Best Restaurants in Connecticut 2021 Last Updated: July 2023
Looking for the best restaurants in Connecticut? There are so many great spots to choose from, so we turned to the Connecticut Restaurant Association for the 2021 winners and nominees of its annual CRAzies Awards. The awards consider hundreds of contenders, select a short list of nominee finalists, and finally, award winners for the best restaurants in each region. In addition to naming the best restaurants, the awards recognize best chefs, best bartenders, best servers, and beyond.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association hosted more than 1,100 guests at Foxwoods Resort Casino to celebrate the restaurant industry. In addition to the record attendance, the association enhanced the event by adding a new nominating panel made up of media writers and influencers who, along with more than 11,000 online public votes, collectively helped the CRA hand out sixteen different coveted awards. Hope you’ve brought your appetite!
The Northern region represents Hartford and Tolland county restaurants.
Northern Regional Winner and Restaurant of the Year Winner: Millwright’s in Simsbury
Housed in the former Mill at Hop Brook in the town of Simsbury, this sophisticated spot offers a wide range of highly seasonal New England-inspired cuisine. Chef Tyler Anderson, winner of numerous accolades and known for appearances on Season 15 of Top Chef, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay, crafts food from traditional tavern fare to his seven-course tasting menu. With a rustic but refined interior and a stunning waterfall view, you’ll dine in an atmosphere that is both hospitable and beautifully lit at night.
Other nominees in the region included:
This casual, comfortable, and white tablecloth bistro serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes, using middle eastern, northern Italian, and French flavors. Indulge in a near fully house-made menu which includes fresh salads, falafel, calamari, as well as charcuterie selections and flatbreads, which guests are encouraged to share.
Treat yourself to authentic Chinese food right in West Hartford. Sample a wide-ranging menu of mouthwatering favorites from seven flavor wontons, fried pork dumplings, and Kung Pao chicken to sizzling vegetable and tofu stir fry, wonton soup, and chicken fried rice.
Located in a former 1860s textile mill, Present Company is the home of chef Jeff Lizotte, who won Chef of the Year in previous CRAzies Awards. This chic, open-air kitchen offers seasonal American fare made from locally sourced ingredients. Chef Lizotte takes great pride in his cuisine and, in accordance with the restaurant name, is often present during guests’ dining experience, creating an engaging and personable environment.
The Western region represents Fairfield and Litchfield county restaurants.
Western Regional Winner: @ The Corner in Litchfield
@ The Corner prides itself in the marriage of artisanal eats and craft beer. Menus are seasonal and the chefs continually update the options at this spot for American fare. Take a bite of favorites such as uniquely seasoned brussels sprouts, chicken wings, braised short ribs, salmon, and beyond – each with a clever name on the menu.
Nominees in the region included:
This hidden gem offers a down-to-earth vibe in an intimate setting. Crafted with fresh and local products, the menu offers many popular small plate options as well as the On the Fly takeout menu, which is updated weekly based on seasonal ingredients. Extra tip: Taproot is tucked away beside Bethel Cinema and makes for a perfect pre-movie bite.
Set in a stylish environment, Community Table is a place to gather and celebrate with friends, as reflected in its name. Enjoy locally-sourced menu items from seared diver scallops and Atlantic halibut to slow-roasted Berkshire pork chop, though the menu changes weekly, so you'll be sure to find a delicious variety. Plus, don't miss their specialty house cocktails.
Savor a menu inspired by Japanese techniques and traditions, crafted with local Connecticut ingredients. With an innovative take on traditional Japanese cuisine and sushi, small plate dining meant for sharing is encouraged in this lively and charming atmosphere.
The Southern region represents New Haven and Middlesex county restaurants.
Southern Regional Winner: Viron Rondo Osteria in Cheshire
Dine in the exquisite, chandelier-adorned interior of Viron Rondo Osteria and expect top-notch dishes accompanied by a beautiful selection of wine. Try flavorful menu highlights from the chef's antipasto board, organic freebird chicken marsala, and linguini carbonara to the ragu of braised veal and penne vodka. In the warm months, don't miss stellar patio seating!
Other nominees in the region included:
While this restaurant is relatively new and won Best New Restaurant in the 2019 CRAzies, chef Emily Mingrone is already thinking outside the box with her ever-changing, ever-inventive menu. The creative ambiance comes complete with a flamingo theme (including a signature neon flamingo that lights up the space) and alleyway sidewalk tables.
