6 CT Magazine restaurant reviews from the 1970s, and what they say now

Connecticut Magazine has been reviewing restaurants since Watergate was simply the name of a fancy hotel, the U.S. still had boots on the ground in Vietnam, and fondue was all the rage at dinner parties. In honor of our culinary continuity, we look at the past and present of six restaurants and inns that we reviewed in our early days and are still in operation today.

This article appears in the September 2021 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale here. Sign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.

Mayflower Inn
Washington

The Mayflower Inn & Spa as it appears today, and from our May 1972 review.
The Mayflower Inn & Spa as it appears today, and from our May 1972 review.
Courtesy of Mayflower Inn & Spa, Auberge Resorts Collection; archive photo

Issue: May 1972

What we said then: “The country inn is in again,” were our reviewer’s first words, and every back issue from the era seems to prove the truth of those words. Many of the menus seem similar as well, but our visitor admired the simplicity and sophistication of the chef’s dishes, including beer-battered shrimp with orange marmalade, ginger and horseradish ($5.50), sautéed sweetbreads with Bearnaise sauce ($6), and a selection of appetizers starting at 75 cents. These, plus a sunroom, art room and “Captain’s Cabin” done as “a replica of the original Mayflower’s dining saloon” made for a “gratifying dining venture” and “surprising experience.”

What we say now: The Mayflower Inn & Spa is now a 20,000-square-foot, ultra-posh country resort operated as part of the international Auberge Resorts Collection. They offer spa days of holistic wellness treatments, hiking, yoga and fire pits for nighttime s’mores. The art salon tradition continues, with dining currently being handled by widely acclaimed Connecticut-by-way-of-England chef April Bloomfield. Farm-to-table is a short trip in the Litchfield Hills, with rustic fare at the Mayflower now worthy of being called cuisine. 118 Woodbury Road (Route 47), 860-868-9466, aubergeresorts.com/mayflower

White Hart Inn
Salisbury

Salisbury’s White Hart Inn
Salisbury’s White Hart Inn
Contributed photo

Issue: February 1973

What we said then: Built in 1800, and serving the public since 1867, The White Hart was called “A Delicious Tradition in Salisbury.” The Inn, once attracting both the interest and ownership of Edsel Ford, offered “solid New England fare, with no exotic surprises” at the time, with a country store selling housemade breads and pastries. Our reviewer enjoyed the pan-fried beef hash with egg, and the Swedish roast pork with prune stuffing, and called the experience “a tasteful blend of old and new.”

What we say now: Our reviewer noted Salisbury’s location in the Berkshire foothills beyond the long-exhausted iron mines as a historical draw for “artists, writers, musicians, and craftsmen,” and the town’s gravity remains strong. White Hart Provisions (the country store) serves breakfast and lunch, alongside grab-n-go dinners, salads and baked goods, and the taproom — particularly noted as a gathering spot in 1973 — now serves cocktails like The Blood of Adonis: jalapeño-infused tequila blanco with lime juice, pomegranate molasses, and orange expression. The restaurant serves dinner five days a week, with high-end, locally produced fare (with the exception of head-on Gulf shrimp with blueberry ponzu and lime), which still hews to its roots, with Connecticut-style lobster rolls, and a tight, thoughtfully crafted menu presenting flavor highlights of rich cream, sweet acid, sea and land. The steamed mussels in coconut kaffir lime broth with cilantro showcase the blend of old and new. 15 Under Mountain Road, 860-435-0030, whitehartinn.com

Homestead Inn
Greenwich

The exterior of Homestead Inn - Thomas Henkelmann in Greenwich, Conn, where four Star Chef Henkelmann was again featured in a top 100 restaurant list by OpenTable, an online avenue for foodies to book restaurant reservations and share reviews.
The exterior of Homestead Inn - Thomas Henkelmann in Greenwich, Conn, where four Star Chef Henkelmann was again featured in a top 100 restaurant list by OpenTable, an online avenue for foodies to book restaurant reservations and share reviews.
Contributed photo

Issue: May 1974

What we said then: “... the old, new-blue Victorian house was built as a residence by Augustus Mead in 1799 ... and has been an inn since about 1869.” Our reviewer noted details like the bar’s armchairs and rosewood melodeon “right out of the 1800s” due to then co-owner and former Broadway dancer Vincent’s Morino’s previous ownership of an antique shop. Our reviewer enjoyed excellent service and the novel chardonnay (“$1.40 for a large glass, or $5 for a liter”) from some new guy in California named Robert Mondavi, but likened the “stringy and dry” fried “Chicken of the South Seas” and gray London broil to a flubbed note at Carnegie Hall.

