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Take a ride to Redding Roadhouse

My favorite movie to watch this time of year is Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. I’ve always loved the idea of a rural Connecticut inn where you could go to ring in the New Year or celebrate the romance of Valentine’s Day. While there’s no place that exactly fits that picture, the Redding Roadhouse comes pretty close to fulfilling my fantasy of a cozy place to sip a hot toddy and meet with friends.

I hadn’t been there for many years, so when I heard it was recently revamped by new owners, I was intrigued. Would it still have that same historic feel? Would it still be a destination-type spot? I’m happy to report that the answer is yes to both questions, and more. The footprint of the restaurant hasn’t changed. There are still rambling rooms, each with its own fireplace. There’s still a friendly bar and a spacious outdoor patio. But to add to the ambiance, the rooms have been brightened up and refreshed. It’s still historic, but with definite contemporary touches.

The restaurant was taken over by Ted and Colleen Stonbely and Wirt and Karen Cook in July. They knew they had to walk a fine line between keeping some of the traditional aspects of the restaurant alive while at the same time making some fresh changes. On a recent weekday night the bar was busy, but not crowded, although on nights when they have live music, the place can be bustling. “We’re almost like the community center,” said Ted Stonbely. There’s certainly not much going on in West Redding and, since the closing of the nearby Georgetown Saloon, nightlife is hard to come by. Thankfully the Redding Roadhouse fills that need.

The contemporary menu is comfort food with charisma. The roasted half chicken comes with a side of farro ($21). A smoked pork chop is served with stone-ground grits ($23). Even the bar menu offers classics with a twist, like beef sliders with purple mustard, pickle relish and spicy mayo ($9) and chicken wings with honey, blue cheese in your choice of hot/er/est ($10).

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to come to terms with beets. I’m one of those people who thinks they taste like dirt. On the other hand, I love, love, love arugula, so when I saw the two paired together in a salad, I was willing to give the beets a chance. I’m glad I did. Tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette with some locally-made Alpine-style cheese, the salad was a perfect starter for a winter  meal. I ate all the beets.

Among the entrees is braised short ribs ($28), which I always swoon over. These were no exception. The fork-tender meat was rich and sweet and complemented by mashed root vegetables and roasted onions. Again, an ideal winter dish.

Oftentimes with comfort food, it’s hard to save room for dessert, but I’d suggest you do so here. With choices like pumpkin bread pudding, pecan tart with salted caramel sauce and dark chocolate brownie sundae, you’ll be hard-pressed to choice just one. I say don’t even try; just order a bunch of desserts and share.

The wine and beer lists are varied and refreshingly affordable. And, parents take note: there’s a fabulous kids’ menu that includes chicken soup, homemade pizza and even scrambled eggs.

Redding Roadhouse

406 Redding Road, West Redding