Unique Restaurants in Connecticut: 12 Must-Visit Restaurants in CT

by Jen
Unique Restaurants in Connecticut
This post may have affiliate links, where I receive a commission if you purchase through them. Here's our Disclosure and Privacy Policy for more info.

Connecticut is full of surprises, especially when it comes to dining. The unique restaurants in Connecticut are a real highlight, offering amazing meals in one-of-a-kind settings. From cozy spots by the sea to lively urban eateries, each place has its own special charm. Prepare to discover the best restaurants in CT!

Having spent many days wandering through Connecticut, I’ve come across some truly special restaurants. This state surprises you with its variety of unique dining spots. From the cozy streets of Litchfield Hills to the waterfront views in Mystic, the range of eateries here is impressive.

In this guide, I’m thrilled to share with you some of the best places to eat in CT. You’ll find everything from a small, family-owned empanaderia to a trendy downtown bistro. Each location on this list brings something special to the table – they’re truly must-visit spots in Connecticut.

So, let’s start this journey together and explore some of the most unique restaurants in Connecticut that have won me over.

Read also: Coolest Things to See and Do in Connecticut

The top restaurants to visit in Connecticut right now

Unique Restaurants in Connecticut: 12 Extraordinary Places to Eat in CT

Ready to explore the best restaurants in Connecticut? There’s a world of exciting dining options here, from elegant meals in historic settings to charming, lesser-known spots. Join me as we discover the best places to eat in Connecticut.

Are you looking for an unforgettable dining experience, like a meal in a picturesque New England setting? Or perhaps you’re eager to try local specialties in a place that’s full of character? No matter what kind of unique dining adventure you seek, Connecticut has it all. Here’s your essential guide to the most unique restaurants in Connecticut.

1. OSA

Kicking off our list of the most unique Connecticut restaurants is OSA, a standout spot in Middletown, CT. This restaurant is renowned for its unique blend of modern art and bold Italian flavors, which makes it a must-visit for those seeking something different. The industrial-chic decor, with a touch of contemporary art, creates an inviting atmosphere that complements the innovative menu.

From the moment I walked into OSA, the ambiance was captivating. The warm lighting and art pieces set a tone of sophistication and comfort. The menu is a celebration of Italian cuisine with a modern twist. Here, local ingredients are crafted into dishes that are both flavorful and visually appealing. Each plate is a discovery of new tastes and textures, from savory pastas to inventive entrees.

What I particularly love about OSA is the balance it strikes between fine dining and a relaxed, friendly environment. The staff are enthusiastic and are always on hand to share insights about the dishes. Their recommendations are always spot-on!

It’s wise to book ahead, as OSA is quite popular. The price point is mid-range, offering value for the quality and creativity of the dishes served. For those seeking fun restaurants in Connecticut that blend art, atmosphere, and flavor, OSA is a destination not to be missed.

OSA is one of the unique restaurants in Connecticut.
OSA in Middletown, CT, melds modern art with bold Italian flavors, offering a unique dining experience.

2. Madeline’s Empanaderia

Voted the best Latin restaurant in New Haven, Madeline’s Empanaderia turns a simple meal into a vibrant feast. Located in the heart of Connecticut, it’s all about rich, authentic flavors in a setting that’s as lively as a family gathering. The place is filled with the warmth and charm of a traditional Latin kitchen. It’s hands down one of the most fun places to eat in Connecticut.

The menu here is a showcase of empanada artistry. Each day brings new fillings to discover, from classic beef and chicken to inventive combinations like sweet plantain or spicy chorizo. There are options for vegans, too. The ‘Vegan Classico’ with plant-based beef picadillo and cheese particularly impressed me!

Madeline’s Empanaderia is a favorite for those seeking a meal that’s full of heart and flavor. With its affordable prices, it’s a place where everyone can enjoy a taste of Latin America. It’s undoubtedly one of the best places to eat in Connecticut for those who love their meals served with a generous helping of culture and warmth.

Be sure to drop in, as this cozy spot fills up quickly with empanada enthusiasts. Madeline’s Empanaderia isn’t just about eating – it’s about experiencing the joy and community that comes with every bite.

Madeline’s Empanaderia serves up authentic Latin flavors in a lively, familial setting, voted the best in New Haven.
Madeline’s Empanaderia serves up authentic Latin flavors in a lively, familial setting, voted the best in New Haven. | Source: https://www.madelinesempanada.com/

3. Çka Ka Qëllu

Çka Ka Qëllu is a must on any list of Connecticut’s unique restaurants. Here, traditional Albanian food meets a cozy, historical vibe for an experience you won’t forget. Located in Stamford, this restaurant is a vibrant celebration of Albanian culture, where every meal is full of heart and tradition.

