Pop’s Burgers and a Movie at Southington Drive-In


After a very long break, we’re back! We last left off with a dinner + movie review at Gilson Cafe Cinema in Winsted. We liked the movie prices but weren’t too impressed with the food. We decided to try this experience again at the Southington Drive-In.  The Southington Drive-In served the town of Southington from 1955 until 2002.  The town decided to reopen the drive-in 2010 as a community run theater.  Nostalgia was reborn!   The drive-in drew  a large crowd of both newcomers and movie-going veterans who longed to relive their drive-in memories.  We visited Southington Drive-In last summer and loved our experience.  When we learned Pop’s Burgers (also of Southington) serviced the Drive-in, we decided to review the drive-in as a dinner-and-a-movie package.  This is how our night panned out-

Southington Drive-In

Overall Grade: A

Location:  935 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, Southington, CT

Website Facebook Pop’s Burgers Menu

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Atmosphere: 10/10-We felt as if we were reliving a piece of history. We were in awe seeing the many cars lined up toward the drive-in screen.  We recalled our experience at the Hartford Drive-In before the town abandoned it and the Toll Brothers built mundane looking houses on the land.  We knew the importance of this drive-in from the moment we parked. There are only three drive-ins left in the state of Connecticut.  By the 1980s, drive-ins rapidly disappeared from the state.  The town of Southington cared enough to keep their drive-in alive and the community cared enough to show up in large quantities.  The power of nostalgia is something we cannot word eloquently but we can say that we were moved, truly and deeply moved.

We are also moved by Southington Drive-In’s choice to play classic movies and old fashioned commercials.  The drive-in plays a wonderful selection of movies.  They range from kid friendly like Shrek to scary movies like Friday the 13th. We enjoyed watching Shrek on the big screen again. We caught all of the “adult jokes” this time around!  If you visit the website, you’ll find a wide selection of movies that play throughout the summer. When you visit the drive-in, you’ll notice commercials like the one below. See if you recognize this gem!

 

Service: 10/10-We appreciated the hard work and personalities of the staff at the Southington Drive-In and Pop’s Burgers.  They greeted you with smiles and provided quick, quality service.  Be sure to thank a staff member on your visit.  They put A LOT of effort into making your experience enjoyable so remember to reciprocate  Also, show some respect for the park.  We saw a couple rude customers waiting in line for food and two women (with children) who smoked in front of them and threw their cigarette butts on the grass. We shouldn’t have to tell you why this is rude, disrespectful and downright stupid.  You are NOT entitled to disrespecting the property or the employees.

Price of food: 4/5-The prices are decent compared to other theaters. You’ll pay less for any of the items on Pop’s menu than you would at a regular movie theater. You’ll also A LOT pay less for Popcorn and Candy.  For example, a large bag of popcorn costs $3.  You can’t even get a box of candy for that price at most movie theaters!  Many people sneak in food to movie theaters because its so expensive.  At Southington Drive-In, you can pay for dinner and a snack and not feel broke.

Taste:  8.5/10– We also liked the taste of our food better than we do at most movie theaters.  Pop’s burgers and fries are made fresh on a grill.  We found the bun to be the most appealing part of our burger because it tasted like freshly cooked bread from a bakery.  We especially loved our savory fries.  The staff serves them in large quantities (like Five Guys Burgers & Fries) but they taste better than Five Guys’ fries.

Price of movie: 5/5  $10 a car for Southington residents.  $13 a car for non-residents. Pack a car full of friends (or family) and take advantage of the awesome price!

In a nutshell:  37.5/40-Southington Drive-In earns an A because they deliver great nostalgia, great food and great customer service.  The summer is young.  Check out their website and visit them this summer!

Dinner and a Movie at Gilson Cafe Cinema in Winsted


EVERYTHING about Gilson Cafe Cinema in Winsted excited us.  When we learned a dinner and movie cinema existed in Connecticut, we felt elated.  We thought once we visited old fashioned theaters and drive-ins, we were entrepreneurs of the “classic” movie-going experience. Boy were we naive! This cafe cinema has existed in the heart of Winsted for the past twenty-five years.  Twenty-five years ago, Alan Nero, a former firefighter, converted this abandoned vaudeville theatre into a movie house complete with two screens and a built-in restaurant.  Our hopes were high for Gilson Cafe Cinema.   This is how our night panned out-

Gilson Cafe Cinema

Overall Grade: B

Location: 345 Main Street, Winsted, CT

Website Menu

Type of movies: Occasionally current

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Atmosphere: 9/10-When we arrived in Winsted, we were immediately reminded of Northampton. No, Winsted center is not as big or flashy but it comes equipped with plenty of quaint shops, hole in the wall restaurants and historic buildings that somehow age with grace.  Gilson scheduled a jazz band to perform after the movie but canceled at the last minute. This band might have echoed the building’s vaudeville days.  The movie house provides a retro vibe with its retro wall colors, comfy seats and old fashioned movie screens. Our tables, however, stood no taller than a standard footstool.  We had to hunch over to eat our food.

Service: 9/10-Service was fast.  The waitress provided our meal within the first fifteen minutes of the movie.  She also brought us our check before the movie ended.  It was kind of distracting to see waiters/waitresses walking around the theatre during the movie.  We thought  this protocol make might work better if the servers brought the food BEFORE the movie started and left a large pitcher of water on the tables.  Come to think of it, we would have liked it if our tables stood taller than foot stools.

Price of Food: 3.5/5  Don’t be fooled by the seemingly cheap prices on the menu! You don’t get a lot for your money.  Our $6.50 meals came with small sandwiches and a handful of chips.  If our meals came with larger portions, the price would match.  Unfortunately, our meals were no more filling than a snack off the dollar menu at a fast food restaurant. We recommend you eat at one of the nearby hole in the walls before you are seated for your movie.

