The London Games give us all an excuse to spend our hot summer nights at the coolest spots in town, savoring a fine Argentine wine perhaps or some shrimp dim sum as we consider the relative aesthetic merits of the Yank and Brit diving teams.
But where to park our sculpted derrieres so we don’t miss all the action? WAG has the 411:
Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar
At: 230 Mill St., Greenwich, (203) 813-3555.
Why go: Your mother, your brother and your daughter can all feel groovy dancing to club beats, sipping sweet or spicy margaritas on the coveted patio area and chowing down on creative Mexican culinary feats.
Must-order dishes: Lightly fried East Coast oysters dusted with red chili masa and chipotle crema; blackened grouper tacos with mango-jicama and Serrano slaw; slow-cooked brisket tacos with a shot of gravy; BBQ pork belly guacamole; caracoles (snails in garlic chipotle butter with crispy shallots); carne asada (garlic marinated skirt steak); lobster enchilada with fire-roasted corn and chipotle chilis; sticky spare ribs with spicy Mexican coffee bean, chocolate, sesame and orange glaze; iron pan cornbread in roasted garlic sauce.
Drinks to pair: “Lolita” (Sauza 100 anos azul reposado, citron Patrón, fresh lime, cane syrup and a squeeze of grapefruit); “Broken Heart” (Gran Centenario Rosangel, St. Germain, white grapes, fresh raspberries and pink peppercorns); “Diablo” (Cuervo traditional reposado, citron Patrón, Serrano chile, blood orange, fresh pineapple and strawberries.
Tip: Join Lolita’s email list to be in-the-know for the spot’s raging parties like the “Heartbreaker” series.
The last word: “We form a relationship with our guests that transcends seasonality,”says Jody Pennette, president of cb5 Restaurant Group, L.L.C.
Barcelona Wine Bar
At: 222 Summer St., Stamford (203) 348-4800; 18 W. Putnam Ave., Greenwich (203) 983-6400; 63 N. Main St., South Norwalk, (203) 899-0088.
Why go: Phenomenal service; a comprehensive drink list, mostly focused on Spanish, Portuguese, Argentine and French wines; imaginative, filling tapas; a cool marble bar; and a Alive at Five crowd that reconfirms Thursday is the new Friday.
Must-order dishes: Warm potato tortilla with chive sour cream; spinach-chickpea casserole; boquerones (marinated fresh anchovies); albondigas (meatballs in a zesty tomato sauce); stuffed piquillo peppers with saffron, risotto and Andouille sausage; bone marrow crostini made with Wilton’s Farah’s Herbs; butter-poached lobster risotto; bouillabaisse with braised grouper, fava beans, spring onions and fingerling potatoes.
Drinks to pair: 2009 Spanish rioja Mencía blend, San Esteban; 2010 Spanish Verdejo, Blanco Nieva; 2010 Spanish Tempranillo/Garnacha, Dinastia Vinvanco; 2010 German Zeppelin Riesling; 2011 Hungarian Blaufrankisch blend, 2010 Italian Sangiovese, Poggio Anima, Belial; Amantillado “Carlos VII” sherry; pitcher of seasonal sangria; Barcelona Bloody Mary.
The last word: “The whole idea is that we want it to be a neighborhood type of restaurant,” says Ria Rueda, director of marketing for the barteca restaurant group.
L’escale Restaurant Bar at The Delamar Hotel
At: 500 Steamboat Road, Greenwich, (203) 661-4600.
Why go: In a word, glamour – a fashionable crowd; seaside seating; a happening bar (with screens for game time); and a serious foodie scene inside the restaurant, under the spatula of French-born executive chef Frederic Kieffer.
