Wheelers Restaurant & Taproom  … The Small Town Eatery With a Big Town Feel

UPDATE: Wheeler’s is officially closed. After repeated requests for a restaurant logo over the course of several months, a logo was never received.

I recently had the opportunity to dine at Wheelers Restaurant & Taproom, located in Woodbridge, Connecticut.

Wheelers is a family owned and operated restaurant, specializing in New American cuisine but also offers a variety of other globally inspired dishes. The restaurant grew exponentially from its humble beginnings of a soup-sandwich-salad hotspot into the always jam-packed establishment that it is today. The pride of the owners and chef is the ability to provide their patrons with seasonal farm to table ingredients, ensuring that they give everyone the best possible offerings. The locality of the ingredients, coupled with organic produce and grass fed animals are among the highest of their priorities when they carefully make their vendor selections. Ultimately, they prefer doing business with local farms and other small businesses. And while there are no outright Vegan options, there are plenty of vegetarian options or dishes that can be adapted to accommodate the needs of Vegans. Their made from scratch recipes pair nicely with the rustic industrial decor, which provides restaurant patrons with a family friendly atmosphere that also lends itself well to parties, events, and happy hour festivities. The pricing throughout the menu is definitely a good value. You won’t find the prices of the menu items going up when the price of the ingredients go up, either. This is yet another way that the fine folks at Wheelers look out for their patrons. Their lunch and dinner menus are available for takeout.  And if you unable to get to the restaurant, their offer delivery via GrubHub.

For those that enjoy wine, beer, and cocktails, you will find well balanced offerings. The wine list features reds, whites, fortified and sparkling wines. If you’re part of the beer drinking crowd, you’re certainly not left out! One step into the taproom and you will be transported into a hip watering hole that caters to those who love the standards of Amstel Light, Budweiser, and Shiner Bock while those that enjoy a good IPA can quench their thirst on a solid variety that includes Connecticut’s own Hooker and New England Brewing Company beers. But sometimes you might be in the mood for a whimsical cocktail. I highly recommend that you check out the House Specialties.

Chef Rob LaTronica is thoroughly knowledgeable on food allergies and can guide his restaurant patrons through the menu when needed.

When it comes to food, a patron will certainly not be disappointed. You can start with their signature burger, The Wheeler Burger. At first glance, it looks like a lot of other artisan burgers that you may have tried. I assure you that once you’ve had this burger, you will be hooked! The foundation of this burger is the moistest beef patty that I’ve ever tasted, and that’s not an easy thing for me to say. It’s piled high with sweet onion marmalade and mixed greens, then dressed with a house made garlic aioli and rested on a perfectly toasted brioche bun. And if you’d like to really make it luxurious, then I suggest you add some of the pork belly bacon (also house made) and your favorite selection from one of their cheese options.

Open early, you can start your day with a piping hot cup of coffee, tea, or specialty coffee and some breakfast options that are perfect for busy people on the go. Or take a break for lunch and sit down for some of their new starters, salads, and sandwiches. It’s ok, you’ve earned it! 😉 And finally, you can end your day on a delicious note with any of the hearty and well made dinner entrees. If you have been there before, you should visit the restaurant again soon. There are new dinner options as well, so there’s surely something for even the picky eaters.

So what exactly is on the menu?! I’d like to put the menu into two categories: classic favorites or fun and innovative dishes. Here’s just a few dishes you can expect:

Classic Favorites                                 Fun And Innovative Dishes

Corned Beef Reuben                              Cauliflower Fritters

Lobster Mac & Cheese                           Crispy Pork Belly Eggrolls

House Smoked Wings                            The Forest Floor (salad)

Cast Iron Chicken                                   Moroccan-Stuffed Chicken

Peppercorn Meatloaf                             Baja Taco Plate

Classic Cubano                                        Coconut Chipotle Calamari

Lobster Roll                                             Pork Belly Bahn Mi

Caesar Salad

 

Hover over the photos for the name of each dish. They are described below in the same order.

So what would I order? Well, I started out with the Baja Taco Plate which was some of the best that I’ve had. For the purpose of this review, one of each type of taco is represented: beef, chicken, and seafood. If you order this item, you will receive 3 of the same type of tacos. I was a happy to find the meats and seafood to be perfectly cooked and full of flavor. The downside to this dish was that the black beans were dried out and the rice was either dried out as well or seriously undercooked.

The cauliflower fritters are a new item on the menu. The fritters are simple and straight forward with no additional seasoning. The sauce accompanying the fritters is brilliant, bright, flavorful, and has a good “kick” to it. The coating was far too thin to be fried. I suggest using a batter similar to a tempura for this. Unfortunately for this dish, the quality of the fritter and sauce seemed mismatched. The sauce does a fine job of cutting the flavor of the fritters being fried.

For the Vegetarians or those just looking for a meatless option, there’s the Falafel Wrap. The wrap itself lacked a sauce which only added to the disappointment that the falafel was dry. I suggest that something complimentary such as hummus or tzatziki to counteract the sense of dryness that can accompany the falafel. I love falafel, so I was really looking forward to this. With a couple of tweaks, this could be a really awesome wrap.

When the Moroccan Stuffed Chicken was placed in front of me (another new item), it was hard not to smile. While this dish is an interpretation of Moroccan food and not claiming to be authentically Moroccan, it certainly celebrates it well. Serve this to me in a tagine, and I just might marry you. No, not really. But it was a very good dish. It is filling, so if you’re looking to share something, this is one recommendation.

The Forest Floor is a phenomenal salad, even if you’re not a Vegetarian. (If you leave out the burratta cheese it makes a great vegan option.) The salad it huge. Unlike many restaurants who may offer a salad similar to this one, The Forest Floor is filling. I wasn’t hungry an hour later, which is great. It’s well balanced and full of flavor. *Whispers* this is my favorite salad on the menu.

 

The dining experience doesn’t end with the food and decor. The following is a nightly list of featured events that you can expect when you visit:

  • Tuesday: 50 cent wings, happy hour all night (4:30P to close)
  • Wednesday: 1/2 price wine bottles (The selection varies, so please ask your server for details.)
  • Thursday: Music residency for 3 months. That means a band will play exclusively on Thursday nights for 3 months.
  • Friday & Saturday: Live entertainment (Check the Wheelers website for details.)
  • Saturday (during the day): Limited breakfast entrees in addition to the regular lunch menu
  • Sunday: Brunch in addition to the regular lunch and dinner menus (Kids under 12 years old eat free off the kids menu.)

In spite of any hiccups, I still recommend this restaurant and will return again to this small town eatery that has become a local favorite.

 

Wheelers Restaurant & Tap Room

Wheelers Restaurant & Tap Room
9.2

Food: Taste

9/10

    Food: Presentation

    9/10

      Food: Quality Of Ingredients

      10/10

        Service

        8/10

          Atmosphere

          10/10

            Pros

            • Clean Restaurant & Bathrooms
            • Food Is A Good Value
            • Excellent Quality Ingredients
            • Chef Is Knowledgeable Regarding Allergies
            • Chef Is Knowledgeable Regarding Food Allergies

            Cons

            • Service Can Be Inconsistent
            • Servers' Knowledge of Menu, Allergies, Dietary Needs, Beverage Suggestions Can Be Inconsistent
            • Dishes Can Be Inconsistently Prepared

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