Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Plea

Dear Waterbury,

Please open up a restaurant that has a decent raw bar. Scott and I have recently become really addicted, and we are tired of traveling to West Hartford (Max's Oyster House) and NYC. Also, we tried to open our own clams from Big Y ourselves and I almost cut my hand off.

Renee & Scott

Umberto's Clam House, Arthur Ave, Bronx

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rant of Devastation/Frustration

Sorry for ranting, but I need to get it off my chest...

Here at Waterbury Foodies, we like to paint a picture of a socially and culturally diverse Waterbury. But every once in a while, things happen that make us curse the very city of our birth, and last night was no exception. Scott was dying for Los Arcos tacos, so we stopped by to see our good friend Paula. We hadn't been in a while, both because we are on diets and because I was in Ecuador. The outside looked a little different, and when we went inside, we realized that Los Arcos was no more, the family was forced to sell the business. No more tacos, no more chats with Paula and the kids, no more mole. The new owners were selling only some groceries, no fresh food. I was so upset that I almost cried. Although I no longer had an appetite, Scott suggested that we go to the Peruvian Corner to cheer me up. Approaching the Peruvian Corner, I noticed unfamiliar colors...A PUERTO RICAN BAKERY?!?! This one was a real shocker. I knew Los Arcos was struggling, but the Peruvian Corner was hands down one of the best restaurants in Waterbury. I WAS DEVASTATED. I know I should be at least thankful that they have been replaced by other cultural food places, but it kills me to see them go. You can argue that the economy is to blame, and it is, in part. But what I will never understand about Waterbury is why places like that fail so miserably, meanwhile there are lines outside of Chili's and The Olive Garden. It actually disgusts me. Do people not appreciate real food and diversity? How could the Olive Garden even EXIST in a city with the largest Italian American population in the state and more Italian restaurants than you can shake a fist at? I cannot for the life of me understand the mentality. Are people afraid to try something new? What is wrong with this city that it falls into the trap of commercialization, chain restaurants, and a billion cell phone stores, all the while letting local businesses suffer? It really makes me ill. And do you know what makes me even more ill? Last night we ended up eating at Brass City Bistro, which is celebrating its one year anniversary. We ordered 1 drink each and two appetizers, and it cost us $50, which is about 6 times what we would have spent at Los Arcos for a much better and more filling dinner. Additionally, Brass City Bistro is not even a bistro, it's horrendously overpriced. The food was decent, but their menu was EXACTLY THE SAME as every other Vasi's/Mario's/Bacco's/Diorio's/Nino's/San Marino's/Gagliardi's/Aldo's of Italy/City Hall Cafe/Ragozzino's/D'Amelio's/Paisano's/La Tavola/Grotto's/Bertucci's/Pizza Castle/Carmen Anthony's. BRANCH OUT, PEOPLE. With minor exceptions and slight variation, these places all have THE SAME MENU. Is no one else's palate sick of it?

Okay, phew, I'm glad I got that out. And BCB, sorry for hating on your restaurant, your food was actually pretty tasty (or what I could afford of it anyway) and your waitstaff was gracious and helpful. You just caught me at the worst possible moment, at the height of my frustration with the Waterbury food scene and commerce culture. Tonight I will dust myself off and try to get excited about Waterbury food again...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Foods of Ecuador!

Ensalada de camarones

Waterbury and its 'burbs are experiencing a recent increase in Ecuadorian immigration, so I thought I would post a few pics from my recent trip to Ecuador, where I did some work in Emergency Medicine. I didn't get to eat out nearly as much as I hoped to, but here are some highlights. I hope to find an Ecuadorian restaurant in CT soon!

Encocado de mariscos

Ceviche mixto con patacones

Ceviche de corvina con patacones


Desayuno criollo (con pescado, huevos, y bolon)

Gaseosa de inca, fresa, y manzana





Bolon de verde

Paradilla mixta (Yes, I ate intestines and kidney!)

