Part of the fun of riding and stopping along the way to chow down. “Great Eats” offers suggestions of where to stop, but we’re always looking for suggestions. Do you have a roadside eatery that you love? Tip us off. Over the years, RIDE-CT.com has discovered lots of wonderful places for motorcyclists to gather, converse and grab some good food. Here are just a few:
Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York
Toymaker’s Cafe in Falls Village
This is the “official hangout” of RIDE-CT.com. Owners Greg and Annie Bidou gave up the corporate life and commuting daily to New York City by train in 2001 and opened the cafe in 2002. They now serve up English banger platters and sweet potato waffles to famished riders Thursday through Sunday.
“Biker friendly” doesn’t do the phrase justice. Greg has a side business, T100 Toymakers, selling import parts for vintage British motorcycles. The barn behind the cafe is filled with motorcycle parts and old bikes, and Greg isn’t adverse to allowing visitors a look inside if they ask permission.
The cafe’s decor is eclectic, with a British tilt. Order coffee and Annie’s apt to hand you a mug bearing a Triumph or Norton logo. Sunday’s usually the best day to stop as the parking lot is usually crammed with motorcycles of all makes and vintages. You might see a 1954 Sunbeam S7 Deluxe parked next to a 1971 Norton Commando 750 Mark II.
One word of warning: Greg handles the cooking solo (except for the waffles that Annie makes) and it’s first come, first served. The routine is to place your order, grab a coffee and head outside to admire the iron in the parking lot because it may take a half-hour or more before your meal arrives.The conversation’s always great and the meal’s worth the wait.
Toymaker’s Cafe is located just off of Route 7. (Recommended by Bud Wilkinson)
Harry’s Place in Colchester
A great Mom & Pop-type road food location. Harry’s Place, 104 Broadway, has been around since 1920 and is very well known to locals and travelers heading to and from the casinos. The specialty of the house is superb burgers. They are cooked to order from a fresh ball of quality ground beef and then topped off with items from a long list of extras and condiments and placed on a bakery fresh custom-made soft roll. The ground beef is cooked on the hot flat grill, flattened out with a spatula. They come out looking like a large, thick and incredibly juicy slider. You can get hot dogs, too, but the burgers are what Harry’s is known for. The menu is chocked full of other typical New England drive-in fare such as whole fried clams, scallops and fried oysters, and a freshly battered fish sandwich. For sides, there are fries or cheese fries, onion rings and fresh made potato chips to name a few.
There is plenty of parking, but be warned the rear parking lot is gravel. There is no indoor seating, but there is plenty of outdoor picnic tables. I found out later that we should have looked for the plaque outside that denotes Harry’s Place being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Wow! Great food and a bit of history all in one Harry’s Place. Open daily seasonally 11AM to 10PM, April through October. Bring cash – they do not accept credit cards. (Recommended by Steve Smith)
Flaggstead Smokehouse in Farmington
This Texas BBQ establishment serves up tasty barbeque, brisket, ribs, chicken and sausage that’s guaranteed to give you sticky finger. Located at 1085 Farmington Avenue (Route 4), is owned by Richard Flagg, who hails from San Antonio, and uses a recipe handed down from his grandfather.
There’s a smoker out back that is in use round-the-clock. Unlike chains restaurants where food is often pre-prepared, refrigerated and then reheated when ordered, everything served here is fresh. Don’t expect baby-back ribs . All the ribs are St. Louis cut. The sausage used is kielbasa from Adolf’s in Hartford.
Eating at Texas Smokehouse can be a messy experience. Forget about plates. Orders are plastic trays lined with paper. It’s very casual, too. There’s seating for about 30 inside and room for 30 more on an outside deck.