Must-order dishes: Le Plateau Royal with a Maine lobster, 12 oysters, 12 clams, six bay scallops, nine jumbo shrimp, mussels, dark rye bread, mayonnaise and mignonette cocktail sauce; tuna tartare with preserved lemon and rosemary oil; salmon carpaccio with homemade watercress butter and dark rye bread; tomato, avocado and watermelon tartare; grilled local calamari with avocado, tomato and basil; famous chicken Paillard “a la Plancha;” tapenade-crusted tuna with ratatouille stuffed baby vegetables and Rosé wine sauce. Top these with desserts by pastry chef Wendy Young Laurent.
Drinks to pair: For dinner, the chef recommends a variety of Champagnes, Sauvignons, Sancerres, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from the lengthy French-heavy wine list. But for the watering hole experience, specialty “film noir cocktails” include “How to Marry a Millionaire” (homemade Grey Goose berry-infused vodka with Saint Germain, lychee liquor and lime juice); “Saint Germain Spritz” (Rosé cooler with Saint Germain, sparkling water, raspberries and strawberries); and “8 ½” (homemade Corzo Blanco pepper and jalapeno-infused tequila margarita with ginger syrup, espelette pepper and salt rim).
Tip: Chef Kieffer strives to use locally sourced vegetables so expect a garden-fresh quality that’s “like you never had before.”
The last word: “We have a real identity – a taste of Provence,” says David Fletcher, director of operations.
At: 1 Willett Ave., Port Chester, (914) 937-8226, and 222 Summer St., Stamford, (203) 323-8226.
Why go: Let’s say you pick up your friend from the Westchester County Airport, and she’s starving but also wants to get the party started. Bartaco is just the place, mixing tasty treats and atmosphere in a way that appeals to the 20-somethings and their parents.
Must-order dishes: Favorite tacos include the Thai shrimp, lightly-fried Baja fish, red snapper, spicy chorizo, duck, portobello with queso fresco, pork al pastor and lamb barbacoa. Other dishes to try – assorted gorditas with cream sauce, shrimp ceviche, rice bowls and pork tamales.
Drinks to pair: “Bartaco Margarita” (Herradura Silver and Combier orange liquor with agave syrup and lime juice); “Smoky Cholula” (Sombra mezal with guava nectar and lemon juice); “Old Thymer” (Woodford Reserve bourbon, Carpano Antica vermouth, thyme, lemon and orange); “Rosita” (Hibiscus-infused Gran Centenario Reposado, rosemary, pear nectar and cranberry).
Tip: The easiest impromptu entertaining is made simple with Bartaco’s takeout party packs featuring an assortment of menu hits.
The last word: “You’d be surprised by the looks of these booths, but tabletop dancing is a regular thing here and it gets pretty crazy,” says Sophia Cruz, a mixologist at Bartaco in Stamford.
China White Noodlebar
At: 249 Railroad Ave., Greenwich (203) 422-5232; and 578 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase (914) 437-9700.
Why go: The all-white, light-filled stylish China White opens its garage doors in the warmer months for an atmosphere that’s sexy but all about good-quality Asian food. The waiters are models, and visual art and black-and-white movies are projected on a wall.
Must-order dishes: Sweet white shrimp dim sum served with lettuce cups; shrimp, pork and crispy vegetable dumplings; chop chop chicken salad with crispy wontons and soy-ginger dressing; wok sautéed prawns with garlic, chives and ginger-wine sauce; Cantonese roast chicken with crispy garlic and shallots; very popular Peking duck with dark plum sauce, scallions and mushu pancakes; lobster stir-fried in Chinese black bean sauce; complimentary dessert of Chai tea-flavored organic cotton candy.
Drinks to pair: White ginger-pear iced tea with fresh fruit (so refreshing); prickly pear lemonade; Veuve Clicquot Rosé; Schneider Weisse beer; white sangria with lychee and sake.
Tip: Order the baby bok choy, a huge side dish packed with summertime flavor.
The last word: “Oh my god, the Cantonese roast chicken is so spicy and awesome,” gushes Jody Pennette, president of cb5 Restaurant Group, L.L.C.