Nov 2, 2011
02:04 PMDiscover Connecticut
Best of Connecticut Roadtrip: Mystic
Southeastern Connecticut offers a trove of 2011 Best of Connecticut winners. One town that stands out is Mystic, where you can find five from this year's list that when put together would make a nice day.
The day starts with breakfast, so to enjoy it with a view, Kitchen Little is the place. Don't let the name fool you—breakfast is a big deal at this tiny roadside stand perched on the scenic banks of the Mystic River along Greenmanville Avenue. Enjoy "A.M. Eggstasy" (as they like to claim) seven days a week, all day long. How about a pancake sandwich—ham, two eggs and cheese nestled between two buttermilk pancakes. [*insert Homer Simpson-like "Ahhhhh ...."*]
Not everyone likes to begin the day with breakfast—some prefer to sleep in and jump right to lunch. Continuing down Greenmanville Ave. to downown and heading west on U.S. 1 toward the renowned bascule bridge, you'll find S&P Oyster Co., home to the best New England clam chowder in the state. (It has also topped our readers' choice survey poll for best seafood, appetizers and overall excellence in New London county.) A big bowl of the chowder, however, makes for more than a satisfying lunch.
To top off lunch, head back up Greenmanville Avenue and over to Olde Mistick Village where you'll find the Bleu Squid Bakery and the state's best cupcakes. Here they bake them in more than 40 varieties including butterfinger, kahlua mocha, Mexican chocolate and Bailey's Irish Creme. (Everything is better with a little Bailey's in it!) Feel free to wander the shopping village to work off some of those extra cupcake calories.
For the record, there are no herring sardine swirl cupcakes at the Bleu Squid, so put away any of those plans of sneaking in treats for the penguins at Mystic Aquarium across the parking lot from Olde Mystic Village. Well, even if you don't get to do it personally, it's always fun to watch the marine life get fed. Of course, exploration is the name of the game here—literally, as the aquarium's full name is now Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, which features a heavy concentration on the undersea work and discoveries of Dr. Robert Ballard. The seals, beluga whales and other aquatic creatures are pretty cool, too.
After a day of visiting with denizens of the deep, you can enjoy an evening and a great saltwater view while eating a few of the more tasty ones. (Irony is a dish best-served with cocktail sauce?) Again, it's back down Greenmanville Avenue and toward the bascule bridge to The Flood Tide, located in the Inn at Mystic, where you can enjoy a sensational meal. Also celebrated with top honors by our readers, this restaurant offers a variety of tasty entrees and other options, any of which make for a fine—and filling—end to a busy day.
For all the Best of Connecticut 2011 winners, visit here
Breakfast: With a View
Kitchen Little, Mystic, (860) 536-2122 (kitchenlittle.org)
Kitchen Little is about as wee as it gets. On really busy days, it bursts at the seams like one of those circus clown cars, but the views Mystic River-side from its outdoor patio-cum-rock garden—giving a.m. noshers a smashing look at Mystic Seaport, too—are well worth any elbow-to-elbow discomfort. A primo occasion to convene here is the Seaport’s annual Antique and Classic Boat Rendezvous in June, but really, any time is right for signature dishes like the Portuguese Fisherman—chouriço and linguiça sausage scrambled with the kitchen’s cage-free eggs, peppers, onions and jalapeño cheese.
Chowder: New England
S&P Oyster Co.
Mystic, (860) 536-2674 (sp-oyster.com)
Sampling the creamy New England clam chowders served by restaurants around the state always makes us feel a little like Goldilocks: This one’s too rich, this one’s too salty, this one has too many potatoes, this one doesn’t have enough clams, this one’s too weird. S&P’s chowder, we’re happy to say, always strikes us as “just right.” Served with oyster crackers and garnished with sliced scallions, its clam (big and many) to potato cube ratio (big and few) mixes well with the silky, refined simplicity of its stock. Also mixing well is the view from the windows and the outdoor patio—Mystic’s bustling downtown, complete with glistening river and historic bascule bridge.
Mystic, (860) 536-6343 (dessertsmysticct.com)
Don’t know about you, but we hate the trend toward froufrou designer cupcakes that are about one inch in diameter and piled high with sparkly, tasteless icing. Bleu Squid makes cupcakes (pictured opposite) like Mom always made: two-fisted in size, moist, with good ol’ buttercream frosting that often has twice the personality of the cake beneath it. We’re sure Mom never had an inventory of close to 40-plus playful flavors, however: Chocolate pretzel, coffee and walnuts, Creamsicle and s’mores are among those we have yet to try (not to mention “adult” flavors—toasted almond, piña colada and brandy Alexander).
Mystic, (860) 572-5955 (mysticaquarium.org)
If you’re like many Connecticut residents, you lost track long ago of the number of times you’ve visited Mystic Aquarium—five, 10, 15-plus? And yet we return time and again to play peek-a-boo with those dapper African penguins (perhaps they’ll share what it was like to “star” alongside Mr. Popper), marvel at the mighty belugas, tickle a cownose ray as it glides by, giggle as Coco bellows a big “hello” at the California sea lion show and, let’s face it, wish we were underwater archaeologist extraordinaire Robert Ballard.
Dinner and . . . A Saltwater View
The Flood Tide
Inn at Mystic, Mystic, (860) 536-9604 (innatmystic.com)
It’s all about blue views at this oft-celebrated Mystic landmark set high on a hill overlooking Mystic Harbor and beyond to Fishers Island Sound. First things first: a table by the window. Second: curry-dusted Stonington diver scallops with a tomato ragout and microgreen salad. Third: A nice glass of Stonington Vineyard’s chardonnay to savor along with those views. Perfect.