We’re spoiled by Joey’s.
The Compo Beach concession stand sells lobster rolls, fish and chips, Boar’s Head cold cuts, portobello mozzarella sandwiches, gelato, souvenir t-shirts, beach chairs — there’s even an ATM machine (though you can run a family tab).
Southport Beach — a couple of miles away, as the seagull flies — has long made do with pre-packaged ice cream and sugary sodas.
Not any more. The food-fueled rivalry between Westport and Fairfield has a new beachhead: the beachfront.
And it’s a trio of Westporters who are making Southport Beach into the culinary place to be.
Hunter King, in his Southport Beach kingdom.
Hunter King graduated from Staples in 2004. His brother Carter followed 2 years later; Parker, 2 years after that.
Last Thanksgiving, they sat talking. They had vague ideas of buying a food truck. An uncle said that Southport Beach was always closed. He figured it was ripe for a new concessionaire.
Hunter talked to the 1st selectman, who referred him to Parks and Recreation. They were in the midst of negotiations for a new 5-year contract. The former concessionaire had run all 4 Fairfield beaches; Southport seemed a bit of an afterthought.
But Hunter liked the scenic location. In addition to beachgoers, there was plenty of vehicular traffic — plus walkers, joggers and bicyclists.
The Kings were always interested in food. Hunter cooked since childhood, and loved growing herbs. He was a waiter, a cook, and took college classes in baking and the culinary arts.
Carter was a sous chef at the Dressing Room, and worked at Rizzuto’s. Parker worked at Tarry Lodge.
The 3 Kings bid on the Southport concession only — and won it.
Immediately, they went to work.
They put in a new kitchen, and insulation. They redid the floor.
Most importantly, they upgraded the menu.
“King’s Kitchen” believes in a farm-to-table concept, with an emphasis on locally organic and sustainable food.
The menu includes fresh lobster rolls, organic burgers and hot dogs, grilled corn with cilantro and jalapeno butter, watermelon and heirloom tomato salad, smoothies and milk shakes.
Since opening May 28, word of mouth has been great. Almost too good, in fact: Sometimes the brothers can’t keep enough goods in stock. (Being 200 square feet does not help.)
“We’ve felt a lot of positive energy,” Hunter says. “We try to be good, honest people. We think if we give something to people, it will come back to us.”
While still ironing out the kinks, the Kings are already looking ahead. They’d like to offer fried oysters on the half shell, with roasted red pepper. Also, a lemon thyme hot dog.
And maybe smoke a pig, for pulled pork sandwiches.
“We’re small,” Hunter says. “But we’ve got big ideas.”
One of those ideas is staying open later. Right now the hours are 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.(ish). “We won’t turn you away if you come while we’re cleaning up,” Hunter says.
They’re supposed to close for the season on September 3. That’s a short window of opportunity, for guys with long-term plans.
“We insulated the building,” Hunter notes.
“Just in case.”