Mixed Ecuadorian fruits

Inside a granadilla

Ecuadorian fruits

Cazuela de mariscos

Arroz con camarones y maduros

Cangrejo ajillo

If you can't find Ecuadorian food near you, you can always make your own! I suggest you visit one of my very favorite food blogs, which has loads of great Ecuadorian recipes and mouth-watering photos:

Sunday, March 1, 2009

CT Magazine's Best Restaurants Issue

Ladies and Gentlemen, this year's Connecticut Magazine's "Best Restaurants" issue is on bookshelves. No real surprises this year, I think. Overall excellence winner went to Napa & Co. in Stamford, reflecting the new foodie trend towards local, organic foods, and Runner-up was Union League Cafe in New Haven, an old classic. The Waterbury area was a little less represented than I would like it to be, but isn't that always the case? Our notable winners included:

Statewide Best New Restaurant Winner: La Tavola in Waterbury (Congrats!!!)
Statewide Winner Best Steak Restaurant: Carmen Anthony Steakhouse in Waterbury(no surprise here)

The New Haven County Dining Guide section did feature a few of our other favorites, including New Haven restaurants like Bentara, Bespoke, Caseus, L'Orcio, Miya's Sushi (this year's Valentine's dinner), Pacifico (last year's Valentine's dinner), and Thali. The only other Waterbury restaurant noted was Diorio's (our very first Valentine's dinner, cute, I know). So we are a little disappointed. While we agree that the Waterbury food scene could be better, we think there are restaurants that deserved to make the cut much more than SeƱor Pancho's of Cheshire, which won some award.

So here is the Renee and Scott list of "Waterbury Restaurants that we think Connecticut Magazine should pay more attention to next year":

Drescher's Restaurant (German)
Peruvian Corner Restaurant (Peruvian)
Kumo Japanese Cuisine (Japanese/French)
Lisboa Restaurant (Portuguese)
Frankie's/Big Franks (Hot dogs and BBQ)
Vasi's (Greek/Italian)
Avventura's (Italian Deli and the first place I take my non-Waterbury friends when they visit)
Nardelli's (Grinders)
Anatolia's (Turkish)
Sweet Maria's (Bakery, I know it's not a restaurant, but sometimes dessert can be dinner)

By the way, we just wanted to mention that recently Waterbury has begun to show yet another side of its cultural diversity with the opening of Fattoush Restaurant and Market (an Arabic/Lebanese Restaurant and Market) and Quick Falafel. Scott and I can't wait to get out and try both, and you should too!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

East Side Restaurant in New Britain

"Noisy" dining area. Hanging from the ceiling are the mugs that belong to members of the "Mug Club."

New Britain reminds me of Waterbury in a lot of ways. It, like Waterbury, "the Brass City," is an ex-manufacturing/industrial town, affectionately known as "Hardware City." Both cities have fallen into a bit of urban decay in recent years, with new nicknames reflecting the decline, such as "The Dirty Waters" and "Hard Hittin' New Britain." But I think the most interesting thing that both cities share is tremendous cultural diversity. I'll get into the diversity of Waterbury in another post, but one only needs to stroll down Broad Street in New Britain to appreciate its various cultural and ethnic influences. New Britain is home to the largest Polish community in the state on Connecticut. In fact, New Britain Hospital is the only place in the world I've seen signs in English, Spanish, and Polish. In recent decades, there has also been an explosion of Puerto Ricans moving into New Britain, making New Britain the city with the 7th fastest growing Puerto Rican population in the United States, and inciting a change from the old nickname, "New Britski" (reflecting the large Polish population) to "Nuevo Britain" (reflecting the large Spanish speaking population). New Britain is also home to a wealth of other ancestries, among them Italian, Irish, French, and German.

Beer sampler platter

Anyplace where you find that many cultures melting together you are sure to find some good eats. Now I have to admit that I have not visited many of New Britain's restaurants, but when I saw the sign for East Side's German restaurant on I-84, I knew I had to go. Scott loves German food and beer, and has been dying to go to Oktoberfest for years. Now New Britain is no Munich, but East Side restaurant was certainly a memorable experience nonetheless...

