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Friday, May 13, 2005 

Oldie but goodie: Bad location, good grub

As promised, here is one of my old reviews from Connecticut.

Bad location, good grub
By Mary Haley
Head Copy Editor
There’s a buzz going around campus that there’s a hot new breakfast place in North Haven. OK, the buzz is just from one of my friends, but he’s really on to something. Iris, located at 61 State St., is turning out some fine breakfasts, and from the looks of their lunch menu, their talents extend beyond the morning hours.
Open for just 4 months, Iris is hidden in the middle of an industrial wasteland, right across from an Agway. The building itself is nondescript, save for the sign out front. Inside, Andrea Bocelli drifts out of the speakers in a simple dining room. At 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the place is not exactly packed, so I took a large table and studied the menu.
Along with omelets, pancakes and eggs, it offered pecan crusted French toast ($6.95) and poached eggs over sweet potato hash ($6.95). My waiter, Jason Giamattei, checked with the cook and confirmed that I could place half orders of certain items. It’s a good thing, because I was mightily tempted by the French toast stuffed with apples, cinnamon, raisins and cream cheese ($2.25 for one piece). Giamattei said that the seasonal option, stuffed with strawberries and bananas, was even better. Alas, it will not be available again until next year.
Nevertheless, when the buzzer called Giamattei to the kitchen to pick up my order, I happily tucked into the French toast. Made of a stuffed French bread, not just battered white bread, it was a large serving. The first bites were simply delicious, yeasty bread, the outer crust crisped to perfection. Lurking inside, tender chunks of baked apples accompanied a strong cinnamon flavor. The cream cheese made each bite slightly tart, so I dunked into the freshly whipped cream served on the side. It was like having dessert for breakfast.
After this warm-up, I attacked my main course, poached eggs with caramelized onions and sautéed spinach on an English muffin, topped with smoked gouda cheese ($6.95). These were two neat little stacks on my plate, piled with toppings and covered liberally with shredded gouda cheese. I had never really understood why they called them caramelized onions until I tried a bite. The onions were incredibly sweet with none of that tangy bite I usually associate with onions. The eggs were poached to a runny perfection, and the meal turned slightly messy as I attempted to devour every scrap of food.
The only slight disappointment was the homefries that accompanied my meal. After raising the bar so high with the other menu items, the homefries fell short. They looked colorful, but were bland. Salt and pepper helped greatly.
It was too early for lunch and I was already stuffed, but I did look longingly at the menu. Burgers, salads, sandwiches and quesadillas all showed an interesting little twist from the chef. A spinach salad with grilled chicken and balsamic vinaigrette was spiced up with red onion, gorgonzola cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries ($7.95). Burgers ranged from $6.49 – 7.95, including options like a gorgonzola burger. Even the basic turkey sandwich was jazzed up as a wrap featuring roasted red peppers, lettuce, tomato, red onion, Dijon mustard and cranberry mayo ($6.95).
During my leisurely meal, more people drifted in to eat. For a relatively new restaurant in a poor location, Iris seems to attract a fair share of customers.
"It gets busier every month," said Giamattei. "Lunches are big."
With the creative choices to excite what would otherwise be a standard menu, it’s easy to see why people would come back again and again. I know I’ll be back soon to sample their lunches.

About me

  • I'm Mary
  • From Fairbanks, Alaska
  • I'm an editor, designer and food critic living in Alaska after 25 years in Connecticut. Turn ons: Proper punctuation. Turn offs: Dangling participles.
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