A town gathering point as much as a sandwich and tea shop, Essex Coffee & Tea Company (51 Main St., Essex, 860/767-7804, 7 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat.; 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun., $3–7), encourages hanging out with newspapers, very good breakfasts (the Essex Eggel sandwich is hearty and delicious), gourmet coffee and teas, and freshly made pastries.
Sandwiches—clubs, grinders, and wraps—dominate the menu at the casual Cypress Restaurant (1265 S. Main St., Middletown, 860/346-3367, www.cypressgrill.com , 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Thu.; 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $5–11), making it one of the best bets for lunch in town.
The Wesleyan University –owned Red & Black Cafe (45 Broad St., Middletown, 860/685-7333, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Fri.; 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat.–Sun., $6–9) functions as both eatery and bookstore, so diners can devour both the latest bestseller and their turkey panini. Don’t leave without trying at least one of the homemade chocolate truffles.