Category Archives: Restaurants

Redding Roadhouse Blues

Nearly 2 years ago, “06880” meandered north — up Route 53, past Devil’s Den  and the Saugatuck Reservoir — for a story on the Redding Roadhouse.

Staples grads Colleen Cook Stonbely and Wirt Cook were 2 of the 4 new owners. The others were Wirt’s wife Karen, and Colleen’s husband Ted (who would have been a Stapleite, had he not been shipped off to the Gunnery).

The proud owners of the Redding Roadhouse (from left): Ted Stonbely, Colleen Cook Stonbely, Karen Cook and Wirt Cook.

The proud owners of the Redding Roadhouse (from left): Ted Stonbely, Colleen Cook Stonbely, Karen Cook and Wirt Cook.

The quartet had big plans. The place definitely rocked, with music from local favorites (and owners’ friends) Dylan Connor, Mark Mollica and Merritt Jacob. 

But this Saturday night (May 14) marks the end of the Roadhouse. Today, the owners announced that they have been unsuccessful in negotiating a lease with their landlords.

“The unfortunate results,” the Roadhouse team wrote, “are the closure of a small business, the demise of an iconic restaurant and Redding landmark, and, most importantly, the loss of 30 jobs.”

The Redding Roadhouse

The Redding Roadhouse

The owners worked closely with the community, partnering with the Mark Twain Library, local schools and other organizations. They raised money for good causes, and bought from local farms and artisan businesses.

They’ll open at 4 p.m. for the rest of the week for a less-than-happy Happy Hour. When they close, remaining inventory will be donated to the Connecticut Food Bank and other area pantries.

Westport’s Dylan Connor plays his final gig on Saturday.

It’s a sad day for Redding, the Roadhouse — and the 4 great owners. But you can’t keep good young folks down. They’ll be heard from again.

Selfishly, I hope their next venture is right here in their hometown.

 

 

Last Call For The Bar Car

For decades, it’s been an enduring image of suburbia.

The business executive lingers over a 3-martini lunch. Later, he (it’s always a man) boards the train to Connecticut, heading straight to the bar car. In Westport he steps off the platform and rolls into Mario’s.

You can still order 3 martinis at lunch (unless you have a job). Mario’s will be here forever (we hope).

But — as of Friday — the bar car is gone. It’s joined the coal car and steam engine in that great switchyard in the sky.

Bar cars in 1968 (left) and 2010. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

Bar cars in 1968 (left) and 2010. (Photos courtesy of the New York Times)

Metro-North‘s bar car — part of the commuting experience since the 1930s — fell victim to (of course) progress. Their design was incompatible with the railroad’s new M-8 cars, which have gone into service at the same time Metro-North has done 2 things previously believed impossible: take longer, and be less reliable.

Yesterday’s New York Times assured readers (and riders) that drinks will still be available at Grand Central, via carts near the tracks.

“It’s a rebranding,” said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan. He’s a Staples grad (Class of 1994), so he may or may not have 1st-hand knowledge of the bar car.

But tens of thousands of Westport commuters do. Click “Comments” to share your memories. Due to the what-happens-in-the-bar-car-stays-in-the-bar-car nature of this topic, we’ll allow anonymous comments just this once.

Lunch Box Soon To Be Empty

Sure, this is “06880.” But occasionally we wander up to 06883. Westport and Weston are pretty closely connected — especially at a place like the Lunch Box, in Weston Center.

But after today, that connection will end.

Alert reader Sarah Gross says this is the last day of the popular restaurant. It closes tomorrow, for 5 weeks.

Then a new owner takes over — and turns it into a new place. No one knows if the employees — many of whom worked there since colonial times (just kidding) (sort of) — will have jobs when it reopens, as something new.

Sarah is one of its many heartbroken customers. She just brought the devastated crew daffodils from her garden.

That brought a few smiles. Otherwise, today’s mood at the Lunch Box is as gloomy as the weather.

The Lunch Box.

