Hidden Gems in Bridgeport, CT
Ok, so Bridgeport gets a bad rap, but there are some positives about the city. I grew up in Bridgeport and one of the things I loved about Bridgeport was the diversity of foods. Bridgeport has been trying to revitalize for more than the past decade. One of the ways they have done that is attempting to draw people to attend an event at Webster Bank Arena or see a show at the Downtown Cabaret. Wouldn’t it be nice to grab a bite before or after the show or event? Or when you get hungry as you are passing Bridgeport onto your destination? There are a ton of restaurants and eateries in Bridgeport that you should check out.
Trattoria ‘A Vucchella (272 Fairfield Ave. Bridgeport, CT)
This is my all time favorite Italian restaurant in Bridgeport. Don’t come here if you are in a rush. Everything is made to order. There has never been a time where I have not liked something. I’ve come here several times and Pasquale and Jennifer, the owners are so friendly. Pasquale has sat down with my friends and I to share stories about Italy.
Harlan Haus (155 State St., Bridgeport, CT)
This is a German-style beer hall located inside an old bank. It has community-style seating and a great place to come with a group of friends. I’ve only gone late night, but others have told me that it does get crowded during happy hour as a lot of people working in local businesses go there. Food is on point. I’ve had a couple of the wursts, washed down with their own beer, Harlan Honey Kohlsch. I’ve also eaten at their sister restaurant Harlan Publick in Norwalk, which is vastly different from Harlan Haus.
Pho Hong Thom (48 Wood Ave. Bridgeport, CT)
Hands down, best pho in the area. It is not your fine dining type restaurant. It’s the opposite. Most are skeptical because it is not really in the downtown area. But if you want authentic Vietnamese food, come to Pho Hong Thom. It is a family owned restaurant. When you walk into the restaurant, you can already smell the aroma of the pho broth. The pho is fragrant and flavorful. You get a large portion and it’s cheap. Who am I kidding? All of their food is delicious.
Fire Engine Pizza Company (2914 Fairfield Ave. Bridgeport, CT)
The Black Rock section of Bridgeport offers many great eateries, including Fire Engine Pizza Company. I’ve gone here several times with my friends. Their steak tips are highly recommended as an appetizer. But the main thing I go here for is their pizza. Ok, so New Haven pizza is the best, but there’s is pretty good and thin crusted, which I love.
Nom Eez (2992 Fairfield Ave. Bridgeport, CT)
A coworker had told me about this place. She wanted my opinion about what I thought of the food being that I’m Vietnamese. So I went on the weekend with my brother. We loved the vibe of the place and got to talk to the owner and his mother-in-law. They are good people. It is a small place with bar seating. However, you can also do takeout. I prefer eating there. I’ve order the pho, pho ramen, congee (rice porridge), and the banh mi. Compliments to the cook. Their pho tastes just like my dad’s–very aromatic and seasoned well. Everything is fresh. Every time I go, I try to get something new, but I do often go back for the pho.
La Caguena (2697 Main St., Bridgeport, CT)
Looking for authentic Puerto Rican food, first go to would any of the numerous restaurants on East Main Street. But if you are not comfortable driving in that area, head to La Caguena which is in the North End of Bridgeport. It is CASH ONLY. I’ve had their rice and beans, empanadas, potato balls, and flan. You can see most of their food on the menu in the case behind glass. If you are not familiar with the food item, ask the counter person and they will be more than happy to explain it to you.
Leisha’s Bakeria (7 Lafayette Circle, Bridgeport, CT)
I’ve always passed by this place and have had intentions of going in. I’m so glad that I finally did. My friend and I came here to plan out our ice cream crawl (blog post to come) and we each ordered the hash brown waffles. Mine was with bacon and cheddar. It does take some time for it to be made, which we were told when we ordered. It was worth the wait time. It was savory. Yummy in my tummy! My portion was generous and I could not finish it. Service was great and the atmosphere is cozy especially for meeting up with friends or just wanting a bite and get some work done. I’ll definitely come back again to try the other menu items. You should not pass up this hidden gem.
There are several other restaurants that I have yet to try in Bridgeport, like Ralph n’ Richs (Italian), Avenida (Portuguese), Eat Noodle (Asian), Bereket (Mediterranean), just to name a few. Maybe after you try these restaurants, you’ll want to adventure out and try the others.
New Haven Restaurant Week
In Connecticut, local cities organize restaurant weeks, where participating restaurants offer a prix-fixe (fixed price) for lunch and dinner. It is one of my favorite because my friends, family and me can try some restaurants we may not typically go to.
This week happens to be Restaurant Week in New Haven. Here’s the link for you to look at the participating restaurants and their menus. New Haven Restaurant Week April 8-13, 2018. Note: Some restaurants do change some items on their menu.
I tried Harvest Wine Bar & Restaurant. Parking in New Haven isn’t too bad. If you can’t find street parking, there are parking garages and during restaurant week, they tend to offer special pricing. When you get to 1104 Chapel Street, look downward and head down the stairs. It looks like a fun hangout place during the spring and summer with its outdoor patio with heater for those cool nights.
This time, I had dinner with my brother. I ordered the steak tartare, seared branzino, and tres leche cake while my brother ordered duck risotto, grilled NY strip steak, and the nutella crepe. I can’t speak for my brother’s food, but my food was delicious. My steak tartare was a great starter. It came with a quail egg which I drizzled over the raw meat and mixed. I smeared bits of the mixture on the toasty soft bread and bit into it. Delish!!! My branzino was light, delicate in flavor, and flaky and came with a ravioli filled with a lobster and crab filling and petite carrots. Devine! The tres leche cake was a delightful end to my meal.
Restaurant weeks are a great time to go and explore the different tastes in your community. So look and see if your city or surrounding towns offer them. The next restaurant week in Connecticut will take place in Stratford during the week of April 22-28.
Best Banh Mi
Kien Oriental Market
1801 Park St. Hartford, CT 06106
Growing up in Bridgeport, a very diverse city, there are a plethora of restaurants serving different ethnic foods. One of those foods is the banh mi. For those of you who don’t know what that is, banh mi is a French-influenced Vietnamese sandwich. It usually is smeared with homemade pate and a homemade mayonnaise concoction or garlic butter. It also comes with some sort of meat and veggies (cucumber, cilantro, and pickled daikon radish and carrots), and slivers of chili peppers if you want your sandwich spicy. I grew up eating this, getting it from Mimi’s, a bodega-style store. It was the tastiest sandwich and cheap for only $3.00. I was so upset when the store closed because there wasn’t any Vietnamese restaurant whose sandwich compared to theirs until my best friend had mentioned there was a place in Hartford. It’s called Kien Oriental Market. When you first enter, it looks like a little supermarket with several aisles selling Asian products. If you walk to the back of the store, you’ll see a kitchen and eating area. They sell other Vietnamese dishes, but their sandwiches are the best and they are inexpensive.
I always get the #1 Vietnamese style cold cuts and the #2 which has grilled beef. For both sandwiches, the baguettes are toasted, although that is optional. The meats are flavorful, coupled by the tanginess of the pickled daikon radishes and carrots, and a kick if you get the chili peppers. If I am in the area for a workshop or my parents want to stop at A Dong, the Asian Supermarket, I always make sure I stop at Kien to pick up sandwiches.