Whether you’re looking for a mouthwatering bite or a gorgeous waterfront view, Shell & Bones will not disappoint. Known for its award-winning steak, seafood specialties, and raw bar, each dish is prepared with fresh and sustainable ingredients. While Shell & Bones feels like the perfect seaside escape, it’s actually just a short drive from downtown New Haven, the best of both worlds.
The Northern region represents New London and Windham county restaurants.
Regional Winner: Oyster Club, Mystic
Located right in historic downtown Mystic, this spot pairs local ingredients from land and sea with a charming seaside ambiance. Oyster Club believes their food has a story and through a partnership with local Stone Acres Farm, strives to tell that story from seed to harvest, bringing creativity and vision to every meal. It features seasonal specialties including Stonington sea scallops, pasture-raised beef, local produce, and artisanal cheeses. Quaintly set inside a former carriage house, this restaurant will serve up tastes of scrumptious cuisine and the historic vibe of downtown Mystic.
Other nominees in the region included:
Owner, Tony D’Angelo, has created a rustic Italian gem in downtown New London. More than just a place to eat, Tony D’s is a gathering place where friends and family can enjoy a homemade meal and reconnect. Even more interesting? All recipes have been passed down from generation to generation in the D’Angelo family. In addition to placing the quality of food and service on the highest priority, Tony has always tried to maintain a family-oriented customer experience.
This Insta-worthy hot spot offers a distinctive culinary experience in a sensational setting. Guests can choose from a selection of Asian-inspired specialties, focusing on Chinese, Japanese, and Thai techniques and ingredients, including signature dishes like the satay of Chilean sea bass, lobster wontons, Peking duck, crispy snapper in “sand,” and tuna sashimi pringle. When you've finished dining, head to the casino for plenty more fun!
The culinary team behind Cafémantic reimagined the destination restaurant, creating Stone Row Kitchen + Bar. This new spot includes a new look, a new bar, expanded outdoor dining, and a new patio level dedicated to "boozing and schmoozing." The menu features homegrown food and the restaurant works closely with regional farmers, foragers, and fishers. Highlights include the Duck Fat Fingerling Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus “Benedict,” and Grass Roots Burger.
Best New Restaurant
Photo Credit: CT Food and Farm
The restaurants in the Best Newcomer category are all newer additions to the Connecticut Restaurant scene — and they're all certainly worth a visit!
Best Newcomer: The Charles in Wethersfield
The Charles offers exciting cuisine in the historic village of Old Wethersfield — a vintage feel with a modern taste. Set in a restored space, enjoy the award-winning, chic interior you sip exceptionally crafted cocktails and try dining favorites from salmon and lamb sirloin to chicken & dumplings. Don't miss the delicious daily specials or the dessert menu featuring the Martha Washington Chocolate Mousse Cake.
Other nominees in this category included:
Taste contemporary Mexican street food in a fun and lively atmosphere. This spot offers an all-day menu with a focus on tacos and ceviches, as well as other Mexican and Latin staples like tostadas, tortas, salads, and guacamole made with fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients.
Located in the heart of downtown Mystic, The Shipwright's Daughter is the newest addition to the town's thriving culinary community. Celebrating New England's fresh and flavorful food heritage, Executive Chef David Standridge introduces an inspired menu that changes daily, reflecting the unique character of coastal Connecticut. Enjoy gourmet cuisine in the same warm and comfortable atmosphere for which The Whaler’s Inn is known.
Located on the banks of the Housatonic River in Milford, Dockside Brewery is more than just a beer bar. It’s a gathering place that aims to embrace the surrounding community. The menu features more than 40 draft lines, cocktails, wine, New Haven-style pizzas, and a variety of bites from jalapeño popper grilled cheese to popcorn rock shrimp, Philly egg rolls, ahi tuna, and beyond. In the winter, don't miss their igloo dining which features themed outdoor igloos!
Set in Westport's original town hall, discover an innovative take on Mexican cuisine as inspired by trips to Oxacana, Mexico City, and Puebla. Enjoy delicious dishes from lobster tostadas and chorizo verde quesadillas to chicken enchiladas and beyond. Each dish is crafted with the intention of capturing Mexico's true spirit, and each bite is a treat for your taste buds.