Left at the Fork

the road | the food | a new direction

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Fairfield CT

REVIEW

We love Pepe’s. We really, really love Pepe’s. Bruce’s single favorite food on earth is a Pepe’s white clam pizza. Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s see if we can begin to explain why. Continue reading

Sift Bake Shop, Mystic CT

REVIEW

We had no idea that the owner of Sift, a bakery smack in the center of all the action in Mystic, had a well-publicized appearance on the Food Network earlier this year (we abandoned the channel many, many years ago). Not that it would have made any difference to us either way – we found ourselves in the area at breakfast time and Sift just looked promising. Continue reading

Senator Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium, Norwich CT

REVIEW

Last time we visited, the home team was the Norwich Navigators, the AA club for the San Francisco Giants, and attendance was dismal. Today, the team is the Connecticut Tigers, a short-season single-A farm team for the Detroit Tigers. That’s very low in the baseball pecking order – for many of these kids this is their first professional baseball experience. It’s pretty amazing to watch: feels like the game consists mostly of walks, strikeouts, and misplays. We say misplays rather than errors because the scorers rarely call anything an error. It’s kind of surprising to see guys play the field much like they do in your pickup softball game. Honestly, though, there were a couple of guys on each team that could clearly field their positions well. Continue reading

Checking in at: These Guys Brewing Company, Norwich CT

These Guys Brewing opened in Norwich in late 2015 and have since earned a reputation for their dining, an unusual accomplishment for a brewpub. We weren’t there to eat, however. We enjoyed a Gen Pop (“hazy, cloudy New England style IPA all Mosaic, easy drinking w/ delightful bitterness”) and a Queen B’s Pale Ale (” deep golden American Pale Ale brewed w/ honey malt & 3 hop varietals”), both well-made, amber-to-orange colored brews. Continue reading

Twisters Ice Cream, Mystic CT

REVIEW

Let us tell you a little story: There is a restaurant in Mystic named Kitchen Little. It was a tiny restaurant with a loyal following, located for decades at 135 Greenmanville Avenue. The land on which Kitchen Little sat was owned by the Mystic Seaport. A few years ago, the Seaport decided to sell off some of its real estate holdings, particularly those that had little relation to its core mission. One of those properties was 135 Greenmanville. Kitchen Little had a next door neighbor, also a restaurant, by the name of Sea View Snack Bar. The owners of Sea View purchased 135 Greenmanville from the Seaport and proceeded, according to Kitchen Little’s owner, to triple the rent, forcing Kitchen Little to move. Continue reading

Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank CT

REVIEW

Before we’d ever been to Maine, lobster, to us, was rich man’s food found in white tablecloth restaurants. The first few times we went to a Maine lobster pound we laughed at the incongruity of the single-serving bag of potato chips that always accompanies the cooked critter. After dozens of lobster-in-the-rough meals (lobster-in-the-rough being the Maine term for ultra-casual lobster restaurants served out-of-doors, usually at picnic tables near the shore) we now find it impossible to enjoy Homaris americanus anywhere south of the New England-New York border, and certainly not anywhere we wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing shorts and sandals. Continue reading

Snotea Caffe, Groton CT

REVIEW

Ice cream, frozen custard, sherbet, Italian ice, water ice, snow cones, sorbet, New Orleans sno-balls, Hawaiian shave ice, Mexican paletas, Filipino halo-halo… we’d thought we pretty much exhausted the lineup of frozen treats available in the U.S. But there’s been a new player on our shores for the last couple of years, and we finally gave it a try: snow, also known as snow ice or shaved snow. In Taiwan, the birthplace of snow ice, it’s called xue hua bing. Continue reading

Walter’s Hot Dogs, Mamaroneck NY

REVIEW

More than one hot-dog-loving food writer has proclaimed Walter’s Hot Dogs as the source of America’s finest hot dogs. While that assessment is certainly open to debate, less debatable is the assertion that Walter’s is America’s finest hot dog stand. For sure, there is none other even remotely similar to the early 1900s weathered-green copper-crowned pagoda building with lanterns at each corner. It’s a beauty, alright, and it’s been declared a national landmark to boot. Continue reading

Checking In at: Greasy Nick’s, New Rochelle NY

What a massive blunder! Greasy Nick’s somehow neglected to renew their liquor license! How could that have happened? Cheap beer is so intrinsic to the Greasy Nick’s experience that there’s barely a reason for the clam bar’s existence without it. We showed up early on a Friday evening and found the joint almost empty. Our waiter confirmed that business has been way down. We hear efforts to correct the situation are underway but will take some time. We’d learned about the beer situation before heading up, so we arrived with Playmate cooler in hand, loaded with Genny Cream and Budweiser (microbrews and Nick’s just don’t mix). Continue reading

Sharkey’s, Binghamton NY

REVIEW

Sharkey’s is the spiritual home of the spiedie, a Binghamton-only shish kebab cousin with an Italian-American genealogy. The word spiedie is said to come from an Italian word for the skewer upon which meat is cooked, or perhaps the meat on that skewer. In Binghamton, that meat was originally lamb but it’s been decades since anyone has seen a lamb spiedie around here. Pork had become traditional until the last decade or two, when chicken has overtaken it to become the spiedie of choice (much as chicken has elbowed other meats aside all over the country, so that chicken cheesesteaks and chicken-topped pizzas are not uncommon – this is a development that irritates us no end). Continue reading