The Lunch Box.

 

CLASP Offers A True Taste Of Westport

The 10th annual “Taste of Westport” is Thursday, May 1 (6-9 p.m., Westport Inn).

Taste of WestportMost of us have seen the signs and publicity. We’ve heard of the fantastic samplings and tastings from over 2 dozen restaurants and distributors, including Blue Lemon, Bobby Q’s, DaPietro’s, Green’s Farms Spirit Shop, Little Barn, Matsu Sushi, Pane e Bene, Post 154, Rizzuto’s, Spotted Horse and Tarantino.

We realize it’s one of our town’s most popular fundraisers. But most of us know very little about the organization Taste of Westport supports: CLASP Homes.

A true hidden gem, CLASP provides group homes for local residents with autism and other intellectual disabilities. Since 1982, the non-profit has housed hundreds of people — our neighbors — who need a bit of extra help to get along.

This year’s Taste of Westport honors Tracy Flood. The native Westporter joined CLASP just 2 years after it began. Her many fans will celebrate her 3 decades of service on Thursday.

Martha is a resident of one of the CLASP Homes. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

Martha is a resident of one of the CLASP Homes. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

But CLASP — and Taste of Westport — is not really about its incredible staff and volunteers. It’s about people like Neal.

Neal — who has an intellectual disability — was born in Westport, into a large and loving family. Tracy is a few years older than Neal, but  throughout the 1960s and ’70s they walked  the same streets around town.

Neal — the youngest of 6 kids — was always out with his siblings or his dad, who made sure to include Neal in everything everyone else did. He and Tracy both played in the Compo Beach sand, ran through the Staples halls and hung out at the Ice Cream Parlor.

By the mid-1980’s Tracy was a CLASP house manager, and Neal’s family took the big step moving him into a group home. It was not the one Tracy led, but she got to know Neal’s dad. Whenever anyone needed a volunteer, a worker or friend, he was there.

Years passed. Neal’s siblings moved away. His mom died. But Neal and his dad still went out for bagels every Sunday morning. Neal insisted on paying. It made them both very proud.

CLASP logoThen his father was diagnosed with cancer. It spread rapidly. Neal did what he could for his dad. When asked what CLASP could do, the father said, “Pray, and take care of Neal.” He wanted to know that his son would be taken care of. He wanted to die in peace.

That was years ago. But Neal is still with CLASP. The organization has given peace to Neal’s family — the same thing they’ve done for over 3o years, for countless local families.

Yet CLASP can’t do it alone. The Taste of Westport is one way they raise awareness — and funds.

There are plenty of places to have dinner this Thursday. But only one will give you a true — and wonderful — taste of Westport.

(For tickets to the Taste of Westport — and more information about CLASP — click here.)

Matt is also a CLASP Homes resident. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

Matt is also a CLASP Homes resident. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

This Is Literally A Scoop

Saugatuck Sweets has its official, grand opening, ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, May 3 (12 noon).

What? You heard rumors already? What makes this a “scoop”?

Well, Saugatuck Sweets is that neighborhood’s newest (and only) ice cream shop.

Sure, they also sell high-quality desserts, yogurt and great candy. But you can’t make those into clever headlines.

Saugatuck Center is Westport’s hot new neighborhood. Ice cream from Saugatuck Sweets will be the perfect way to chill.

(Saugatuck Sweets is located in the former Craft Butchery on Riverside Avenue, next to The Whelk restaurant.)

Saugatuck Sweets

 

Say Cheese!

Westport’s long wait for gourmet grilled cheese has ended.

The Grilled Cheese Eatery — the Westport branch of a Fairfield restaurant that opened last October — is serving up 15 varieties of the childhood favorite. Though none are anything like your mother made.

The menu includes “The Smoky” (smoked Gouda, Muenster, baby back ribs, pickles, caramelized onions on sour dough), “The Gardener” (goat cheese, Fontina, 5 grilled vegetables, basil, olives on 9-grain) and “The Chesapeake” (crab cake, roasted peppers, Panko crisp, dill Havarti on English muffin). Not a squirt of Velveeta anywhere.

