The Buzz About BirdHouse Coffee


Screen Shot 2020-02-10 at 9.37.57 PM.png BirdHouse Coffee

                A                                                                                         765 Sullivan Ave                                                                     South Windsor, CT 06074                                                             

Website Coffee Facebook

 

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It is difficult to find a locally owned coffee place in Connecticut when the state is overrun by Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. You have to know where to look. When we heard the owners of Connecticut Valley Brewery were opening a coffee shop on the premises, we  knew we had to check it out. The concept of a locally owned coffee shop that brews on site is a rarity and an opportunity we knew we couldn’t pass up.

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Atmosphere: 9/10-When we entered the coffee shop, we didn’t feel as if we were in a corporate coffee joint. The calm lighting and rustic tables made us feel immediately at ease. At times we felt like we could have been in someone’s home, especially with the large shelf lined with wooden signs, coffee mugs, books, coffee mugs, chocolate bars, birdhouses and other various memorabilia. We were reminded of my mother who has an affinity for birds. It was also nice to see customers interacting with each other and making conversation with the staff. This lent itself to a very friendly atmosphere.

Service: 10/10- The baristas at BirdHouse coffee are friendly and knowledgable. We asked them a variety of questions about how they started and how they brewed their coffee. They were able to answer our questions with ease. For years, Connecticut Valley Brewery had received high praise for their coffee stout and were inspired with the idea of opening a coffee shop on site. We could really tell the owners and employees cared about building a community the same way they did with the brewery.

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Price/Selection:  9/10- Compared to Starbucks and Dunkin, prices for coffee, espressos and manual brewers are more than reasonable. I spent $4.50 for a 16 oz mocha and my wife spent $2.75 for a 12 oz drip coffee. Given that coffees and specialty drinks are brewed on site, the costs are more than affordable. The tasting notes on the menu also provide clarity for customers that are unfamiliar with their products. If you are going to purchase a bag, their decaf, espresso, house and Sumatra blend will cost $15.99. By comparison, Starbucks Pike Place and French Roast cost $17-$19 at your local Staples or Target.

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Taste: 10/10-We visited the BirdHouse on two occasions and have both their Espresso and House blend at home. Smooth is the word that comes to mind when describing their coffee and signature drinks and the flavors are accented with each sip. We were also fortunate enough to visit them for a brunch special to try a warm waffle with housemade honey butter and oozing with  raspberry compote along with their avocado toast drizzled with hot honey on sour dough. We only wish the brunch special was a stable part of their menu.

In a nutshell: 38/40-BirdHouse Coffee was so delicious that it reminded us not only about the unique coffee shops Connecticut has to offer but the charm and community a single business can create. We heartily recommend that you visit if you are in the South Windsor area or if you so happen to stop by Connecticut Valley Brewery and just need a coffee to sober up. We enjoyed our visit and look forward to coming back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Closely at Lotus Grill in Farmington


Lotus Grill

B+

979 Farmington Ave, Farmington, CT 06032

Website  Menu

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 2.55.08 PMNot too long ago, Connecticut had a limited selection of Asian restaurants to choose from other than Chinese and Indian. Even hibachi-style restaurants are a recent phenomenon. Within the past ten years, there have been an explosion of Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean restaurants on the dining scene. Fusion restaurants have started to gain popularity as well. When Lotus Grill opened in 2009, it was the first of its kind in the Farmington area. In the years since, Lotus Grill gained significant popularity for this reason. We decided to see what the hubbub was about.

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Atmosphere: 8.5/10-Lotus Grill embodies the definition of a hole in the wall. When we stepped inside, we noticed how small the interior was for customers to dine in. While the restaurant is largely a take-out one one, we prefer to eat there being from separate towns. We were charmed by the layout but felt a bit compacted.