Walk into Çka Ka Qëllu and feel the warmth of Albania. The decor is a cozy tribute to its heritage, creating an inviting atmosphere. It’s like entering a family gathering in Tirana, perfect for enjoying meals that are as much about culture as they are about taste.

The menu at Çka Ka Qëllu is all about authentic Albanian flavors. Favorites like the savory Qofte and the flaky, delicious Byrek are highlights. Each item is a nod to traditional Albanian cooking, prepared with care and meant to be enjoyed. It’s food that’s as flavorful as it is heartwarming.

Çka Ka Qëllu is the place to be for those in Connecticut looking for an authentic and enjoyable meal. It’s one of those rare spots where food, atmosphere, and culture come together perfectly. The prices are reasonable for the genuine experience you get.

Remember to reserve your spot – this place is a hit for its authentic atmosphere and great food. Prepare to be transported to the heart of Albania with every bite at Çka Ka Qëllu, one of the best places to eat in CT.

Çka Ka Qëllu intertwines cozy history with vibrant Albanian cuisine, a must-visit in Connecticut.
Çka Ka Qëllu intertwines cozy history with vibrant Albanian cuisine, a must-visit in Connecticut. | Source: https://ckakaqelluct.com/

4. Hasna’s Grill

Hasna’s Grill is a hidden gem in Connecticut, offering a taste of authentic Afghan cuisine in Waterbury. This spot is a celebration of flavors, where each dish is a delightful surprise. It’s one of the coolest places to eat in Connecticut, perfect for foodies looking for something different.

The moment you walk into Hasna’s Grill, you’re hit with the tantalizing scents of spices and grilling. The vibe here is relaxed and friendly, perfect for a casual meal with friends or family. It’s like a little slice of Afghanistan, right in the heart of Connecticut!

Their menu is packed with Afghan favorites. The kebabs here are a real treat, juicy and packed with flavor. And the Falafel? It’s a crunchy, tasty delight that you can’t miss. Each dish at Hasna’s Grill is a celebration of traditional flavors, made with care and expertise.

For anyone searching for the best food in Connecticut, Hasna’s Grill is a top pick. The prices are just as appealing as the food, offering great value for such authentic, delicious dishes.

Swing by Hasna’s Grill when you’re in the mood for something different. It’s a place where every visit is a chance to explore the rich tastes of Afghanistan, served up with a warm Connecticut welcome.

Waterbury's Hasna’s Grill is serving authentic Afghan cuisine, a delightful surprise for foodies seeking unique flavors.
Waterbury’s Hasna’s Grill is serving authentic Afghan cuisine, a delightful surprise for foodies seeking unique flavors. | Source: https://hasnasgrill.com/

5. Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant

Next up on our list of Connecticut’s best restaurants is Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant. Dishing up fresh and delicious Ethiopian cuisine, Lalibela is known as one of the best restaurants in CT, and for good reason.

Located in the bustling streets of New Haven, Lalibela brings a slice of Ethiopia to Connecticut. The restaurant’s unique setup, featuring traditional Mesob tables, invites guests to a communal and interactive dining experience, a hallmark of Ethiopian culture.

The menu at Lalibela is a colorful array of Ethiopian classics. Highlights include the savory Doro Wat, a chicken stew bursting with flavors, and the Shiro, a must-try for vegetarians. Injera, the soft and tangy Ethiopian bread, is the perfect companion to every dish, doubling as your utensil for a truly authentic experience.

Lalibela is a top pick for anyone seeking fun restaurants in Connecticut. With its warm ambiance and affordable prices, it’s a place that welcomes everyone – from families to solo adventurers. The menu offers a wide range of options, ensuring there’s something for every taste.

What’s more, Lalibela has recently launched a food truck in New Haven, open daily from Monday to Friday, 11 am till 2 pm. For a quick and delicious lunch, I can’t think of a better option for cheap eats in Connecticut!

Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant is renowned for its fresh and delicious Ethiopian cuisine.
Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant is renowned for its fresh and delicious Ethiopian cuisine.

6. Zul Cafe and Grill

Zul Cafe and Grill in Hartford brings the vibrant flavors of the Philippines to Connecticut. It’s a lively spot where each dish is a celebration of Filipino culinary traditions, perfect for sharing and enjoying with friends.

