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A Checklist Of Connecticut's Unique Summer Dining Spots

Connecticut is loaded with unique summer dining destinations

With its miles of shoreline, picturesque farms and beautiful natural setting, Connecticut is a great place to spend the warm season, which is all too fleeting. At the height of summer, we take a look at some of the state's best and most unique seasonal dining experiences. Check these off your 2015 list before the cold sets in again.


After a cold and miserable winter, nothing says "summer's coming" like the opening of your favorite seasonal restaurant. It's no wonder such destinations as Abbott's Lobster in the Rough have countdown clocks on their websites, building excitement for warm days and the foods you craved while snowed in.

From May to October, the waterfront Noank eatery serves lobster dinners and hot lobster rolls, seafood sandwiches, chowder, bisque and steamers. Diners are encouraged to BYOB. Its nearby sister restaurant, Costello's Clam Shack, takes care of the deep-fried sea favorites: clams, shrimp, scallops and more.

Mystic's Sea Swirl, a longtime shoreline destination, serves its renowned fried clams and ice cream for half the year, opening in early April and closing for winter in early October.

In Guilford, time-honored The Place starts up its wood-fueled fires in April to grill lobsters, bluefish, clams and corn. Diners sit on stumps pulled up to circular red tables, and they're encouraged to bring their own sides and booze.

From May to the beginning of fall, seasonal eateries The Blue Oar in Haddam and Shad Row in Rocky Hill boast enviable riverfront views and casual BYOB ambiance with eclectic menus. They're both cash-only, with operating hours dependent on fair;

Colchester residents know spring is imminent when Harry's Place, a fixture in town since 1920, opens for the season in mid-March. Flattop-cooked burgers are signature here, along with hot dogs, fried seafood and fries loaded with bacon, cheese or chili.

Lobster Love

Whether you're proud of your ability to don a bib and get messy cracking your own, or happiest to eat it lazy-style in a toasted bun, lobster is a summer must in the Nutmeg State.

In Connecticut, you can throw a seashell and hit several quality seafood spots all around the state. Lobster lovers always have their personal favorites, but certain coastal favorites have enjoyed swells of crowds for years or even decades. Iconic names include Bill's Seafood in Westbrook, Lobster Landing in Clinton, Lobster Shack in Branford, Guilford Lobster Pound, Captain Scott's Lobster Dock in New London and Lenny & Joe's Fish Tale, in business since 1979 and now with three restaurants in Westbrook, Madison and New Haven.

Waterfront Hotel Dining

You don't need a room key to enjoy fine food and drink with a view at these seaside hotels, but you'll likely want to linger past your meal. Summer is the ideal time to sip a cocktail, sample oysters from the raw bar and watch boats cruise slowly by.

At Saybrook Point Inn, its restaurant Fresh Salt, named for its location where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound, naturally features fresh local seafood (oysters from within a 75-mile radius of Old Saybrook, Stonington scallops, Rhode Island calamari) and dayboat specials. Lobster rolls are available in both Connecticut (hot butter) and Maine (chilled lobster salad) preparations. Watch the inn's website for special overnight package deals.

Panoramic views of Long Island Sound await at Water's Edge Resort & Spa in Westbrook, with an array of dining options from casual snacks and sandwiches to upscale entrees. Its Sunday brunch, considered one of the state's best, features a fine cheese display and cocktail shrimp, Belgian waffles and crepes, fresh pastas, a selection of roasts and omelets prepared to order.

Resort dining at Madison Beach Hotel features oceanfront views at its fancier Wharf Restaurant, with tuna tartare, diver scallops, grilled Atlantic swordfish and Maine lobster on the dinner menu.

Dine On A Farm

As berries, tomatoes, greens, corn and stone fruits ripen, Connecticut's talented chefs design menus around these fresh seasonal ingredients, incorporating local meats, seafood, cheese and other artisanal products for a true farm-to-table experience. Dine outdoors in tranquil pastoral settings across the state this summer, with farm dinner schedules presented by several restaurant groups and organizations.

Max Chef-to-Farm, in its seventh season, hosts a series of themed alfresco dinners at locations throughout Connecticut. Events include seasonal meals featuring local seafood, barbecue, tomatoes, vegan fare and brunch at venues like Rosedale Farm and Vineyard in Simsbury, Graywall Farm in Lebanon and Sub Edge Farm in Farmington. The schedule continues through mid-October.

Eddy Farm in Newington plays host to four more farm dinners this season, welcoming chefs Tim Marotto from GoldBurgers and KC Ward of Rooster Company for a July 23 multi-course event and Barcelona Wine Bar's Eric Stagl for an Aug. 27 wine dinner. Marotto also presides over two more GoldBurgers dinners in September and October.

Millwright's executive chef/owner Tyler Anderson collaborates with fellow chefs Billy Grant, Scott Miller, Jeff Lizotte, Bill Taibe and Jamie McDonald for a series of fundraising farm dinners at Simsbury's Community Farm. Proceeds benefit Gifts of Love, a local non-profit organization that provides basic needs services to the Greater Hartford community.

Chef Billy Grant, of Grants and Restaurant Bricco in West Hartford and Bricco Trattoria in Glastonbury, also hosts a series of pop-up dinners at Rose's Berry Farm in South Glastonbury throughout the summer and fall.

In its 9th season, Dinners at the Farm continues its lineup of open-air dinners in July and August at Madison's Barberry Hill Farm and East Lyme's White Gate Farm.

Friends of Boulder Knoll, a non-profit community farm in Cheshire, will host its annual Farm to Table Dinner on August 27. Chef Jason Sobocinski of Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro prepares dinner with ingredients fresh from the farm, and the event also features beer from Black Hog Brewing Company, drinks and live

For a more casual farm dining experience, make a morning of it with a hearty local breakfast, at venues like Clark Farms at Bushy Hill Orchards in Granby, Rose's Berry Farm in South Glastonbury and Lyman Orchards in Middlefield. These spots offer weekend farm breakfasts with menus featuring freshly-picked fruits and vegetables, local eggs, meats and cheeses; the perfect fuel for a day of picking.

Distinctive Venues

Connecticut's wine trail is a popular attraction during the warm months, and while visitors typically pack their own picnics of cheese and fruit, two farm wineries boast full-service fine restaurants. At Sharpe Hill Vineyard in Pomfret, diners enjoy the "wine garden" patio while sampling entrees from its signature wood-burning grill and pairing courses with the winery's St. Croix, Cabernet Franc and Ballet of Angels vintages. And in Clinton, the menu at Chamard Vineyards' intimate 35-seat bistro changes seasonally, utilizing local produce, cheese and meats.,

For the beer lovers, Stony Creek Brewery in Branford is in its first summer as a full-service venue, with a large tasting room, outdoor decks with a peaceful water view and space reserved for parties, weddings and other special events. On weekends, the brewery attracts hundreds of visitors who come for the beer and stay for the festive atmosphere complete with a bocce ball court, custom-designed cornhole boards and fire pits. Food trucks park on site several days a week, and guests are also encouraged to bring their own food or order takeout from local restaurants.

Craft beer lovers also flock to a hidden "beach" in Middletown's North End, also known as the backyard at Eli Cannon's Tap Room. The sand-coated back patio, with lawn chairs and colorful decor, is another classic summertime stop.

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