12 Best Restaurants in Stamford, Connecticut

Last Updated on February 27, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Stamford, Connecticut is home to a vibrant and diverse dining scene, with restaurants that range from classic diners and neighborhood favorites to Michelin-starred venues headed by celebrity chefs. The small seaside city, located just 40 miles from New York City, serves up cuisines from all around the world alongside New England staples like clam chowder and lobster rolls.

From upscale Japanese eateries overlooking the water downtown, to lively Mexican cantinas dishing up rich mole sauces in South End’s Little Mexico, the hardest part is narrowing down the options. Let’s take a closer look at 12 of the very best restaurants that Stamford has to offer foodies.

1. Barcelona Wine Bar

Simmering paellas, cured Spanish meats hanging from the rafters, and an extensive all-Spanish wine list greet guests at Barcelona Wine Bar. Tucked away on a cobbled Stamford side street, Barcelona brings a taste of coastal Spain to Connecticut through dishes like patatas bravas drizzled in spicy tomato sauce and aioli, seared scallops with romesco sauce made from roasted red peppers and almonds, and a chef’s selection of imported jamón ibérico de bellota sliced paper thin.

The interior evokes colorful Barcelona with bright blue fabric draped across the ceiling, whitewashed brick walls covered in mounted guitars and painted tiles, and window boxes overflowing with fresh herbs.

Patrons can choose to dine indoors year-round or outside at the blue trellis-covered patio once warmer weather hits. Extensive gin cocktails, Spanish beers on tap, and over 100 varieties of wine by the bottle or glass makes Barcelona equally suited to a celebratory evening out as an informal weekend lunch.

With flavors as vibrant as its decor, Barcelona Wine Bar brings Barcelona’s famous bite-sized tapas to Stamford in an energetic and welcoming setting.

2. Fortina

At the sleek and bustling Fortina, homey Italian fare is elevated to haute cuisine but maintains its comforting appeal. Helmed by TV personality and chef Christian Petroni of Food Network fame, Fortina is one of Stamford’s top destinations for handmade pastas, brick-oven pizzas blistered to perfection, and other Italian specialties crafted with care from top ingredients.

Sun-dried tomato focaccia still warm from the oven and spicy arrabbiata dipping sauce starts the meal. From there, highlights include sweet fennel sausage-stuffed gnocchi in a rich tomato ragu, petit arugula salad with shavings of aged parmesan over fresh burrata cheese, and whole branzino baked under a brick.

Thin and crispy-edged pizzas make using a fork and knife a must, especially for combinations like the salsiccia with bite-size pieces of sausage, chili flakes, pecorino cheese, and speck prosciutto.

Fortina’s sleek and modern interior of polished wood tables, black leather seating, and bright accent tiles provides a refined-yet-unfussy backdrop, whether you seek a power lunch spot or a special night out. And Chef Petroni himself can often be spotted circulating the dining room, welcoming guests and providing recommendations.

The restaurant encapsulates a vision of Italian food made with passion using high-quality ingredients, served in a setting ideal for gatherings big and small.

3. Colony Grill

For over 85 years, Colony Grill has served as a beloved Stamford institution keeping alive the tradition of brick oven “bar pie” style pizza native to the city and surrounding Connecticut coastal towns. Layer after layer, generations of Stamfordites have made Colony Grill a routine place for everything from family birthday celebrations to late-night last calls over cold beer and hot oven-baked pies.

Step through the door under the red-trimmed white awning into a warmly lit room filled with the aroma of fresh-baked pizza dough. The bar features rail seating ideal for single diners, with tables and tufted leather booths filling the main dining room. While tempting appetizers of gooey cheese-stuffed mushrooms and fried mozzarella among other classics do grace the menu, Colony’s thin crust brick oven pizzas remain the star of the show.

The menu offers tried and true topping combinations like the hot oil (anchovy fillets and fiery cherry peppers) and the Stamford special (pepperoni, bacon, mushrooms, peppers) alongside inventive options such as BLT pizza with cherry tomatoes, crisped bacon, shredded romaine lettuce and mayo drizzle.

No matter what ingredients blanket those crispy oblong rectangles, the tangy signature tomato sauce at Colony ties each pie together into a nostalgic taste of home for many. Colony Grill keeps alive a cherished tradition in Connecticut’s pizza heritage.