Service: 9/10- While there are only a couple of employees on duty, the staff prepares the orders for take out and dining in in a timely fashion. We received our meals within 10-15 minutes of ordering on a busy Saturday night. The customers we saw picking up their food did not have to wait long at all for theirs. They also supply you with chopsticks without asking. At many Asian restaurants in Connecticut, a customer often receives chopsticks upon request only. This deviation from the norm speaks to the Lotus Grill’s authenticity.

Price/Selection: 9/10-Lotus Grill offers a wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine. While they are best known for their pho, they also serve spring rolls, sate, dumplings, crepes, vermicelli, lotus curry and various vegetarian dishes among other options The first time we visited Lotus Grill, we had trouble deciding what to try. The prices are more than reasonable, considering that the most expensive option on the menu is $14.99. Most of the Pho dishes cost around $8 or $9.

Photo of Lotus Grill - Farmington, CT, United States. Beef pho ( not bad)Taste: 8.5/10-For our appetizers, we particularly enjoyed the sate, which is a grilled meat on a skewer, and the summer rolls. They had plenty of flavor on their own and didn’t require any additives. We found their fried rice dishes, especially the pork and chicken ones, to be the most delicious and filling because of their massive portions and inclusion of egg, onion, peas and carrots. The pho, though tasty, left a bit to be desired. We received only a few pieces of beef in our rare and cooked beef rice noodle soups.

In a nutshell-35/40-Lotus Grill is a unique offering in the central Connecticut area. As a hole in the wall restaurant, it is quaint but could expand so that more customers from out of town could dine in. If you have never tried Vietnamese cuisine before, we recommend trying them because of the variety and authenticity of their dishes.

 

 

 

 

Stretch’s Pizza in Newington Stands Out


 Stretch’s Pizza

B+

2426, 995 Main St, Newington, CT 06111

Website

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 8.56.06 AMIn Newington alone, there are over twenty pizza restaurants to choose from. If you are looking to order on a Friday or Saturday night or feel the need for pizza in the drag of the work week, you might feel overwhelmed by your options. Since 2011, Stretch’s Pizza has been our go-to place but we never got around to reviewing them until now. Here was our experience.

Atmosphere: 8/10-When you stop by the restaurant, you will immediately notice the open kitchen area. Many pizza and Italian restaurants such as Frank Pepe Pizzeria and Bertucci’s have originated and adopted this style. We personally enjoy it because it allows us to see the owners and employees hard at work. You can also smell the pizza from the plaza. There is seating in the back of the restaurant as well as the patio, but it’s not immediately noticeable. Still, the area is nicely painted and has a couple of paintings to contribute to the ambiance.

Service: 8/10-Stretch’s Pizza is open at strange hours during the week, so you have to often call or stop by to see when they are open. For some, this can be a bit concerning but during  a normal work week, they are open for at least 4 of those business days. When they open, it is important to ask how long the wait will be because they are in popular demand. The owners and employees are friendly and try their best with what few employees they have to meet their deadlines. Honestly, because they are so dedicated to their craft, it is worth the wait for us. We often call during the 4 o’clock hour for five because it’s not too bad. If you are just stopping by for a slice, these are ready in five minutes or less!

Catering: 5/5- Catering is a new category we will use when it is applicable to our experience. We are differentiating the catering category from the service category because it is a specialty service. In the Fall of 2015, we needed several large pizzas and drinks for our Halloween pizza to feed around 20 guests. We placed our order to Stretch’s a couple of hours in advance and they did not disappoint. The pizzas were hot and ready to go by the time of the party. The guests commented positively on the size and quality of the pizza as well as the generous helping of toppings.

Price/Selection: 9.5/10- Pizza restaurants are becoming more expensive these days and if you are on a budget, it can be difficult even ordering for a family of two. Stretch’s prices are more than reasonable! For a large pizza (these are large) with one or two toppings, you are going to spend under $20. Specialty pizzas cost around $20-$21. Large specialty pizzas at Joey Garlic’s, though delicious, can run up to $23.99. Pizza by slice is under $3. Stretch’s also offers calzones, grinders, stromboli and pasta.