The menu includes grilled cheese with ribs and caramelized onions.

The menu includes grilled cheese with ribs and caramelized onions.

There are 3 types of specialty fries (rosemary-parmesan, feta-oregano and Gruyere-truffle oil); several soups, and a create-your-own salad with over 40 ingredients.

All sandwiches can be ordered on gluten-free bread. At least 2 soups a day are dairy- and gluten-free. Even the French onion soup is vegan.

The Grilled Cheese Eatery is open 7 days a week (11 a.m.-7 p.m.). Delivery will be available soon.

It’s on the ground floor of the strip mall vacated this winter by Great Cakes and Target Training, next to the abandoned Citgo station.

How nice to see a little life coming back to this area. And — amazingly — the new place is neither a bank nor a nail salon.

Bobby Q To The Rescue

Laura Oestreicher Rikon is a 2008 Staples grad. She lives abroad now, but always appreciates returning to her hometown.

On Saturday night, she and a friend had dinner at Bobby Q’s. They enjoyed their meal — but later, Laura realized one of her earrings was missing.

Laura Oestreicher Rikon, and her beloved earrings.

Laura Oestreicher Rikon, and her beloved earrings.

They have great sentimental value — they were the last birthday present Laura’s grandmother gave her.

Laura and her friend searched all over the car, the parking lot and the street. Finding nothing, they returned to Bobby Q’s.

The staff helped her look around the floor, and in the bathroom. But they said they’d already swept up, so her earring might have been thrown away. They suggested she call in the morning. Laura thanked them and left — very disappointed and upset, yet grateful for their help.

But she dawdled on her way out, still  hopeful she’d find the missing jewelry. Once more, she searched the parking lot. Once more, nothing.

About to give up, she saw 2 men running toward her. They yelled, “We found it! We found it!”

They told her they knew how important the earring was to her. So after she left they crawled on the floor, using their phones for light. There it was!

Laura was thrilled to have her earring back — and floored by the kindness of strangers, who went far out of their way to do a good deed.

“Their generosity was so heartwarming, I couldn’t find words to express my gratitude,” she says. “And all they asked in return was that I pay it forward.”

In her excitement, she forgot to get their names. She hopes that telling her story on “06880” is one way of thanking them — and letting Westporters know how special Bobby Q’s is.

Bobby Qs Westport CT

 

 

Java Truly “Open” For Business

Earlier this week, Java — the popular new downtown coffee shop — added a few tables and chairs to its Church Lane patio.

This morning it threw its front windows — who knew they were actually doors? — wide open.

Java doors

Spring arrives in Westport in many ways.

Today it came in a warm Bowl of Soul.

 

Wise Words, From Bob And Judy Rosenkranz

Just over 3 years ago, Bob Rosenkranz retired after a long career as an endodontist on Boston’s North Shore. Married half a century, he and his wife Judy — a former phys ed. teacher — had to decide, “What do we do after we grow up?”

They figured they’d split time between their 2nd house in Vermont, and a gated community in Florida.

Their daughter Robin, son-in-law Matt Leon and 3 grandchildren — Jake, Josh and Jessica — had lived in Westport for nearly a decade. Whenever Bob and Judy visited, they stayed in Norwalk hotels. They’d take the grandkids to the usual dining spots — McDonald’s, Swanky Frank’s — and the tried-and-true recreational areas, like the beach.

Bob and Judy didn’t know much about Westport. But one day, they had dinner — by themselves — at Positano’s. They saw a Richard Dreyfuss performance at the Westport Country Playhouse. The next day, they took the train to New York, and stayed overnight. Both had grown up in Brooklyn. They remembered the city from the 1960s. It had changed dramatically, for the better.

Not the "wise men" Judy and Bob met. These guys don't play tennis.

