If Jack Kerouac were still alive and decided to trade in his notepad for a frying pan, he probably would open a place like the Vanilla Bean Cafe. This impossibly funky Connecticut restaurant is full of character (and characters), and is truly in a class by itself. Located on Route 169, a national scenic byway a bit more than an hour from Boston, but in a surprisingly remote part of New England, the Vanilla Bean Cafe is a comfortable, friendly spot. Customers order at the counter and can sit either in one of the rustic rooms or, if the weather is decent, on an outdoor patio (and unlike a lot of places, you can have a beer on the patio without having to order food). The Vanilla Bean specializes in sandwiches, but also has breakfast and dinner entrees. A few standouts at the Bean are a rich and hearty chili, a juicy burger that comes with a variety of different topping combinations as specials of the day, a quiche dish that is a relatively healthy option, a roast beef and cheddar sandwich with zesty horseradish, a salty and smoky pastrami reuben; and a fresh roast turkey; the soups (including a spicy veggie curry and a delectable Italian wedding soup) and salads are also terrific, and are freshly made here. The Vanilla Bean has daily specials, too, such as a wonderful steak and bean burrito and an equally good bean and cheese burrito. Another plus is the decent beer list, which includes several microbrews. Finally don't forget the desserts (including an outstanding chocolate tiramisu cake, a similarly sinful chocolate mousse pie, an Oreo cheesecake that is substantial enough for two, a sweet-tasting pecan pie, a solid carrot cake, and a rather odd but satisfying Almond Joyful), many of which are made on the premises.
In addition to food and drink the Vanilla Bean Cafe has something many comfort food places don't have--live entertainment. You can hear folk, blues, country, and bluegrass here on weekend nights, and this is indeed a terrific spot to hear good music--and the ride from Boston isn't as bad as you might think. In fact, if you live in suburban Boston, it might be easier to drive to the Vanilla Bean than to head into the city and deal with traffic and parking.
Only a handful of places outside of the Greater Boston area have made it to the Boston's Hidden Restaurants site, and that list includes the wonderful Vanilla Bean Cafe. Why? Well, there are a few reasons, including the fact that a) very few people in and around Boston have ever heard of this restaurant; b) Pomfret is a beautiful out-of-the-way hilltop village that is in the heart of Connecticut's "quiet corner" and yet is only an hour from some of the outer suburbs of Boston; and c) it simply feels like a destination spot. Do yourself a favor and head out on the road to this true New England jewel.
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