6/11/2013 02:35:00 PM

First Look: Connie and Ted's Swims Into West Hollywood

There's been so much buzz around Connie and Ted's, the new casual seafood spot from Michael Cimarusti and Donato Poto, there was no way they'd have a soft opening. The place, which opened in the heart of West Hollywood just days before Pride Weekend, would be packed even without the thousands of extra people milling about the neighborhood. It's a far cry from the haute dining experience at Providence, and it's not just the staff running around in blue-sleeved baseball T-shirts. It's run like Providence, just more casually, and the quality is the same. It's all in the details.

The room is wide open - from the patio, you can see through the wall of tall glass windows straight through to the bustling kitchen, and from quiet banquettes on one side of the room clear to the bar where every seat is filled and then some. The music's loud, the chatter's high, it's full of energy, and it was packed when we dropped in, even late - people were still rolling in well past 10 PM for their lobster roll (yes, it should now be on this list) and oyster fix.

We were probably most excited to check it out for the clams: the steamers, the soft-shelled clams you swish in a hot brothy bath, then butter and suck back while wiggling the little bootie off the foot; the linguica-and-breading-stuffed cherrystones; and fried Ipswich clams with bellies. These are staples for anyone growing up or visiting around Cape Cod, simple, pure delicacies you rarely see on the West Coast. Nothing disappointed anyone at the table, even the uninitiated.

That's what Cimarusti has going on here - lobster rolls, both cold with mayo and warm with butter (butter won 2 to 1 at our table); clam chowder; baked live scallops; Portuguese fish stew; boiled Maine lobsters; fish sandwiches; and lots and lots of French fries. The oysters come from the East and West Coast, as do the beers on tap (more than 20). Cocktails have names like the Narrangansett Cooler and Ted's Cup, the kind of thing you could see sipping endlessly on the Vineyard or Nantucket. Or here, as we just might.

Connie and Ted's is open for dinner only until around the third week of June when it opens for lunch. And it's a place made for daytime eating and drinking as much as dinner. Take a look at some sights and bites below.

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