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Bodacious bodega

Perhaps the worst-kept secret of Fairfield’s bustling restaurant scene is Bodega Taco Bar, a tidy, no-frills spot with some truly extraordinary food and booze creations in the ass end of one the assiest, endiest strip malls this side of the Gowanus Canal.

Like its sister restaurant, Valencia Luncheria in Norwalk, the BT is unique; a combination of laid-back, functional style, fresh, inventive south-of-the-border-inspired dishes and unexpected drink combinations (with a kick).

Settle in for some creamy, delicious guac and crack-like homemade tortilla chips. (Don’t bother with salsa. It’s served too pretty and, as a result, is impossible to enjoy.)  Then move on to, well, anything really. Try the arepas — pork belly is a menu staple — along with fresh ceviche, perfectly seasoned lamb ribs, tasty cuban torta, and tacos: fish tacos, Korean tacos, brisket tacos and more. Veggie peeps will love the Pepito and, if you’re cutting back on carbs, there’s no shame in going “Lady Tata” style, i.e. tacos in lettuce wraps instead of a tortilla. (Oh who am I kidding? There’s LOTS of shame in it, but they still taste great. Take it from me 😉

On to the can… It’s small. And regrettably located in just about the only spare corner of this little restaurant — an alcove that’s awkwardly shared by the waitstaff’s ordering computer. Yeah, it’s weird.

Once inside, though, all’s pretty good. There are lovely brown glass subway tiles set off by bright white grout, a stylish raised bowl sink and even a bronze-y plastic waste basket that works surprisingly well. Only gripe is that the extra TP and hand towels are on an open shelf. I’d have preferred a cabinet or doors of some kind to keep the super-tiny space from feeling cluttered.

photo 1 photo 4 photo 5

Anywho, here goes…

Rating of chew: 4.5 out of 5

Rating of loo: 2 out of 5

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Whelk lookie here…

There’s a hidden gem tucked away in the Saugatuck section of Westport called The Whelk, but it won’t remain hidden for long.

In fact, even before this weekend’s stellar NYT review, the place was already trending pretty hot, thanks in large part to the bona fides of chef Bill Taibe, he of  Napa & Co. in Stamford, and another highly-rated Westport joint, Le Farm.

The only way we were able to get in was through a personal connection to one of the owners, a bright, affable, engaging guy I’ll call M.  We sat at the chef’s table, immediately adjacent to the kitchen, a busy, bustling but comfortable space which, coincidentally, if fairly close to the loo. When M offered to order for us, we gave ourselves over completely. Good call.

What ensued was an onslaught of some of the best food we’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Delicious, inventive, carefully prepared and beautifully presented dishes that ran the gamut from seaside-town staples with a twist (delicately fried oysters with creamed ramps — only briefly in-season — ham and cheddar) to unexpected masterpieces (fried chicken sandwich with pimiento cheese and bread & butter pickles). It was, to be frank, a civilized food orgy, if you can imagine an orgy where everyone’s really, really attractive.

About a quarter of the way through the meal, we were introduced to the notion of a woman named Ingrid. Her name came up as we ordered a second round of cocktails (there would be more, plus a round of aperitifs) — these amazing, delightful, complex, wonderful drinks that served as perfect complements the food. We’d end up meeting (and hugging) the elusive Ingrid, who, like everyone else who works at The Whelk, takes great pride in what she does, and does it exceedingly well, but is solicitous of every guest, incredibly welcoming and gracious.

Desserts were similarly awesome and imaginative, but I’ll cut to the chase and talk loo, which is tastefully set off from the main dining area. Guys and dolls enter through a common oversize doorway (no door) and go their separate ways. The men’s room is big; cavernous, even, with a pretty friggin’ sweet framed Pearl Jam poster on one wall, an oddly placed but lovely coat hook behind the door, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products and very cool faucet fixture. The place was neat and clean and, as mentioned, spacious. What more could you want?

Rating of chew: 5 out of 5

Rating of loo: 4 out of 5 (only because something super funky would’ve been a fun contrast with the rest of the place, which is beautifully designed and tastefully put together)

Pearl Jam poster

Jeremy spoke in class today

Mrs. Meyer's

Phreshhhhhh

Coat hook

Taken from an old whaling vessel, no doubt

Supplies

Ye olde tub

Faucet

Dayum

Get your feed on in the OG, yo

Ever find yourself in one of the country’s most exclusive enclaves, hungry and with a bunch of cash burning a hole in your pocket? That’s called dinner time in Old Greenwich, CT, a beautiful bedroom community some 40 minutes — and a world away — from NYC.

Aside from the burning cash bit, that was pretty much our situation last weekend.  So we popped into the Beach House Cafe for dinner, amidst an alarmingly high number of smartly dressed moms with kids (sans dads) and the usual collection of non-English speaking families led by expat Masters of the Universe.

The place has an interesting menu filled with the expected (fish tacos — had ’em; very tasty. Good, but not great) and the slightly unconventional (marinated skirt steak over greek salad) that, in all, reinforces the laid back, beach-bohemian vibe.

Decor is neat and clean, with white wainscoting and sturdy, functional furniture. But it’s inviting, as are the bathrooms: big, open spaces (well, the Men’s, at least) with dark glass tiles —I’m a sucker for glass tiles — saloon doors separating the sink from the urinals, and a separate door to the crapper. Best part, though, hands down, is the TVs perched directly above the pissers. Nice touch. Not sure how it ties into the beach theme and, frankly, don’t care.

What I DO care about is where the hell all those absentee dads were, and why they couldn’t take a Sunday night off from their golf and/or gumares to break bread with their overstressed, underworked wives and maladjusted chirrens.

Anywho, here’s all you need to know:

Rating of chew: 3 out of 5

Rating of loo: 4 out of 5

Mmmmm glass tiles

Nice presentation

Oh you fancy, huh?

Whoever came up with this, thank you.

 

Howdy partner!