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 9.34.56 AMTaste: 9.5/10-This is what Stretch’s is worth waiting for-a large, savory pizza that is plentiful in toppings.  According to an article for Time Magazine titled “Why Does Pizza Taste So Delicious? Allow Science to Explain,”  the best pizza uses mozzarella that “melts, bubbles and browns better than any other varieties” and has the perfect “chemistry that goes into everything from dough to sauce to toppings.” Stretch’s pizza meets that criteria because when we bit into each slice, the chemistry of the ingredients were in harmony with our taste buds. While that may sound a bit cheesy (terrible pun), we also know what it’s like to bite into a terrible pizza in which the ingredients are out of sync and it is too doughy or too burnt. Our pizzas had none of these difficulties.

In a nutshell: 40/45-While the restaurant does have odd hours and can be a wait on Friday and Saturday nights, their dedication and quality to craftsmanship has always been worth waiting for. If you live in the Newington area or are stopping by, this is the pizza place of the 20+ that we recommend.

 

Searching for Great Wine at Southern Connecticut Wine Company


Southern Connecticut Wine Company

A-

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 6.17.41 PMAtmosphere: 9/10-While Southern Connecticut Wine Company might be a bit difficult to find, its rustic interior allows for a more comforting atmosphere. The main bar area is lined with wooden wine barrels and the wooden tables are candle-lit on most nights they are open. Sometimes, friendly animals tend to wander the location such as the owners’ big, black furry dog. The owners do their best to make the customers feel at home. We only wish the bathrooms, though they are clean, had the same rustic feel so that the mood is not lost anywhere within the experience.

Service: 9/10-The employees of Southern Connecticut Wine Co. are always hard at work crafting wines, catering and facilitating various events within the state. The winery is only open Thursday through Saturday, however, so be on the lookout for their hours. On Thursday and Friday, the winery is open until 8pm. On Saturday and Sunday, the winery is only open until 6pm and 4pm respectively. While they are not always open, the employees of the winery are friendly and accommodating. We had a party of 10 people about a year ago at the winery and they did their best to accommodate and even stayed open a bit later. On a typical day, you will be greeted with warm faces when you sample wine, ask questions about the business or just purchase a bottle to go.

Price/Selection: 9/10-Southern Connecticut Wine Co. has a unique selection of wine and standard pricing for bottles, individual glasses and tasting. Each of their wines have interesting names such as Dark and Dirty and She Devil Sweet. Some of them pay homage to the company’s New England Roots such as Bawstin Blend. They have more red wines than white or rosé but are rumored to be making more of those soon. For the casual wine taster, rosé has become more popular in recent years. They are in the works of creating Meritage, a blend of five different California grapes. This shows their willingness to keep up with the times. The pricing is pretty standard for a wine company in the Connecticut area and varies based on selection (see site for more details). Wine making, which is also offered through their website, is a bit more expensive and can run up to $540, but in turn you receive 3 large cases. A case of wine contains 12 bottles.

Taste: 9.5/10-We came in with varying tastes and left quite satisfied. Christina prefers more of a sweeter taste and found their rosé wine, aptly named Strawberry Infusion, to be quite refreshing on a warm spring and summer’s day. I found their Big House Red, which is a blend black pepper, plum and raspberry to be more my style because I prefer a dryer blend. Spicy McBrackett, which is a deep dark cherry blend, also delighted my taste buds for the same reason. On some days, the winery offers cheese and crackers, which pair quite well with their selections. By offering complimentary food to their customers, they stand out from other wineries, which require you to buy food from them or bring your own.

Overall: 36.5/40-Southern Connecticut Wine Company is a rare gem not only for the town of Wallingford but in comparison to other wineries in Connecticut because of its unique selection, hands-on experience and rustic interior with the occasional live music.  If you are completing your passport for Connecticut wineries, we recommend you prioritize this particular winery. You will not be disappointed.