Appetizers: Stuffed mushrooms and bratwurst
The idea behind East Side Restaurant is to recreate the camaraderie (and debauchery) of Oktoberfest, complete with lederhosen, accordions, and "Ticky Tocky" chants. This is not your typical restaurant. A visit to the East Side's website is a good way to get an idea of what you're in for. The dancing and singing German men on the screen will actually be at the restaurant, may try to get you to wear a ridiculous hat, and will undoubtedly make the entire restaurant chant "Ticky-Tocky, Ticky-Tocky, Oy! Oy! Oy!" if you order a large beer or a das boot. Some might find the atmosphere a little cheesy, but we actually had a good time. It isn't a place you go for a romantic date, certainly, but I think that it is absolutely perfect for a large group of friends that are looking to just let go and have a good time.

Our beers, bread, and salad
Not going to lie, the service was not spectacular. Most of the waitresses are actually German (we heard them speaking German) and are probably not too happy about having to wear traditional dirndls. But it's hard to even notice the service with all of the excitement going on. The food came out in a timely fashion, and they were very nice when I had to send my filet mignon back because it was literally still mooing. Incidentally, this was the first time I ever had to send meat back for being too rare, so caution if you plan on ordering red meat here, they err on the side of rare. And I'm a poet and I didn't know-it.

German onion soup, slaw, and cottage cheese spread
So given the dinner-theater feel of this place, we had pretty low expectations for the food. Boy, were we wrong. The food was amazing. We started off with 2 of the beer samplers so we could decide what kind of beer we would have. The waitresses brought out a cottage cheese spread and slaw that are served with crackers. After deciding on the (giant) Spaten Oktoberfest and Franziskaner Hefe-Weiss, we thought we would try some appetizers. The stuffed mushrooms were different than any stuffed mushrooms I've had. They were barely cooked, so retained some crunch, and had a crunchy crabmeat filling with a white wine butter sauce that I soaked up with bread. The burgermeister plate was a simple but delicous bratwurst over sauerkraut, which Scott devoured. We didn't realize that at East Side, entrees come with soup AND salad, so next up came a German onion soup, which reminded me a bit of French onion soup minus the bread and cheese, and a fresh salad. They also served a house made bread which I believe had some fennel seeds baked into the dough. Yum. The entrees are served with family-style corn and some sort of turnip/carrot mash. I didn't actually eat much of my filet mignon until the next day (because I was so stuffed), but it was pretty good. Scott's prime rib, however, was definitely the best prime rib I have ever tasted in my life. It was perfectly soft and flavorful, and will be my first choice when we go back. Overall, we ate more food than I care to admit. East Side is big on both portions and flavor, and provided us with one of the best and most filling dinners we've had in a long time. I cannot speak for the authenticity of the menu items, as I am not very familiar with German food, but many dishes sounded unique and interesting, and we are excited to back and try more!
Scott's Prime Rib

Overall: An awesome restaurant if you love good food, good beer, and German culture, and especially good for large and rowdy groups. It is a tad on the expensive side, but the quality of food makes it worth every penny.

Renee's 3 Favorite Things:
1. Scott's prime rib :)
2. Beer selection was impressive
3. The value. You get tons of food, all great quality, for your money. It's a little expensive, but worth it. There is also good attention to detail for such a busy restaurant.

Scott's 3 Favorite Things:
1. Beer quality/selection
2. Size of the beer
3. The amount of food you get!

Will we go back?
New Britain is a little out of the way, and East Side is a bit pricey, but we look forward to going back relatively soon with a large group of people.

East Side Restaurant
131 Dwight St
New Britain, CT 06051
(860) 223-1188

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Caseus in New Haven

While we really try to focus on Waterbury and the surrounding towns in this blog, every once in a while something must be said about our travels outside Waterbury, and this was definitely one of them.


