Remember this as the exact moment when my two worlds collide - my real estate business and my love for food.
If you are new to Norwalk, or Fairfield County, you might be surprised with the quality of restaurants in this area. The amazing thing about the food here, is that you can find inexpensive, but high-quality food (and portions that amaze). So before you go any further in reading, please know that my priority is food quality and taste, with affordability, ambiance, etc being secondary. Also, there are undiscovered restaurants in the city that I have yet to frequent, so feel free to comment with suggestions. I have been to most of those that have been around for more than 6 months, but continue to try new things all the time!
Also, you can notice a lack of any establishments in South Norwalk (in my list) - this is unintentional, but I find the food there to be generally overpriced, and not worth the time to spend going there. Barcelona, which moved a few years ago would have been my exception. Also, with the quick turn around of restaurants down there, it's hard to keep up.
Note: I have been searching for my next great meal for many years, and Norwalk is just our starting point on this culinary journey together. I do recommend you take a look at my Yelp profile to see some of the amazing places I have eaten around the United States.
Here goes...in no particular order.
I hesitate to share this one with the world, despite it's many, 5 star reviews on the Internet - I don't want the small space to become often crowded.
The food here at Rincon Taqueria is among the best in this category I have ever found. Call it Mexican, call it Spanish, either way you will find it delicious. Known for their forearm-sized burrito, and their margeritas, it is the $12 quesadilla that keeps me coming back for more. This quesadilla is hands-down my favorite ever, and likely my favorite meal at a Mexican restaurant. The size of this meal is too much for one person, so it's a great split. I also ask for the four sauces they make in house, a salsa verde, another green sauce, a pico de gayo, and a sour cream (probably not made in house). I smother the top of my quesadilla, and go to town, enjoying each bite as if it were my last meal on Earth.
The tacos are a mouthful, with huge herb qualitities, and huge flavors; the empanadas are sweet and cooked-to-perfection, and if they aren't out of the tamales, these are as authentic as it gets. Each item on this small menu is worth the trip.
Pro-tip: Go during a weekday, to avoid crowds; the restaurant is small, and not a lot of seating, so weekends are busy. Also, check hours before you go, since they close at 8/8:30 most of the week!
Thanks to Guy Fieri's visit here several years ago, this restaurant is always packed, and must get mention for any 'best of Norwalk' food lists.
If you have never been here, I have two words for you, GREEN SAUCE. The guasacaca sauce, their signature secret sauce can literally make any dish on their menu taste better - it enhances the whole experience. It is the reason most people talk about this restaurant, and frankly, if you aren't a fan of the green sauce, you may not have the same perception of the food as those of us that are loyal fans.
My visits here are unabashedly frequent, to the point where the menu is no longer needed. I have tried dishes from many of the categories of their menu, and there is no disappointment, even for breakfast. Everything is cooked fresh, and comes out hot. The flavors of the authentic Venezuelan food are exciting to the taste buds.
Unless a special catches my eye, the Works platter, for lunch or dinner is my go-to meal here, which includes an arepa (corn meal made into a patty then fried), an empanada, plantains, avocado, rice and beans (and soup with dinner). I tend to get the Zach (honey chicken) for my arepa, and the pernil (huge amount of shredded pork) for my emapanada.
Their dessert empanadas are also to die for.
Pro-Tip: Parking is tough here, so expect to park far away and not be mad about it; don't come during lunch time, or dinner time, or you will wait; save room for dessert (nutella and cream cheese empanada).
I find that Indian food tends to get overlooked on similar postings, since it is not always favored among food cuisines. I am a huge fan of this type of cuisine, and Paradise Biryani gets mentioned here for their outstanding food.
Of the many times I have been to this restaurant, I notice local people of Indian descent always frequenting this spot. This is a good sign to me, indicating it's authenticity. I also have been told by multiple clients (Indian descent also), that this is the best Indian food around.
I have tried many of the dishes, including several of the curries, etc. I will mention the items that you should go and try, before exploring the rest of the menu.
First, and foremost, they serve a dish called Gobi 65, which I was only recently introduced to, by a client. This is a mix between Indian and Chinese cuisines, and is a battered and deep friend cauliflower dish, served in a spicy curry sauce. It is the superior uncle of General Tso's Chicken if they used Cauliflower instead of chicken (you can get the same dish with chicken). This appetizer is life-changing, trust me. The sweet, spicy combination, and the crunch of the perfectly fried cauliflower, leaves nothing to be desired.
Now, I will mention a non-Indian dish, and an authentic Indian Dish.
Non-Indian Dish: If you are new to Indian cuisine, Chicken Tikka Masala is a great stepping stone (think the vodka sauce of Indian Food). It is a mild curry, with tomatoes and cream, that originated in England; and Paradise Biryani nails it. This sweet, but flavorful sauce never disappoints. I highly recommend one of their naan sides to assist in this palate pleaser.
