NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk is hot, hot, hot, according to a statewide magazine – at least as far as food goes. Style, health and beauty? Entertaining activities? Not so much, although the big screen at the Maritime Aquarium scores high marks.
Norwalk hot dogs, hot food and hot chocolate made it onto Connecticut Magazine's 2012 Best of Connecticut list, released this week in its September issue. Two cocktails are listed among the best in the state, and oysters cooked in SoNo are tops, according to the magazine.
In fact, Norwalk did well, with nine businesses listed among the 238 winners. They are:
- Swanky Franks, 182 Connecticut Ave., is anything but ritzy, according to the magazine, but it's a "must-have on our Connecticut road-food bucket list."
- Chocopologie, 12 S. Main St., has the best hot chocolate, "traditional style or spicy, i.e., jazzed up with chipotle, cinnamon, cloves and ginger, with both available iced or frozen as well as hot."
- Stew Leonard's has the best hot food bar, at both its Norwalk and Newington locations.
- Match, 98 Washington St., offers "a little bit of heaven on a plate" with its oyster appetizer, dubbed "carpetbaggers" on the menu, the best oysters in the state. The concoction features black truffle crema, truffled steak tartare and a dot of truffle aioli.
- The Loft, 97 Washington St., mixes "excellent martinis," but the cosmopolitan is "superb."
- Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant, 63 N. Main St., has a "fruity, refreshing sangria" that Connecticut Magazine writers just "can't get enough of."
- The Lime Restaurant, 168 Main Ave., serves a veggie-nut burger that even meat lovers can get hooked on, according to the magazine.
- Sono Baking Co., 101 Water St., upped the ante for South Norwalk when it opened in 2005 with its "elegant cakes, perfect fruit and lemon meringue tarts, fruit galettes and artisan breads."
- The Maritime Aquarium's IMAX theater has "astonishing picture clarity."
Lou Renzueli, owner of Swanky Franks, the most venerable business on the list, was surprised at being mentioned because no one contacted him. He attributes the honor to the freshness of the food – mandatory in part by the lack of storage space in a 60-year-old establishment that was once the only truck stop on the thoroughfare.
"We can't change any of our menu to a lesser quality because people have come to expect it," he said. Some people have been customers for six decades, he said. He can add things, though. This winter he plans to begin offering a barbecue menu.
"Everything is top-of-the-line quality," he said. "If you go to Stop & Shop you'll pay $5 to $6 a pound for these hot dogs. The bread is fresh, it's delivered every day. The chili is fresh. We make everything fresh."