Small Bites: Dining News & Events

The recent 2016 Connecticut Restaurant Association Salute to Excellence Awards dinner honored the state’s top restaurateurs, servers, caterers, mixologists and longtime achievers.

Mystic’s Oyster Club and Engine Room were spotlighted twice, as owner Dan Meiser received the Restaurateur of the Year award and James Wayman was named Chef of the Year, sharing the accolade with Nicola Mancini of Waterbury’s La Tavola. Another Mystic restaurant, Red 36, earned Newcomer of the Year honors.

Julie Francini of Restaurant Bricco was named Server of the Year, and Mike Knudsen of Hartford Restaurant Group was named Connecticut Distributors Mixologist of the Year. Other winners include Plan B Burger Bar (Casual Restaurant of the Year), Capital Grille (Upscale Restaurant of the Year) and Coastal Gourmet (Caterer of the Year.)

Max Restaurant Group and Saybrook Point Inn, Marina & Spa were both inducted into the Connecticut Hospitality Hall of Fame. ROGO Distributors was honored as Vendor of the Year, and State Senator Len Fasano was recognized as a Friend of the Industry.

West Side Wines, 10 Raymond Road, West Hartford, hosts its 9th annual holiday champagne tasting Dec. 10 at 2 p.m., featuring complimentary samples of grower champagnes. 860-233-1241,

Hanging Hills Brewing Company, 150 Ledyard St., Hartford, hosts “A Fairytale of Hartford” event Dec. 17 at 6:30 p.m., featuring musical performances by The Island of Doubt and Selfish John and The Lightweights. Tickets are $5 at the door; a food truck will be on site. 860-263-7033,

Hot Tomato’s, 1 Union Place, Hartford, hosts a “Network and Chill” Ugly Holiday Sweater happy hour event by Midweek Mischief and TNB 'There's Nothing Better' Dec. 23 from 5 to 9 p.m. 860-249-5100,

Table 570 Asian Fusion (formerly Green Tea Restaurant) opens Nov. 30 at 570 Hopmeadow St. in Simsbury. The new concept by James and Sandy Chen and executive chef Dan Fortin features a variety of Asian-inspired cuisine, from sushi and raw bar to rice dishes, noodle bowls, curries and fusion entrees. 860-651-4888,

Foxwoods on Tap comes to the casino’s Grand Pequot Ballroom Dec. 10 from 2 to 5 p.m., featuring beer tastings from 50 American craft breweries, live music and food for purchase. Standard tickets are $35-40 in advance and $45 at the door; VIP tickets are $55 and include admission one hour early at 1 p.m., a food voucher and commemorative hat.

The annual Beer Conn beer festival returns Dec. 10 to Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena, promising a showcase of more than 50 local, regional and national craft breweries.

The event features afternoon and evening tasting sessions; the first runs from 12:30 to 4 p.m., followed by session 2 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $40 online; $50 at door (if still available) and include all beer tastings and a souvenir glass. Designated driver tickets are $10.

Àvert Brasserie, 35 Lasalle Rd., West Hartford, has announced Scott Damboise as its new executive chef. Damboise comes to Connecticut from New York, where his background includes executive chef experience at Tia Pol in Manhattan and Char No. 4 in Brooklyn. He also served as executive sous chef at Manhattan’s Cafe Boulud.

"With over a decade of five-star hospitality experience and a passion for taking diners on a culinary journey, Chef Damboise has developed his own flavorful and signature cuisine," said Scott Miller, chief operating officer of DORO Restaurant Group, in a statement. "Chef Damboise is an energetic chef whose focus is giving guests an unparalleled product, which makes him a perfect fit for our restaurant. His culinary vision and unique perspective will bring a new level of luxury to every dining experience."

Giv Coffee, 194 Albany Tpke, Canton, has been named as a finalist for the 2017 Good Food Awards, honored in the Coffee category for its roast of a Geisha varietal that was produced on a farm called Kotowa in Boquete, Panama.

Finalists were chosen in 14 food and beverage categories from a blind tasting of more than 2,000 entries, passing rigorous vetting to confirm they met specific Good Food Awards standards around environmentally sound agriculture practices, good animal husbandry, sourcing transparency and responsible relationships throughout the supply chain, according to a press release. Winners will be announced Jan. 20.

Chick-fil-A is now open at Mohegan Sun, at the Winter entrance of the Casino of the Earth. This is Connecticut’s fifth location of the fast-food chicken restaurant, which offers grilled and fried chicken sandwiches, nuggets, salads and sides. It will be open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight.