Besides the main course meats, there are numerous sides, including barbequed beans, cole slaw, garlic mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob (in season) and cornbread. On weekends, Popo’s peppers are available – jalapenos stuffed with cheddar cheese, wrapped in bacon and smoked. To wash it all down, there’s even Lone Star beer (but no Pearl or Shiner Bock) as well as domestic brews and sodas, lemonade and tea. (Recommended by Bud Wilkinson)
The Wandering Moose in West Cornwall
Just footsteps from the covered bridge, The Wandering Moose always seems to have bikes parked out in front and for a good reason – the omelets are great and so’s the hash. There’s a small outdoor patio for warm weather dining. It’s always a pleasure to stroll down by the Housatonic River and walk it flow under the covered the bridge. Adding to the fun is Route 7 on the other side of the bridge. The 40-mile stretch between New Milford to the south and the Massachusetts border to the north is a smooth, twisty ribbon of pleasure, except when filled with leaf-peepers in cars in autumn. (Recommended by Steve Smith)
The Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret
Opened in 1989 as a small eatery with a simple food menu and ice cream, “The Bean” has been expanding ever since. The menu is extensive – from eggs benedict for breakfast to smoked mozzarella and basil ravioli for dinner. A house specialty is the chili, topped with tortilla chips, grated cheddar cheese and chopped scallions, and it is tasty. A cup is $4.75 and a bowl is $6.
One noticeable aspect of the menus are that prices aren’t listed in the insulting manner of most establishments that shave a nickel to make an item seem less expensive at, say, $7.95 instead of $8. Indeed, the Vanilla Bean avoids the use of pennies, nickels and dimes altogether. It charges $10, $10.25 and $10.50 for a sandwich.
Sunday morning is the best time to visit if you’re riding because that’s when bikes gather. (Recommended by Jack Phelps)
The Southfield Store in Southfield
If delicious pastry attracts you, The Southfield Store on Route 272 will certainly hit the spot. With a counter covered with confections, it’s impossible to eat just one.
While the cafe is open for breakfast and lunch year-round, it also serves dinner Thursday-Sunday from mid-May through December, with Thursday being Mexican night. (Recommended by Neil and Pam Tolhurst)
Cold Spring Depot in Cold Spring
Built in 1884 as a passenger and freight terminal, the motorcycle-friendly Cold Spring Depot was an active station until 1954 and has been an eatery since 1972. In-between it was a car dealership and repair shop. If you dine outdoors on the patio, you can expect to have your conversation interrupted by the Metro North and Amtrak trains that whiz by.
Cold Spring Depot’s menu goes far beyond dining car fare, too. For dinner, there’s lobster ravioli and filet mignon. There’s also comfort food in the form of shepherd’s pie and chicken pot pie.
Cold Spring Depot is also supposedly haunted by the ghost of a socialite who was murdered there by her husband on a wintery night in the 1890s. A cold blast of air is said to gush by the bench where she was killed at precisely 10:13 p.m. every night. (Recommended by Vince Preiato)
Big W’s Roadside Bar-B-Q in Wingdale
The next time you feel like “pigging out” while out on a ride, check out Big W’s Roadside Bar-B-Q, 1475 Route 22.
The restaurant’s proprietor and namesake Warren Norstein has been in the ribs business since 2003. Back then, the business was truly “road side” – running out of a commissary truck in Pawling, NY. Fast forward to 2007 when Warren moved out of the truck and into a storefront.
On arrival, the tantalizing hickory smoke aroma from the smoker shed next to the restaurant will quickly take over your senses. Inside is a very casual seating area with several tables and booths. There are a few picnic tables outside too. Take some time to study the food and portion size offerings on the large chalkboard menu. You get a good portion size, even with the sensibly sized sandwiches. Or opt for the regular portions for a heaping. Besides the signature dry rubbed ribs, there are many other BBQ delights on the menu. If you can not decide consider the sampler with ribs, brisket, and something called “slow chicken.” When asked and with impeccable timing Warren told us they are easier to catch. I suspect this is a common question and answer here at Big W.
Part of the Big W experience is watching Warren carved up the meats at the counter and pile them high on a service tray lined with brown paper. There are several side choices, and Mr. Big W himself suggested the Smokey Beans, which was excellent. The sides are served up in small bowls and placed on the tray along with small container of sauces. The unusual homemade BBQ sauces are served on the side, and not on the meat. Be sure to try both the regular and the hot version of the sauce.
Big W’s is conveniently located in southeast Dutchess County on Route 22 in Wingdale, and is surprisingly close to the Connecticut border for those find themselves riding in Kent on Route 7. Once hitting RT 22, Big W’s is less than a mile south of the Wingdale Metro North station. (Recommended by Steve Smith)