Sitting Duck Tavern (Stratford) – Pretty Good Burger

Travelling north on the Merritt on a Friday evening is never a pleasant experience, but given the recommendations from others about the burger at The Sitting Duck Tavern in Stratford, we waited through the traffic and delays and eventually arrived in downtown Stratford around 7PM. The exterior tables were was already completely full, did not want one upstairs, and we grabbed a booth on the right side overlooking the kitchen pass.

Our server was very prompt in the drink and food orders and was knowledgeable and pleasant throughout the meal. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, medium-rare, with bacon and fronions with a side of French fries. There were two other burger orders from the group, the other two were ordered medium, plus we ordered a side of onion rings for the table.

When the burgers arrived the first thing I noticed was the size of the patty. Sitting Duck is very generous with the meat. I lifted the top bun and saw the two slices of bacon, the melted cheese, but barely any fronions. I was disappointed in the meagerness of the fronions. This all sat atop shredded lettuce and a thin slice of tomato. I cut the burger in half and it was more medium than medium-rare and one of my dinner companions was the medium-rare doneness while mine was the medium…just a little carelessness by the kitchen.

I tasted the meat and was impressed, it had a medium level of beefiness and very tasty. The bacon was well cooked and the cheese was nicely melted. Since I did not order the lettuce and tomato, I removed these two items and took a bite of the complete package, it was very good. The fries were very basic and the restaurant decided to use an off-brand ketchup, not Heinz, and it was surprisingly good.

The order of onion rings consisted of four, yes four, rings. Three were very small and one was large. It was almost embarrassing, four onion rings in an order for a table of four. The coating was very thick and the onion itself was mushy. Having my single ring was enough.

Overall, I liked the casualness of the Sitting Duck and the burger was pretty good. As I watched the food leave the kitchen my guess is 75% of the orders are burgers, which is a good sign. There is a banner on the front stating it is “A Hidden Gem,” but seeing the crowd and the number of burgers leaving the kitchen I am not sure it is hidden any longer.

Sitting Duck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eli’s (Hamden) – Basic Fare in a Friendly Environment

rsz_img_0518-001Sometimes basic is good enough. And my lunch at Eli’s in Hamden was good solid basic fare in a friendly environment with an outstanding server.

The four of us decided to go to Eli’s for lunch after temple. It is conveniently located near Route 15 and there is ample parking across the street. We grabbed a table for four in the main dining area and Mike, our server approached. He was fantastic, patient and spot on throughout the lunch.

It was midday and the menu included an entire section on of my favorite meals, hamburgers. I chose the Bacon and Cheddar with regular fries, medium-rare. When it arrived the first noticeable feature was the size. In addition to a large patty, there was ample bacon jutting out of the sides, plus lettuce and tomato, all enclosed in an enormous bun. The meat was grilled to my requested medium-rare. My impressions were that the meat was mild in flavor, nothing special and good. The bacon was also grilled properly, crispy without being burnt. The cheddar was too mild to compete with the bacon and I would have preferred a larger amount to deliver more cheddar flavor. The bun was buttery, almost a brioche and it was very good, but a smaller size would have been more in proportion to the other ingredients. The fries were very good, crispy on the exterior, soft on the interior, and properly salted.

Overall Eli’s delivered a very good burger in a relaxed, family environment with a great server.

Eli's On Whitney Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

SE Uncorked (New Canaan) – Outstanding Vibes and Vittles

Uncorked burgerChef Nick Martschenko’s (South End) newest venture, SE Uncorked, is already creating an incredible buzz throughout New Canaan for its great food and great vibe. Inspired by the speakeasies of the Prohibition era and taverns in the UK and Australia, Chef Nick told CTbites that his vision is for “guests to be comfortable and relaxed in a heavily beverage, comfortable environment with foods designed for a pub versus restaurant theme.”