Taste: 7/10-The taste of our meals left much to be desired.  By that phrase, we mean we took a bite out of mediocrity-it wasn’t particularly good or bad.  The taste lacked complexity and failed to differentiate from a typical movie theatre snack.  We failed to see why we shouldn’t be eating popcorn or candy.  Perhaps we ordered the wrong items or caught the chefs on a rushed day. We are open to broadening our horizons and re-evaluating this category.

Price Of Movie:  5/5-Gilson Cinema Cafe charges $7.50 per movie ticket!  Most movie theaters charge upwards of $10+ dollars. AMC Loews charges around that amount for college students… but only on Thursdays.  Bowtie Cinemas charges $8.50 for students with a college ID.  Gilson’s charges never waiver.  You pay for great sound quality and a large screen with Cinema-quality graphics.

In a nutshell: 33.5/40-Gilson Cafe Cinema left us with mixed emotions.  We valued Gilson’s historical significance, great movie ticket prices and fine staff.  However, we strongly believe that if Gilson adds variety to its menu and larger portions for the price, it will find more success as a dinner + movie venue.  We recommend you visit for the low ticket price, great sound quality and the historical experience.  You might also want to check out the jazz band (and other musical performances) if you stop by on a Saturday night.

Gilson Cafe Cinema on Urbanspoon

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CT Snapshot Plus-Alive in Northampton Center


Sometimes you want to get away from Connecticut but you don’t want to travel far. We totally understand.  We love Connecticut. We love discovering new places.  BUT it’s nice go on a road trip every once in awhile.  Our CT Snapshot Plus reviews will take you just beyond Connecticut for some weekend fun.  We recommend you experience Northampton, MA, a college town that never sleeps!  Northampton Center is full of many restaurants, stores, museums, clubs, ect.  You’ll never run out of things to do!   While you’re there, you might want to check out Amanouz Cafe and The Roost.

 Amanouz Cafe

Grade:  A

Location: 44 Main Street, North Hampton, MA

Website, menu

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Atmosphere: 9/10-  Amanouz Cafe serves Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine (you probably deduced that from picture above).  This cafe stands out because it rests in the sea of many Mexican and Asian hole in the walls on the strip.  Don’t get us wrong, those places look amazing but we like taking chances with new, authentic foods. Amanouz’ interior looks cute on the inside with a few Moroccan paintings/sculptures mounted to the walls.  But seating is limited and we were stuck in a table for two next to a fridge.  Amanouz would benefit from  more Moroccan decorations and another table or two outside.

Service: 9/10-Amanouz is partially self-serve and partially traditional.  You pay for your food upfront so you are not required to tip (if you love your meals, however, we recommend you do so!). You also handle your own silverware and can refill water via a dispenser. The tap water does not taste that great.  The cooks will serve you your meals in wooden pots and tinfoil wrappers. We didn’t have to wait long for our meals!

Price/Selection:  10/10-Amanouz Cafe offers large portions at an incredibly affordable price.  We’re not messing around here.  The highest price on the menu is 11.95!  The menu provides a wide variety of Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes.

 Taste:  9.5/10- Three words: delicious, authentic, savory.  You will likely enjoy both the quantity and the quality of your dishes.  Your meals are filling, so filling in fact that you’ll have to walk a few blocks to work off those satisfying calories. Your taste buds will thank you for complimenting them with a diversity of spices and juices.  We recommend you try the tagine, a traditional Moroccan dish and the honey battered crepes.  “tajine, or tagine (Berbertajin), is a Berber dish from North Africa, that is named after the special earthenware pot in which it is cooked. A similar dish, known as tavvas, is found in the cuisine of Cyprus. The traditional tajine pot is formed entirely of a heavy clay, which is sometimes painted or glazed. It consists of two parts: a base unit that is flat and circular with low sides, and a large cone or dome-shaped cover that sits on the base during cooking. The cover is so designed to promote the return of all condensation to the bottom. With the cover removed, the base can be taken to the table for serving”  (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/tagine).

In a nutshell-37.5/40-Overall, Amanouz scores a 94% for its incredible price and bold taste.  There aren’t too many Moroccan restaurants in New England so Amanouz also scores high for daring to be different in a town immersed by Asian and Mexican cuisine.

The Roost

Grade: A

Location: 1 Market,  Northampton, MA

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The Roost is a very unique cafe and deserves a unique rating scale.  Check our top four reasons why you should visit The Roost in Northampton, MA!

4.  The Price/selection-9/10

 The Roost boasts a competitive price compared to cafes in Connecticut like Starbucks and Gloria Jeans.  We wouldn’t call it cheap, but it’s “cheaper” than its competitors. You get your money’s worth in proportion size.  You can also choose from soups, salads and sandwiches. We didn’t get a chance to try those but you might want to if you stop by for lunch or an early dinner.  From a glance, the prices appear to rival Panera Bread and Atlanta Bread in those categories.

Good for dates/friends-9.5/10

Whether you’re with friends or lover(s), The Roost is a great place to hang.  The wooden interior projected a log cabin vibe that many stores in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont do.  You never feel like you’re in an establishment restaurant.  You can lose track of time sitting down, conversing or playing board games and still leave before it closes.  Yes, unlike cafes Connecticut, the Roost stays open well into the night!

2.  All nat-ural-9/10

The Roost offers an all-nat-ural feel to its cafe drinks.  Our drinks tasted freshly brewed, blended with mouth watering mocha, vanilla or chocolate.   These specialty drinks prove superior to the the powdery mixes you’ll overpay for at Dunkin Donuts.

1. The Games!-10/10

The Roost offers a variety of board games! You can pick one off the shelf and play for as long as you’d like.  We played Scategories and noticed that the board and the game pieces, though slightly aged,  were still in great shape!  If you plan on staying for awhile, you might want to play a few.  We recommend leaving your names on the scorecards…for historical purposes.  Also, we think it’s part of the traveler’s code.

