Category Archives: Restaurants

After Restaurant Week, Time To Get Fit

Restaurant Week — the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s promotion of all things culinary — ends Sunday.

If you think the Chamber will celebrate the successful event with a cocktail or two, think again.

The next day — Monday, October 19 — they’ll sponsor Fitness Week.

It’s “an opportunity to learn about and set new health and wellness goals, and for participating businesses to help you achieve them.”

Aka, “work those pounds off, gluttons.”

Companies will offer free and discounted classes and memberships. There are seminars and a fair too.

Plus — why not go whole hog? — public exercise sessions.

JoyRide is one of the participants in the upcoming Fitness Week.

JoyRide is one of the participants in the upcoming Fitness Week.

The specifics:

  • Fitness Fair and Seminar (Monday, Oct. 19, 7-9 p.m., Westport Library): All participating businesses will showcase their products and special offers.
  • Qi Gong classes (Wednesday, Oct. 21, 12 p.m., Westport Historical Society): Sue Gold runs 2 free 30-minute sessions.
  • Westport Farmers Market (Thursday, Oct. 22, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Imperial Avenue parking lot): Businesses offer demonstrations of equipment, analyses of muscle mass and flexibility, and fitness education opportunities.

It all starts Monday. So you’ve still got a few days to chow down.

(For more information — and a list of participating businesses — click here.)

Starbucks Solves Parking Problem!

Starbucks — the wildly popular coffee place near the diner, with the crazily limited parking lot — has come up with a creative solution to that problem.

They’re moving.

From here...

From here…

Word on the street Post Road has Starbucks moving a couple hundred yards east, to Arby’s. That’s the fast-food place next to Bank of America that no Westporter has ever set foot in.

Starbucks will gain more parking spaces. Plus a drive-through.

... to there.

… to there.

The good news: There will be no more parking issues at Starbucks.

The bad news:  This will be a serious blow to “06880.”

The good news:  There are plenty more places — and Westport drivers — to pick on.

Write Yourself Free — For Free!

It’s not just restaurants and small business that fight to survive in Westport.

Write Yourself Free — a local writing workshop — is having a tough time too.

Tucked away in Colonial Green next to Le Farm, it’s a comfy place to hone your craft, hear speakers, meet like-minded folks and feel part of a writing community.

But that doesn’t always pay the bills.

“There’s been a contraction in the economy of the creative arts, as well as of the mom-and-pops who serve the committed community of Westport,” says Tish Fried, the writing workshop’s director.

“And it’s always a fight for recognition without an advertising budget, in an increasingly busy town.”

Write Yourself FreeFried calls her center “a victim of our success. Many students who started out years ago with us have ‘graduated.’ They’re moving their projects into the marketplace.” That’s led to empty spots in seminars — which are limited to 6 students per class. (And at least 1 of those spots is always a scholarship.)

Write Yourself Free hopes to gain some attention with a free “Mini-Workshop Week.” Starting Tuesday (September 15), it’s a chance to meet some of the top teachers, and sample classes in areas like creative writing, memoirs and children’s books.

“We’re on the lookout for our next crop of star pupils,” Fried says. “I’m always trying to convince people to slow down, and give themselves a few creative hours a week.”

Feel creative? Check out the workshops here. For more information, email, or call 203-557-4614.

Slicing Through Saugatuck

You never realize how many restaurants are in Saugatuck — until they start giving away free* food.

Viva’s, Julian’s, Rizzuto’s, Tutti’s; the Whelk, the Duck, Rainbow Thai and Tarry Lodge — all those and more handed out their specialties at today’s Slice of Saugatuck.

Add in Saugatuck Sweets, Garelick & Herbs, Craft Butchery — plus Dunkin’ Donuts and the Mobil Mini-Mart — and it’s a good thing there was lots of walking.

Today’s Slice also featured musical bands of kids and kids-at-heart; a steel band and calypso band (different spots); a bouncy house, and much more.

The only party poopers were a couple of restaurants that opted not to participate. And the private parking lot across from Dunville’s was completely closed, even though most tenants have fled.

That’s okay. We can deal. And if you’re reading this before 3 p.m. Saturday, stop! You’ve still got time for the Slice. It runs until then.

PS: Bands play at Luciano Park until 5.

*With the purchase of a $10 ticket.

Tutti's went all out -- and had some of the longest lines.

Tutti’s went all out to offer great food.

The band Forester traveled from Bethany to play.

The band Forester traveled from Bethany to play on the plaza.

What kid doesn't like getting in a fire truck?

What kid doesn’t like getting in a fire truck?

Harvest does not take over the old Mario's spot until late October. But they were at the Slice of Saugatuck too.

Harvest does not take over the old Mario’s spot until late October. But they were at the Slice of Saugatuck too.

Downunder offers kayak rides. The boat cruising up the Saugatuck River may or may not have been part of the Slice.

Downunder offers kayak rides. The boat cruising up the Saugatuck River may or may not have been heading to the Slice.

