It doesn’t take a sleuth’s eye to notice that we don’t post reviews as much as we used to. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is that we don’t think EVERY restaurant needs to be reviewed. Additionally, we agreed that as a blog, we want to ONLY highlight eateries that we very much enjoy.
Knot Norm’s in East Norwalk is one of those places.
I realized they had to be featured because they were always an answer to two related questions:
“What new spots in Norwalk should I check out?”
“What are some of your favorite restaurants in the area?”
The answer to both or included in the conversation—even though it’s not brand spanking new—was always “Knot Norm’s.”
When Knot Norm’s opened after Summer ’17, I didn’t know much about it. All I did know was they called their sandwiches “New England tacos,” and they advertised a mean lobster roll, served butter-drenched warm on griddled NE style hot dog buns.
I also knew the history of that space on First Street. It wasn’t a good one. Delis met destruction. Beach Burger—which was excellent—eventually bottomed out. Most passed on Via Sforza’s pizza delivery joint. Cursed? I don’t believe in that, at least not fully, but come on, something had to settle in and draw a crowd.
Something was different with Knot Norm’s though. Chef friends talked about it and food geeks that I trust gave verbal raves. What I heard about most was the lobster roll I mentioned earlier. Some said it was the best they’ve ever had, packed with meaty chunks of lobster, and a whole claw/knuckle on top. To boot, it’s poached in lobster butter. Others hyped the deep-fried Copps Island Oyster roll as their favorite.
I scanned their menu and saw that it wasn’t just seafood. Other rolls offered are fried chicken, brisket, pork belly, cheesesteak. But they’re also churning out fish tacos, hot oil fried jumbo chicken wings, steamed clams, and roasted oysters.
To me, it sounded like Knot Norm’s was the kind of place this area needed, the kind of place East Norwalk needed. It’s this mash-up of England-inspired fast casual grub with a restaurant twist. All of that is right up my alley, so I knew I had to visit.
On visit number one, I tried a couple of rolls, one seafood, one not (Knot?). The fried oyster roll was all that! Golden fried meaty oysters packed onto Knot Norm’s perfectly buttered, griddled, and evenly toasted split rolls with a slathering of homemade tartar sauce, gem lettuce, diced tomato, and fresh dill that adds an herby pop. I have a penchant for fried chicken so that was my second. Juicy chunks of 24 hour marinated chicken, combined with heat from the togarashi aioli that’s balanced out by the vinegary pickles and pickled daikon—a nice Korean-style touch.
I liked LOVED it a lot. After visit one, I sang Knot Norm’s praises to anyone who would listen. I knew it was the type of place where I would do my damnedest to eat every single roll, even if I wanted seconds of previously devoured rolls.
On my second visit/roll quest, I got acquainted with owner Jay LeBlanc. Aside from a brief, “Nice job, dude!” compliment on the fried chix and oyster rolls, we hadn’t officially met, except on social media. Our limited interactions on The Gram and The Book, ultimately led to a handshake and a conversation. That was when I found out a little about Jay’s background in restaurants and as an International Culinary Center grad before that. He was also a craft beer sales rep, so that made Knot Norm’s above average selections make more sense. With the rolls, let’s just say Jay’s doing a little extra. I’ve pried for cheffy secrets, and maybe he’ll give away an ingredient or something like that, but all you’ve got to know is he’s putting in work when it comes to the proteins he stuffs into those rolls.
I was hungry, after all, so I told Jay to give me whatever he wanted, which led to that jam packed, buttery lobster roll, plus a pork belly special that’s now permanently on the menu. If you’re a lobster roll connoisseur, this should be your first Knot Norm’s experience. I’d rank it right up there with any Connecticut lobster roll juggernaut, maybe even tops. For me, if I had to pick any roll, the pork belly was otherworldly. It reminded me of this mix of Asian and Latin; the pork belly was like eating chicharrónes, almost like that good, crispy skin leftover from pernil. The pickled cabbage and carrots helped cut the salty pork, the soy ginger caramel sauce added a sweet balance.
What’s for certain is each visit has been consistent, despite Knot Norm’s growing popularity amongst area food geeks. Their future is bright, and they haven’t even been open a full summer yet, until this one, of 2018. They’re just going to get busier, and I’m stoked for them, and for Jay.
As for me, I’ve still got a roll-based quest to complete, only thrown off by amazing specials like the fried soft-shell crab and buffalo chicken rolls. OK, so I must try the chicken wings too. I just hope they’ll always have a seat for me. I’m not picky, a milk crate out back will do, as long as I’m crushing a roll, all is good.
10a First Street
Norwalk, CT 06855