Phil’s Chicken House, West Corners NY

REVIEW

It’s all about the bird at Phil’s Chicken House. True, Phil’s has a wide-ranging menu, and in our experience, plenty of folks order things like beef tips, grilled ham, or baked fish, and they evidently enjoy those meals very much. Phil’s is usually packed at normal mealtimes. Phil also offers bounteous daily buffets. Nonetheless, in our experience, which spans over 40 years of dining at Phil’s, it’s all about the bird. Continue reading

NYSEG Stadium, Binghamton NY

REVIEW

Minor league baseball stadiums, like NYSEG Stadium, home to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, AA affiliate of the New York Mets, haven’t gone all-in on the current major league trend of offering local food specialties at their concession stands. For sure, at the big league level, it can sometimes seem as if the fans are more interested in the food than the ballgame. In the boonies, hot dogs and beer are still more the rule, but regional food or, at the very least, extreme food, is finding its way onto the menus more and more in places like Charleston and Louisville and Fort Myers. Continue reading

St. Volodymyr the Great Ukrainian Catholic Church, Utica NY

REVIEW

Here’s one important lesson to keep in mind when searching for superior local food: keep your eyes, ears, and, especially, nose on the lookout for anything edible that catches your senses’ attention. Don’t depend exclusively on scouring the internet, following the Yelp and Tripadvisor lists for all your meals. At least, not if you want to find the really interesting stuff. Continue reading

Oneida County Public Market, Utica NY

REVIEW

The USDA has classified a portion of downtown Utica as a food desert, which means the residents have low access to fresh food. The Oneida County Public Market was established, in part, to help address that situation. Located outside the historic 1914 Union Station (and inside the station during the cold months), OCPM is a year-round, Saturday morning operation. Continue reading

Pete’s Hot Dogs Inc., Newburgh NY

REVIEW

First of all, let’s ask the important question: Do you like hot dogs? We ask because, if you don’t, there’s no point in reading any further. Pete’s sells hot dogs, and only hot dogs. Oh, there are toppings to choose from and, of course, they also offer drinks. You can even nab some packaged chips or cookies if you must. But Pete’s is about the tube steak, fast and hot. They want you in and out. And they’ll get no complaints from us. Continue reading

Land-Grant Brewing Company, Columbus OH

REVIEW

We made a pit stop in Columbus, Ohio during our day-long drive from Pennsylvania to Cincinnati, just long enough to enjoy a pair of beers outside on the warm and sunny patio at Land-Grant Brewing. The clear, deep brown Son of a Mudder was more refreshing than a typical brown ale, probably due to the slightly elevated hop level. The toasty brown flavors were not overstated, making it quite drinkable for even a dark ale-frowner like Sue, although she enjoyed a Kölsch-style ale that is perfect on a hot, sunny afternoon such as this. Continue reading

American Legion Post 1 Restaurant, Wheeling WV

REVIEW

Have you served at least one day of active American military service during wartime? No? Not a problem! You can still join the American Legion for a meal, at Wheeling Post 1, said to be the oldest American Legion post in the U.S. Step inside and you find yourself in what appears to be a bar with a few tables to the right. We arrived a bit late for lunch on a Saturday. The bar was well-attended but we were the only dining customers. Continue reading

Schwalm’s Cleona Restaurant, Cleona PA

REVIEW

Good country cooking is becoming ever more scarce in eastern Pennsylvania Amish country. We keep searching but the results have been lukewarm at best. Schwalm’s feels right but, based on a first visit, we’re just not yet convinced. There were decent things to eat (in a couple of cases, more than decent), but most of what we tried, while all perfectly edible, was simply standard issue luncheonette food. Continue reading

Maine Whoopie Pie Festival, Dover-Foxcroft ME, June 25th 2016

Is the whoopie pie an Amish original or did New England bakers first devise the sweet snack? That debate will never end but, either way, it seems to have made its first appearance in the 1920s. What is a whoopie pie? Classically, it’s two chocolate cake discs about the size and shape of the top half of a hamburger bun sandwiching a sweet, creamy white filling. These days you can find whoopie pies in dozens of cake and filling flavor permutations — gingerbread? blueberry? candy cane? — and sometimes they’re even gussied up with real, dairy-based fillings. Call us Luddites but we cling to the original chocolate version the way our fingers cling to the whoopie’s sticky chocolate cake. Continue reading

Gary Bimonte of Pepe’s Pizza in The VIP Lounge

The VIP Lounge is a weekly Boston Globe interview of a usually D-list celebrity with some passing connection to Boston. The same eight travel-themed questions are asked of each interviewee — Aisle or window? Guilty pleasure when traveling? This week the VIP is Gary Bimonte, one of seven grandchildren of Frank Pepe, founder of the greatest pizzeria in the country, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana in New Haven, CT. There are now eight Pepe’s pizzeria’s in the northeast, the most recent of which opened, very successfully, in Chestnut Hill mall in Boston. Mr. Bimonte is manager of quality control, popping around to the eight restaurants to ensure the pies are up to New Haven standards. Check out his VIP Lounge interview here.

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