Tarry Lodge was big on desserts.

Tarry Lodge was big on faro salad.

A young visitors checks off every restaurant she visited.

A young visitor checks off every restaurant she visited.

Welcome To Saugatuck?

Saugatuck’s renaissance has breathed new life into an old neighborhood.

But to enjoy it — coming off I-95 Exit 17 — you first have to drive past this:

Joanne Romano 3

And this:

Joanne Romano 2

And this:

(Photos/Joanne Romano)

(Photos/Joanne Romano)

The abandoned buildings — Blu Parrot and TD Bank — hardly provide a great first impression of the area.

Westport has a blight ordinance — plus a blight prevention board and blight officer.

It applies to commercial property, as well as residences.

Enough said.

Coffee 101

Alert “06880” photographer Lynn U. Miller spotted this sign yesterday, outside SoNo Baking Company downtown:

SoNo Bakery - Lynn U Miller

To which we can only add that famous soccer cheer, heard worldwide:

Au lait! Au lait au lait au lait…!

From Brooklyn To Westport: Life In A Changing “Hometown”

Antonia Landgraf was born and raised in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It was a tight-knit Italian neighborhood — like long-ago Saugatuck, perhaps — and she loved it.

Her grandfather — born on the same block — was a mailman. Her grandmother worked in a school cafeteria.

Her parents worked for the government. They lived on the bottom 2 floors of a brownstone, and rented out the rest.

In the mid-1980s, yuppies began to move in. Bodegas and religious artifact stores gave way to crêperies, boutiques and bars.

“The good part was there were nice restaurants and shops. Not everything was a chain,” Antonia recalls.


A “Farmacy” has probably replaced a pharmacy in Carroll Gardens.

Real estate prices rose. Some renters were priced out. Antonia’s parents and grandparents owned their property, and benefited.

Many of her friends stayed in Carroll Gardens. On Facebook, she reads their comments about the changes.

“It’s not like the days when everyone knew everyone,” she says. “That’s ironic, because the first people who came did it because it was a great Italian-American neighborhood, with everyone sitting out on their stoops.”

The oldtimers-versus-newcomers debate is not confined to Carroll Gardens. It echoes in many places — including Westport. Which is where, since 2013, Antonia and her husband have lived.

They moved first to New Jersey, in 2002, because they could no longer afford Brooklyn. Then they had kids. Her husband’s company has an office in Darien. They started looking for bigger, suburban homes.

Antonia and her husband visited Westport on a beautiful September day. The water sparkled under the Bridge Street bridge. Downtown, they walked past the gorgeous Christ & Holy Trinity church, and stopped at the Spotted Horse. “It felt like we were on vacation,” Antonia says.

Moving here has been wonderful. The town is gorgeous. Folks have been welcoming. She could not be happier.

Her 3 sons — the youngest was born here — are busy, and thriving. On the day we talked earlier this summer, one was collecting crabs on Burying Hill Beach. Another was at sports camp. This is their home town.

Antonia's boys have discovered the magic of Burying Hill Beach.

Antonia’s boys have discovered the magic of Burying Hill Beach.

Antonia sees parallels between Carroll Gardens and Westport. Both places are changing. Some longtime residents resent what’s happening. Recent arrivals feel the undercurrent. They try to be sensitive — but this is their town too.

“We moved because of the beauty, the downtown, the historical homes,” Antonia says. Some of her new friends are natives. One of them lives in new construction, she laughs.

“We’re new, but we still respect what there is here, and what there was.” Yet, she adds, Westport is always changing. “This used to be onion farms.”

She followed the Red Barn closing on “06880.” “We went there once. We were not impressed. But I understand it was an institution.”

The same thing is happening in Carroll  Gardens. Antonia pointed me to a New York Daily News story about the demise of a beloved restaurant there.

“It’s not just Westport,” she says. “It’s everywhere. If your secret gets out, that’s it.”

So, I wonder, does Antonia have any message for Westporters of every era, seeking to understand what’s going on here today?

“Not everyone who comes here is not uninterested in the town and its past,” she says.

Antonia Landgraf and her husband understand the importance of the Westport Historical Society.

Antonia Landgraf and her husband understand the importance of the Westport Historical Society.

“My husband and I are very much invested in Westport. We want to contribute to the community.

“We’re not just passing through. We’re here for at least the next 16 years, through high school for our youngest. We might stay here after retirement.

“New people come in all the time. They may be different from those who were born here. But don’t assume they don’t respect all that has made the town what it is.”

Pearl Of Longshore: The Sequel

A few days ago, “06880” described the lack of activity at Pearl of Longshore — the restaurant that will eventually replace Splash.

Charlie Haberstroh — who, among many volunteer activities, has been asked by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe to serve as liaison between his office and the restaurant and Inn — reports that the new owners of Pearl are going through a long permitting process. The building is old, with many outstanding issues.

Work is being done now on the basement. The hope is to begin above-ground work soon.

