Del Frisco’s Grille (Stamford) – Stick with the Meats

FotorCreatedI was invited on behalf of CTbites to a lunch at Del Frisco’s Grille in Stamford, the pubbier version of the nationwide steak house, representing their twenty-second Grille opening and its first location in Connecticut. The main dining area is very open, with its soaring ceiling, reclaimed woods, large murals, and light fixtures with an industrial-hip, NYC vibe. Seating includes tables, banquettes, and a long bar, all with leather backed seats and bar stools. The large open kitchen is situated in the rear of the dining room.

DSC_0550-002Overseeing the kitchen is Executive Chef Enrique Reyes. Prior to this position, Reyes served as executive sous chef at Michael Jordan’s Steak House, chef de cuisine at Madison Beach Hotel and sous chef at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House. Since the Stamford location is their “Grille” edition, the menu is different from its sister NYC steakhouse but does include several of Del Frisco’s signature steaks (available, but not advertised, on the lunch menu), plus traditional steakhouse salads, seafood and burgers. When I asked about the vision of Del Frisco’s Grille I was told that the cuisine would offer twists on traditional American cuisine with a focus on creating comfort food. During my visit I sampled three items that are prepared to share and two that would be ordered as an entrée, plus a dessert.

DSC_0554-001The three sharing plates were the Cheesesteak Eggrolls, the Ahi Tacos and the Spicy Pork Meatball Flatbread. My lunch companion told me the eggrolls were one of the biggest sellers, so I sampled this item first. The fried wrappers encased the beef and cheese combination, cut diagonally and served with two sauces, a sweet and spicy chili sauce and a honey mustard sauce. The beef and cheese was tasty but fought with the fried wrappers. The two sauces did not work with the beef and cheese and the entire dish, although flavorful, was not at all to my liking, more of a fun, novelty item to share on a first visit.

DSC_0556-001The Ahi Tacos were four small hard shelled tortillas that were half-filled with smashed avocado, topped with Tuna Tartare, and drizzled with Spicy Citrus Mayo. The avocado was bland, absent of any seasoning while the tuna offered some flavor, which was accented by the mayo. The shell made for ease of lifting but quickly split into pieces after one bite. The tuna and spicy mayo complemented each other, but when combined with the bland avocado and the hard shell it was not a dish that I enjoyed.

DSC_0559-001The flatbread was topped with a Roasted Tomato Sauce, halved Spicy Pork Meatball, chunks of Banana Peppers, dollops of Mozzarella, and house-made Ricotta. The flatbread was very over-baked and we struggled to cut the crust with our knives and the over baking also caused the meatballs and two cheese to lose all of their moisture. The pork was somewhat under-spiced while the small chunks of banana peppers were very good, but haphazardly placed on the flatbread. This was the third, and most disappointing, of the shared appetizers.

Fortunately, the next two dishes were much better.

DSC_0563-001The Grille Prime Cheeseburger included two beef patties, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle, and “Sloppy Sauce,” served on a brioche with a side of French fries. The two, thin patties were cooked to well-done, but maintained a good level of juiciness and delivered a deep level of flavor. The abundant cheese was perfectly melted and was a great pairing for the beef and the lettuce and tomatoes added a great freshness, while the paper-thin sliced red onion added a touch of pungency. The brioche added a sweet butteriness. The French fries were well prepared, crispy on the exterior and soft on the interior.

DSC_0564-001The Grass Fed Hanger Steak was sliced and fanned across the plate, topped with DFG Steak Sauce (Béarnaise-style), frites and a mini-squeeze container of ketchup (I did not like the idea it was placed on top of the steak). The steak was seasoned with salt and pepper and prepared to medium-rare. The flavor of the steak was rich and deep, but was slightly over-seasoned, and the sauce was a nice complement. The “frites” were a combination of French fries, sweet potato fries and chips; all three were very good.

DSC_0570 - CopyThe dessert menu was presented and since I have heard positive reviews about the Coconut Cream Pie, I decided to give it a try. It was excellent. The sweet crust was first filled with pudding, topped with a large mound of whipped cream and topped with shredded coconut. The filling was creamy and delightful and the coconut was a great addition. It was a nice way to end the meal.

Overall I was disappointed in all of the shared plates, they were gimmicky versus appealing. It was no surprise that the meats were rich and flavorful given the restaurant’s relationship to one of the premier steakhouses in NYC, and the coconut cream pie was delicious. The space was beautiful and invigorating but I would be careful in food choices.

Really Liked

  • Coconut Cream Pie
  • The Grille Prime Cheeseburger ($13.50)


  • Grass Fed Hanger Sliced Steak ($20)

Did Not Like

  • Cheesesteak Eggrolls ($11)
  • Ahi Tacos ($14)
  • Spicy Pork Meatball Flatbread ($13.50)




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