Dock 11: A new and worthy restaurant

After all these years, I was finally going to refresh our review of Morning Glory Café in Old Lyme. Naturally, just as I started preliminary research, the longtime, popular eatery closed its doors for good. Literally on the same week.

All is not lost, and that includes the titular morning glories that still bedeck this cheerful little spot by the Lieutenant River in Old Lyme. From the Morning Glory, Dock 11 Café emerged, put down roots, and is sprouting a new menu and hours next week.

At press time, Dock 11 is a breakfast and lunch operation, but come October 15, the café will serve lunch and dinner, with breakfast served all day on Sundays. Dinner options will include pasta dishes, steaks, chicken dishes, and seafood with a nice selection of appetizers. The menu is posted online, and I’m already eyeballing the Penne Alla Vodka with shallots and tomatoes in a vodka cream sauce ($13).

If my lunchtime samples are any indicator, the nearby Hideaway might discover some competition for the dinner crowd once Dock 11 starts its new schedule. When a chef can elevate a basic tuna melt ($9) into a noteworthy meal, good things are afoot in the kitchen. I think we can all agree that when a tuna salad sandwich is a mayo bomb, nobody wins. The bread gets mushy and the thing falls apart, and who knows were the cheese ends up. No such issue at Dock 11, thanks to robust rye toast and a very good tuna salad mix that goes easy on the mayo and presents bright spots of citrus, black pepper, celery crunch, and other secret ingredients, I’m sure. The “melt” is courtesy of American cheese, and it’s absolutely perfect in this context. Lettuce and tomato add some more crunch and structure, and the accompanying fries are more than adequate and bountiful. On a recent rainy Monday, this tuna melt was manna from heaven.

I’m sincerely not sure how I fit in the sandwich after my pre-game bowl of pasta fagioli ($5). I’d ordered the soup of the day, which was split pea and ham — another rainy day classic — but the café had run dry by the time I ordered. Still, when pasta fagioli is the alternative, I can’t really complain, and no one else probably will because it’s very, very good. This is the thickest batch I’ve ever sampled, almost like a mac and cheese casserole kind of density with just enough tomato-creamy base to keep things spoonable. The pasta and beans were quite abundant, so bean fans/-phobes take note, but bacon makes everything better, and the small bits of it throughout the soup added a fantastic layer of savory goodness to all of the above.

A curiosity on the lunch menu — chicken wings, available with teriyaki or buffalo sauce ($10 for 10 wings) — turned out to be an unexpected surprise. My wing cravings are rare, but maybe it’s the change of seasons getting to me. I opted for the teriyaki sauce, and we have a winner. So often, wing sauces are a generic, spicy mix slathered upon the chicken. Dock 11’s sauce was more than a one-hit wonder, with notes of soy, citrus, and ginger accenting the robust flavor of the chicken itself. A bit of crispiness indicated actual professional preparation versus a defrosting process in the microwave. Very tasty indeed.

Speaking of curiosities, what turned out to be pretty much a burrito is listed as a Mexican Wrap ($12; comes with fries or coleslaw) on the lunch menu. It’s a hefty construction of diced chicken breast (marinated, I believe), black beans, Spanish-style rice, cheese, and spinach all wrapped up in a tortilla. While I appreciated the tenderness and flavor of the chicken, I could’ve used more black beans and a little less rice, if only to make the thing more grip-able. Still, the flavor balance, with good cheese representation, made for a satisfactory and hearty meal. I’ll say this: there are better burritos in this world, but you could do much, much worse than the Mexican wrap.

Breakfast will be worth the wait until Sunday, if only for the omelet options. I have a tendency to do tomato and cheddar when building my own omelets elsewhere, but no need here. Dock 11 offers the Simply American Cheese Omelet ($11.50; with hash browns and toast), with bacon and tomato folded in. I like all of those things, and I really like when the eggs of an omelet are prepped just right — not runny and not browned to death. Mine arrived a perfect yellow pillow of protein with just the right among of cheese and tomato, but less bacon than expected. Not a big deal for me — honestly, I save bacon for science or special occasions! — but true bacon-heads might’ve wanted more. As for the home fries and toast, they were more than an afterthought, with the former baked to just the right softness and the latter well curated, fresh, and flavorful. Next time, I’m thinking I’ll try out the Spice it up Omelet, stuffed with hot peppers, ham, and cheddar, and topped with salsa.

If you can get past the eggs portion of the menu, you’ll find a handful of pancake and French toast options, among them the Berry Berry Delicious French Toast ($10). What I expected was a volume of berries worthy of such a title, but what I received was decent French toast (two slices, but into halves) topped with powdered sugar and a few blackberries, a couple strawberries, and the odd blueberry or two. Not so berry-licious and a little underwhelming, but serviceable enough.

There is plenty else to get me back to Dock 11 for dinner. From the beautifully renovated interior to the menu hits to the friendly service, there is an earnest effort under way to offer diners old-fashioned cooking with modern touches in an excellent location. Once Dock 11 hits its stride with the new menu and hours, it’s very likely the little café among the morning glories will become a hot spot once again.


Dock 11 Cafe

11 Halls Road, Old Lyme 

(860) 434-0011

Cuisine: Upscale diner fare and other American specialties

Atmosphere: Spacious interior with tasteful, modern décor and excellent views of the Lieutenant River. I loved the chairs in particular.

Prices: For the fare, a bit more than average. Omelets are $11.50; a burger will run you $12, but that’s the highest price point on the lunch menu; and entrees on the soon to debut dinner menu top out at the $21 grilled ribeye

Service: Friendly and welcoming, although more staff needed for busier days.

Hours: Through Oct. 14: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed Tuesday); Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. New fall hours start Oct. 15: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (lunch and dinner); Sunday, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (breakfast all day)

Reservations: No

Credit cards: Accepted

Handicapped access: Dedicated parking spaces are located off the rear patio area (facing the river); ramps lead into the main dining area from there


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