Uncorked teamLocated at 15 Elm Street, both the exterior and interior have been completely redesigned. The brick-faced exterior features a drop-down wood shelf, windows at eye-level  and a wood carved sign announcing “Uncorked” with the familiar South End circle-logo with the additional prelude… “Snacks & Taps.”

Uncorked insideFrom the moment you walk through the rear wood-hewn door you understand the concept behind the mantra of Snacks and Taps. Guests enter a dining area like none in New Canaan. The entire right wall is filled with a single banquette, the center of the dining area has several wooden high top tables and the bar occupies the entire left wall with thick wooden shelves holding the libations for the guests. The front of the room has a long wooden bar shelf with a “pass-through” to hand guests dining outside their food and drinks.

Uncorked tapsThe atmosphere is casual, laid back, kick up your feet, eat great food, watch the ball game on two separate TVs and have a few beers, a couple of glasses of wine and hang out with friends.  The menu is geared to creative fare and filled with an array of bold and delicious options. Uncorked pours all the beverages from taps or individual bottles and cans with four beers, ten wines and two waters on tap, plus a wide selection of local breweries and national  brand beers. Likewise all of the juices are made in house and mixers are poured from bottles and cans.

Uncorked NickThe menu is divided into smaller and larger selections and I sampled several of each.

Uncorked NachosFish and sushi lovers should choose the Hamachi Nachos, a delightfully refreshing small plate of sweet and spicy. Freshly flash fried yucca chips were topped with large cubes of Hamachi that were marinated in grapefruit and orange juices, garlic and shallots. They were served with an orange section, cilantro oil and finished with a thin slice of Serrano chili and a sprig of micro cilantro. This cerviche on steroids delivered an amazing array of flavors and textures from the sweetness of the oranges and spiciness of the serrano chili to the soft and delicate fish to the crunchiness of the yucca.

Uncorked sausageFor the adventurous, the house-made Merguez sausage sandwich was fantastic. It was served on a long Martin potato roll and accompanied with Tzatziki and swirls of harissa sauce. The sausage was wonderfully seasoned with a minimal level of spiciness. The creaminess of the sweet Tzatziki and the spiciness of the harissa were great fantastic together. Choose one of the beers for this sausage.

Uncorked Drink 2There are two very different carpaccios. Creating a complex dish from a few simple ingredient is the foundation of the Scallop Carpaccio. Thinly sliced scallops were marinated in lemon juice, Espelette pepper and red pepper and presented with dollops of pickled mustard seeds, slices of radishes, olive oil and thinly sliced serrano chilies. The scallops were sugar sweet with just a touch of citrus and a background of pepper. The pickled mustard seeds elevated the dish with great sour notes and for additional spiciness, pop one of the chili slices on the fork.

Uncorked squashThe Zucchini Carpaccio was presented in a fish scale pattern with a touch of grated Pecorino and drizzled with olive oil and salt. This refreshing dish accentuated the simplicity of the zucchini with just a hint of salt from the cheese. It would be a great accompaniment with a glass of brisk white wine to begin the meal.

Uncorked curdsThe Fried Cheese Curds included bite sized pieces of Wisconsin cheddar cheeses that were lightly coated with a mixture of beer, cornmeal and flour and flash fried and paired with a Sriracha aioli. The mild cheddar was a perfect canvas for the spiciness of the Sriracha. Order the curds with a light beer for a great snack.

Uncorked peppersUncorked’s rendition of Shishito Peppers began with quickly blistered peppers, which were joined with an aioli that contained a surprising ingredient, poached tuna. When the mild peppers (beware that about one in ten is very spicy with no advanced warning) were dipped in the aioli, the combined flavors were delicious and distinctive.

Uncorked oystersAs a tribute to the bars of Australia, Uncorked also serves Oysters Kilpatrick. The roasted oysters were topped with Benton’s bacon and a house-made BBQ sauce. The combination was very bold from the bacon and sauce and I thought the sauce overpowered the oysters.