In a nutshell-37.5/40-The Roost scores an A for its great taste…in drinks, food and board games!  If you’re looking for a place to lose track of time and not pay any attention to your weeknight schedule, we highly recommend you check this place out.  Once you enter The Roost…you’re bound to stay for a drink…maybe two drinks…some food…a conversation…and a plethora of board games!

Amanouz Cafe on Urbanspoon

the Roost on Urbanspoon

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Jerry Springer, Maury And Steve Wilkos in Stamford, CT!


Chances are, you’ve seen Jerry Springer, Maury or Steve Wilkos on TV when you were channel surfing one weekday afternoon.  Maybe you watched a few minutes or the full show.  We know- every episode has the same concept.  But it could be fun to see live.  Speaking of which…these shows film in Stamford, CT!  Better yet, they’ll send you tickets for free.  We plan to visit these shows sometime in the near future..  If you want to check out these shows before we do, check out the links below.

The Jerry Springer Show 

Tickets: http://www.jerryspringertv.com/get_tickets.php

Location: Rich Forum Theater, 307 Atlantic Street, Stamford, CT

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Maury Show

Tickets: http://www.mauryshow.com/get_tickets.php

307 Atlantic Street, Stamford, CT

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Steve Wilkos Show

Location:  307 Atlantic Street, Stamford, CT

Tickets: http://www.stevewilkos.com/tickets

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Farmington Mini Golf & Icecream Parlor


The warmer weather reminds us that spring is right around the corner.  This means it’s time to get organized, start exercising and have fun outside!  But let’s be honest. You probably get organized for about a day, join the gym for about a week and claim you’re having “fun”  by following the same routine you did during the winter. Or maybe, just maybe, you decide to go mini golfing with your friends, family or significant other.  Over the course of spring and summer, CT will review Connecticut’s best and worst miniature golf courses.

Farmington Mini Golf & Ice Cream Parlor

Overall Grade: A-

Location:  1048 Farmington Ave.  Farmington, CT

Open:  late March, early April

Course: 10/10-  Since 1962, Connecticutians have flocked to this establishment for traditional miniature golf and an old time ice cream parlor in a “beautiful park like setting.”  The course spans through a windmill, a castle,  a well, a church, a small pond and several winding holes.  This fifty-year-old course has aged well, as the Guglielmo family and their staff spend a considerable amount of time maintaining it.  Although the course boasts a challenging par of 48, you’ll have a lot of fun trying to conquer it. If you master this course, you might want to sign up for their tournament in late August.  The top five finishers win a cash price of $15-$100.  If you have children under the age of 10, you can visit their annual Easter tournament.  During the month of October, customers of all ages can enjoy Haunted Mini Golf.  The staff revamps the course with spooky decorations.

Service: 10/10-I worked at Farmington Mini Golf from 2009-2010 so I know how dedicated the staff are to their customers.  To work at this establishment, you must be fast and efficient.  I worked as a server in the ice cream parlor and the place was always buzzing with customers. I couldn’t keep up with the weekend crowd so I decided my time was better suited a customer.  The current employees are fast and dependable.

Price of Course: 9/10  $6 before 6 PM,  $8 after 6 PM.  $3.00 repeat games before 6 PM.  We recommend you play before 6 PM so you can take advantage of the $9 for two game deal.  Think about it.  That’s only a dollar more than you would pay for a night game.

Price of Ice Cream Parlor:  2.5/5- The ice cream parlor loses points on price because the price you have to pay for a scoop of ice cream is dependent on the amount it weighs. Generally, a small cup of ice cream (one tennis ball sized scoop) costs around $3.25!  An two additional scoops are the size of golf balls (they’re added to the tennis ball scoop) and run from $4-$5!  To give you an idea of how ridiculous this is, you can buy a pint of Haagen-Dazs ice cream for $4.75 at your local price chopper. Haagen-Dazs price ranks up there with Ben & Jerry’s.  Yet, you will find more than one tennis ball sized scoop inside!  If you want toppings, you’ll have to spend an additional $0.25 to $0.50.  At Friendly’s, you can have a dinner, and medium sized Sunday for drink $9.99.  If ordered ice cream with toppings for just you and a friend, you would actually spend more than that amount.

Selection/Taste:  4.5/5- If you happen to have a considerable amount of money and you’re really craving ice cream, you can choose from a wide selection of ice cream that actually tastes pretty delicious.  Our top five flavors include:  Kahlua chocolate chunk, cherry moose tracks, cowabunga crunch, extreme chocolate and black raspberry.  If you win Farmington Mini Golf’s August tournament, you can afford to buy the ice cream for all of your friends!

In a nutshell: 36/40- We recommend you visit Farmington Mini Golf & Ice Cream Parlor for their traditional style mini golf, great service and fun special events.  Since 1962, Farmington Mini Golf & Ice Cream has provided the residents of Farmington, and the Greater Hartford area, with enough Spring and Summer fun to keep you coming back again and again.  We recommend you visit this establishment during the day to take advantage of their $9 deal for two games and only buy their ice cream if you have a surplus of money.

Cook It Yourself!-Asian edition. Chef Chris Prosperi’s Pad Thai recipe


You don’t feel like going out to eat but you still want to try something delicious and exotic.   We’ve been there before and we recommend you cook it yourself!  If you’re one for experimentation, we recommend you visit A Dong supermarket on 160 Shield Street in West Hartford.  This is  Connecticut’s best Asian supermarket. But what should you buy?  In November 2008, Chef Chris Prosperi of Metro Bis in Simsbury visited Newington’s Lucy Robbins Welles library and shared some of his tastiest recipes.  His Pad Thai recipe proved to be the tastiest.  You can buy all of these ingredients at A Dong Supermarket.

Pad Thai by Chef Chris Prosperi (makes 2 servings)

Pad Thai Sauce

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Pad Thai by Chef Chris Prosperi (makes 2 servings)

Pad Thai Sauce

1 bottle Mae Ploy chili sauce for chicken
2 ½ cups sugar
3 cups water
½ cup fish sauce
3 cups white vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepot over medium heat and bring to a simmer for two minutes. Let cool and store in the refrigerator.