4. Akiro Sushi House

From business lunch hot spot to harborside date night destination, Akiro Sushi House overlooking Stamford Harbor offers an innovative sushi and Japanese small plates menu alongside unparalleled waterfront views. The modern gray and blue-hued interior brings the serenity of the sea indoors through accents like wave-evoking metal screens and suspended blue glass lamps.

Gaze out the tall windows with a craft cocktail in hand, or better yet, head to the outdoor patio in nice weather. Then indulge in specialties from the sushi bar, like toro tartare tossed with yuzu and caviar or soy-cured hamachi with jalapeño. Hot dishes such as miso black cod and lobster tempura with truffles demonstrate the kitchen’s finesse with seafood.

More traditional palates can choose among sushi and sashimi combinations or build their own mix of nigiri and maki rolls from the extensive list of fish and shellfish on offer. Bento box lunch specials present a perfect introduction for first-timers.

Whether you opt for classic favorites or Akiro’s signature “sex on the harbor” (crab salad over fried rice in the shape of a boat), the stylish waterfront setting and views over the maritime bustle outside raises Akiro above standard sushi fare.

5. Cask Republic

Pair a menu packed with drool-worthy burgers and snackable small plates with a 1,500+ selection of craft beers and whiskeys, all served up in a handsome industrial space focused around a 60-foot black granite bar. Such is the winning formula at Cask Republic, one of Stamford’s most popular gastropubs.

As the name suggests, the liquid options take center stage at Cask Republic just as much as the well-executed American pub grub menu. Narrowing down all those taps and bottles to choose from poses the biggest challenge upon arrival, but helpful staff will guide you through the many IPAs, stouts, Belgians, ciders, and even exclusive rare options. Flights offer the perfect solution to sample a variety.

Once drinks arrive at the reclaimed wood tables or across the sleek black bar top itself, pile on orders of pretzel bites with beer cheese dip, devilish fried Brussels sprouts tossed with chorizo, or giant “beer muscles” overflowing with Prince Edward Island mussels steamed in Belgian ale. Then sink your teeth into chargrilled Angus burgers stacked towering with fried eggs and bacon or perhaps buttermilk fried chicken over cheddar waffles if especially hungry.

Cask Republic succeeds equally well as a spot for casual happy hour pop-ins, big game viewings with friends over beer and wings, or a full sit-down dinner of pub classics kicked up a notch, with hundreds of fermented sippers to wash it all down.

6. Scena Wine Bar

For charcuterie boards and glasses of wine in an intimate setting, visit Scena Wine Bar, a neighborhood favorite in the South End district.

The location itself retains an element of surprise, accessible through an unmarked door at street level that leads down into a cozy subterranean space. Exposed brick walls, dark wood accents, flickering candles on each linen-topped table, and a softly curving vaulted ceiling immediately dial up the romance upon entry.

At Scena, cured meats and cheeses take the spotlight alongside biodynamic vinos ranging from little-known Italian varietals to big, bold Cabernets from Napa Valley and complex Pinot Noirs from the Santa Rita Hills. Share savory selections of Spanish chorizo and manchego cheese or Italian speck and Parmigiano Reggiano while discovering new favorite wines by the glass or bottle.

Beyond charcuterie, a compact menu of panini sandwiches, bruschetta spreads, and nods to regional Italian dishes like simmering Bolognese meat sauce offers further tasty pairings.

Date nights, girls’ night gatherings, or even solo evenings filled with wine flights and a book find an ideal intimate backdrop within Scena’s moody, stylish confines below the Stamford streets.

7. Brimstone Pub

For time-honored British pub fare and happy hours filled with new friends at the bar, head straight to The Brimstone Pub in downtown Stamford. An inviting glow beckons thirsty and hungry patrons inside The Brimstone, where rich wood tables and cozy leather snugs (small booths) fill the space.

While the interior strongly channels an authentic old English pub, floor to ceiling windows along the front wall provide views of bustling Bedford Street, reminding visitors of the bar’s Stamford locale. Nonetheless, the fish and chips reliably arrive steaming hot and coated in delicate batter with malt vinegar on hand to douse on just the right tangy kick. Shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, and Cumberland sausages also fortify hungry diners.