Step into Zul Cafe and Grill and you’ll find a space that’s both modern and inviting. There’s a laid-back atmosphere that’s all about savoring great food. Their menu is a tribute to Filipino cuisine, with dishes that are both authentic and full of zest. The Adobo, a classic Filipino dish, is a must-try, with its rich, savory sauce and tender meat. And that’s just the beginning – from the sizzling Sisig to the comforting Kare-Kare, each plate is a journey through the flavors of the Philippines.

Zul Cafe and Grill stands out as one of the most unique restaurants in Connecticut, offering a taste of the Philippines in a vibrant, casual setting. The prices are wallet-friendly, which makes it a fantastic choice for an exotic meal that won’t break the bank.

This Filipino gem is usually easy to walk into. However, if you’re planning a visit during popular dining hours, a reservation is a smart move. Zul Cafe and Grill is a hit for anyone in search of a fun, flavorful dining experience with a genuine Filipino twist.

Hartford's Zul Cafe and Grill brings vibrant Filipino flavors to Connecticut, offering a lively dining experience.
Hartford’s Zul Cafe and Grill brings vibrant Filipino flavors to Connecticut, offering a lively dining experience.

7. Kasbah Garden Cafe

Kasbah Garden Cafe turns dining into an enchanting experience. Located in New Haven, it’s a world of rich flavors and an ambiance that transports you straight to a North African paradise. The cafe is adorned with lush greenery and vibrant decor — think Moroccan lanterns and cozy nooks. It’s easily one of the coolest places to eat in Connecticut.

The menu is a showcase of North African delights. Weekends are for indulging in their famous Tagine, a dish that has everyone raving, and the Couscous? It’s a star in its own right! The cuisine here is all about bold, aromatic flavors, perfectly complementing the serene garden setting.

Kasbah Garden Cafe is a treasure for those seeking a dining experience wrapped in exotic charm. The prices are just right, offering an affordable escape into a different world. It’s a standout among the best restaurants in Connecticut for those who enjoy their meals with a touch of the exotic.

Make sure to book a table, especially if you’re planning a weekend visit. This hidden gem is popular for its unique blend of serene ambiance and flavorful cuisine. As a personal recommendation, try their mint tea. It’s a traditional Moroccan experience, served in a ceremonial fashion that adds to the charm of your meal.

Kasbah Garden Cafe in New Haven offers an enchanting North African dining experience.
Kasbah Garden Cafe in New Haven offers an enchanting North African dining experience.

8. Transilvania Restaurant and Bar

If you’re on the hunt for unique restaurants in Connecticut, Transilvania Restaurant and Bar in Branford is a must-visit. This restaurant brings the spirit of Romania right to Connecticut, offering a dining experience that’s as rich in culture as it is in flavor.

Step inside and you’re immediately transported to a Romanian village, complete with traditional decor and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. But it’s the food that truly takes center stage here. The chefs at Transilvania serve up classic Romanian dishes, each bursting with the hearty, comforting flavors of the region. From the savory Sarmale (cabbage rolls) to the rich and creamy Polenta with Cheese and Sour Cream, every dish is a tribute to Romanian culinary traditions.

The menu changes to reflect seasonal specialties. This ensures a fresh and exciting experience with every visit. Dining here is like being part of a big, happy family, with communal tables and a friendly vibe. It’s perfect for those who love to explore new cuisines and meet fellow food enthusiasts.

As for the price, it’s surprisingly affordable for such an authentic experience. Transilvania Restaurant and Bar stands out as one of the most unique CT restaurants, where you can indulge in Eastern European charm without traveling far.

Branford's Transilvania Restaurant brings Romania's spirit to Connecticut with rich cultural flavors.
Branford’s Transilvania Restaurant brings Romania’s spirit to Connecticut with rich cultural flavors. | Source: https://transilvaniact.com/

9. Chez Ben Diner

Looking for a fun and unique place to eat in Connecticut? Chez Ben Diner in Manchester is your go-to place. It’s a delightful journey back in time, offering a classic diner experience with a twist. This diner, with its retro charm and friendly atmosphere, is a local favorite for a reason!

As soon as you enter, you’re greeted by the nostalgic vibe of a traditional American diner, complete with vintage decor and a cozy feel. But the real star here is the menu, a perfect blend of classic diner fare and Canadian specialties. My personal recommendation? You absolutely have to try their Poutine. It’s a Canadian classic done right, with crispy fries, rich gravy, and melty cheese curds – a true comfort food delight!

