Saigon City in Old Saybrook: Vietnamese with An Artistic Attitude


Old Saybrook is a small, seaside town in Middlesex County. It’s also one of the oldest towns in Connecticut with roots that date back to 1624! A New York Times review of Saigon City, a quaint Vietnamese restaurant, inspired us to stop by the town for dinner and a round of mini golf.  We felt excited to try a new Vietnamese restaurant for the first time in almost a year.  We were equally delighted to find that Old Saybrook still had a mini golf course by the docks. With our two year anniversary around the corner,  we were eager to embark on a pre-celebration in this town.

Saigon City

Grade: A

Location:  1315 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook, CT

Website Menu

from the official website.

Atmosphere: 10/10-When you step into the Saigon City, you’ll notice the beautiful Vietnamese paintings that decorate the walls.  Chef Vu Nguyen, who co-owns Saigon City with his wife, Bernadette, painted some of these! This speaks to Saigon City’s authentic, creative atmosphere and to the talent of Nguyen.  The  paintings represent a wonderful, welcoming expression of the Vietnamese culture.  Saigon City’s dining room fireplace is an added bonus, especially for those frigid, Fall and Winter  nights.  We opted  to sit on the deck  and soak in the sun.  We noticed that Saigon City differs from other restaurants in that it keeps both its interior and exterior clean!

Service: 9/10-We waited a little longer than we expected for refills but, we found our waitress to be personable and efficient.  We also give props to the chef(s) who prepared our dishes in under 15 minutes.  Vietnamese  cuisine (if done well) boasts complexity in its taste and design. The quick preparation time highlights the experience of Saigon City’s chefs.

Price: 4/5-Lunch prices range from $7.95 to $10.95.  Dinner prices range from $11.95 to $17.95.  If you want a glass of wine, you’ll spend an average of $5-$6. These are some pretty sweet deals!  Our experience  caused us to re-evaluate our perspective on price. We visited an Italian restaurant the other week in which the price of entrees ranged from $17.95 and above!  We expected superior, gourmet cuisine for this amount.  We tasted tasty, overpriced cuisine.  At Saigon City, you will pay significantly less for dishes with filling portions and damn good taste!

Selection: 5/5-Click on the menu link above and scroll down. This extensive menu spans ten pages! From Vietnamese spring rolls to Red Curry pork, you have plenty to choose from! We suggest you review this extensive menu before you stop by.

Taste: 9/10-Lemon grass, peanuts, limes, vegetables, coconut milk, curry and chili-paste: these are some of the key ingredients to signature Vietnamese dishes.  Saigon City’s chefs honored this culinary tradition and the results proved downright delectable!  If you’re a fan of spice, you might want to tell your server beforehand. The dishes marked as “spicy” may not  taste as spicy as you might anticipate without this suggestion.  

Below you’ll find our picks for the top 5 most creative entrees:

1.   Saigon Spicy Chicken (Slices of tender chicken breast marinated with coconut milk, yellow curry, and chili pepper.  Stir-fried with onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and clear noodles.  Sprinkled with ground peanuts)-$12.95

2.  Spicy Vegetarian Curry (Tofu marinated with coconut milk, curry, and chili pepper.  Stir-fried with onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, and clear noodles.  Sprinkled with ground peanuts)-$12.95

3. Red Curry Pork (Sliced pork marinated with red curry and simmered in coconut milk with bamboo shoots, red chili, and bell peppers)-$12.95

4.  Saigon Beef Delight (Slices of flank steak stir-fried with pineapple, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and cucumbers)-$14.95

5.  Squid Sate-(Squid sautéed with carrots, onions, bell peppers, celery, mushrooms, broccoli, bamboo shoots, and baby corn)-$14,95

In a nutshell: 37/40-Saigon City proved that it is possible for restaurants to serve authentic, delicious cuisine at affordable prices. Yes, this includes wine too! You can treat yourself this to an exquisite dinner or lunch  without burdening your wallet. We strongly recommend you visit and immerse yourself in the artistic and culinary gem that is Saigon City.