Pad Thai

1 package medium rice noodles
1 pound chicken thinly sliced
4 eggs
1 cup Pad Thai Sauce
1 12-ounce package mung bean sprouts
1-bunch scallions chopped
½ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
1 lime cut into quarters

How to Cook it: Soak the noodles in warm water for 30 minutes and then drain. Heat the oil in a wok or large sauté pan and then add chicken and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Crack the eggs into the pan and stir-fry until they are cooked and scrambled. Add 6 ounces of pad Thai sauce and bring it to a vigorous boil. Add a good hand full of noodles and cook until the pant starts to dry. Fold in the bean sprouts and scallions. Serve with sliced lime and toasted chopped peanuts.

A. Combine all ingredients in a saucepot over medium heat

B. bring to a simmer for two minutes.

C. Let cool and store in the refrigerator.

                                                         Pad Thai

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Pad Thai by Chef Chris Prosperi (makes 2 servings)

Pad Thai Sauce

1 bottle Mae Ploy chili sauce for chicken
2 ½ cups sugar
3 cups water
½ cup fish sauce
3 cups white vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepot over medium heat and bring to a simmer for two minutes. Let cool and store in the refrigerator.

Pad Thai

1 package medium rice noodles
1 pound chicken thinly sliced
4 eggs
1 cup Pad Thai Sauce
1 12-ounce package mung bean sprouts
1-bunch scallions chopped
½ cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
1 lime cut into quarters

How to Cook it: Soak the noodles in warm water for 30 minutes and then drain. Heat the oil in a wok or large sauté pan and then add chicken and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Crack the eggs into the pan and stir-fry until they are cooked and scrambled. Add 6 ounces of pad Thai sauce and bring it to a vigorous boil. Add a good hand full of noodles and cook until the pant starts to dry. Fold in the bean sprouts and scallions. Serve with sliced lime and toasted chopped peanuts.

 How to Cook it:

A. Soak the noodles in warm water for 30 minutes and then drain.

B. Heat the oil in a wok or large sauté pan and then add chicken and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.

C. Crack the eggs into the pan and stir-fry until they are cooked and scrambled.

D. Add 6 ounces of pad Thai sauce and bring it to a vigorous boil.

E. Add a good hand full of noodles and cook until the pant starts to dry.

F. Fold in the bean sprouts and scallions.

G. Serve with sliced lime and toasted chopped peanuts.

Look for our review of Metro Bis in the near future. If  you want to beat us to it, Chef Prosperi’s restaurant is located at 928 Hopmeadow St. #7B in Simsbury, CT.

Once you get familiar with the Pad Thai recipe, you can change it up and make your own rendition. Check out my version-Lemon Berry Pad Thai. I kept the noodles, the sauce and the eggs and supplemented the other portions with tilapia, strawberries, raspberries, and lemons.

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Dinner And Dessert in the Middle of Nowhere: Haveli India Restaurant and Vida Doce Cafe & Pastry Shop


Think about your last dinner date.  How did you go about selecting the restaurant?  Did a friend or family member recommend it? Did you choose based on the plethora of good reviews? Or did you choose a restaurant based on familiarity? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you fell victim to the dinner date routine! We can sympathize.  We’ve been there before and while routine is not necessarily a bad thing, it can get a little boring after awhile.  Tonight, we ventured into an Indian restaurant that masquerades as a small hotel and quaint little bakery/cafe that hides across from a Citco gas station on the Berlin Turnpike.

Haveli India Restaurant

Overall Grade: B+

Links: Website, Menu

Location: 1300 South Main St., Middletown, CT

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Atmosphere: 8.5/10-Haveli India Restaurant rests just off the highway in the middle of nowhere. There are no other restaurants nearby.  This is why Haveli India Restaurant qualifies as a M.O.N.E (Middle of Nowhere Establishment) instead of a hole in the wall.  This intrigued and confused us. If we hadn’t been looking for Haveli, we would have dismissed it as a modest hotel. When we first entered Haveli, we were reminded of the Stanley Hotel from the 1980 horror flick The Shining. We noticed the same, creepy rug pattern and to add to horror-esq vibe, were the only ones there!  Fortunately, an older couple and a family arrived shortly after us and the creepiness wore off.  We found the Indian paintings pleasing and dug the authentic music as well.  The track repeated after 15 minutes or so.  Authentic music enhances any restaurant environment.  We would have loved more variety.

Service: 9/10- Service is a “make it or break it” deal for restaurants. Bella Anthony’s cracked under pressure with only four small groups of people.  Haveli’s served about the same amount with ease. They handed out the menus as soon as we sat down, delivered the food in a short amount of time (while it was still hot and fresh) and constantly refilled the drinks at every table. We never needed to ask for “more” of anything and we didn’t have to wait long for a check. The waiters weren’t too personable but they compensated with their dependability.

Price/Selection:  8/10- The price is fair but it is somewhat disproportionate to the amount of food you receive. We expected larger portions but that can be a petty American bias.  Haveli’s offers a wide selection in terms of hot/cold appetizers, vegetarians specialties, seafood specialties, chicken and lamb specialties, Indian bread, Kebab’s, rice, and desserts. Haveli only offers a small amount of Indian drinks such as Lassi, a salted or unsalted yogurt drink that is flavored with sugar, rose water, or crushed cumin seeds. The American/Euro-centric amount of drinks could pertain to general pickiness.

Taste: 9.5/10- We ate “seafood” that tasted like a TV dinner at Red Lobster earlier today so we welcomed the savory taste of Haveli’s dishes. Highlights include- the extra doughy bread that soaked up flavor residue like a sponge, the coconut flavored white rice and the curry that complimented our taste buds and cleared our sinuses.  We strongly recommend the chicken or vegetarian curry if you are losing your Indian-cuisine virginity or if you long to revisit your first taste of Indian cuisine with an enlightened perspective.