Panera Bread is now open at the Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor. The bakery-cafe has seating for 88, an outdoor patio and a drive-through, along with a new “Fast Lane Kiosk” which offers an enhanced guest experience for to-go and eat-in orders via digital ordering and payment. The café will be open Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Toasted, a Hartford-based sandwich shop that got its start as a food truck, has opened at 40 Wilbur Cross Way (Suite 103) in Storrs Center near the University of Connecticut campus. The restaurant will serve toasted sandwiches of all varieties, as well as salads, soups, sides, cupcakes, smoothies and beverages. Toasted is open Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. 855-55-TOAST,

b Restaurants (Plan B Burger Bar) has introduced Sunday brunch at three locations: Fairfield, Glastonbury and Milford.

The menu combines Plan B favorites and new brunch options, including three breakfast-themed burgers and tater tots topped with bacon, cheese, gravy and fried egg. Other entrees include Nashville-style hot fried chicken and biscuits, a breakfast burrito, customized omelets, waffles banana Foster, "twisted Eggs Benny" with sausage patty and smoked tomato hollandaise on a biscuit, and bourbon-soaked brioche French toast.

Cocktails feature the "Meat our Mary," b's Bloody Mary with a cheeseburger slider garnish; bottomless mimosas or bourbon sours for $15 and other "eye opener" libations, including twists on a screwdriver, a cucumber basil gimlet and"Kentucky Coffee" with bourbon and cream. Brunch items, burgers and entrees are priced at $5.99 to $16.99. Cocktails are $9 to $13. Brunch starts at 10 a.m. in each location.

The Halal Guys, a New York-based business that started as a hot dog cart in 1990 and has grown to multiple brick-and-mortar locations in the United States and beyond, has opened its first Connecticut restaurant at 906 Chapel St., in New Haven.

Known for its take on Middle Eastern specialties, Halal Guys will serve a menu featuring its platters of gyro meat and chicken with rice and salad, along with falafel, sandwiches, hummus, baba ghanouj and baklava. Items are priced at $1.17 to $8.46. The restaurant is also known for its "secret-formula" white sauce and "explosive" hot sauce. The Halal Guys will open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with potential late night hours in the future. 203-691-5166,

Also new to New Haven is the Juice Box at 1092 Chapel St., on the ground floor of the Yale Center for British Art. Juice Box offers cold-pressed fresh juices, acai bowls, toast with avocado and almond butter, smoothies and cold brew coffee.  203-562-0068,

Arugula, 953 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, has recently partnered with GrubHub to offer local delivery. Information:

@ the Barn has introduced a "girlfriends" happy hour Wednesday nights from 7 p.m. to close, available in the bar area and on the patio. Specials include drink specials, small plates and sweets for $5 apiece. 860-413-3888,

Ricky D’s Rib Shack, which began as a food truck, has opened a new storefront at 302 Winchester Ave. at Science Park in New Haven. The menu features pork ribs in quarter, half and full slabs; pulled pork, brisket, wings, sandwiches and sides. 203-745-4998,  

Millwright’s, 77 West St., Simsbury, has introduced a new happy hour, available Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. in its downstairs tavern. Snacks, priced at $4 to $6, include Nashville hot chicken tacos, a burger, meatball sliders, spring gazpacho, cheeses, root beer float and a lemon tart. Drink specials ($2 to $6) include select beers, wines and cocktails. 860-651-5500,

At Dish Bar & Grill, 900 Main St., it’s $5 Burger & Bucket Night and you can get two burgers and two buckets of Miller High Life ponies for just twenty20 bucks.

At Infinity Bistro, 32 Front St., join the action during Music Bar Bingo Nights for a chance to win concert tickets and other prizes and grab food and drink specials (like $1 oysters).

At McKinnons, 114 Asylum St., it’s Bar Rated Trivia night with $2.50 Miller High Lifes and $1 tacos.

At the Russian Lady, 191 Ann Uccello St., buy a $10 mug at the door and you’ll enjoy $1 mixed drinks and $1 domestic drafts all night, plus you can bring the mug back for $1 refills any Thursday after that.

Juiced Up is now open at 231 Asylum St. in Hartford, serving a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and tonics. Other menu items include oatmeal with toppings, fresh salads, wraps with assorted proteins and vegetables and salads. Smoothies and juices are $5.50 to $6.50; wraps are $6.50 to $8 and salads are $5 to 8. Juiced Up is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 860-247-2292. 

Send restaurant news at least 10 days before publication to Leeanne Griffin at 

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