I first became familiar Chef Judith Roll at Tabouli Grill when it was in Southport, and was saddened by its closing. I recently learned that she had launched a second and altogether different food concept, Judy’s Bar + Kitchen that can best be described as down-home, comfort with a twist of Southernese.
Located on High Ridge Road in a neighborhood that is both retail and residential, Judy is perfectly poised to keep locals (and non-locals) well-fed with her wide array of creative from-scratch cooking. When I arrived, I was thrilled to find plenty of parking, a big bonus for me
Inside, the atmosphere is as easy and comfortable as the name suggests - a welcoming neighborhood eatery and bar. Decorated in a manner that is reminiscent of the Carolina low-country, it has an interior graced with butcher block tables and antique kitchen equipment. An elegant bar area enjoys plenty of activity, local musicians, welcoming sports watchers and late night gatherers.
I walked in and found my group gathered together at the bar where I placed an order for their Passionately Spicy Rita, a jalapeno-infused tequila with Combier, passionfruit and lime. I happen to love a drink with a little kick. The flavors become more vibrant with the addition of the spice. One should order She Only Smokes When She Drinks for the name alone. Here, Kraken rum, and house-made smoke, maple and lime offer up masculine flavors reminiscent of the old world cocktail. The smoke added a nice smoothness to the finish.
At the bar we noshed on Smoked Naked Wings with Buffalo & BBQ sauces, blue cheese and celery. The wings had a deep smoky flavor and a crunchy exterior that was not deep fried. The Chicken-Fried Chicken Liver with Spicy Onion Jam was, in my opinion, out of this world. I was genuinely shocked. Beneath a deeply crispy exterior was a soft tender liver that was reminiscent of my great-grandmother’s chicken-liver pate. The onion jam was the icing on the proverbial cake, spicy and sweet, unifying all the flavors and textures.
More figure friendly, (thank goodness) we moved on to The Pickled Shrimp Cocktail with Saltines. You have me at pickled. Every time. Here a mix of chopped carrots, celery, avocado, cucumber, red pepper and green olives brimmed with flavor without overwhelming the shrimp.
Now to the entrees where I donned my “Y’all” and sunk my fork into the Shrimp & Nora Mill Granary Grits. As they say in the south, “Well that just dills my pickle!” Dipping into Judy’s creamy grits is digging into a bowl of cheesy comfort. The grits absorbed the smoky saltiness of the sauce that had just a touch of heat to round it off. I thought this dish was absolutely delightful. Following we had the Chicken & Waffles with Honey Butter and Maple Syrup and the Cluck, Oink, Moo-BQ ½ Chicken, St. Louis Ribs, Sliced Brisket, Mac n Cheese & Cole Slaw. Boy was I glad to be wearing a loose-fitting dress. pepper and green olives brimmed with flavor without overwhelming the shrimp.
Next came the Steer Herder Burger with Potato Wedges. One big fat incredibly juicy burger topped with cheese, two ginormous onion rings and bacon. This thing was bigger than my head. It’s a good thing I have a big mouth. One bite. That’s all it took. While I would never profess to be a burger connoisseur, I do think you’ll agree when I say this is one great burger. I had no room after that. None. Not an inch. But it’s a good thing I paid no attention to that or I would have missed out on the Pulled Pork Cubano with Plantains.
Soft, lightly fried plantains accompanied this pulled pork-jalapenos-mustard-ham and gruyere on sourdough deliciousness. Jam-packed with flavor this was my favorite of the entrees second to the shrimp and grits. And then there was dessert.
Can someone please tell me why, no matter how full we are, there’s always room for dessert? In this case this was a great thing. Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, Nilla Wafer Banana Pudding, Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and an Apple Skillet Cake with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Ice cream were presented to us. I was a bit disappointed with the apple skillet cake as I thought it a bit dry. The banana pudding was comforting but needed a few more Nila Wafers to accompany it. The chocolate peanut butter pie was very good but my favorite, bar none, hands down was the carrot cake. Incredibly moist with generous bits of carrot, pineapple and walnuts, I thought this to be phenomenal - to die for. Judy’s Carrot Cake takes the cake!
Chef Judy who is fun and funny with a larger than life personality will tell you that “Judy’s is for everyone – from family dinners to social gatherings at the bar over drinks and our great smoked chicken wings.” And it really is.
Judy's Bar + Kitchen 927 High Ridge Rd, Stamford, CT 06905 (203) 890-9996
An earlier version of this review appeared in CTBites.