In a nutshell-35/40- Haveli India Restaurant scores a solid B+ in total and an A in taste. We cannot emphasize this enough.  This is one of the more authentic Indian restaurants in Connecticut. We recommend you stop by for the exquisite taste, the fast service, and of course, the Shining vibe.

Vida Doce Cafe & Pastry Shop

Overall Grade: B  

Links: Facebook, Website

Location: 262 Brockett Street, Newington, CT

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Disclaimer:  We base this grade off of only the dessert/cafe experience.  Vida Doce Cafe & Pastry Shop also offers a wide variety of specialty cakes.  If you’re looking for potential catering, we strongly recommend you contact Vida Doce and schedule an appointment.  You should also look for personal reviews from previous customers who used Vida Doce’s catering services.  We can say that the cakes look creative and simply stunning.

Atmosphere: 9/10-Vida Doce’s interior looks adorable.  It has plenty of tables for two, which is an unspoken welcoming for couples to sit, sip some cafe drinks and socialize.  I secretly longed for some mellow music for my girlfriend and I to chill out to. There was something special about sitting right next to window while the snow fell (even though I normally hate snow after December).  The vibe is inherently New England and somewhat reminiscent of the cafes I visited in Paris.  I longed to share that experience with her so it was nice finding a place that hinted of French tranquility.

Service 10/10: Vida Doce’s staff is very personable and very organized.  We appreciated their pleasant demeanor and the fact that they refrigerated our take-home food while we ate and talked.  The staff also keeps the place very clean without a single crumbs in sight! If you’ve visit enough cafes, you’ll notice that is not always the case.  Finding a cafe in which the staff doesn’t need to wipe down the tables before you sit is a rarity.  The length of time the customers spent in Vida Doce also speaks to their excellent service.

Price/Selection: 7/10 Vida Doce loses a few points on its price and selection. The pastries average $3-5 per portion.  This wouldn’t be a problem if Vida Doce provided larger portions. We finished our pastries in very little time and we were already pretty stuffed from Haveli. The pastry selection lacks some variety.  The desserts on display looked appetizing but they left us wanting more to choose from.  One can probably attribute the lack of variety to the fact that Vida Doce specializes in its special event cakes.  We surveyed plenty of variety in this category!  Vida Doce is also a fairly new establishment. You’ll notice that the pastry portion of their website is “under construction.” They do not list their pastry at the counter so you need to ask.  They are probably still in the experimental phase with these categories.

Taste: 8/10-We felt satisfied with the taste of our pastries. We could easily differentiate these pastries from the pre-made imitations that other restaurants attempt to market as gourmet food.  Their cafe selection wins in the taste category, however.  We recommend you try the cappuccino or some mocha.  The succulent flavor rivals that of Starbucks or Dunkin Doughnuts.  Best of all, they serve it in a large cup and fill it to the top.  Chain restaurants that supposedly specialize in cafe drinks will often fill it only three-quarters full.  *Cough McDonalds*

In a nutshell-34/40– Vida Doce Cafe & Pastry Shop scores a high B in our book.  They are new and promising so this grade is definitely subject to change for the better.  We recommend you visit for the cafe, the friendly service, the adorable tables for two and make your own judgement on the size-portion ratio of the pastries.  If you’re interested in specialty cakes, please visit their social network sites or stop in for a visit.

Haveli India on Urbanspoon

Vida Doce Cafe & Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon

Bandwith Karaoke: Connecticut’s Rockstar Experience


You’re at a bar or a party on a weekend night some time in 2012.  You’re with your friends and you’re looking forward to socializing, drinking and having an all around good time. Then the host says one seemingly deadly, four syllable word-KARAOKE. Now maybe you like karaoke, maybe you despise it.  But on this particular night, you don’t want to hear a bunch of drunk shmucks stumble over their words to a modified, prerecorded track.  You think, “karaoke would sound a lot better with a live band.”  You don’t need to look far for this experience!  A karaoke band exists in Connecticut and you can rock with them every Friday night.

Bandwith Karaoke

Overall Grade:  A

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BandwithKaraoke

Location(s):  Friday 10:00 PM Coach’s Bar and Grill, 201 Ann St, Hartford, CT

2nd Saturday of every month: Center Station, 845 Farmington Ave, Berlin, CT

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Atmosphere:  10/10– Bandwith Karaoke delivers a truly thrilling atmosphere on Friday nights at Coach’s Bar and Grill in Hartford and on the second Saturday of every month at Center Station in Berlin.  On those days, you can rock out with Lefebvre, Whit, J-Mo, Debbie and Stereo Joe to a wide selection of songs.  These songs transcend the genres of rock, pop, rap and country, so there is something for everyone.  If you’re nervous about performing in front of people, don’t worry! The band makes you feel welcome in front of the audience and provides you with the lyrics on screen that rests below the mic stand.  You can perform a song by yourself  or rock out with a friend, or two, or three…

Service: 10/10– Bandwith Karaoke provides excellent service in terms of instrumentals and organization.  Bandwith Karaoke isn’t one of those bands you hire for a high school dance or wedding.  These guys actually rock!  We were impressed by their instrumentals, backup vocals and their ability to perform for hours without tiring.  This is a band that performs well live and that’s more than we can say for many mainstream and local bands.   The band also organizes their set list with precision. They try their best to make sure everyone has a chance to sing at least once.  Arrive early so you can secure your name on the set list!

Price: 10/10 $5.  This score should be self-explanatory

Variety: 10/10  Bandwith Karaoke provides a long list of songs for you to rock out to.  They’re always adding songs to the list and they’re open to suggestions.  Have a song idea?  Simply leave the band a comment on their Facebook page and they’ll consider it!

In A Nutshell  40/40:  Bandwith Karaoke scores a perfect A because they bring a true rock star experience and provide a night of fun at an incredibly low price!  If you’re curious about the songs or the experience itself, check out the YouTube video and the set list below.  We strongly encourage you to join this band!

