In this day and age, it seems restaurants come and go with the wind. There are others, however, like Widow Brown’s Café on Federal Road that year after year continue to quietly do what they do.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Widow Brown’s Café. It’s had the same name, same location and same primary owner since the beginning. “It’s easy to get overlooked,” said owner Aura Showah. “The competition is fierce.” She explained that finding ways to adapt and change with the times is key to Widow Brown’s longevity.
When Widow Brown’s opened back in 1977, craft beer wasn’t the obsession it is nowadays. Today, they have 15 rotating taps (20 total) plus about 22 bottles and 8 cans. The selection often features many of Connecticut’s breweries, sometimes with fairly exclusive picks, such as Get More Likes, an imperial stout collaboration beer between Kent Falls Brewing in Kent, CT and Kinsmen Brewing out of Southington, CT. Widow Brown’s was one of the only places in this part of the state to have it on tap. J. T. Wilson, Aura’s son and the general manager, has a close relationship with Kent Falls Brewing. In fact, they brewed an exclusive small-batch beer just for Widow Brown’s 40th anniversary.
Showah said that people are more sophisticated now, “You can’t get away with a frozen patty on the grill. You have to upgrade.” To that end, just about a year ago, Showah hired Culinary Institute of America graduate Joe Hawkes. Interestingly, enough, he’s a local who grew up eating at Widow Brown’s.
Since taking charge of the kitchen, Hawkes has tried to edit down the expansive original menu. He’s kept many of the classics, but is slowly incorporating his take on things, especially for the daily specials. And now, they make a lot more items in-house, like the fresh mozzarella for the flatbreads.
The menu still offers something for everyone, ranging from appetizers and flatbreads to burgers, sandwiches and salads to entrees at a reasonable price. Among the most notable customer-favorites is the French Dip, featuring tender roast beef, with the option of melted cheese, on a garlicky-buttery French baguette with an onion au jus dipping sauce. It’s said to be the best in the area. We have to agree. Their hearty build-your-own burgers are very good too.
While the day-to-day fare is solid comfort food, Widow Brown’s five course beer dinners give Hawkes and his team a chance to kick things up and go outside their everyday dishes. Showah said the beer dinners have been a big hit, and the next one is planned for August 10.
The team behind Widow Brown’s Cafe wants everyone who walks in the door to find good food and good drink in a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. “This place is special to the area,” remarked Showah. “There’s nothing like Widow’s.”
Widow Brown’s Café is located at 128 Federal Road in Danbury. They are open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 am to 1am, Friday and Saturday from 11:30am to 1am, and on Sundays from 11:30am to 1am. You can find them online at www.widowbrowns.com.