The entrées include a variety of options including meats, fish, and chicken, plus another great burger.

Uncorked burgerNo less than three months after South End tied for my top burger in southwest CT, Chef Nick created the Double Double. The only similarity to the South End burger is it will be a serious contender for next year’s top spot. The patties were seasoned with Worcestershire sauce and slowly cooked onions, seared to medium-rare and joined on the toasted sesame seed bun with thinly slice zucchini pickles, melted American cheese and SE (South End) burger sauce. The Worcestershire sauce and onions added wonderful depth to the meat and the zucchini pickles were a lighter touch than traditional pickles. The burger was accompanied by some of the best fries in Fairfield County.

Uncorked ChickenA dish that exploded with a combination of flavors is the Chicken. The chicken was marinated in a mixture of coconut, lemongrass and ginger, slow cooked and finished in a hot pan. It was served atop a bed of crispy olive oil potatoes and served over a large swath of leek purée and a drizzle of leek oil. The chicken offered a beautifully crisped skin and a moist and buttery texture, with tropical back-notes with potatoes that were incredibly crispy. A single forkful of all of the ingredients was outstanding.

Uncorked steakFor those looking for a steak dinner, Uncorked offers a Kobe Flat Iron Steak with a complex butter and au poivre wine sauce. The steak was perfectly prepared to medium-rare, sliced and accompanied by French fries and a small salad. The beef was rich in flavor and the sauce and butter added a wonderful lusciousness to the dish. The fries were fantastic and created a more pubby presentation to enjoy with a beer or a glass of red wine.

Uncorked Drink 1For a lighter entrée, Uncorked offers a Coriander Crusted Sliced Tuna over a Panzanella salad, which included pickled red onions, sliced heirloom tomatoes, plus fennel and basil from Uncorked’s garden. The rare slices delivered a Middle Eastern twist, while the salad offered robustness from the tomatoes balanced with the bright acidity of the Banyuls vinaigrette. The croutons made from house-made bread offered a wonderful textural contrast.

Uncorked pieSave room for dessert because Uncorked is serving two incredible throwback desserts. The first was an interpretation of an Ice Box cake, but I would call it a dense chocolate pudding pie. A wonderful graham cracker crust was filled with the creamiest and most delicious chocolate pudding I have tasted in a long time and topped with vanilla gelato and swirls of chocolate sauce. This was a must-have dessert.

Uncorked sundaeThe other throwback dessert is a tribute to Chef Nick’s childhood when his grandparents would take him for spumoni. Scoops of vanilla and pistachio ice cream were topped with fudge, toasted almonds and Luxardo cherries, and finished with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprig of mint. It was full of great flavors from the sauces and the Luxardo cherries were a delightful addition.

Overall, Uncorked presents an atmosphere that is alive and the food is vibrant and delicious. Chef Nick and his team have done an outstanding job in creating another go-to spot in New Canaan.

Really Liked

  • Coconut infused chicken $24
  • Merguez sausage $18
  • Hamachi nachos $17
  • Scallop carpaccio $13
  • Uncorked double double cheeseburger $19
  • Ice box cake $8
  • Spumoni sundae $8


  • Zucchini carpaccio $10
  • Fried cheese curds $13
  • Shishito peppers $12
  • Yellowfin tuna $28
  • Kobe Hangar Steak

Not to my liking

  • Oysters Kilpatrick $21

Magee’s Curbside (Stamford) – Great BEC Empanadas

bl4I was scheduled for a meeting in downtown Stamford and decided to leave a little early to see if the raves about Magee’s Curbside were justified. Easy answer…yes.

bl2It is located on Magee Ave across the street from the car wash in a brightly colored building. There are several parking spots in front and to the left. The menu includes a wide range of choices from standard eggs, bacon, pancakes and sandwiches to a pulled pork combination. What caught my eye was the Bacon, Egg and Cheese Empanadas.

bl1When they arrived I was very impressed. Two large golden-crusted empanadas sat atop cubed breakfast potatoes and were drizzled with a pink sauce. Experience told me the filling would been incendiary so I started with a couple of the potatoes. They were perfectly prepared, outstanding, a little crispiness encircling a soft and creamy interior.  It was time to move to the empanada. Perfection. The crust was buttery and delicious and the creamy eggs bacon and cheese on the interior were perfect complements. I never thought I would think there was a better way than a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll, but this was much better.

bl3What a great combination. I only wish it were closer to my home or office.

