Since my first year at Conn, I’ve been chastised for not having been to the Engine Room, a popular, rustic-hipster-but-actually-fancy restaurant in Mystic, CT. This past week, I at last seized my opportunity by undertaking a restaurant review for the Voice. My friend Phoebe Masterson-Eckart ‘18 and I traveled to Mystic on a foggy Wednesday evening for an early dinner at the widely recommended food hub. The restaurant sits right near the waterfront in Mystic, and if it had been a nicer evening, it would have been the perfect occasion to sit on the wide, darkly wooded porch and enjoy the view.
Upon sitting down, I did what I often do first at restaurants of a caliber high enough to warrant cloth napkins: order a Shirley Temple. The server brought one in a pretty mason jar, and I wished I hadn’t taken such a big gulp as I did, because it did not taste like an average Shirley Temple made of ginger ale, grenadine and cherries. Instead, the drink tasted like some kind of fruit-infused iced tea, and while I was bitterly disappointed in the results of my drink order, Phoebe was able to enjoy it by mixing water in to cut the concentrated flavor. I was disheartened at first, but the rest of the meal proved to be well worth the 15-minute drive to Mystic and back.
For an appetizer, we ordered the Carolina hush puppies with jalapeño mayo, and we were not disappointed. The hush puppies were soft and hot on the inside and crunchy on the outside, with flecks of jalapeño baked into the cornbread balls. The jalapeño mayo provided the perfect balance between cold to offset the heat of the hush puppies and spiciness to sharpen the mild corn flavor. For our entrees, I had the buttermilk fried Baffoni farm chicken sandwich and Phoebe had the chicken burger. My sandwich was big and hot and would have been a perfect piece of southern-inspired cuisine if there had been less of the chipotle hot sauce, which soaked the bun and covered the taste of homemade smoked ranch dressing.
Phoebe’s chicken burger was very good, though also too large a portion to finish, and for our sides we chose the tangy potato salad and the macaroni salad. The macaroni salad was excellent. It reminded me of elbow macaroni salad from home with its mayo and cucumbers, but the added spices and seasonings elevated the dish to restaurant-worthy cuisine. Likewise, the potato salad was a simple base with a few extra flavors added in to make it special. I think this is the best way for a trendy restaurant to tackle comfort food: stay true to the original, but make sure there’s something special that can’t necessarily be duplicated easily at home or in the supermarket.
By far, my favorite part of the meal was my chocolate malt milkshake. Phoebe had a maple vanilla milkshake, and they both came at the end of our meal in tall, skinny mason-jar style glasses with thick straws. The chocolate malt was rich and creamy, and the hand-whipped cream that topped both of our treats had the benefit of freshness while still maintaining a settled kind of sweet flavor. To cut the intense sweetness of the milkshakes, my chocolate had bits of salty, chocolate chip cookies and Phoebe’s vanilla had roasted, salted nuts. It was the perfect balance of sweet and savory, and it was the perfect serving size. I am very excited to go back to the Engine Room for a second milkshake, and I highly recommend the restaurant. It’s a great spot to celebrate something, have dinner with your parents or even just to get away from Harris for a night with a good friend, though it’s a few rungs pricier than Groton Townhouse.