I'm not sure what else I can say to make you go, except that Scott and I LOVED it. Here's a link to their delicious menu. We went during restaurant week, so we had a slightly different menu, but we got to sample their poutine, which for the non-French among us is essentially French fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy. It's very popular in Canada. Delicious! My appetizer was some sort of breaded goat cheese salad, which was to die for, but doesn't seem to be on their dinner menu. For the meal, Scott went with the Mac&Cheese, and I can't say I blame him. I was digging in his plate in between bites of my own. It's really the way macaroni and cheese should taste. I had the Moules Frites, which were mussels in a white wine and garlic sauce served with fries for sopping up the juices. Not cheesy, but perfect. For dessert, we had chocolate pots de creme, which we really couldn't eat because we were so full. Add to that wonderful wine and an amazing atmosphere, and Caseus has become one of our new favorite New Haven dinner destinations. We can't wait to go back and try the "cheese board."

Reservations: (203) 624-3373
(Note that the number spells out 203-6CH-EESE. Awesome.)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tequila's Mexican Restaurant

So I really don't like to give bad/mixed restaurant reviews. But I also try to offer a comprehensive review of Waterbury food culture so here it goes. I'll be brief:

1. Scott got the most horrific food poisoning of his life at Tequila's. My friend Brandon also got food poisoning there about 3 years ago, so I can't get either of them to go back with me. I have never been sick from their food, however.

2. This is probably my first choice for "Best Margarita Selection in Waterbury." My faves are the jalapeno, jamaica (hibiscus flower), and avocado, but they have a ton of other flavors to choose from. Plus they are not stingy with the tequila, but it does not overpower the flavor.
Did you know that "margarita" is Spanish for "daisy?"

3. This is not Mexican food. I practically had to beg to get a corn tortilla (instead of flour) for my tacos. And even if you understand and accept it for the Tex-Mex Americanized creation that it is, it still is not very good. Although take this opinion with a grain of salt, for as I have mentioned, I am a huge Mexican food snob.

See? A mixed review. Here is what I think Tequila's is GREAT for: Getting together a few girlfriends, ordering a bunch of margaritas, and maybe getting some nachos, sans meat (you can't screw up nachos). After you've had about 4 margaritas, throw some coins in the jukebox, key up a little Luis Miguel, and pretend you are celebrating your friendship in a Mexican beach oasis. Just don't order any pork.

P.S. I should also mention that Tequila's has a sister restaurant (also named Tequila's) in Oakville. This place is hoppin' on Thursday nights for kareoke night. They have the same great margarita selection and a pretty good crowd as well.

P.P.S. I'm fairly certain I remember a late Tequila's night that involved shots of mezcal, which is a distilled spirit from the state of Oaxaca, in Mexico. It tastes God-awful (sort of like smoked tequila), but I think that Tequila's is one of the only places in Waterbury where you can find it. Try it!

Tequila's Restaurant
733 Lakewood Rd
Waterbury, CT 06704
(203) 755-4806
471 Main Street
Oakville, CT 06795
(203) 274-9408

P.P.P.S. If you are still searching for real Mexican food in Waterbury, all is not completely lost. There's always Los Arcos, although it isn't really a "restaurant" per se. What I've been doing lately is making my own Mexican food by hitting up Compare Foods on Thomaston Ave, which is not only a Mecca of ingredients for all sorts of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Peruvian, and other South/Central American and Caribbean dishes, but also one of the most inexpensive and largest grocery stores in Waterbury. It's my new favorite, actually. I spend about 1/2 of what I would spend at Stop and Shop and find all sorts of neat-o ingredients.

