Hands down, one of the most fabulous features of Fairfield is all the chic eateries downtown. So, I thought I would share seven of my favorite picks for dining and ambiance.
A Friday night ritual for me and my husband, Mark is to pop over to Cafe Madeline on the Post Road, a tiny, personal place, where Madeline is not just the proprietor but also the regular hostess. (You can see her in a white blouse in the photo talking with guests.) The atmosphere is nothing short of charming and, shall we say, adorable. Madeline’s taste is somewhat eclectic as evidenced by the pink floral sconces, mini white party lights surrounding the glass case with handmade beaded jewelry for sale, and the flat screen that displays musical performances or nature scenes to fit the mood. There are probably no more than 10 tables inside, when it’s warm and pleasant outside, maybe another six or so out on the front patio. The food is always absolutely delicious. We cannot resist ordering the butternut squash soup, which is rich and flavorful and always comes as a very generous serving. I typically follow that with the “small plate”, Portobello Mushroom with arugula and goat cheese, served hot Unbelievably delish! Mark always gets the Chicken Piccata, also a small plate. He’s not a fan of the spinach that normally comes on top, so he substitutes it for chopped broccoli, which the staff always remembers and does automatically. Intimate, romantic and wonderful!
Another favorite where regulars are made to feel like family is Toto. The Mediterranean-style eatery offers gregarious people and food with a flare. The owner, manager, and team always great you with a warm welcome and seem genuinely thrilled that you have arrived. The decor’ has a stylish and sophisticated, yet casual European elegance, and the covered patio is in service for most of the year. An absolute MUST starter (if you like cheese), is the Spicy Feta, served in a mini deep dish as part of a larger appetizer dish. You simply spoon it out and enjoy with some rustic bread. It’s truly a burst of flavor! The Crispy Calamari Salad is the best I’ve had anywhere. Mark cannot resist the Four Cheese Fettucini, the ultimate decadence!
The Chelsea is a funky and somewhat rustic place to have a drink and enjoy a meal. Rough wood accent walls and ornate wrought iron design elements are contrasted with neon green metal chairs. The stunning and fragrant, oversized bouquet of fresh flowers that is nearly always a centerpiece on the bar pulls it all together! Here, our favorite starter is the Beet Salad with pistachio nuts, a little arugula, and mini-mozzarella balls. The dish has a perfect blend of delicate flavors. Mark says that no one else in town can beat the Chelsea Burger. I personally cannot live without their octopus appetizer, a dish they tend to vary from time to time. It doesn’t look huge when it arrives, but there is so much protein in it, you are sure to be full when you finish. The flavors in my favorite version are spectacular! Large tentacles come with potatoes, greens, onions, and a pickled vegetable that adds a perfect punch! It’s a must-have in my book, with all the goodness and none of the guilt. Their Cobb Salad is fantastic too.
For your classic tavern feel, visit the Old Post Tavern right on the corner of the Post Road and Unquowa. They have been known to have a fun band during their happy hours, and the patio is lovely. If you are a fan of French Onion Soup, go no further. Something about their blend of cheeses as well as some magic ingredients in the broth makes theirs completely unbeatable!
If it’s gourmet Mexican food in a festive atmosphere you’re after, Bodega is the place to go. Since it’s another tiny place, you may have to sample their margaritas or other specialty drinks while you wait for your table or seat at the bar. One of Bodega’s delectables is the Ceviche, a deceivingly filling dish posing as an appetizer. The fish, in a specialty cocktail sauce, has a fantastic flavor and comes with some toasted plantains, that in my opinion, make a complete meal. If you prefer something hot, their Chicken Soup is hearty and delicious. You can have it mild or spicy depending on whether you opt to dump in the hot peppers served on the giant turquoise spoon. Burrito Tinga is Mark’s tasty favorite, and my daughter loves the Gombos Tacos.
Martel is on the Post Road in Southport and is a cozy place with a bit of a steakhouse feel. The ceilings are high, yet ornate, and there is always an art gallery adorning the walls. Always bustling, it’s a warm, upbeat atmosphere. Although there are many excellent dishes here, my husband and I have gravitated toward sharing the Fondue for Two followed by Martel’s House Salad. The salad features marinated tomatoes and an aged Danish Blue Cheese that are fabulous together. If the fondue is off-menu for the summer, an equally rich and yummy alternative is the side order of creamed spinach! I have it as a meal, with wine, of course.
Last, but not least, we love the Grey Goose, also in Southport, where we once stood elbow to elbow with John Mayer before being seated. The atmosphere can be described as rustic and cozy with an eclectic crowd. Some folks go to hang out, others go for dinner. There’s always a flat screen at the bar featuring a sporting event as well as a crackling fireplace on the opposite wall. Penne ala Vodka, Grey Goose Style is Mark’s staple, while I go back and forth between the Lobster Macaroni and the Steak Tips small plate. The Lobster Macaroni is the absolute best here, with the secret ingredient of truffle oil to enhance the generous chunks of lobster and the crispy cheese topping. The Steak Tips are equally fantastic. Cooked to perfection, they come with a corn salsa and chipotle mayo dip that together, absolutely melt in your mouth!
All this talk is making me hungry! Be sure to come and try out Fairfield’s fabulous eateries, and should you want to ensure you live right nearby, take a look at the featured home for sale below and send a note through the form with any questions!
P.S. New kid on the block, The Sinclair Kitchen and Bar has recently opened downtown in the Brick Walk. I haven’t made it there yet but have heard great things. Anyone care to weigh in?