Chez Ben Diner keeps things exciting with a menu that’s both familiar and full of surprises. Whether it’s their hearty breakfasts, juicy burgers, or sweet maple treats, there’s something for everyone. The diner is a fantastic spot for those who appreciate the simple joys of good food and a warm welcome.

For a smooth visit, it’s a good idea to arrive early, especially during weekend brunch hours. There’s ample parking available, making it convenient for both quick stops and leisurely meals. Whether you’re starting your day with a hearty breakfast or dropping by for a late-night bite, Chez Ben Diner is one of the coolest restaurants in CT, hands down.

Chez Ben Diner offers a fun twist on the classic diner experience, a local favorite in Connecticut known for its retro charm.
Chez Ben Diner offers a fun twist on the classic diner experience, a local favorite in Connecticut known for its retro charm.

10. Pho Van

Pho Van in Windsor is a standout in our list of unique restaurants in Connecticut. This Vietnamese spot is all about amazing flavors and a friendly vibe. Their Pho is a must-try, with a tasty broth and fresh ingredients. And don’t miss out on their Banh Mi sandwiches – they’re delicious!

Every time I visit, I’m impressed by the food and the warm welcome. It’s the kind of place where you feel at home right away. The Pho here is comforting, full of traditional flavors. It’s perfect for anyone who loves good, honest food.

Pho Van is a great choice for a casual meal with a touch of something special. It’s one of the best places to eat in Connecticut if you’re after authentic Vietnamese dishes.

It’s a popular spot, so it can get busy. Try to visit during quieter times to get the full experience. Pho Van is a real gem in Windsor, offering a taste of Vietnam that’s hard to beat.

Windsor's Pho Van stands out with amazing Vietnamese flavors.
Windsor’s Pho Van stands out with amazing Vietnamese flavors.

11. Present Company

Get ready for a memorable meal at Present Company in Simsbury! This isn’t just another restaurant. It’s a place where each dish is a surprise party for your taste buds. The chefs here are like artists, constantly reinventing the menu with local, seasonal ingredients. Located in a converted mill, it’s a restaurant you won’t want to miss in CT.

The ambiance strikes a perfect balance between chic and cozy, ideal for both lively evenings and special occasions. What truly distinguishes Present Company is its open kitchen concept. Watching the chefs in action adds a dynamic layer to the dining experience.

Sure, it’s a bit of a splurge, but for food this exciting and an atmosphere this vibrant, it’s totally worth it. Present Company really is one of the coolest places to eat in Connecticut!

I recommend sampling the 5-course Chef’s tasting menu. The menu changes daily, which means every visit is truly a unique one!

Present Company surprises your taste buds with inventive dishes crafted from local, seasonal ingredients in a converted mill setting.
Present Company surprises your taste buds with inventive dishes crafted from local, seasonal ingredients in a converted mill setting.

12. GameCraft Arcade

Right in Southington, there’s a gem called GameCraft Arcade. It’s a cool mix of tasty food and old-school arcade games. Imagine chowing down on some awesome burgers while playing Pac-Man or Space Invaders. It’s like stepping back in time, but with way better food!

The coolest element of GameCraft Arcade is how it combines delicious food with entertainment. The menu goes beyond what you’d expect at an arcade. We’re talking gourmet-level stuff that’s as fun to eat as the games are to play.

This spot is perfect for anyone looking to break the monotony of traditional dining. It’s a hit with families, groups of friends, or even solo visitors seeking a unique dining experience in Connecticut. The location is easy to reach, nestled in a lively part of town. It’s a convenient and exciting choice for a casual outing.

At GameCraft Arcade, it’s all about having a blast. Good food, great games, and a vibe that’s just plain fun. It’s one of the most fun restaurants in Connecticut that you’ve got to check out for yourself!

GameCraft Arcade merges delicious food with classic arcade games.
GameCraft Arcade merges delicious food with classic arcade games. | Source: https://www.gamecraft-arcade.com/

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Unique Restaurants in Connecticut

Are you looking for more information to help you decide where to eat in CT? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about Connecticut’s best restaurants.

What foods are famous in Connecticut?

