40-B Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield, (860) 436-9794
The restaurant business is a tough one. In their first year, new restaurants routinely face a stiff challenge winning over fickle customers. And getting the word out without a big promotional budget only compounds the difficulty. That's why one can only hope for success for a little restaurant like Milagros in Wethersfield, a tiny place that's clearly a labor of love for the woman who runs it.
Milagros opened at the end of last summer. It's small, with only three tables, and a little counter with a few seats inside. The sign says "Spanish restaurant," but you won't find any paella on the menu.
The inside is cozy, with a chalk-board wall filled with descriptions. A few paintings casually establish a rooster theme. There's a cooler of drinks for self-service.
The food is more Caribbean with a Cuban and Puerto Rican focus. It's hearty comfort food, with plenty of rice and beans, fried plantains, and slow-cooked meats. Mofongo (mashed plantains), papa rellena (stuffed potatoes) and beef patties can all be had for starters. Milagros also serves tacos and burritos (shrimp, pork, beef, chicken, vegetarian and more). There's BBQ chicken and pork. There's cube steak and pork chops. And stews too.
This is the kind of restaurant where the owner/chef comes out to give you the remote control to change the channels on the TV while you're waiting. If you sneeze, she calls out "bless you" from the kitchen. The music consists of the tunes she cranks up in the kitchen while she's cooking. You basically feel like you're at your friend's house. That, to me, is a good thing.
An order of pernil (slow-roasted pork shoulder) was juicy and simple, served next to a mound of rice and beans, with a side of fried sweet plantains ($8). There is nothing especially fancy about this, but it's good, in a simple satisfying way. And it's very affordable. I splashed some hot sauce all over the pork and wolfed it down. If you're not familiar with it, you might find the pernil to have a little more fat than expected, but that's what makes it tender and juicy.
When I was about to get up and pay the check, the chef popped out from behind the counter with a small plate of flan cake (just like what it sounds), on the house. Make yourself at home, sit a little while, she seemed to be saying. Stop by if you're in the neighborhood, give this worthy little place some well-deserved business.