Where to Get the Best Fall Food throughout New England

You'll need to build your strength after all that leaf peeping.

rogers orchards apple pie

Rogers Orchards apple pie photo provided

If summer is an extrovert’s buffet—sun-splashed strolls, parties, and surfside adventures—the clouder, cooler fall weather is ideal for savoring the great indoors with a bowl of thick stew or a teetering slice of pie. Feasting season is upon us, and it’s time to reacquaint ourselves with New England’s long menu of heritage comfort foods. But why settle for preparing these nourishing dishes at home when you can add some scenic seasoning and make a regional road trip out of fall dining? The valleys and back streets of New England are the perfect places to wander as savory aromas waft by from restaurants that offer their own unique spins on autumnal cuisine. Grab your coziest knit sweater, skip town, and plunk down at these six joints.

The Dish: Lobster Mac & Cheese
The Place: DiMillo’s On The Water

If you’ve spent any time bumbling around the cobblestone streets of Portland’s Old Port waterfront, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of DiMillo’s. Housed in a refurbished car ferry and helmed by Chef Melissa Bouchard—a born-and-raised Mainer—this floating eatery wins regular raves for its lobster mac and cheese. Fresh-caught lobster meat is paired with rigatoni, creamy Mascarpone cheese and cognac. Throw in some lobster-seasoned stuffing crumbs for a crunch effect, and a side of garlic bread (just for good measure) and you’ve got a maritime meal you’ll remember later this winter.

The Dish: Apple Pie 
The Place: Rogers Orchards 

America has a long, proud history of taking credit for ideas and creations that originated in places elsewhere, and apple pie is no exception. Domesticated apples made their passage to the New England colonies from England and eventually made their way into golden, flaky pie crusts.  And with this marriage of ingredients, the sweet allure of apple pie soon went national. At Rogers Orchards, eight generations of family owners have kept the tradition of autumnal apple pie alive, growing over 20 varieties of apples. At the orchard bakery, you can procure a hefty pie that will make you the star of your next fall picnic or family dinner. Or you can go with another apple-forward classic that was actually coined on American soil, and pick up a fresh batch of the cinnamon apple fritter donuts.

336 Long Bottom Road, Southington, CT, 860-229-4240, rogersorchards.com.

The Dish: Stuffed Clams 
The Place: Iggy’s Doughboys & Chowderhouse 

No state in New England has embraced eclectic heritage foods like Rhode Island. (Party Pizza, anyone?) But if there’s one Little Rhodey delicacy that’s transcended state lines, it’s the Stuffy. XL-sized quahog clams are stuffed with a blend of chopped clam meat, diced onions and peppers, herbs, and breadcrumbs. The loaded mollusks are then baked until golden brown. You’ll find stuffies on countless Ocean State menus, but at Iggy’s Doughboys and Chowderhouse, you can order a round of stuffies, take them to nearby Oakland Beach, and gaze out toward Greenwich Bay.

889 Oakland Beach Ave., Warwick, RI, 401-737*9459, iggysri.com.

The Dish: Chicken Pot Pie
The Place: The Colonial Inn 

One of New England’s less mythologized dishes—chicken and dumplings—is essentially a stew of white meat and biscuits. But many moons ago, some genius inverted this dish by packaging chicken and gravy inside a golden crust. Decades later, chicken pot pie still makes many of us go weak in the knees, and at Concord’s Colonial Inn, this New England staple is literally the first entree listed on the menu of the hotel’s in-house restaurant, Liberty. Each crisp pie is accompanied by green beans, mashed potatoes, and cranberry relish. It’s classic New England cooking, proudly crafted and served.

48 Monument Square, 978-369-9200, Concord, MA, concordscolonialinn.com.

contoocook cider flight

Photo provided

The Dish: Apple Cider
The Place: Contoocook Cider Company

The sepia hills of southern New Hampshire are ripe with a mouthwatering array of heritage apples, and at the Contoocook Cider Company, fresh fruit from Gould Hill Farm is loaded straight into steel fermenter tanks to yield ciders that you could spend an entire weekend sampling. From drier offerings like the Russet Rodeo or the Crispy Crab, to sweeter concoctions such as the Fireside Maple, the ciders here can be nabbed by the growler, the canned four-pack, or in taster flights that you can enjoy right next door to the arbors responsible for these elixirs of New England.

656 Gould Hill Rd, Contoocook, NH, 603-746-1175, contoocookcider.com.

The Dish: Beef Pot Roast
The Place: Leunig’s Bistro 

Vermont’s largest city is something of a crossroads between rural New England and Montreal, and in the cozy dining room of Leunig’s Bistro, a New England staple—beef pot roast—is imbued with French verve. The restaurant’s beef bourguignon offers juicy braised beef tips in red wine, adding bacon, carrots, celery, and pearl mushrooms. With some garlic mashed potatoes and haricots verts, it’s a dinner that will have you gazing back toward the Green Mountain State longingly as fall transitions into winter. And since Leunig’s is located on Church Street, consider pairing your meal with a stroll down to nearby Lake Champlain to watch the earlier sunset paint the region in a golden hue.

115 Church St., Burlington, VT, 802-863-3759, leunigsbistro.com.