A few weeks back when the weather was just turning from super hot to that favorable 65-degree pre-autumn wonderfulness, I went and ate a phenomenal meal. I am not dissing in any way, but before any native Southingtonite gets their panties in a ruffle, I will say that Southington Connecticut isn’t really known for its cool dining options… well, that has changed. Smokin with Chris is cool, but that’s BBQ, and other than that I can’t really recall anything else in this bracket. In the Factory Square section of Southington lies a sweet little gem, it is called Ideal Tavern. New American, Modernized American, Comfort Food, call it what you want, I loved it. Seeing that Ideal opened at 2 on Sundays, my tasting crew and I took a short drive to Southington and gorged ourselves on the summer menu. Before we ate, manager and all around sweet peach Rachel spoiled my fellow non-drinking buddy Andrew and I to some beautiful liquid nitrogen chilled mocktails! Buttered up and hungry, we ordered. Before I get into the food here’s a small passage about Ideal Tavern’s Head Chef, Joseph Lucci.
I’d like to start by saying that Ideal Tavern has a BEAUTIFUL interior adorned in all reclaimed barn wood, and the actual bar’s shelves are made with that same barn’s load bearing beams. I took a minute and strolled around the dining room and bar areas to take it all in. Nothing better than a good food experience in a spot that the owners and workers put the same passion into the environment in which you are eating.
Had to start off with the truffle fries, had to. These fries were good, nice size portion, served with aged parmesan, herbs and a truffle aioli that was super tasty. Next was the Maine Lobster Slider Duo. Now when it came to the table I was confused because the two sliders were different. One was a lobster salad type and the other held a whole piece of claw meat! The salad style slider was served with an avocado aioli, mango salsa and arugula. The other was served like a traditional lobster roll on a toasted bun with a whole piece of claw meat poached in vanilla butter. WTF?!?! Vanilla butter? I was in heaven and I think I hoarded this to myself without sharing and was definitely yelled at for it. Next came the Chicken “Crisps” that were chicharrone style. Served with buttermilk ranch vinaigrette, applewood smoked bacon and sea salt, this was also a dish I hoarded close to me. As for the last of the small plates that we got, the next was by far my favorite, the burrata. Standing tall, creamy, not watery, served with heirloom tomatoes, arugula, prosciutto di parma and pesto vinaigrette.
Once we were done with the small plates something arrived at the table that was not on the menu. Heirloom beets with strawberries, arugula and tempura artichokes. This was so good and a perfect end of summer dish, the beets were small and whole, not sliced, I liked that. Now was time for the big stuff. First was something I’ve been hunting around for and comparing from restaurant to restaurant, the Bolognese. Some Bolognese are too salty, some are not enough, some skimp on meat, some have no meat, some are drowning in meat, some sauce sucks, some are watery… This particular Bolognese was a pappardelle braised veal Bolognese topped with shaved aged parmesan and whipped ricotta, totally perfect. The next two plates were ones consumed by my friends Kate and Andrew but they were gracious enough to give me a taste. Summer Vegetable Risotto and the Ideal Mac and Cheese. The risotto was awesome served with hazelnuts and a little parmesan froth. The mac and cheese was perfect and you can pick from three varieties, this particular one was oven roasted tomato, arugula and Vermont cheddar. This is the Ideal dish that comes to mind when I think about comfort food, see what I did there, no? Sorry, moving on!
We were getting stuffed, but I never EVER skip dessert. I need desserts; they are my lifeblood. So first was a special, Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Bourbon Caramel. If you know me then you know I will always order the bread pudding. Some people kill it, some people screw it up beyond belief. This bread pudding was a 10/10. Next was the Summer Berry Shortcake with vanilla cake, whipped cream and basil syrup. The final dessert showed up at the table unannounced and I’m really happy it did because it was my favorite of the three. The Flourless Dark Belgium Chocolate Cake served with toasted meringue, chocolate almond crumbs, summer cherry ice cream, malt ball powder and homemade pop rocks. This dessert was STRANGE to say the least but everything when together insanely well. Took me a minute to figure out what the malt ball dust was but I got it. The pop rocks were so weird to eat since I had not consumed any since probably 6th grade. Taking a spoonful of ice cream and meringue and rolling it in the dust and pop rocks was something that was just tickling my inner fat kid.
Chef Joe came and chatted with us for a minute. We talked food and his ultimate dream as a chef. Chef Joe told me one day he would like his own fine dining restaurant, white tablecloth style with a menu that changes daily, I like the way this guy thinks. Everything was good, the food, the ambiance, waiting time between dishes and the service. Rachel, Joe, I hereby award you with…
You can still get this menu for about another week before it changes for the fall season. SO GO!!! Go for drinks, go for dinner, go for dessert and show these guys some love because they are killing it right now. Then wait for the new menu and GO AGAIN! I can’t wait for that new fall menu, and am already thinking about it as I type this.