Magee's Curbside Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Parlour Burger (MSP) – Not as Great as the Hype

img_0407Thrillist recently announced its Best Burgers in America, and Parlour, the pubby sibling to Borough restaurant, was the sole winner from Minneapolis. Those are strong words given some of the great burgers in the Twin Ciries, and being a burger devotee I was incredibly excited that I would enjoy another great Twin Cities’ burger. I am also a fan of Borough and if the kitchen could channel the talent of my previous visit into its burger, I was all-in.

img_0406Parlour is located below Borough on Washington. The space has an urban vibe, with eclectic seating that includes high back semi-wingback chairs, a few banquettes and a fabric-covered wall in the rear with more funky tables and chairs. There is also a long wood topped bar that seats twelve. At 6PM on a Tuesday evening, all the tables were occupied and there were only three vacant seats at the bar.

img_0409The menu is somewhat limited with several small plates and a fair number of desserts. The menu description of the burger was “ground sirloin, ribeye, brisket, American cheese” served with a few slices of pickles, fries are a separate order.  I asked for my burger medium-rare and an order of fries. As I waited I watched as burger after burger were delivered to over 75% of the waiting guests, this was a very good sign.

The burger and fries arrived quickly, the burger on a single salad plate and the large mound of fries on an oblong dinner plate. I first tasted a few fries and the level of salt made my head snap back, it was absolutely overwhelming. This was not a good start. I hoped the burger was better. I pulled a little piece of meat that was dangling over the bun and tasted. Like the fries the kitchen overwhelmed the meat with salt, I was hoping this was isolated to that little piece. I cut the burger in half and it was prepared well-done, not to my requested medium-rare. I asked the bartender and she said she input “medium-rare” and would I like a new burger. I agreed and the first burger and fries were removed from the table. A couple of minutes passed and a manager approached and asked about the burger. I told her it was delivered well-done and she explained all of them are because “of the amount of butter” in the patty. No worries, now that I know to expect it well-done. I asked if she could tell the kitchen to take it easy on the salt.

Burger #2 arrived and the mound of fries #2 were smaller and also served on a smaller plate, but still a good sized portion. I cut the burger in half and it was well-done, but glistened with juices. I pulled a little piece of the meat to taste and it had good flavor and the kitchen was more prudent with the salt. There were two patties, each topped with melted cheese. In total, I would estimate over a half pound of meat, it was a substantial burger. The cheese was perfectly melted and the bun was buttered and griddled, both on the interior and exterior. The grind was medium and there was good sear on the exterior. This had the makings of a great burger, just meat, cheese on a buttered and grilled bun. I took my first bite…

And then a few more bites before I decided I knew that I was in the minority. I thought it was a very good burger but not to the level as some of the great grass-fed meats in other places in Minneapolis. It was very juicy but was this from the meat or the addition of the butter, I do not know. I thought the cheese and the bun were outstanding, two of the best I have ever tasted. The cheese was rich, creamy, with great flavor. The bun was fantastic and even better with the additional buttery goodness and mild crunch from the grilling. I tasted a few of the fries and the kitchen was less aggressive on the salt, thankfully, but they were very substandard. They lacked the textural contrast of a crispy exterior paired with the soft interior, a one dimensional product.

As much as I entered Parlour with high expectations, the burger was very disappointing and the fries were very mediocre. Given the recent inclusion in Thrillist, the number of orders leaving the kitchen and the other meal I previously ate upstairs at Borough, I was expecting better.

