10 of CT's most Instagrammable restaurants

Photo of Leeanne Griffin

The phone eats first at these Connecticut restaurants, where the food and decor are camera-ready. Charge your phone to 100 percent before heading to these Instagram-friendly spots.

 

The Place 2 Be
Hartford and West Hartford

A bathroom features a mural of derrieres, with a stripper pole.

A bathroom features a mural of derrieres, with a stripper pole.

Lisa Nichols / Hearst CT Media
Frozen sangria pouches at The Place 2 Be in West Hartford

Frozen sangria pouches at The Place 2 Be in West Hartford

Lisa Nichols / Hearst CT Media

The Place 2 Be isn’t your average, staid breakfast and lunch joint — it’s a riot of colorful and decadent fare, like strawberry cream-cheese stuffed French toast drizzled with Nutella, fried chicken and waffles, cookies and cream pancakes and egg-topped fried chicken sandwiches on black activated-charcoal buns.

Drinks are just as indulgent, with seasonal lattes and espresso beverages, creative milkshakes, champagne cocktails (and bottomless mimosas,) sangrias and bacon-topped Bloody Marys.

At each location (two in Hartford, one in West Hartford's Blue Back Square), The Place 2 Be goes all-in on trendy decor and selfie opportunities: neon light signs, swing chairs, a full-sized bathtub filled with plastic pearls and drinks topped with rubber duckies. The brand is growing, with new locations planned for New Haven and Springfield, Mass. @place2bect.

Taco Daddy and The Lila Rose
Stamford

There's decadence — and photo opportunities — to spare at the Towne Street restaurants. Get your camera app ready for soft pink and gold decor, cute cocktail glassware in animal shapes and a vibrant cotton candy cheesecake at The Lila Rose, and crispy, savory crunchwraps and wild taco options (spicy fried chicken, cheeseburger, lobster and beefy, cheesy birria) at Taco Daddy, as well as a Fruity Pebble "taco" with ice cream for dessert.

121 Towne St., @tacodaddyandthelilarose.

Elm Street Diner
Stamford

Nutella churro peanut butter cup French toast at Elm Street Diner in Stamford

Nutella churro peanut butter cup French toast at Elm Street Diner in Stamford

Elm Street Diner via @cheatdayeats

Elm Street Diner in Stamford has been around since 1987, but owner John Moshos and his team have harnessed social media in the past decade to call attention to its outrageously decadent plates: milkshakes stacked high with lollipops, cookies and whole slices of cake; curly fries topped with lobster macaroni and cheese; Nutella churro peanut butter cup French toast. The restaurant has 102,000 followers on Instagram and 25,000 on TikTok.

"We've become more of a destination, than just a local place. I have people who are driving one to two hours [to eat.] I've had people from California, Australia," Moshos told Hearst Connecticut in August.

Moshos said he gets his ideas in a variety of ways, and often he'll build a dish around one particular flavor or ingredient. He keeps notes on his phone and even scribbles ideas in a notebook. But he sticks by one rule: whatever Elm Street crafts has to taste as good as it looks.

463 Elm St., 203-325-1141, @elmstreetdiner.

Lobster Landing
Clinton

Lobster Landing in Clinton Conn., on May 25, 2021

Lobster Landing in Clinton Conn., on May 25, 2021

Lisa Nichols / Hearst CT Media

It doesn't get more New England than Lobster Landing. This charming seasonal seafood shack is often photographed to depict the quintessential vibe of coastal Connecticut, especially with the slightly tilted “O” on its sign's lettering. With waterfront views (and colorful sunsets) at the Harborside Marina and the vibrant red of freshly steamed lobster against the toasted bun, you've got yourself the perfect summertime shoreline 'gram material.

152 Commerce St., 860-669-2005, @lobsterlanding.

Sugar Factory
Foxwoods

A sweet and colorful drink at Sugar Factory in Foxwoods.

A sweet and colorful drink at Sugar Factory in Foxwoods.

Foxwoods / Contributed photo

The casino outpost of this celebrity-endorsed chain is all about excess, with "monster burgers" (including a Flamin' Hot Cheetos version), "insane milkshakes" in chocolate-coated, cookie-studded glasses topped with mini-cupcakes and cotton candy, and giant goblet cocktails crowned with gummy candies,wafting dry-ice smoke. A "World Famous Sugar Factory King Kong Sundae" serves 12 guests, with 24 scoops of ice cream and virtually every sauce and topping imaginable, including sparklers. 