Yet perhaps most importantly, the bar at Brimstone always overflows with locals mingling over a frequently changing rotation of British beers on tap and timeless choices like Boddingtons Pub Ale by the can. Whiskeys neat or on the rocks and classic pub cocktails like the Pimm’s Cup or Moscow Mule offer further libations for lingering conversational meetups across the wood tables and bar top for hours on end.

For imported beers and that comforting pub atmosphere, Brimstone Pub anchors an evening or afternoon.

8. Little Mexico

Transport your palate straight to the streets of Mexico City and regions beyond without leaving Stamford at beloved neighborhood taqueria Little Mexico. Order at the counter before grabbing a seat at one of the stools lining the window or find a spot at a mosaic tile table. Then prepare for steaming tortillas and vibrantly flavored Mexican staples arriving at your table in what feels like no time.

Begin with a basket of freshly fried chips alongside tart and tangy salsa verde, rich mole poblano sauce for dipping, or maybe queso fundido melted with chorizo. Move onto tacos packed with sweet barbacoa beef, carnitas slow-braised until fork tender, or perhaps refreshing shrimp ceviche tossed in lime juice and spice. Empanadas with different savory fillings, tamales wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, and sizable burritos all warrant equal consideration.

An extensive selection of Mexican sodas, beers like Pacífico and Modelo Especial, as well as tequila and mezcal cocktails washes it all down. And whatever you do, no matter how full, don’t skip dessert: Little Mexico serves up some of Stamford’s best churros around, hot and crunchy on the outside while oozing rich melted chocolate or sweet dulce de leche caramel within. Viva la Mexico indeed.

9. Harlan Social

Centrally located in downtown Stamford just off lively Bedford Street, Harlan Social transforms through the course of a day from laidback cafe serving specialty coffee drinks to a buzzy dinner spot focused around sharable plates and creative cocktails as the sun sets. The lofted space features sleek yet homey decor elements like exposed brick walls covered in reclaimed wood, tufted leather seating options, and geometric light fixtures above the central bar.

Linger over a pour over coffee or vanilla-infused cortado on a bright morning before the space transitions for the evening. Cocktails become the move: try the Social Club with tequila, mezcal, passionfruit and lime or the fan favorite Poison Apple loaded with Crown Royal whiskey and cranberry.

Shared plates run the gamut from ricotta gnudi dumplings to truffle fries with Parmesan dipping sauce before segueing into entrees of cedar plank salmon or seared duck breast. Weekend brunch brings smiling groups lingering for spicy bloody marys and scratch-made cinnamon buns over hours of conversation. The versatile space morphs to suit the moment.

Whatever time of day you visit, Harlan Social entices with its dual-natured charm: a relaxing cafe perfect for solo entrepreneurs or intimate meetings that gives way to a low-lit downtown dining room buzzing with energy and filled with the scents of confit chicken wings emerging from the open kitchen.

10. Flinders Lane

Named for an alleyway in Melbourne brimming with the aromas of meat pies and cafes in close quarters, Flinders Lane brings a taste of Australia’s coffee and dining culture to Stamford with acclaimed dishes showcasing flavors from down under.

As soon as the signature flaky, golden-hued Aussie Meat Pie arrives at the table, the restaurant’s namesake inspiration becomes clear. Beneath the buttery, shattering crust, succulent ground beef simmers in rich gravy next to a mound of creamy mashed potatoes to soak it all up. This local favorite has even won the title of Connecticut’s best pie two years running.

Beyond meat pies, giant burgers sizzling with beet root and pineapple chutney or topped with fried eggs and bacon raise the bar for bar food, while lighter options like poke and quinoa power bowls balance the menu.

Brunch stars include peanut butter & jam toast and smashed avocado on sourdough to fuel the rest of your day. And keeping in theme with its Melbourne muse, Flinders takes coffee culture seriously: try a flat white or a magic: the house specialty espresso poured over milk poured over steamed milk for three distinct layers of flavor (aka the Australian take on a triple latte).