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Nick & Toni’s (East Hampton) – Still One of the Best

img_0400The evening started with our traditional zucchini chips. These lightly coated, thinly sliced orbs were delicious. All they required was a squirt of lemon to elevate the natural goodness of the zucchini.

img_0401For my appetizer I ordered the beets with goat cheese and pistachios. The dish consisted of several quarters of various beets over greens with a slice of pistachio crusted goat cheese. The beets were perfectly roasted to maintain a terrific firmness but fell a little short on flavor, somewhat lacking that deep earthiness. Likewise the sliver of goat cheese was a little meager compared to the ampleness of the beet portion.

img_0402For my entree I opted for one of the night’s specials, tilefish served over pole beans with an heirloom tomato sauce. One word can describe this dish…spectacular. It was my introduction to tilefish and I am now a huge fan of this sweet, firm white fleshed fish. Two fillets sat atop a mound of mixed pole beans, all swimming in a pool of light tomato juice with segments of the tomatoes. The filets were exquisitely prepared with a crisp skin and succulent flesh. The tomatoes and juice added additional sweetness with a smidgen of capers contributing a little saltiness. The pole beans were crunchy and a perfect complement. This was a fantastic and light rendition.

To relax after the meal I ordered an espresso. It was one if the deepest flavored espresso I have ever enjoyed.

Service was exceptional, professional and spot on in every aspect. Even on a busy Saturday night in August we were not rushed and treated with incredible professionalism throughout the evening. Nick & Toni’s has been a centerpiece of Hampton’s dining for years and there is a reason for it. On this latest visit it proved how great a restaurant can be.

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Chef Tony Delicias – Not Bad Tacos

bl1Located on Riverside Avenue in Norwalk just south of the Wendy’s on Route 123 and across from the cemetery (I kid you not), Chef Tony Delicias is a colorful truck offering tacos, burritos and other Mexican fare. When I approached the window on my first visit there were several people already enjoying their lunches and each assured me that the food at Chef Tony’s was delicious. I ordered three tacos, the steak, chicken and chorizo. Each included a double tortilla topped with grilled meat, onion, cilantro and the diner chooses from a few sauces on the counter. A few wedges of lime plus slices of radishes joined the tacos on the plate

rsz_dsc_0172I placed a small amount of the green sauce on each and returned to my car. The steak was my first choice and I was disappointed after the first bite. It was very bland, just small chunks of beef, griddled and placed on the tortillas. I did not taste any seasoning. The cilantro was mild and the green sauce added a good level of spiciness. The next taco I tried was the chicken and it was a twin to the beef, very bland. The last taco was the chorizo; fortunately this was different with a good level of spiciness from the chorizo

bl4Something did not feel right. Tony was fastidious in the prep, after handling money he washed his hands, he used new gloves with each order, I just could not believe what I ate was indicative of the food, so I returned for a second visit. On visit number 2 I again ordered three tacos, a steak, a carnitas and chicken. It was a different experience

bl3The tacos on the second visit were served nestled in a Styrofoam container with three lime wedges and a small side container of green sauce. The tacos contained the meat plus a small handful of onions and a fair amount of cilantro. There were no sauces on the counter and Tony included a small container of salsa verde with the order. After returning to the car I added a good squirt of lime and drizzled the salsa on each. The chicken was much better with a touch of seasoning and the lime, onion and salsa worked very well together, but the cilantro was somewhat bland. The next taco I sampled was the beef, which was also lightly seasoned and very good. The carnitas was the last I tried and was the best of the six tacos I tasted over the two visits. The pork was seasoned properly, grilled nicely and the meat maintained a good level of juiciness. Like the other two tacos, the balance of the onions, salsa and tortillas was very good.

Although somewhat inconsistent, the second visit to Chef Tony’s feels more indicative of the food and presents another choice for good tacos, albeit in a somewhat out-of-the-way location.

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