 

Inside Newington’s Rooster Co.


The Rooster Company

A-

1076 Main St, Newington, CT 06111

Brunch Menu, Lunch Menu, Dinner Menu, Drink Menu

A lot has changed since 2015 when we last updated our blog. Not only have our lives changed but the restaurant business in Connecticut has changed dramatically as well. When we started writing in 2012, people in Connecticut seemed to favor chain restaurants over local ones. In 2017, the opposite seems the rule with new fusion, ethnic, organic and local sourcing restaurants popping up all over the state. The same can be said of wineries and breweries as well. In our state’s tough economic times, people are looking for an escape when they go out. They are looking for something new and exciting. The Rooster Company in Newington has tried to be that something new for Newington residents.

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Atmosphere: 9.5/10- Several restaurants have occupied the location prior to The Rooster Company’s opening. While the building has always maintained a rustic feel to it, the current owner has done much to authenticate the place. Local artist and chef Andres Montiel has adorned the restaurant with numerous appeasing paintings. Some parts of the restaurant are more privy to these paintings than others. The restaurant also offers comfortable seating for its customers and an open bar.

Service: 9/10-On weekends, the Rooster Company can be awfully busy and on one visit, we had to wait a little longer than expected for our food. The wait staff, however, has always maintained a cheerful and respectful disposition that makes one feel welcome, no matter how busy they are. The owners, Chef Kenneth Ward and his wife Jaime Ward, have worked in the restaurant industry for more than 40-years. One can tell they take pride in their business and customers. They also make a point to use local ingredients to create their cuisine.

Price/Selection: 8.5/10-This category caused us to have mixed feelings. One can have a filling meal by ordering a half rotisserie chicken and side. The main dishes, however, range from $17-29 dollars. If you plan on eating any of the main entrees, we recommend that you carry a few extra bucks with you. Their lunch menu is more affordable, ranging from $12 to $16 per entree. If you stop by for brunch, you can expect to pay no more than $14. Despite the high prices on some dinner menu items, the Rooster Co. compensates with a wide variety of dishes that range from seared salmon to arctic char. Their drink menu also has a wide variety of drafts, cocktails and wines. They also have specials such as TH’ACO THURSDAYS to keep frequent customers interested.

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 6.31.16 PMTaste: 9/10-This picture from The Rooster Company’s website captures the deliciousness of their rotisserie chicken, their signature menu item. The chicken is savory, especially when topped with its fire fire lemon, walnut herb, not so hot, ‘Tandoori’ yogurt or Cola BBQ  sauce. The main dishes are equally savory, especially the risotto braised lamb. We only wish the sides carried as much mouth watering flavor.

In a nutshell: 36/40- We have enjoyed our experiences at The Rooster Company over the past couple of years, especially devouring the rotisserie chicken, experiencing the rustic feel and admiring the paintings from acclaimed local artist and chef Andres Montiel.  While our bill sometimes runs a bit high, we always leave full and satisfied.

Recommendations: The name of the restaurant is The Rooster Company, but to our knowledge, rooster is not an option on the menu. With the collective expertise of the chef team, we believe they could cook up a delicious Coq au vin or capon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stopping by The Sloppy Waffle in Newington


It always fascinates us to see restaurants develop a cult following. When people typically think of the phrase “cult following,” they apply it to movies, bands, television shows or occasionally novels. Restaurants develop cult followings when they offer something new and exciting to customers. When GoldBurgers opened in Newington, residents developed a love for their savory burgers, terrific staff and creative specials. The word spread fast and GoldBurgers quickly earned the reputation as one of the best burger places in Connecticut. Since its opening a couple of years ago,  The Sloppy Waffle has started to earn a similar reputation as evidenced by almost 2000 likes on Facebook and an endorsement from Bob Kaufman, the founder of Bob’s Discount Furniture. Would The Sloppy Waffle develop the same “cult following” that GoldBurgers has? We had to find out for ourselves.