Authentic Indian Dish: If you are of Indian descent, you will agree that Biryani, the equivalent of Chinese fried rice in India, is something you might have grown up with as a child (specifically in South India). This super-spicy dish has a set of flavors that begin at cinnamon and never ends. I would combine this with the lamb korma, another exceptional curry.
Pro-tip: If you order mild, it will be medium, if you order hot, you are crazy (or Indian) - their spicy gauge is as authentic as the food, so beware!; Service is not the best, but gets the job done. Get the Gobi.
When you get two brothers off the boat from Rome, Italy, making homemade Italian food in Norwalk, you can't do anything but include their restaurant on a list like this. Maurizio and Graziano, two down-to-earth restaurateurs are making headlines with their restaurants, and for good reason. Not only do they hand-make their pasta every night (if you order it specifically), but their other options are to-die for.
I will preface this with my love for chicken dishes at Osteria, as I have tried literally every option available, including most specials. You really can't go wrong, from their Pollo Cardinale, to their Pollo a Fior Di Latte (Chicken Parmigiana). At this point, the Pollo Al Prosecco is my go-to favorite - It is the perfect combination of meat and flavor.
I have been enough times that most of the delectable options have been tried in my presence, so I doubt I have seen any negative experiences with any of the food. However, there is an appetizer that should be the reason you go - a dish called Tortina di Polenta. Polenta, or ground corn meal, is a staple in many cuisines, and can be cooked so many ways, fried, grilled, baked. But this take on Polenta is my favorite - In a clay container, the creamy polenta is added and baked to perfection, yielding a melt-in-your-mouth result. Taking it over the edge is a melted Gorgonzola butter sauce, and a tomato, that sings in harmony with the polenta.
The sister restaurant of Osteria Romana, and the almost-next-door-neighbor, is Romanacci's, a pizza joint in Norwalk.
Of all food groups, pizza is the most tackled type of food in the Northeast - there is a pizza place in every neighborhood. They have every style you can imagine, from Greek to Sicilian, to Vegan.
But here at Romanacci's, they have locked down a pizza that is more authentic, and more delicious than any other pizza I have found in this city. Every aspect of the pizza is solid - the sauce has huge flavor and doesn't just come out of a can; the dough has huge flavor, and it is well-put together. There are few places I go to get pizza by choice, and this is the one whenever I get that craving.
We have come here with the family for a lazy Sunday, have brought groups by, and have had it delivered, both for my family, and at other parties we have attended. They have never disappointed, quite the contrary. I challenge you to name a better pizza pie in Norwalk. (This might seem controversial, but for all the Colony fans, I said pizza, not cardboard with sauce and cheese)
Blue Cactus Grill
There are few sandwich places in town that I frequent, but Blue Cactus Grill has been among my favorites.
Their Cheese-steak sandwiches, and their Chicken Cheese-steak sandwiches are among my favorites - the best I have had outside of my own kitchen. The bread they use is to die for, and their specials are always amazing. I have tried many things on their menu, and only once was I disappointed, but because of the Cherry Peppers, of which I am not a fan.
They make some excellent sides too - each sandwich comes with a coleslaw that is succulent, and their hand-made potato chips are top-notch. I have had friends get salad from here and be amazed, and have never been disappointed eating there.
A few notes: I have had success with takeout here, but my last attempt was met with disappointment from myself and my whole family. You also have to know the space has limited seating, so account for that during busy times.
Another gem in Norwalk, Pontos Taverna was a place I discovered by accident several years ago. While waiting for a table at a [since closed] restaurant nearby, where we were basically ignored for 5 minutes, we chose this place instead. The online reviews made it my second choice for the evening.
This Greek hot-spot has become popular since it started getting some notoriety, and has since flourished in an up-and-coming part of Norwalk
Their menu isn't large, but I have tried a good amount of the options available, from their Scordalia and Dolmades, to their many specials. The specials, such as stuffed grape leaves (those that are hot, instead of cold Dolmades), and their stuffed cabbage, are worth writing home about. I have also tried their gyro platter and a few specials over the years. But what I come back for, time and time again, is their Chicken Souvlaki. It may sound overwhelming, but the reality is that this is a simple, perfectly balanced, dish - the main star is the chicken kebabs, perfectly seasoned by a lemon, dill marinade, with a tomato and red onion salad, the most amazing tsaztiki sauce I have ever had, pita bread as your eating utensil, with a delicious orzo side dish to bring it all together. When I first had this, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I have frequented this restaurant, and brought many people by, with all the same reaction - delicious.
Please engage and comment! I have mentioned some amazing restaurants, but your input will further this culinary journey. Tell me your story about a dish that you loved.
We (Joe and Chris Balestriere) are Realtors in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Our blog is meant to educate buyers and sellers and equip them with tools to get the most out of their Realtor, whether it is us or someone else. We focus on technology and how it enhances the work we do for our clients--we are not top CT Realtors by accident.