Saigon City on Urbanspoon

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Hiking & Lunch in CT: Talcott Mountain & Apollo’s Pizza and Pasta in Simsbury


With the summer winding down, we decided to explore the natural side of Connecticut.  We took a week’s vacation to Delaware and discovered that we missed Connecticut’s nature most of all.   To satisfy  our longing, we hiked Talcott Mountain in Simsbury on Saturday and stumbled into Apollo’s Pizza  and Pasta on our way home.    Then it hit us-hiking and lunch is an ideal outing  for friends, family and dates!  If  you choose a mountain  with a great  view and eat great local food nearby,  you might make a tradition out of it!  We knew Talcott mountain had a great  view, but we had no idea about its historical significance.  Here is how our afternoon panned out-

Talcott Mountain

Overall Grade: A-

Location: Talcott Mountain State Park, 560 Simsbury Road, Bloomfield, CT

Website

Image

Parking fee: 10/10-There is no parking fee!. Your trip to Talcott Mountain is actually free fun!  Please note that you must park on the grass on the side of the road that lies before the trail.  Parking  fills quickly.  If you want to find a decent parking spot,  your best bet is to go  before noon.   Talcott Mountain State Park closes at 5:00 P.M.

Atmosphere of Mountain:  4/5-Talcott Mountain is located just 6 miles west of the city of Hartford, bordering Farmington, West Hartford, Bloomfield, Simsbury and Avon.  It is comprised of many notable cliffs, including the 950 ft high point on which the historic  Heublein tower stands.  We enjoyed  the variety of hikers, animals and vegetation.   The mountain is suitable for all ages .  We  saw kids as young as three and adults well into their eighties walk to the top.    If you’re looking for a longer hike, you might want to start at Penwood State Park, which located a short distance away from Talcott Mountain State Park.

Atmosphere of Tower:  5/5-The historic Heublein Tower has a lot of history.  The setup is like a mini museum inside.   Every room is a mini exhibit that tells a great deal about the tower’s history.   We don’t want to spoil the rich history for you, so we’ve selected five interesting facts to  share about the tower-

1.   It served as Gilbert Heublein’s home and retreat from the 1914 until his death in the 1930s.  He founded Heublein Inc, an American producer of beverages and food.  He was most notably a manufacturer of Smirnoff Vodka and A1 steak sauce.

2,   While hiking with his wife on Talcott Mountain, Gilbert promised her he would one day build her a tower.

3.   Ronald Reagan,  Prescott Bush and Dwight D. Eisenhower were guests at the tower during the 1950s.  The staff threw an election party for Eisenhower during the 1950s.

4.   The Hartford Times used the tower to operate its FM station from 1948 to 1950.

5.   The State of Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection now manages the tower.

Trail: 8/10-The trail is short, considering Talcott Mountain spans only three miles at its widest point.   The trail, however, offers a nice view of the Greater Hartford area a short distance from the top.

View from Tower and Mountain  9/10-From the top of the tower, you’ll get a  great view of Farmington, West Hartford, Bloomfield, Simsbury and the Farmington River.  The tower offers a panoramic view of the Hartford skyline, the Farmington River, the Farmington valley, Mt. Tom and four New England states.  We were more than delighted to receive these incredible views for free.  The view from the top of the tower was a perfect way to   top off our hike.

In a nutshell: 36/40-We thoroughly enjoyed our hike and we recommend you visit for….

-The free parking

-The scenic trail

-The historic Heublein Tower

-The Snapple machine inside the tower. (This machine offers Snapple in a can.  A rarity at most venues).

-The view from the top of the tower and the top of the mountain.

Apollo’s Pizza and Pasta

Overall Grade: B+

Location:  775 Hopmeadow Street,  Simsbury, CT

Website  Menu

Atmosphere:  9/10-Our hike inspired us to venture into Simsbury for lunch.  We stumbled upon Apollo’s Pizza and Pasta on Hopmeadow street, a five minute drive from the mountain.  When we entered the restaurant, we we noticed the small, classy interior.  You’ll notice that the staff advertises Avery’s Soda at the front counter.   Avery’s Soda is old fashioned  soda that comes in  a glass bottle.   Avery’s boasts a variety of flavors   from Black Cherry to odder flavors such as Bug Barf soda.  No, we’re not kidding.  The old fashioned sodas sparked us with a sense of wonder about the menu items.

Service:  9/10-We appreciated our service.  We received our food in under 15 minutes and constant refills from our waitress.

Price/selection of lunch:  4.5/5-The lunch menu is noticeably cheaper than the dinner menu.   Entrees average around $10 to $14.   You’ll receive  a considerable amount of food for the price you pay.