The laidback Aussie-inspired interiors match the menu’s casual yet craveable appeal: think whitewashed brick walls, accents of eucalyptus wood, chalkboard menus listing daily specials, and servers that exude friendliness. It all channels the feel of a quintessential Aussie cafe. From breakfast ‘til late, Flinders offers a passport stamp’s worth of flavors without leaving Connecticut.

11. Pacifico

White tablecloths, dim lighting, and impeccable service establishes an upscale tone upon entering Pacifico, one of Stamford’s most elegant restaurants, before the bold flavors of coastal Mexico take center stage. Menus arrive on weighty black clipboards further enhancing the fine dining aesthetic.

Start with Pacifico’s sleek signature cocktails like the Jalisco Sunrise (tequila and passionfruit) before indulging in modern Mexican appetizers such as hamachi aguachile (yellowtail ceviche marinated in lime, serrano chilies, cucumber, and ginger) or mushroom and huitlacoche (corn truffle) empanadas baked piping hot in handmade blue corn crusts.

Chef-owner Mario Lopez sources top-quality ingredients from Mexico featured in intricate dishes like sustainable Baja striped bass with pureed local squash, shishito peppers, and corn shoots. The moles demonstrate particular refinement in flavors, such as the Mole Verde with velvety cumin-scented pumpkin seed sauce served over carnitas pork shoulder.

Plus Pacifico takes pride in its extensive and award-winning Latino wine list: try a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Valle de Guadalupe wine region just inland from Ensenada. For the final culinary flourish, don’t pass up molten chocolate cake with Mexican chocolate ice cream.

The ambiance and regional flavors meld into an experience equally suitable for celebrating with family or a romantic outing, magnified by dishes crafted with creativity and care that demand savoring each bite.

12. Tigin Irish Pub

Hoist a pint of Guinness and take your pick from classic Irish pub specialties in an always bustling, ever welcoming downtown atmosphere at Tigin Irish Pub. Just off Washington Boulevard, the unassuming Tigin only reveals its charms once inside. Exposed brick walls covered in vintage ads for Irish brands like Jameson Whiskey and Murphy’s Irish Stout contribute to an interior with well-worn character.

Mounted fiddles, pennywhistles, and bodhráns (Irish handheld drums) provide impromptu musical accompaniment from talented local musicians that often pop in unannounced.

Start with a draft pint from the likes of Cork’s Franciscan Well Brewery or Wexford’s YellowBelly before consulting the hearty Irish food menu filled with traditional standbys. Giant beer-battered fish and chips deliver sustenance aplenty.

Shepherd’s pie layered with minced lamb and vegetables proves properly rib-sticking, as does the Guinness beef stew or corned beef paired with buttery cabbage for a taste of St. Patrick’s Day any time of year. And what visit would be complete without whiskey bread pudding drizzled in warm Jameson whiskey cream sauce for dessert?

Conclusion

An excellent selection of Irish and domestic bottled beers, Irish whiskeys like Jameson, Bushmills, and Powers complement familiar liquors behind the bar for crafting Irish Coffee or perfect pours of Ireland’s renowned stout.

The drink menu even offers hot Irish toddies and Irish Car Bombs to up the evening’s authenticity. From the first sip of stout to sopping up the last bit of sauce at the end of the meal with a chunk of Irish brown bread, Tigin Irish Pub delivers hearty comfort and vibes of the lively pubs of the Emerald Isle.

Stamford offers no shortage of excellent dining destinations whether you seek upscale ambiance or casual neighborhood joints where regulars gather. Across cuisines from Italian to Aussie-inspired, the hardest part is narrowing down the many delectable options.

From Akiro’s harbor views and sex on the beach roll to Flinders Lane’s golden meat pies, a world of flavors resides here without leaving Connecticut’s coast.

Or hop across the pond via Barcelona’s sizzling tapas and paellas or Tigin’s properly poured Guinness and stick-to-your-ribs shepherd’s pie. Whatever cuisine you crave, the array of restaurants does not disappoint. These 12 restaurants only scratch the surface of Stamford’s exceptional food scene, which continues expanding as new eateries join longtime favorites. So take your pick between polished venues for special occasions and relaxed pubs for everyday gatherings, with global flavors always on offer.

Bon appétit on your own culinary tour through one of Connecticut’s top dining destinations!

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