Not the “wise men” Judy and Bob met. These guys don’t play tennis.

Judy — who played tennis with women 20 years younger at home — and Bob visited the Westport Tennis Club. They saw a bunch of older guys playing — quite well — and heard talk about the “Wise Men.” A man named Otis spent an hour chatting with them. “In Massachusetts, no men play tennis in the morning,” Bob says.

Judy broached the subject with Robin and Matt: How would they feel if she and Bob moved to Westport? The “kids” were all for it.

Judy and Bob talked to a realtor, but weren’t sure what they wanted. A rental? Condo? Nothing felt right.

Through a series of coincidences — including friend-of-a-friend stories — they bought the perfect house, off Partrick Road.

Then things really started to happen.

Bob and Judy found great new friends with older couples. They joined 2 film groups. The Fairfield University extended education program. A book club. A bridge group.

Bob joined the Y’s Men (he now knew how it was spelled). He joined 2 regular tennis games, plus 1 of platform tennis. He plays bocce. He hikes.

These are the "Y's Men." They are a very active group. The only thing they don't do is ride camels.

These are the real “Y’s Men.” They are a very active group. The only thing they don’t do is ride camels.

“I don’t know if these guys are former Fortune 500 CEOs or cobblers,” he says. “It doesn’t matter. They’re great!”

He is inspired by Y’s Men like Kurt Rosenfeld and Gun Moen, who is 87 and still skis, plays bridge and poker, and hits the speed bag.

Judy hooked up with a Manhattan art tour group, led by Westporter Joyce Zimmerman. She got involved with the Y’s Women.

She too plays platform tennis — outdoors, in January. She’s also in 4 other tennis games.

Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.

Bob and Judy Rosenkranz, in a rare quiet moment at home.

The couple dines out often. They love Westport’s restaurants, including Jewish-style delis Gold’s and Oscar’s. (In their previous life, the nearest deli was 35 miles away, in Newton.) They call the choices in supermarkets “phenomenal.”

As for shopping, it’s “fantastic — accessible and easy.”

They show off the library, beach — and many other parts of Westport — to out-of-town friends. They are awed by Staples Players performances, and love the Playhouse (especially the recent Harlem Dancers show).

I should note here that Judy and Bob are 2 of the warmest, most outgoing and funniest people that I have ever met. They also seem to have found a fantastic balance between doing things as a couple, and on their own. Still, their excitement about their new home town is astonishing.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Judy says.

“I don’t have enough hours in the day,” Bob adds. And then he starts describing all the great hiking spots he’s found, like Sherwood Island in the off-season.

Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.

Many longtime Westporters have never been to Sherwood Island State Park. The Rosenkranzes love it.

What’s nice to hear — beyond so many great words about Westport – is that, as Judy says, “people who have been here 30 or 40 years are opening up their lives to new people like us.”

But don’t think the Rosenkranzes spend all their time playing tennis, dining out and going to shows. They’ve cooked dinners for the Gillespie Center, done other volunteer work, and are always on the lookout for ways to give back.

Plus, of course, there are the grandkids. Judy and Bob were “mesmerized” by a recent Long Lots music concert (“there was no dissonance at all — and they had a whole ensemble with steel drums!”), and they are faithful attendees at endless soccer, baseball and lacrosse games.

Nor do they just travel between Westport and New York. They recently returned from a trip to Patagonia. (The region, not the store.)

But Bob and Judy always come back — physically, and during our conversation — to the wonders of their new home town.

“We love it here,” they keep saying.

Almost as much as we love having them here.

 

Turning The Tables

What’s new at Compo? A number of new tables, in the pavilions by Joey’s and the volleyball courts.

These look a lot more user-friendly than the heavy, mess hall-style ones that have seen (many) better years.

Beach benches

So why were they empty?

It was the 1st beautiful Sunday of spring. After the winter we’ve had, no one wanted to be indoors — even at an open-air pavilion.

The beach was packed. I know these tables will get plenty of work, very soon.