing appetizers and more. Leave work early (tell your boss you’ve caught World Cup fever) and catch an afternoon soccer game on Friday to take part in Eli’s famous free happy hour, which features drink specials and a free buffet with pasta, a carving station, cheese and veggies and fried appetizers. Eli’s Friday happy hour actually lasts two hours (oh yeah!) and runs from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Forget for a moment that Team USA is in a group with Germany in the first round of the tournament and get decked out in your best lederhosen (because your second best lederhosen just won’t cut it); then head on down to East Side Restaurant to cheer on Team Germany while enjoying some authentic German cuisine and drink. The restaurant’s website says, “Step inside and you will be immediately enchanted by the warm Bavarian atmosphere and friendly staff outfitted in traditional German attire.” Menu items include a mouthwatering assortment of bratwursts, knockwursts, German sausage, schnitzels and sauerkraut. There is also a beer garden with sightlines leading to the TVs and an assortment of Deutschland beers (served by the liter) available on tap. “We’ll be coordinating drinks that feature Germany and whatever countries are playing that day,” says Lisa Cascone, bar manager at East Side Tavern. “It's going to be a great experience.”
If a taste of Italy is what you crave, check out the Stamford branch of this made-in-Connecticut group of restaurants, which also has locations in Bethel, West Hartford and Westport; so pick the one nearest you, as all of them are great. In the large bar you can watch various games on multiple TV screens while enjoying the finely crafted cuisine the venue offers. Try the brick oven pizza, or enjoy the selections at the granite antipasto bar.
If you want to eat delicious and affordable Portuguese food while cheering on Cristiano Ronaldo and Team Portugal, try this hidden gem in Danbury. The bar connected to the restaurant is small but there’s plenty of room to kick back and watch the game on a big TV. While you’re watching the game here you can sip restaurant made sangria (we recommend the white), and dig your fork into an assortment of steak and seafood dishes with Portuguese flare, including rice, codfish, paella, and the delectable Bife na Pidra, or steak on a stone—a delicious cut of meat brought to your table still being cooked on a sizzling slate of stone.