What we say now: The Homestead Inn was re-established by chef Thomas Henkelmann in 1997 with new appointments by Theresa Carroll. The luxury rooms are now referred to as chambers, and Henkelmann’s classic French restaurant showcases techniques the chef learned at triple-Michelin-starred Auberge de l’Ill, and refined at The Maurice at Le Parker Meridien. The redesigned space is bright with natural light, and the tight, seasonally adaptive menu uses local fare such as Hudson Valley duck and Atlantic sea bass, with an optional cheese course before desserts like a caramelized puff pastry Napoleon and rhubarb. Sub-$2 wine has, alas, gone the way of disco. 420 Field Point Road, 203-869-7500, homesteadinn.com

Viva Zapata
Westport

Viva Zapata on Riverside Avenue will provide a slice of Mexico during the Slice of Saugatuck.
Viva Zapata on Riverside Avenue will provide a slice of Mexico during the Slice of Saugatuck.
Gary Jeanfaivre/File photo

Issue: September 1975

What we said then: Washington Post food editor William Rice wrote for the issue, pronouncing the food “no more Mexican than Marlon Brando, star of the screen version of Viva Zapata!” He had praise for the waitstaff, and recommended “a drink, or better yet, several of them” as the restaurant had “a comfortable outdoor area for absorbing them in season.” 

What we say now: Viva’s, as locals call it, remains a steadfast provider for all of the above. The food is like the car thrumming along as occupants chatter away with excitement at the beginning of a road trip. It is an accompaniment to the experience, not the sought-after end. A patio, overhung with underlit boughs, a low-walled cloister of warm evening air — a feeling of being in place, usually margarita modified — is the destination. For a half-century, that’s made Viva Zapata worth the trip for many. 530 Riverside Ave., 203-227-8226, vivazapata.com

Roger Sherman Inn
New Canaan

The Roger Sherman Inn, scene of the Royal Wedding Viewing brunch, is beautiful at this season.
The Roger Sherman Inn, scene of the Royal Wedding Viewing brunch, is beautiful at this season.
Frank Whitman / Contributed Photo

Issue: March 1974

What we said then: Our reviewer for this issue was Jack Denton Scott, co-author with renowned French chef Antoine Gilly of Feast of France. Gilly’s American fame stemmed from his Banksville, New York, restaurant, La Cremaillere a la Campagne. Gilly had chosen The Roger Sherman Inn, and chef Walter Maliszewski, for the setting, where he and Denton were delighted by the chef’s pâté en croûte, boiled beef with horseradish sauce “for a modest $3.50,” and a 1966 Cordier Grand Cru Classé Château Talbot médoc. It was called “a superb inn and restaurant with a master chef who knows the simple dishes as well as haute cuisine.”

What we say now: Those words still ring true with the current Roger Sherman, as reimagined by partners Joseph and Nes Jaffre since 2008. The menu has received a comprehensive farm-to-sea update in keeping with the demands of 21st-century diners, but a recognizable French influence remains. A meal may start with chilled Vichyssoise with truffle essence or Hudson Valley foie gras with Balsamic fig glaze, then move to steak au poivre in Armagnac sauce. A bloody mary with maple candied bacon and eggs Benedict are staples at Sunday brunch, and pleasant weather invites peekytoe crab cake sliders or duck confit tacos with avocado cream and slaw on the Inn’s outdoor Adirondack chairs. An inn since 1925, and carrying the Sherman name since 1783, the Roger Sherman continues a long line of excellence. 195 Oenoke Ridge, 203-966-4541, rogershermaninn.com

Fife 'n Drum
Kent

The Fife'n Drum Restaurant enjoys iconic stature in the community of Kent and the region as it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Jan. 20, 2013
The Fife'n Drum Restaurant enjoys iconic stature in the community of Kent and the region as it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Jan. 20, 2013
Norm Cummings / Norm Cummings

Issue: November 1973

What we said then: “[the evening] at Dolph Traymon’s Fife ’n Drum ... was exceptional in spirit, the sound of the finest piano I have heard haunting my memory.” Traymon, a Juilliard graduate and multi-label recording artist who played on movie scores, conducted the WABC orchestra, and played with Edith Piaf, Peggy Lee, Burl Ives and others, was an astonishing talent to see at the local pub in pastoral Kent. A pub it was and remains, having been originally designed by his wife, Audrey, who loved English pub life. Our reviewer was startled that Traymon and the chef went to Hunt’s Market in New York and Quality Fish Market on Long Island for all-fresh food instead of serving frozen ingredients in their dishes. Sign of the times.

What we say now: The Fife ’n Drum recently won a 2021 Wine Spectator Best Of issue Award of Excellence for American regional food, and its wine list, including California, Bordeaux, France, and Italy. We would take our Connecticut-regional cheese board (including cheeses from the Arethusa dairy), with a selection from that wine list. Friday orders of $25 prime rib dinners are usually pre-sold out by Thursday at this popular local spot, currently run by daughter Elissa Traymon Potts, who was mentioned as a college co-ed in our 1973 review. Menus change almost daily, and tempt with everything from simple burgers to grilled quail, duck flambé, and bang bang shrimp and scallops. Music is dedicated to Dolph Traymon, and features live piano Fridays and Saturdays, with bands as announced. 53 Main St., 860-927-3509, fifendrum.com