350 Trolley Line Blvd., 860-312-7847, @thesugarfactory.

Donut Crazy
Multiple locations

The S'Mores donut is a raised yeast shell with chocolate bavarian filling, dipped in chocolate frosting, rimmed with graham cookie crumbs, and topped with a lightly toasted large marshmallow and mini Hershey bar.

The S'Mores donut is a raised yeast shell with chocolate bavarian filling, dipped in chocolate frosting, rimmed with graham cookie crumbs, and topped with a lightly toasted large marshmallow and mini Hershey bar.

Contributed/Donut Crazy

“Crafted with love, covered in crazy” is Donut Crazy’s motto, and the menu offers daily flavors like glazed, powdered cake and Boston cream coupled with monthly rotating “crazies." The doughnut shop's Instagram is full of colorful, decadent treats, coated in icing, sprinkled with candies and finished with whipped cream. Watch the seasons change in photos as flavors progress through the holidays, with chocolate and strawberry confections for Valentine's Day, marshmallow Peeps and green coconut "grass" for Easter and pumpkins, ghosts and spiders for Halloween.

Locations in Branford, New Haven, Shelton, Stratford, West Hartford and Westport. @donutcrazy.

Milkcraft
Multiple locations

Bright blue cookie butter, s'mores with large swirls of torched marshmallow, and "milk and cereal" scattered with Fruity Pebbles are among the eye-catching flavor options at this social media-friendly ice cream shop with four Connecticut storefronts. The ice cream, crafted to order with liquid nitrogen, is served in photo-ready bubble waffle cones or sealed inside a "Creameebun" (fresh-baked glazed buns) and finished with choice of toppings.

Milkcraft's restaurants are even built for social media love, with custom wall murals and brightly-colored chairs. The Bridgeport location, which opened in November, is next door to Howling Hot Chicken, which the Milkcraft restaurateurs opened in February.

Locations in Bridgeport, Fairfield, New Haven and West Hartford. @milkcraftct.

Cava
Southington

Cava is known for its elaborate Christmas decorations, and this season's multi-room display features 250,000 lights, according to the restaurant. In recent years, the Papahristou family has moved beyond the winter holidays, crafting different themes all year long. Last year, the Southington destination introduced a "Harry Potter" style dining room with a Hogwarts Express replica, and a "Peter Pan" theme on its rooftop deck, with a 16-foot tall topiary of Big Ben, a floating pirate ship and characters from the Disney movie. The restaurant is also a popular place for marriage proposals.

1615 West St., 860-628-2282, @cava.ct.

Grounds Donut House
Danbury

The interior of Grounds Donut House, which opened at 35 Lake Ave. Ext. in Danbury on Oct. 17.

The interior of Grounds Donut House, which opened at 35 Lake Ave. Ext. in Danbury on Oct. 17.

Nick Terrana/Contributed

Inspired by trendy coffee and doughnut shops like Voodoo Doughnut on the West Coast, Nick Terrana and friend Tim Medina partnered up with Stanziato’s Mauro Tropeano and opened Grounds in October of 2020, next to Tropeano’s pizzeria. Grounds is an experience, with neon signs and a curated playlist featuring nostalgic punk, pop and hip-hop, and the menu of artisanal doughnuts features everyday classics like glazed, Boston cream, strawberry frosted, with a handful of weekly specials that rotate every Saturday. The shop has even introduced ice cream-injected donuts for maximum decadence.

35 Lake Ave. Ext., 475-329-5336, @groundsdonuthouse.

Empire of the Incas
Danbury

A mural inside  Empire of the Incas on Main Street in Danbury.

A mural inside  Empire of the Incas on Main Street in Danbury.

Lidia Ryan

Peruvian food is a multicultural celebration, melding indigenous Incan ingredients like potatoes, chili peppers, tomatoes and quinoa with global culinary influences from Europe, Africa and Asia. At Empire of the Incas, the restaurant's decor and food are equally eye-catching, with brightly colored wall murals (recently designed by artist Sean Maze) and a recently updated exterior facade, thanks to a 2020 grant from the city. 

241 Main St., 203-744-4622, @empireoftheincas.