Lillian's Cafe is a fabulous restaurant in downtown Niantic that serves fresh seafood, creative salads, steaks, and burgers. However, I find the word 'cafe' in the name to be slightly misleading, as the dining is reasonably fancy and the menu contains starters, dinners, and desserts. Yet, when I hear cafe I think lighter fare. Though only recently opened, their service was impeccable and their food was delicious. Try the pasta with duck and local scallops for a real treat. Lillian's has a very large outdoor patio and plentiful indoor seating, yet they book quickly, so be sure to arrive early for a seat.
The newly opened Cafe Sol in downtown Niantic is attempting to fill the downtown's needs of a cafe, healthy breakfast and lunch spot, but is unfortunately falling short. While their food is reasonably tasty, it is very over priced and the service is incredibly slow. Hopefully, this is all due to their being newly opened, and with a bit of time perhaps all of the kinks will be worked out. They do serve and sell Ashlawn Farms Coffee, which is a local favorite. Also, they have great indoor and outdoor seating, so if you don't mind waiting ages for a sandwich they aren't a bad option.
Gumdrops and Lollipops in downtown Niantic, with their incredible homemade ice cream sandwiches and old fashioned candy shop (or should I say shoppe?) is a sweet-lover's dream land. Gumdrops and Lollipops has ice cream flavor favorites like Almond Joy, Chocolate, Marshmallow, or special creations of (giant) ice cream sandwiches, floats, and ice cream sodas. They also sell homemade fudge, an incredible array of chocolates, and any kind of candy that you could imagine. Talk about sugar shock! If you are looking for something savory they also have typical 'day at the beach' meals that can be enjoyed on tables outside or in their 50s-like diner inside.
Hartford Giant Grinder, located in a small storefront in downtown Niantic, Connecticut, offers a huge number of grinders (as the name suggests). Hartford Giant Grinder has the best grinders in the area, particularly the meatball grinder, the Thanksgiving turkey dinner grinder, and the eggplant parmesan grinder. I visited Hartford Giant Grinder several times for take-out grinders because they are just too good. Head over for take-out lunch before heading to the beach - and don't be afraid to order the large because the leftovers are just as good. The only negative is that the prices are slightly high, but the quality of the sandwiches makes it worth it.
Giuliano's Bakery, in downtown Niantic, Connecticut, has been a local institution for four generations. They sell delicious doughnuts, bagels, and other baked goods that are freshly prepared in the store. Giuliano's also sells cakes, coffee, soda, grinders, and egg sandwiches. I love walking by Giuliano's Bakery as it always smells like the most delicious freshly baked bread - it's hard to walk by without stopping in for a treat! Outside of Giuliano's Bakery there is also an easily identifiable, friendly looking grandpa baker statue and a couple of seats to enjoy your baked goods outdoors. Though they have a ton of options they do sell out very quickly so be sure to arrive early for the most selection.
Located in downtown Niantic, the Natural Food Store is the place to go for a huge variety of items for the health conscious person. The store recently moved to a larger location and now they sell fresh produce as well as meats, eggs, and cheeses from small local farms. They also have a huge selection of natural supplements, teas, and beauty products. I always stop by for snacks and difficult to find products like the currently trendy matcha powder. The owners of the Natural Food Store are very helpful and will even order specialty products that they may have run out of.
Located in downtown Niantic the Black Sheep is a pub and restaurant located in a great place on Main Street. It has ample indoor and outdoor seating that is often packed. The Black Sheep frequently has bands in the evenings and is a popular place for 20-somethings in the area to drink at night. The bartenders and waiters are very attentive, and I haven't had to wait long for a drink, even on busy nights. In my opinion, the atmosphere of the bar is alright but the food is not very good and everything is over priced.