Btw, the above photo was NOT taken at Tequila's, but is like the margaritas you will find there.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

La Tavola in Waterbury, CT

Special Note: This is Scott's first blog post! He said he needs to pick up my slack :) -Renee

Recently, we made our second excursion to La Tavola Ristorante, located in Town plot, Waterbury's Italian enclave. La Tavola's menu is best characterized as a chic take on upscale Italian fair. The stars of the menu are the fine appetizers, which were both creative and elegant. We had the cured Italian meats, which were delectable and perfectly complimented by Mostardo fruits, and the antipasto, which was impressive in its own right, featuring tomato, pea, and prosciutto risotto balls, asparagus, soft onion, and prosciutto frittata, buffalo mozzarella and fire roasted sweet peppers, and Roman marinated artichokes. In fact, we were tempted to skip the entrees entirely and stick to apps, they were that good. As for the entrees, they were less imaginative than the appetizers but were well executed. The NY strip was flavorful and cooked exactly as ordered and was accompanied by smooth and creamy mashed potatoes and garlic spinach. The vodka sauce that came with the penne alla vodka was not the best we've had, but the dish was satisfying. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and the shrimp was cooked just right as well. It was supposed to contain prosciutto, but it's presence in the dish was scarce.

To be frank, the service the first time we ate at La Tavola was horrendous. We waited at the door for the host for several minutes, all the while making eye contact with several servers that continually ignored us. Eventually one member of our party ventured into the restaurant in search of the host, upon which we found him to be unwelcoming and very short with us when we asked about table availability. He told us we could wait at the bar while he checked on what was available, but after an hour of waiting for an answer from the host, we decided to order appetizers at the bar. The bartender was rude and condescending, and seemed almost annoyed that he actually had to serve drinks and take orders, and took it out on the customers. The service was much more amenable the second time around. Our waitress was knowledgeable and friendly, yet lacked the annoying insincere pep that is ubiquitous at chain restaurants and the up tight precociousness of the upscale ones.

In all, La Tavola offers a refreshingly modern and stylish interpretation of traditional Italian cuisine that stands out from rest of the Waterbury's saturated backdrop of Italian eateries. This comes through more successfully in the food than in the decor, which is more of a clash these two vibes than a fusion. The jury's still out on the service, but you will get a interesting and delicious meal at a reasonable price, that may leave you dozing off into satiated sleep on your couch when paired with a bottle of wine.

4 things Scott liked:
1. Creativity of the appetizers
2. Vibe
3. Good steak
4. Wine (Napa Ridge Cabernet) was excellent

3 things Renee liked:
1. The Mostardo fruits of the cured meat platter was the most successful fruit compote/cured meat combo I have ever tried, and Scott and I are practically experts in cured meats.
2. Our waitress (Jacqueline?) was fabulous. We really thought the service was stinky the first time we went, and we heard lots of "bad service" reviews from friends and neighbors, but she really made us feel welcome and also did not make us feel bad for being totally disgusting gluttonous pigs. She renewed our faith in a restaurant that we previously intended to boycott for stinky stuck up service.
3. I like being presented with olives, bread, and garlicky bean paste as soon as I sit down. It makes me happy.

3 things we didn't like:
1. (Renee): The walls in the bar section are absolutely atrocious. I think they were going for an old Italian "stucco" like look, but it clashed so horribly with the sleek, modern reds of the quasi Asian-fusion design of the rest of the bar room. Also where the wall met with the black ceiling, yuck. Scott thinks I am overreacting, and I definitely am, but I just really don't understand the look the restaurant is going for.
2. (Scott): The Jekyll and Hyde Service switch. We heard lots of really bad things (and experienced some) regarding the service, and this past time was phenomenal. Hopefully it stays that way.
3. (Renee & Scott): They still have a Fall menu, even in the middle of winter. They let us know that some of the things (like pumpkiny desserts) were no longer available, but you would think that in their first winter season they would follow through and update to a winter menu.

Will we go back?
Yes, for several reasons, but largely because the food is the closest thing we can get to gourmet around here (literally, we could walk there in 5 minutes). But next time, I think we will probably order a bottle of the house red Cabernet and a bunch of appetizers, they were really the star of the show. They are a much better value (both in price and taste) than the entrees.

La Tavola Ristorante
702 Highland Ave
Waterbury, CT 06708
(203) 755-2211 (call for reservations)