Friday, December 10, 2010

Paradise Found in Connecticut

Colony Grill
172 Myrtle Ave.
Stamford, CT
Visited October 6, 2010

Beer selection: Standard blue-collar dive bar offerings.

Food: Pizza from heaven.

Pizza, beer and baseball at 11pm on a weeknight.

Unless you have a Suit757-like travel schedule, you will never know how good that phrase can sound.

Like “Play ball.” “You’ve been upgraded.” “Scarlett Johansson is here to see you.”

It just brings a smile to my face.

During the 40 hours previous to my opening the front door of the Colony Grill, I had crossed the entire continent twice, folded my 6’3” body into five coach airplane seats (so much for Platinum Freaking Medallion), traipsed through seven different airports, stood in three rental car lines (so much for “Fast Break”), gotten four hours of sleep and eaten one meal consisting of an In-And-Out burger consumed on my lap while steering a rental car with my knees down I-10 at 75 MPH. I had laid eyes on the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and then the Atlantic Ocean again.

As if getting four hours of sleep and one meal in two days wasn’t irritating enough, I had just missed every single pitch of my beloved Cincinnati Reds first playoff game in a decade and a half while crammed into a middle seat for six hours. Of course I had no way of knowing at the time, but that may have been just as well since the Reds couldn’t muster a single hit the entire game.

By the time I landed at JFK, I was not a happy traveler. Especially when I finally got the Reds score.

It was 9:30pm; I was tired, hungry and thirsty and had a one hour drive through New York traffic to get to my hotel.

Under normal circumstances, that is a formula for gas station hot dogs and a 40 of Miller Lite on the hotel bed spread.

But that’s one of the silver linings in the dark cloud of being stuck in occupied Yankee territory.

Say what you will about their socialist politics, nasty attitudes, crappy weather and gridlocked traffic, but those Yankees understand the need to eat and drink after most Southerners have long since gone to bed. And that’s something you really appreciate after enduring 16 hours in a metal tube with nothing to eat.

Three other things Yankees understand are baseball, beer and pizza.

Happily, the Colony Grill had all three.

After a quick change out of my suit, I arrived at the Colony Grill at 11pm on Wednesday night to find a bar full of guys watching the Yankees – Twins game, drinking beer and eating some darn good pizza.

If heaven ain’t a lot like the Colony Grill, I’d just assume stay home. (To paraphrase the great Hank, Jr.)

I’m not sure why it’s called the Colony Grill. There is not much grilling going on here, as far as I can tell.

When I asked for a menu, the bartender handed me a crinkled piece of paper. The top one inch listed pizza and toppings. The other seven and a half inches listed alcohol.

The Colony Grill is basically a dive bar that been run by Irishmen since the 1930s.

It’s definitively not one of those manufactured “authentic” Irish bars you find in touristy spots in Chicago or Boston. The Colony Grill doesn’t have an Irish sounding name, Notre Dame pennants on the wall or even Guinness on tap. What it has is actual Irish guys both serving and drinking the beer, as evidenced by the dozens of Irish police and fire fraternity patches decorating the bar.

The other thing the Colony Grill has is really good pizza. It’s a recipe they’ve been using for decades.

Super thin, yet firm, crispy crust. This isn’t that fold-over floppy mess you get down the road in New York.

Colony pizza is also famous for their “hot oil” topping. It’s basically a mixture of olive oil and spice that melts into the entire pizza, adding a touch of zip to the toppings, cheese and crust. And results in a small mountain of grease-stained brown napkins at the completion of eight oil-soaked slices.

Since “hot oil” isn’t the most visually recognizable of toppings, the Colony adds a “stinger” to the center of the pie -- a very hot pepper with seeds and heat fully intact. One bite and you’ll be begging the bar keep for another draft!

My hot oil pizza with fresh-made Italian sausage and onions was one of the top ten pizzas I’ve ever had.

I was especially proud of myself for the astute choice of onions, which just soaked up the zesty flavor of the hot oil and caramelized under the blaze of the Colony Grill oven.

Each and every bite was an oniony, peppery, cheesy, crispy delight.

The only bone I had to pick with my pizza was with the sausage.

Don’t get me wrong – the gourmet Italian sausage made across the street at Deyulio’s Sausage Company was absolutely delicious.

There just wasn’t enough of it.

I’m a meat-in-every bite kind of guy. When I lift a piece of pizza pie to my mouth, I want to see some spicy dead pig to bite down on. Each and every time.

But that’s a minor quibble. One that can easily be fixed by adding Colony’s big pepperoni discs to the other three requisite toppings.

By the time the clock rang midnight, the Irishman behind the bar was closing up, I had run through half a tree worth of napkins and I was ready to get some sleep (before my 6am wake-up call).

Whether I survive the week remains to be seen. But heaven can wait. I’ve already been there.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!
Colony Grill on Urbanspoon

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