Haberstroh assures Westporters that Pearl will open well before next summer. It will be fully operational in time for a much-needed, and hopefully successful, addition to our town’s waterside dining attractions.

The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant -- and a new patio bar? -- will be open next summer.

The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant — and a new patio bar? — will be open next summer.

A Tale Of 2 Restaurants

Westport’s Splash-less summer is nearing an end. The waterside restaurant at Longshore — and its very popular patio bar — closed last winter.

A new tenant — Pearl of Longshore — is leasing space from the town. But renovations are going slowly.

Very slowly.

As in, making the North Avenue/Merritt Parkway bridge project look like warp speed.

The steps to Splash, and the Inn at Longshore.

The steps to Splash.

Today, for example, no one was working.

The target date of December probably won’t be met.

And if the current pace proceeds, we may be looking at a 2nd Splash-less summer next year.

The scene today inside Splash...

The scene today inside Splash, after the entire summer…

...and outdoors.

…and outdoors.

Meanwhile, a full crew has been hard at work in Saugatuck.

They’re transforming the venerable Mansion Clam House into a very good looking Parker Steak House.

A new look for an old building.

A new look for an old building.

Sheetrocking is set for this week. They seem confident they’ll be done in 2 months.

A full crew working at Parker Steak House.

A full crew working at Parker Steak House.

The new interior features a handsome cathedral ceiling.

The new interior features a handsome cathedral ceiling.

When the workers are done at Parker Steak House, perhaps they can head over the river. A new job is waiting.

Smokin’ The Westport Blues

As a new member of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association 8 years ago, Bob LeRose wanted to make an impact on the area.

LeRose — the “Bobby” of Bobby Q’s restaurant — zeroed in on his 2 passions: barbecue and music.

The result — organized in conjunction with the DMA, 2nd selectman Shelly Kassen, the Westport Library and Levitt Pavilion — was the 1st-ever Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

The name might be a bit clunky — what’s up with “views”? — but it quickly became a fixture of the downtown late-summer scene. Its attraction spread far beyond Westport — kind of like Festival Italiano — but like that Saugatuck celebration of yore, it’s still ours.

Westport's Emergency Medical Services staff participated in last yeear's hotly contested barbecue competition.

Westport’s Emergency Medical Services staff participated in last year’s hotly contested barbecue competition.

The 8th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival is set for Labor Day weekend (September 5 and 6) at the Levitt Pavilion and library and Imperial Avenue parking lots.

Once again, there’s kick-ass music (including Westport’s own Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Mark Naftalin); cooking demonstrations by top local chefs (including Da Pietro’s, Vespa and of course Bobby Q’s); rib- and pie-eating contests; bull riding; a drum circle; kids’ activities (from bounce houses to face painting), and the very popular Kansas City Barbeque Society competition.

The Levitt Pavilion is the perfect spot to hear great, get-up-and-move blues. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The Levitt Pavilion is the perfect spot to hear great, get-up-and-move blues. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

A specialty food court is filled with wood-fired, grilled and roasted meats, and handcrafted beer.

New this year: a “People’s Choice Wing Contest.” Whole Foods is donating the goods.

I’ve heard a few snarky comments about the price (tickets range from $30 for Sunday bought in advance, to $85 for a two-day pass bought onsite). Children under 12 are free with a paying adult.

But the event sells out. And plenty of out-of-towners seem thrilled to be there.

This couple was VERY happy to be at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

This couple was VERY happy to be at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

More importantly, it’s a way for the DMA to continue their great job of keeping downtown attractive and lively; promoting commerce, culture and community, and bringing something unique and fun to the area.

The DMA uses its funds to improve downtown. They also support other organizations like the Westport Woman’s Club, Rotary, Levitt, Library and First Night.

The Blues, Views & BBQ Festival does not fall out of the sky. It costs money to produce. There are bands and police to hire, port-a-potties and fencing to pay for, signs and programs to produce, tents to erect, and clean-up to be done.

Oh, yeah: rental for the Levitt too. (Plus sound guys, lighting guys, and ribs for the bands.)

Vegans are welcome at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. But meat-lovers will have an especially great time.

Vegans are welcome at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. But meat-lovers will have an especially great time.

It’s all worth it. As Bobby LeRose says, “Thousands of people support this event each year. We get support from everyone. We see smiles all around. People are so happy with the music, food, activities and sense of community.

“You just don’t see this caliber of talent on one stage for the price we charge this close to home, in our beautiful and intimate Levitt Pavilion.”

Westport was recently named one of Connecticut’s 10 Most Boring Towns. Any of the thousands of happy folks who ever heard 2 days of fantastic music, scarfed down ribs, ridden a bull or done anything else fun at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival would beg to differ.

(The 8th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival is set for Saturday, September 5 [11 a.m.-10 p.m.] and Sunday, September 6 [11 a.m.-9 p.m.] For ticket options, daily schedule, and entry forms for the eating and BBQ competitions, click on