Price/selection of dinner: 3.5/5-Entrees ranges from $11.5o to $19.50.   A large, traditional pizza costs only $11.25!  This is considerably cheaper than the price for most large pizzas.  If you want a large, gourmet pizza you will pay around $18.  Apollo’s entrees are still  considerably cheaper than many restaurants in Simsbury.

Taste: 8.5/10-We enjoyed our entrees but expected slightly more because of the flavorful composition of the  dish.   The portion size definitely matches the price.  You won’t leave the restaurant hungry.

In a nutshell: 34.5/40-Apollo’s scores a solid  B+  for its good food, good service and great lunch prices.   We recommend you visit, especially if you’re looking for a nice hole in the wall restaurant after you hike Talcott Mountain.   Check out our top four picks for  the most creative items!

1.  The Simsbury Burger (this may not be the name).  Apollo’s does not have a lunch a menu online so we cannot double check.

2. Scallops Ala Vodka

3.  Florentine Pizza

4.  Eggplant Rollatini

Below you’ll find additional pics from our Simsbury adventure!

The top of the tower
View of Mt. Tom
View of dining room
Heublein’s bedroom
Christina’s burger

Nos gusta Los Mariachis en Wallingford


Update: 8/1/12-The Groupon deal has ended but the regular menu prices are still decent at an average of $10-$12 per entree.

Connecticut has an abundance of “Mexican” restaurants.  From On the Border to Azteca, you can find Tex-Mex restaurants in almost every town.  With Christina’s birthday around the corner, I decided to assemble a surprise party at a Mexican restaurant.  I chose Los Mariachis Grill because as a hole in the wall restaurant, it stood the chance of looking and tasting authentic.  Hole in the wall restaurants tend to be family owned and stay true to the culture in terms of food and decorations.  We genuinely enjoyed the company of friends and good Mexican food.

Los Mariachis Grill

Overall Grade: A-

Location:  105 North Colony Street, Wallingford, CT

Website Facebook Menu Groupon

Atmosphere:  9/10-Los Mariachis has a small interior.   It does, however, offer a bar and outside seating.  You’ll notice a few paintings on the wall but nothing that screams authentically Mexican.   Los Mariachis could benefit by adding a few more paintings and possibly some music.  We enjoyed Los Mariachis cozy size.  Unlike most chain restaurants, Los Mariachis isn’t burdened by crowds or long waits.  Unfortunately, the parking lot is unequipped to handle many cars so you might have to park on the street. Update: The last time we visited, we enjoyed a wonderful Mariachi band!

Service:  9/10-Los Mariachis was short staffed for a busy night.  Our waitress was friendly but rarely refilled our drinks.  We were impressed that our appetizers and entrees arrived quickly.  When the plates arrived, they were steaming hot and looked delicious. Like El Flamboyan, the staff paid attention to the ambiance of our meals.  We liked the way the staff separated the toppings for our entrees. This gives the customer culinary creative control!

Price/selection: 8/10-Los Mariachis’ prices are decent.  The same goes for their entrees, specials and appetizer variety.   Entrees average around $11 or $12.   We took advantage of  Los Mariachis’ Groupon deal.  This allows you to purchase $20  worth of food for $10.  This is a good deal!  Please note that you are only allowed to use one Groupon per table.  We didn’t read the fine print and ended up paying a little more than we expected.  We were slightly disappointed by the gratuity charge on our bill.  We understand that restaurants want to be tipped, but, we feel good tips depend on good service.  We appreciated our service and would have liked to determine its worth on our own.

Taste:  9.5/10- Los Mariachis won over taste buds.  We loved the “kick” to the hot sauce, the appetizers and the entrees.  Tex Mex restaurants tend to dilute the spiciness because of the age-old stereotype about American distaste for spicy foods.  We loved that the dishes made zero apologies for their spice quality.  We also loved the portion size.  You receive plenty of food for your money.  We recommend you try the giant burritos or the flavorful fajitas.

Extra credit: 0.5-Los Mariachis offers delivery! This is an added bonus for residents of Wallingford.

In a nutshell: 36/40- In all, we enjoyed our experience at Los Mariachis and we plan to use our other Groupon soon! We recommend you try Los Mariachis for the great taste and large portion size.  Be aware of the gratuity charges and the limited parking spaces when you visit.    

Los Mariachis on Urbanspoon

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