The Sloppy Waffle

B+

Location: 2551 Berlin Turnpike, Newington, CT 06111

Website Menu Facebook

 sloppy waffles

DSC00041Atmosphere-9/10: The Sloppy Waffle has a certain charm about it in both its interior and exterior. When we entered the restaurant, we noticed plenty of decorative pictures on the walls along with signs detailed with humorous sayings. Several restaurants down south decorate their interior in a similar fashion. During the spring and summer months, customers can sit outside and enjoy their waffles under quaint little tables with red umbrellas. On a sunny, Saturday morning, it’s a picturesque place to be.

Service: 8.5/10-The staff members at The Sloppy Waffle always have a cheerful disposition and try their best to satisfy customers. While the restaurant can be quite busy and sometimes understaffed, we were never dissatisfied by their attempts. One fact about The Sloppy Waffle that we found interesting and somewhat strange is that they do not accept credit cards. Instead, they have an ATM machine in the lobby to make up for the trouble. This works to both The Sloppy Waffle’s advantage and detriment. The cash only policy will remind some customers of a more innocent time when most restaurants were of this mindset. For younger customers, the historical resemblance will be lost upon them.

Price/Selection: 8.5/10-The Sloppy Waffle offers a unique selection in terms of their specialty waffles. When customers open up the  menu, they are often taken by the variety and the creativity of the waffles. Some of the more unique selections include chicken and waffles, apple cobbler, chocolate lover and s’mores that are gluten free. The restaurant also offers eggs, burgers and an option that allows you to build your own waffles.  In terms of the price to portion ratio, the waffles tend to be smaller than some customers would expect for what they pay. The waffles, however, are quite filling with a side of eggs, bacon or sausage.

DSC00043Taste: 9/10-We have visited The Sloppy Waffle several times since their opening two years ago because we have been consistently satisfied by their entrees. While some Yelp and Facebook users would beg to differ, we consider their specialty waffles to be delicious in terms of their taste and texture. We were especially taken by their chicken and waffles dish along with their s’mores waffle. The chicken and waffles dish impressed us because of how well the staff succeeded in replicating a southern favorite in a New England  Kitchen. The s’mores waffle was so delicious that it inspired us to go out to Price Chopper and buy ingredients to make the real thing.

In a nutshell: 35/40-Despite a few kinks, we wouldn’t be surprised if The Sloppy Waffle becomes a Newington classic and earns a cult following. The restaurant has improved since its humble beginnings and we expect it to continue to improve as long as it maintains its dedicated staff and has a presence in Newington. As the town of Newington continues to transform into a hot spot for hole in the wall restaurants, it’s nice to see The Sloppy Waffle contribute to that reputation.

A Look at CT Snapshot’s Season 4 Reviews


Since 2012, we at CTSnapshot have done our best to review Connecticut’s fun and food. We have focused more on the “food” aspect of that phrase in recent years, however, because Connecticut has so much to offer in terms of its diverse restaurants. In 2015, we will do our best to deliver reviews with respect to both because we want residents to never stop exploring what their state has to offer in terms of its activities, entertainment and cuisine.  In 2015,  we will continue be honest and sometimes blunt about our experiences because our readers deserve to know the truth about the quality of the places we visit.

Check out the list below for a sneak peak of our season 4 reviews. This is a tentative list and by no means a comprehensive one. If you have any recommendations about restaurants or other establishments we should visit, we would love to hear your suggestions!

1. The Sloppy Waffle in Newington

2. Vinny’s Jump and Jive in Middletown

3. Utsav Indian Cuisine in Wethersfield

4. Mark’s Tree Farm in Colchester

5. Zafra Rum Bar in New Haven

6. Prime Climb in Wallingford

7. Thimble Island Brewing Company in Branford

8. Fascia’s Chocolates in Waterbury