January 13, 2005
Bobette's All right, get ready to thank me. I'm about to let you in on one of the best-kept secrets in the state. Remember the "Soup Nazi" Seinfeld episode? The one about the takeout joint that served soup so good you'd do almost anything for it - including put up with the intolerant, dictatorial behavior of its owner? I've been to the real Soup Nazi's in Manhattan (on the corner of the 8thAvenue and West 55th St.), and Seinfeld was right: It is fantastic soup, but like just about everything else in New York, it's overpraised and way overpriced. And you know what else? It ain't as good as Bobette's.
Favorites include corn chowder with big chunks of red potatoes, bacon and creamed corn that lives up to its name - thick, buttery, substantial.
The shepherd's pie is just like the version my dad used to make: thick mashed potatoes, well-cooked scrambled hamburger (all loose in the pan and thoroughly drained of grease), along with bits of sautéed onions and lots of fat, juicy kernels of corn and fresh peas. I've had shepherd's pie at Anna Liffey's and the Playwright in New Haven, and Duffy's in West Haven, and Donovan's, and all sorts of so-called Irish pubs. Nobody's ever touched my dad's until Bobette's. "How'd you do this?" I remember exclaiming. "How'd you know to make it like this?" Bobette just smiled, the pride and satisfaction in her smile saying it all.
It might sound like a cliché, but this is the kind of place where everybody cares, everybody takes pride and everybody smiles. First and foremost there's Bobette herself, the dark and slender conjurer, usually found working her magic in the back kitchen and only occasionally coming out to work the counter, chat with a customer, or answer someone's question about how something is prepared. Her partner, Gary, amiable author of Proudly We Serve - A Guide for Waiters and Waitresses, tends to work the counter more and also functions as the unofficial butt for everybody else's good-natured teasing. Assisting Gary and Bobette are everybody's favorite biker babe, the always sunny, ever-flirtatious Kim, and the more subdued, secretly smiling, impressively ponytailed partner-in-crime, Shane.
Together, these four act as a miniature public-relations firm not only for Milford, but for the whole human race - such is their pleasantness.
Greatness is a given at Bobette's where it is impossible to narrow down your favorites to one or two dishes. Take the gazpacho. The startling freshness of the ingredients is part of the secret, but beyond that one can only guess. All I know is what I can it by the quart, and I pester them to make it more often if I've gone without it for too long. The same is true of the chicken pot pie, also out of this world, featuring the flakiest, lighest pie crust I've ever eaten, and superfresh peas and carrots.
What else? The portobello veggie baby features huge, deliciously sautéed sliced of the mushroom, red peppers, sweet onions and garlic, all melted with cheese and served on a toasted Portuguese roll. The just-picked baby greens salad with fresh mozzarella and homemade honey-mustard dressing is superb.
But they make them so special - and what an array to choose from! The black bean has a tangy bite to it; the mussel chowder is fast becoming a favorite; but it's the stuffed pepper and chicken parm soups that slay me.
This is the problem with writing and speaking about Bobette's wonderful food: You name the dish, catalogue the ingredients, and then babble on about how really, really good it is. One ends up feeling inarticulate and inadequate to the task of communicating how truly great a place Bobette's is - a place that deserves to be known by everyone within driving distance. Further incentive: A cup of soup costs $2.50; a bowl is $3.25.
Complaints? Too many salads feature grated iceberg lettuce. They do much better with the whole-leaf variety of baby greens. At times, the chicken's a little on the bland and rubbery side.
Minor quibbles aside, Bobette's may be the best little soup kitchen in the world. It's undoubtedly the best in Connecticut.
93 Boston Post Road Milford, CT 06460