Here are some of the foods that Connecticut is famous for:

  1. New Haven-style Pizza (Apizza): Unlike New York or Chicago styles, New Haven pizza is known for its thin crust. Pepe’s and Sally’s Apizza in New Haven are legendary spots.
  2. Lobster Rolls: Connecticut’s take on the lobster roll is served warm with butter, as opposed to the cold, mayonnaise-based version popular in Maine.
  3. Hot Lobster Rolls: Similar to lobster rolls but specifically served warm with melted butter, often on a toasted bun.
  4. Steamed Cheeseburgers: A unique take on the American classic, where the cheese and sometimes the burger are steamed. This results in a very moist and flavorful burger.
  5. Clam Chowder: While New England clam chowder is famous throughout the region, Connecticut has its own unique versions. They often feature fresh, locally caught clams.
  6. Apple Cider: Connecticut’s numerous apple orchards produce some of the best apple cider in the region, especially popular in the fall.
  7. Clam Pie: A pizza variety that is particularly popular in New Haven, featuring fresh clams, garlic, and sometimes cheese.
  8. Maple Syrup: While more associated with Vermont, Connecticut also produces high-quality maple syrup from its many maple trees.
  9. Hartford Election Cake: A traditional American cake with a history dating back to the colonial era, originally made to celebrate election days.
  10. Connecticut River Shad: Shad and shad roe are seasonal delicacies, especially around the Connecticut River area.

What is Connecticut’s state food?

Since 2021, the official state food of Connecticut is pizza. However, Connecticut is famous for other foods, including the hot lobster roll. Unlike the mayonnaise-based lobster rolls you might find in other New England states, Connecticut’s version is served warm with butter, highlighting the fresh, succulent lobster. This dish is a must-try for anyone exploring the best food in Connecticut, especially at coastal eateries where the lobster is as fresh as it gets.

Flavorful authentic Connecticut pizza, a local culinary delight.
Flavorful authentic Connecticut pizza, a local culinary delight.

What city in CT has the best pizza?

In Connecticut, the city most renowned for its pizza is New Haven. This city is famous for its unique style of pizza, known as “New Haven-style” or “apizza” (pronounced as “ah-beets”). This style is characterized by a thin, crisp crust, often with a slightly charred appearance due to being cooked in extremely hot, coal-fired brick ovens. Some of the most famous pizzerias in New Haven include:

  1. Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana: Often referred to simply as “Pepe’s,” this pizzeria is famous for its white clam pizza and is considered one of the oldest and best-known pizzerias in the United States.
  2. Sally’s Apizza: Another iconic spot, Sally’s is known for its high-quality ingredients and traditional methods. It’s a rival to Pepe’s and equally beloved by many pizza connoisseurs.
  3. Modern Apizza: Offering a slightly different take on the New Haven-style pizza, Modern is known for its crispy crust and is a favorite among locals.
  4. Zuppardi’s Apizza: Located in West Haven, Zuppardi’s is another local favorite, known for its fresh ingredients and particularly its sausage pizza.

Are there any Michelin Star restaurants in Connecticut?

As of now, Michelin has not expanded its star rating to Connecticut. However, this doesn’t mean the state lacks high-quality dining experiences. For fine dining in Connecticut, I recommend The Capital Grille in Hartford and Present Company in Tariffville. The chefs here serve innovative and exquisite dishes that could rival Michelin-starred establishments.

Where can I eat with a view in CT?

There are plenty of scenic places to eat in Connecticut, especially along its picturesque coastline and charming rural areas. For a memorable dining experience with a view, consider waterfront restaurants along the Long Island Sound. Here, you can enjoy fresh seafood while overlooking the water. Inland, you’ll find restaurants set in rolling hills and lush landscapes. For ocean views, I recommend The Wharf Restaurant in Madison. Offering vistas of vineyards and rolling hills, Chamard Vineyards Bistro is another scenic restaurant in Clinton, CT.

Recap: Unique Restaurants in Connecticut

Connecticut is full of amazing places to eat. Each restaurant we talked about has its own special aspect. From the cozy feel at Chez Ben Diner to the exciting tastes at Çka Ka Qëllu, there’s something for everyone. You can find fancy places and casual spots that are different and fun.

If I had to choose one place you should definitely go to, it’s Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant. Eating there is more than just having a meal. It’s like stepping into a new world of flavors and friendly vibes. It really shows what makes eating in Connecticut unique.

Remember, Connecticut isn’t just a state – it’s a great place for food lovers. Each restaurant has its own story and special flavors. So, when you’re in Connecticut, try these great spots. You’ll love the food and might even find your new favorite restaurant!

The top restaurants in Connecticut  for all types of travelers
Enjoyed reading about the unique restaurants in Connecticut? Pin it!

You may also like

Leave a Comment