Current Set list:

3 AM – Matchbox 20
99 Red Balloons – Goldfinger/Nena
Ace of Spades – Motorhead
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg – The Temptations
Alive – Pearl Jam
All Along The Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix
All The Small Things – Blink 182
American Girl – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Animals – Nickelback
Another One Bites The Dust – Queen
Any Way You Want It – Journey
Are You Gonna Be My Girl? – Jet
Are You Gonna Go My Way? – Lenny Kravitz
Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-A-Lot
Baby One More Time – Britney Spears
Back In Black – AC/DC
The Bad Touch – Bloodhound Gang
Basketcase – Green Day
Beat It – Michael Jackson
Before He Cheats – Carrie Underwood
Betterman – Pearl Jam
Beverly Hills – Weezer
Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
Bitch – Meredith Brooks
Black Dog – Led Zeppelin
Black Velvet – Alannah Myles
Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones
Blue Bayou – Linda Ronstadt
Blue On Black – Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Bring Me Some Water – Melissa Etheridge
Bulls on Parade – Rage Against The Machine
Bust A Move – Young MC
Cat Scratch Fever – Ted Nugent
Come Out And Play – The Offspring
Come Together – The Beatles
Crackerman – Stone Temple Pilots
Crazy Bitch – Buckcherry
Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
Creep – Radiohead
Criminal – Fiona Apple
Cumbersome – Seven Marry Three
Dammit – Blink 182
Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol
Dani California – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Drive – Incubus
Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
Dr. Feelgood – Motley Crue
Far Behind – Candlebox
Fat Bottomed Girls – Queen
Feel Like Making Love – Bad Company
Fell On Black Days – Soundgarden
Fight For Your Right – Beastie Boys
Fire – Jimi Hendrix
Flagpole Sitta – Harvey Danger
Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revivial
Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty
Friends in Low Places – Garth Brooks
F@!K You – Cee-Lo
F@!kin’ Perfect – P!nk
Gel – Collective Soul
Girls Girls Girls – Motley Crue
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Give It Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Gives You Hell – The All-American Rejects
Good – Better Than Ezra
Got You (Where I Want You) – The Flys
Heartbreaker – Pat Benetar
Hemorrhage (In My Hands) – Fuel
Hey Jealousy – Gin Blossoms
Hey Ya! – Outkast
Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Pat Benetar
Hotblooded – Foreigner
I Believe In A Thing Called Love – The Darkness
I Fought The Law – The Clash
I Kissed A Girl – Katy Perry
I Love Rock and Roll – Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
I Touch Myself – The Divinyls
I Wanna Be Sedated – The Ramones
I Want You Back – Jackson 5
I Want You To Want Me – Cheap Trick
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
Inside Out – Eve 6
Interstate Love Song – Stone Temple Pilots
Jet Airliner – Steve Miller Band
Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
Just A Girl – No Doubt
Just Like A Pill – P!nk
Just Like Heaven – The Cure
Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine
Kryptonite – 3 Doors Down
Laid – James
Last Kiss – Pearl Jam
Last Name – Carrie Underwood
Like A Stone – Audioslave
Like A Virgin – Madonna
Limelight – Rush
Living After Midnight – Judas Priest
Livin’ On A Prayer – Bon Jovi
Longview – Greenday
Love In An Elevator – Aerosmith
Man In A Box – Alice In Chains
Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
The Middle – Jimmy Eat World
Misery Business – Paramore
Mother – Danzig
Mr. Brightside – The Killers
Mr. Jones – Counting Crows
Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett
My Hero – Foo Fighters
My Own Worst Enemy – Lit
Nearly Lost You – Screaming Trees
The Needle and The Spoon – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
Nothing But A Good Time – Poison
One – U2
The Only One – Melissa Etheridge
Only The Good Die Young – Billy Joel
Panama – Van Halen
Paradise City – Guns N’ Roses
Paralyzer – Finger 11
Paranoid – Black Sabbath
Pardon Me – Incubus
Picture – Kid Rock w/ Sheryl Crow
Piece of My Heart – Janice Joplin / Big Brother and The Holding Company
Plush – Stone Temple Pilots
Poker Face – Lady Gaga
Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard
Proud Mary – Tina Turner
Push – Matchbox 20
Redneck Woman – Gretchen Wilson
Renegade – Styx
Revolution – The Beatles
Roadhouse Blues – The Doors
Rock and Roll – Led Zeppelin
Rock and Roll All Nite – Kiss
Rockin’ In The Free World – Neil Young
Rock n’ Me – Steve Miller Band
Rolling In The Deep – Adele
Santa Monica – Everclear
Santeria – Sublime
Say It Ain’t So – Weezer
Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) – Journey
Sex on Fire – Kings of Leon
Sharp Dressed Man – ZZ Top
Shimmer – Fuel
Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash
Shut Up and Drive – Rihanna
Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynard
Since You’ve Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Smooth Criminal – Alien Ant Farm
Something To Talk About – Bonnie Raitt
Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield
Song 2 – Blur
Start Me Up – The Rolling Stones
Stay (I Missed You) – Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories
Summer Nights – Rascal Flatts
Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
Sweet Child o’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynard
Take Me Home Tonight – Eddie Money
This Love – Maroon 5
Tighten Up – The Black Keys
Tik Tok – Ke$ha
TNT – AC/DC
Tomorrow – Silverchair
Torn – Natalie Imbruglia
Train Train – Blackfoot
The Trooper – Iron Maiden
Turn The Page – Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band (Metallica)
Undone (The Sweater Song) – Weezer
Waking Up In Vegas – Katy Perry
Walk This Way – Aerosmith
Wanted Dead or Alive – Bon Jovi
The Warrior – Scandal
The Way You Make Me Feel – Michael Jackson
Waterfalls – TLC
What I Got – Sublime
What I Like About You – The Romantics
What’s My Age Again – Blink 182
What’s Up – 4 Non Blondes
When I Come Around – Greenday
White Wedding – Billy Idol
Who Knew – P!nk
Wonderwall – Oasis
Would? – Alice In Chains
You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift
You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi
You May Be Right – Billy Joel
You Oughta Know – Alanis Morissette
You Really Got Me – Van Halen
You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC
Youth Gone Wild – Skid Row
Zombie – The Cranberries

More Hole In The Walls


Imagine that you’re with your friends, family or significant other on a weekend afternoon or night.  You’re looking for place to eat where you don’t have to wait long.  You’re starving and.want instant gratification.  You can opt for fast food.  Most people do.  But why settle for greasy mediocrity when you can have great local taste? This week, we’ll take a look at two Newington Hole In The Walls that offer just that.

