A local favorite, La Belle Aurore is a thoughtful and conscientious 44-seat farm to table restaurant. They support small businesses and farmers and serve the absolute best ingredients in a very simple, straight-forward way.
The authentic farm-to-table aspect of their business makes them unique – they are supporting a number of Connecticut farms. In fact, 85 percent of their meats and vegetables are locally grown and raised.
Owner and chef Dawn Bruckner makes everything onsite with the exception of some pastas and all of their bread. They purchase their bread from Albert’s Bakery, formerly Fabled Foods, in Deep River. With notice, she can special-order the bread for customers.
Because they make everything onsite, they can meet specific customer requests. For example, if you have a birthday coming up and want a special cake, Dawn can bake you just about any kind of cake you’d like.
They also offer Vegan options and can accommodate allergies.
They have been steadfast with the farm-to-table concept throughout their 15 years in business. Early on, to introduce the idea, they offered meet-the-farmer dinners, where they showcased one or two farms with a menu created around their products. They would have those farmers on hand to meet the customers and answer questions, participate in discussions and share stories.
They have also successfully hosted book-of-the-month clubs. After reading the same book with food as a central theme, the group cooks and enjoys a meal from food featured in the book.
Other special events have included cooking classes and themed dinners. Big, long tables with family-style dinners have become their signature, and they can’t wait to be able to offer these again.
Because they source their food locally, they never worry about a lack of ingredients or safety of products. Dawn collaborates regularly with these farmers, and they work hard to set prices fairly while continuing to serve the highest quality ingredients.
They regularly source the following products from these local farms:
- Smith’s Acres for produce
- Hunts Brook Farm for produce
- Terra Firma Creamery for milk & yogurt (available for retail purchase)
- Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm for lamb, chicken, sausage and cheese
- FireFly Farm for beef
- Secchiaroli Farm for pork
- Evan’s Family Farm for beef, chicken & pork
- Sweet Acre for produce
- Full Heart Farm for produce and the most beautiful flowers
- Cato Corner for cheese
Originally from Westchester County, New York, Dawn met her husband, Wally, in Providence, Rhode Island. They started their family in Washington, DC where they lived for 16 years. When they were first married, they agreed to live where they needed to for Wally’s career. After 16 years, they were ready for a change.
When they decided to move back to the Northeast, they were looking for a supportive, tight-knit community and chose East Lyme for its award-winning school system. It was a move that was everything they hoped for and more. Their children, Ellie & Hunter, are now college graduates and say they were very well prepared for higher education.
Dawn says the Niantic community has been nothing short of amazing. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the restaurant never closed its doors. During the weekend of March 14, La Belle Aurore had a community dinner at the restaurant. Though they knew something was happening, at that point they couldn’t have known the significant impact the Covid-19 virus would have on their business in the coming months. By March 18, Dawn realized she needed to take immediate action to set up an online ordering system. This decision proved to be invaluable for their restaurant’s survival throughout the pandemic.
Just before the pandemic, they had purchased a merchandiser cooler and started to offer Grab & Go, prepared meals folks could pick up to enjoy at home. They were looking for a nice way to get through the winter months. The cooler turned out to be a lifesaver when they had to close their doors to onsite dining, because it facilitated contactless pick-up.
They are grateful for new customers and to regular customers who never skipped a beat in their support. They have customers who are now buying a week’s worth of dinners every week. Some order every other day, dinners once a week, a cheese platter or a dessert every other week. It all means so much to Dawn and her family.
Grab & Go favorites include chicken pot pie, pulled pork, Korean barbeque style meatballs and vegetarian chili. Cookies, pies and soups are also available and very popular.
Unique dinner specials include duck breast, shrimp with shitake mushrooms, rice and bok choy, crab cakes, mussels in white wine, butter and garlic – and so much more!
La Belle Aurore is a family affair. This spring, Dawn’s children helped deliver Easter Brunch. Her son dressed as the Easter Bunny, while her daughter drove him from one delivery to the next. They were such a hit with young families when we needed normalcy more than anything. Hunter continues to work at the restaurant and provides Dawn the much-needed support she needs to navigate the business through these unprecedented times. Ellie has moved to Philadelphia to pursue her doctorate in clinical psychology.
Currently, they offer take-out for pick-up or delivery curbside or directly to your home.
With no end in sight to take-out and delivery only, and with no entry to most of Europe, La Belle Aurore is taking you on a culinary holiday right here at home. Each weekend, a full-course meal representing a different country or region is offered. The date night kit includes a traditional meal for two and breakfast for the next morning – all delivered to your front door. Countries visited so far have included Sicily, Portugal and Spain. Order online early and enjoy a special evening!
Reinventing their business has been challenging, and not without bumps in its execution. Dawn and her family would like to thank everyone who has continued to support them during the pandemic. They appreciate your patience, loyalty and generosity of spirit more than you will ever know.
If we are faced with another lockdown this fall, La Belle Aurore is ready. They hope to continue serving the community with creative retail offerings. This month, filled with emotion, they took some time to redecorate their dining room for fall. Though so much is still uncertain, La Belle Aurore is choosing hope. And, Dawn, we are choosing hope right along with you!
Please visit La Belle Aurore’s website and follow them on social media for up-to-the-minute menus, hours and more information.
La Belle Aurore
75 Pennsylvania Avenue, Niantic, CT
Wednesday through Friday: 1pm-7pm
Sunday: 8am-2pm (brunch delivery begins 9am)
About Our Main Street Blogger:
Joanne lives in, and loves, our community. She was looking for an opportunity to help share all that our local businesses do to make East Lyme such a special place to call home, and she is excited to contribute to our blog. Joanne brings to the role her experience from New London Main Street where she contributed content to their website, newsletters and email communications for many years.