Restaurant review

Redding’s spinning wheel offers a winning mix of old and new

Without the sign and parking lot, The Spinning Wheel could be mistaken for one of the dozens of Revolution-era houses that strolled and weaved their way into modernity through Newtown and Redding. A covered slate patio and large paned windows overlook grassy lawns teeming with flower species that look half-tame and natural to the landscape.

Although this magazine doesn’t pay me for my keen sense of flowers, I can’t help but note the greenery of the space outside Redding’s Restaurant, a feature that featured prominently in a Connecticut Magazine review of The Spinning Wheel almost 50 years ago. (This article from the 70s mentions that field-grown azaleas and lilacs serve as centerpieces.)

This article, from 1972 and one of the magazine’s earliest reviews, predated my visit by exactly 49 years in July. That’s why the magazine, marking its 50th anniversary in this issue, sent me to this long-running restaurant. The review was written by Connecticut MagazineThe first restaurant reviewer by, Margaret Primavera, who began by noting that the Warings (Bayard and Beatrice) were on their first weekend as owners/managers of The Spinning Wheel on the evening of her visit, having just taken over to the Tottle family who had owned and operated the restaurant since 1925. Beatrice (formerly Beatrice Bella “BeBe” Shopp), had been Miss Minnesota and Miss America, 1948, before marrying Korean War navigator Bayard. She was noted in our review “as an outgoing and personable asset that any company could hope to find.”

The main building of The Spinning Wheel itself dates from 1806, and even then was built around the core of an old chimney erected in 1742. This working hearth still stands with a square mass next to a doorway. entrance, tilted slightly as if expecting, and turning away from the conversation. Multiple rooms in the modern floor plan seem capable of simultaneously hosting public and private events, as long as they’re smaller than a fraternity party or society wedding. The small bar is its most modern room, aside from a lintel inside the doorway that once seemed to welcome visitors arriving from outside on horseback.

The Spinning Wheel, half its many centuries since our review, is a fresh update on an old soul.

I plopped down on the bench of a two-top between the cabins and the bar itself, and scanned the faucet handles. When in Redding, I chose the Redding Beer Co. Summer Witbier. I was happy to see that the visibility through the honeyed cross section of this beer was better than the late July haze I rode through to land it on the table in front of me. A thick head fluff lasted and laced the glass as I scanned the menu. A bit of cloves and the fresh bread of unmalted wheat were revealed on the nose and tongue, followed by that pleasant sweet and light mouthfeel in a spirit of summer.

The spinning wheel is located in Redding.

Winter Caplanson for Hearst Connecticut Media

In 1972, hors d’oeuvres offered included Madrid with sour cream, anchovy roe, and creamed herring, which ranged in price from 65 cents to $1.25. Not looking for baitfish or tomato juice jelly Consommé, I reviewed the wheel’s current lineup – cannonballs loaded with potato skins, a bowl of veggie chili, mac & cheese with bacon – and selected the Thai chicken poppers. These smelled delicious with hot peppers and had real meat when bitten, without excess breading. The sauce is sweet and slightly scorching on the lips, and mine met the teeth with a crunch of a fried exterior and sesame seeds. The Asian coleslaw bed is spared but a nice veggie change of pace. The poppers lead me to think “Flying Chicken” wings would be similar, especially with a spicy honey sriracha sauce. Each costs $12, roughly the cost of a meal for one person in 1972.

A chalkboard on the far wall advertises happy hour from 4-6:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, with $2 off all alcoholic beverages and draft beers and glasses of wine.

The bar is adorned with house plans from the surrounding area, a design choice of the current (family) owner, Chris Rountros, a trained architect. “All the art here is architectural, even the ironwork you see around the building,” he says when I jot down the plans. “These are all local farms and homes.”

The Rountros brothers are first-generation Greek Americans. They grew up catering to their father’s Windmill restaurants in Danbury and New Milford.

From the Tottles in 1925, the Waring family would sell to an English family, the Butlers, from whom the Rountros family acquired The Spinning Wheel in 2014. The building, Rountros says, was in poor condition, “shut down, practically falling, when he, his restaurateur brother, Anthony, and his financier brother, Alex, decide to buy it and restore it. but when you walked in here you could see the potential.”

Thai barbecue ribs.

Thai barbecue ribs.

Winter Caplanson for Hearst Connecticut Media

Of his own lineage, Rountros says, “We come from a long line of very good cooks – grandparents with no formal training but who made great food. We want that sensitivity.

Saying this stirs his memory, and he refers to an article on The Spinning Wheel from the September 12, 1957 edition of Red Times he found on the premises during the restoration: “’We don’t make chefs, we make good old-fashioned cooks.’ Ms. Waring said that, and that’s it: we try to do good comfort food.

The philosophy is immediately perceptible when reading the current menu. Maple-glazed Brussels sprouts, parmesan chicken and eggplant, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, burgers and artisan stone pizzas take up the majority of the space. It’s a modern, unpretentious tavern menu.

From our 1972 review: “The menu is presented and we find that it is devoted exclusively to American cuisine, with very reasonable prices for the full dinner ranging from $4.50 for stuffed clams to $6.95 $ for the roast beef ribs.” The Warings reported that their chef (in 1972) was particularly known for his fish and chicken dishes, and Ms. Primavera ordered the Stuffed Baked Shrimp ($6.75) and Rainbow Trout with Stuffing seafood ($6.50) and “found both enjoyable”.

I ordered a glass of Altos malbec from Argentina and the Spinning Wheel meatloaf for a starter. It arrived cut thick and crowned with golden curls of fried onions, resting on mashed potatoes reigning over a field of mushroom sauce and a border of baby carrots. A bit autumnal for this side of midsummer, but there’s never a bad season for the ultimate comfort food. The onions were mini rings, and not curled to be nothing more than crispy strips of oil, so they retained a certain sweetness that complemented the mixture of beef and pork with a balsamic glaze, and served well played with sauce and carrots. Substantial and hearty without becoming dense, the meatloaf with its lightly seared brown crust is not, at first glance, chateaubriand for two, or restaurant enough to be beyond the capabilities of a talented home cook. It’s a simple cuisine well done: pleasant, hearty and relaxing. Memorable enough to gnaw at the corners of a hungry mind weeks later and justify the trip.

“We hire cooks from all over,” Chris told me when we spoke afterward. “There are no targeted people or ultra-specific experiences here. The hardest part of running a restaurant is starting with everyone. Once you’ve assembled a team,” he ties his fingers together, “everything falls into place.

Gathering is an appropriate theme in this public house. “Big footprint spots are hard to maintain,” says Rountros. “We do a lot of catering and wedding events for this half of the restaurant – that’s been important to our success.”

He expands on local support and says their takeout business became a hub in the community during the COVID 2020 shutdown. “People would drive in twice a week, sometimes. Now they come in and say, ‘I’ve been coming here forever, I used to park cars here.’ People send us postcards when they are away.

Almost 50 years ago, this magazine claimed that The Spinning Wheel “blends the old and the new.” The current slogan is “Historic with modern delights”. What we see now is a New England country restaurant that carries on the tradition of generations of families by feeding many more, young and old.

This article originally appeared in Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, Where find the current issue on sale here. Register to receive the newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine straight to your inbox. At Facebook and instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.

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