GoldBurgers

Overall Grade: A

Links: WebsiteFacebookMenu     

Location:  1096 Main Street, Newington, CT 06111

Atmosphere: 9/10-    When you enter this brightly colored restaurant, you’ll be immersed by creativity.  You might first notice some local faces hanging in picture frames on the wall.  These are the winners of GoldBurgers’ food challenges.  The “Big Dog” and “Trinity” challenges require contestants to finish a large  amount of food in less than 45 minutes.  You will also notice a specials board and a suggestion box.  If you have a creative idea for a new menu item, you can submit it to the suggestion box.  The GoldBurgers staff considers new items all the time.  They could choose your idea and add it to the specials board!

Service: 10/10-   We’ve visited GoldBurgers several times since its opening in 2009 and we’ve always encountered friendly and fast service.  The staff tries their best to make you feel at home and will often inquire about your day, local events and how your food tastes.  This “hometown personality” cannot be replicated by a chain restaurant or  some fast food joint.

Price: 4/5-  Revision 12/28/12: We did an inventory of burger places in Connecticut and discovered that GoldBurgers prices DO NOT border on the high side. In fact,  Goldburger’s prices are pretty competitive. This is why we changed the score to 4/5. You can buy a solid meal (a burger, fries and a drink)  for around $10.

If you’re looking for an economical route, we suggest the “Build Your Own Burger” option.  For $3.49 you can build a single patty burger with choice of a number of free toppings.  You can even choose potato chips and banana peppers!  For $4.99, you can build a double patty burger.

Selection: 5/5-GoldBurgers oozes with creativity and variety!  In addition to the menu, the specials board features even more creative items that were brainstormed by the staff and customers.  Check out our five picks for GoldBurger’s most creative items.  For more information, check out the menu:


 1.  The GoldBurger:  2 beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, onions, GoldBurger sauce topped off with potato chips.   $5.99

2.   The “Boss” Burger:  2 beef patties layered with cheddar cheese sauce and jalapenos topped with pepper jack cheese and spicy mustard.  $5.99

3.  Chicken Hummus Burger:  Chicken burger topped with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and roasted red pepper hummus.  $5.39 

4.  Build Your Own Burger:   See menu.  $3.49- $4.99 +

 5.  Fully Loaded Fries:  Your choice of fresh cut fries or waffle fries topped with nacho cheese sauce, crumbled bacon, sour cream & jalapenos.  $5.99.  Add Chili for $1.00.  

 Taste  9/10:  Yes, GoldBurgers’  menu items taste as delicious as they sound.  They’re juicy, freshly made and packed with plenty of flavor.

In a nutshell: 37/40-GoldBurgers stands as one of the best burger joints in Connecticut because of its creative atmosphere, diverse menu and dishes that drip with flavor.  We strongly recommend you stop by for a bite if you live in Hartford county or if you’re willing to make the trip.

Tokyo Café

Overall Grade: B+

Links: FacebookMenu

Location: 451 New Britain Avenue, Newington, CT 06111

Atmosphere:  9/10-  Located on the border of Newington and New Britain, Tokyo Café exists as an anomaly in this part of town.  When Tokyo Café opened in the Summer of 2010, we thought it would be doomed to close early, knowing the history of several ill-fated restaurants that attempted to survive the slow business of New Britain Ave.  Tokyo Café has since beaten the odds (knock on wood) and we can’t be surprised.  The restaurant seats only a handful of people but one will overlook this because of  the charming Japanese decorations  and relaxing music.  Tokyo Café omits an aroma of authenticity, one that is hard to come by in other Japanese restaurants.   Few things about Tokyo Café scream “Americanized.”

Service:  9/10– You’ll find humble and pleasant service at Tokyo Café.  The staff greets and serves you with a quiet kindness.   You won’t need to wait long for your meals or for a check.  You can also order take-out style.

Selection/price: 8/10-   Tokyo  Café  has a diverse selection of items.  When you scan the menu, you will find a unique selection of  items that don’t exist at other local Japanese restaurants (i.e. Philadelphia Roll, Peanut Avocado Roll, Sweet Potato Roll).  You can also order a select number of hibachi items. Tokyo  Café  is fairly priced for a sushi and hibachi restaurant.  It could, however, benefit from an “all you can eat-sushi” option.  Check out  our five picks for  Tokyo Café’s most creative menu items.  For more information, check out the entire menu.

 1.  Philadelphia Roll: smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese.  $4.50

2.  French Dragon Roll:  Spicy crunch shrimp and avocado inside topped with crab meat and finished with eel sauce, spicy mayo and boney wasabi sauce.   $8.95

3.   Dinosaur Roll:  Salmon tempura inside topped with salmon and avocado.    $9.95

4.   Bento Box Lunch:  Your choice of vegetable, shrimp, chicken, beef, salmon, chicken or steak teriyaki, tempura or negimaki with California rolls, Shumai, White Rice, Miso Soup & Salad. $7.50-8.50

5. Authentic Japanese sodas: Flavors include-strawberry, orange, kiwi and mango.

 Taste:  9/10-Tokyo  Café serves a fresh and delicious taste.  Tokyo Café’s sushi dishes are not all together filling. If you are looking for a filling meal, we suggest you order one of the bento box options or the hibachi dishes.

In a nutshell: 35/40-Tokyo Café scores a solid B+ in our books.  You can expect authenticity and quality when you visit this restaurant.  We recommend you stop by with a couple of friends or a significant other. Tokyo Café is not big enough to hold a large group of people.  We hope it stays this way =)

GoldBurgers on Urbanspoon

Hole In The Walls


Update 7/20/12: Bella Anthony’s is officially closed as of April 2012.  To quote one user from Urban Spoon, ” The place is padlocked and clearly not in operation. A phone call confirmed the line is disconnected. Their website is not operating.”

Let’s be blunt.   If you’ve lived in Connecticut long enough, you’re probably sick of your predictable weekend routine.  All too often, you find yourself saying, “I can’t find anything to do.”  Don’t give up!  Let CT Snapshot be your guide.  Each week, we’ll review the best and worst of Connecticut’s weekend life.  Be informed.  Never settle for predictability.  This week, we examine Hole In The Walls.

The Online Etymology Dictionary defines the term “hole in the wall” as a “small, unpretentious place.”  Some of the best restaurants in Connecticut are hole in the walls! They often serve up an authentic taste that trumps the flavor of popular chain restaurants.  BE CAREFUL.  Not every hole in the wall is as authentic as it purports.

Banana Brazil Luncheonette

Overall Grade:  B+

Website: None

Location: Main St (State St), Danbury, CT 06810-7803

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Atmosphere: 8.8/10- We really had to dig to find this place.  Banana Brazil Luncheonette does not have a website and it is not widely known.  These factors are the hallmarks of a true “hole in the wall.” Banana Brazil Luncheonette lies in a diverse neighborhood on Main Street in Danbury.  This street features a variety of restaurants from around the world. This is the perfect location for a place like Banana Brazil. Its interior bares similarities to a modest café because it is not particularly colorful and has minimal seating.  But the aroma of South American cuisine makes the atmosphere truly captivating.  From the moment you walk in the door, you will smell freshly cooked meats and vegetables.

Service: 9/10- The bulk of Banana Brazil functions like a buffet.  Unlike some other buffet places in Connecticut, the food is always fresh and always hot.  The chefs cook diligently in the kitchen and the cashier greets customers with a friendly attitude.  When we passed the street a few hours after we ate, we discovered that Banana Brazil is open well into the night.  These long hours benefit the traditional “sit down” customer along with those who prefer take-out and/or late night snacking.

Selection/Price: 8/10-The buffet costs only $8! This rivals HomeTown Buffet’s standard price of $10 or more per person.  Banana Brazil offers a delicious variety of food including:  fried chicken, garlic pasta, plantains, salad, beans, rice and a rotisserie of slow-cooking cuts of meat. You can also purchase authentic, South American sodas. This delectable selection left us wanting more. The majority of Connecticut is largely unfamiliar with Brazilian cuisine. Banana Brazil could broaden its selection by exposing its customers to traditional desserts or stews.

Taste: 9/10-The food is nothing less than savory.  We recommend you sample of all of the dishes.  Polish off a sweet plantain.  Chow down on some finger-lickin chicken.  Munch on a juicy slice of meat.  If you can’t finish it all, take it home in a doggy bag.  The flavor won’t disappear if you decide to reheat it for a quick lunch.

In a nutshell:  34.8/40-Think of Banana Brazil as an opportunity to experience the dishes of different culture.  Don’t expect fancy decorations or enticing music.  Banana Brazil keeps it simple and authentic.  Like any true “hole in the wall,” this restaurant is a delectable discovery.  Since 1998, Banana has kept it simple and delicious.

Bella Anthony’s

Overall Grade: D

Website: http://www.bellaanthonys.moonfruit.com/

Location:  580 Silas Deane Hwy. Wethersfield

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Atmosphere:  5/10- Bella Anthony’s first sparked our interest on Groupon.com.  We saw the description of the Inghilterra family and their “old-world recipes” and felt elated.  Bella Anthony’s website added to the intrigue with details about musical entertainment in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, this is where the intrigue ended.  The show tune singer/piano man could not save the restaurant from its bland interior.  Other than a few film noir posters, Bella Anthony’s lacked any decoration that would indicate to the customer that it was authentically Italian.

Service:  6/10-We found the service to be disappointing but not without potential.  Bella Anthony’s is less than month old and it has a lot of kinks to work out.  To truly thrive, they need to hire a host, additional waiters/waitresses and more chefs.  Their only two waitresses treated with us with kindness and respect. Nonetheless, they were overwhelmed by a number of disgruntled customers who failed to understand that they were understaffed.  By hiring more employees, Bella Anthony’s will surely cut down the level of dissatisfaction.

Selection and Price: 8/10- Bella Anthony’s menu features a considerable number of items.  Customers can choose from a variety of Italian favorites including:  Pasta Fagiolli soup, Fried Mozzarella, Chicken Marsala, Lobster Raviolli, Spicy Sicilian Pizza and Espresso & Sambuca.  These prices range from $2 to no more than $18.  From a glance, Bella Anthony’s seems diverse and affordable.

Taste:  6/10-Our experience with Bella Anthony’s dishes left much to be desired.  The pre-course salads and bread did not taste distinctly Italian.  One would expect different from “old-world recipes.” Our Shrimp Scampi and Chicken Parm tasted either too hot or too cold and lacked spices.  We encourage you to try the other dishes to make a more informed decision. As with all restaurants, some dishes will taste better than others.  This depends on the quality of the ingredients and the chef’s experience with creating the dish.

In a nutshell: 25/40-For now, Bella Anthony’s scores a D.  We understand that Bella Anthony’s is a new restaurant, and we still see potential, but to compete with the other restaurants on the Silas Deane, they need to make some fundamental changes.  We will revisit this eatery in the coming year to measure the improvement, or lack thereof.

Bella Anthony's on Urbanspoon

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