Boathouse Restaurant: Saugatuck Secret Slips Out

It’s one of those enduring urban — okay, suburban — myths: The restaurant at Saugatuck Rowing Club is private. It’s for members only, but if you go there they’ll (wink, wink) serve you.

Once upon a time, that was semi-true. The restaurant was private, but signing in made you a member for the day.

Now it’s totally false. The Boathouse at Saugatuck is a full-fledged, legit, open-to-the-public restaurant.

And a great one.

With indoor and outside (enclosed in winter) seating, and a spectacular setting — overlooking the Saugatuck River — the Boathouse is one more in a long list of excellent dining options in the neighborhood that has become Westport’s dining hotbed.

Plenty of windows offer a view of the Saugatuck River -- including rowers from the club.

Plenty of windows offer views of the Saugatuck River — including rowers.

Several months ago, says manager and event planner Nancy Burke, the Boathouse added needed parking spots and changed their liquor license, to become an actual restaurant. They can now advertise, and market themselves to the public.

Word is getting out. Executive chef Paul Scoran — formerly of Paci in Fairfield — focuses on innovative American cuisine. There’s plenty of local fish, with other selections too. (I had a really interesting pasta dish, with lobster, shrimp and crab.) The menu changes seasonally. Full catering services are also available.

Westporters may still be confused by the relationship between the restaurant and rowing club. They share a building — and from the dining room you can watch rowers work out in the gym — but they’re 2 separate entities. Both, however, are owned by the same man: Howard Winklevoss, a Greenwich businessman perhaps better known as the father of Tyler and Cameron, twin Olympic rowers/litigants who claim Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea to create Facebook.

There's indoor dining on the 2nd floor (left), and outdoor dining on the deck (enclosed in winter). The bottom floor -- and part of the 2nd -- is devoted to rowing.

There’s indoor dining on the 2nd floor (left), and outdoor dining on the deck (enclosed in winter). The bottom floor — and the right side of the 2nd — is devoted to rowing.

Winklevoss’ Saugatuck Rowing Club helped jump start the revitalization of Saugatuck. Now his restaurant will draw even more folks to the neighborhood.

But although the Boathouse is relatively new — at least as a public venue — it is in some ways part of the “old” Saugatuck.

One of the waiters is Frank DeMace. His grandfather — Tiger DeMace — was the longtime owner of a restaurant that for decades had quite a name of its own: Mario’s.



14 responses to “Boathouse Restaurant: Saugatuck Secret Slips Out

  1. Joyce Barnhart

    It’s a beautiful spot with good service. The food is delicious, but expensive and portions are very small – not “good value for the money”. It can be a nice experience if you’re not hungry.

  2. During the first taste of Saugatuck, they served this life changing (for me) watermelon salsa or salad that I still dream about. I cannot WAIT to try this restaurant soon. Thanks Dan!

  3. Ditto Joyce’s comment.

  4. Dan, it would help The Boathouse’s case if we knew more specifically when the current management team began, as the one installed in 2013 was very disappointing. I remember most vividly the greasy, overcooked hamburgers they served up at member barbecues – at something like $45 a head. I sure hope Howard has finally got this thing working; he’s gone through probably half a dozen restaurant teams to date.

  5. My mom was a member there after it first opened. It became her fave place to dine with family and friends. The food was ok, small portions, first time I ever had golden beets sliced in a salad. We usually ate out on the deck…warm memories of skulls floating up to the dock at sunset.

  6. Wow, this is a tough crowd. We’ve eaten there several times in the past year and a half: typically lunch on the patio. Obviously we were satisfied customers to have gone back several times. As for the portion sizes, I know I have brought home part of a pasta dish on more than one occasion.

    PS–my mom ate there and liked it very much as well; and she lives in the city.

  7. Great place to the point the Chamber of Commerce is holding their Holiday Business After Hours Mixer there.

    Never been or interested in meeting the Westport business community, come Tuesday Dec 6 5:30 – 7:30PM. 70 plus have already registered.

    Go to to register.

  8. Correction on link to register….

  9. The Boathouse is terrific. Very cozy and quiet for dinner and you simply can’t beat the setting.

    Westporters should know that the Saugatuck Rowing Club is one of the few organizations in town that actually uses the Saugatuck River – that’s its lifeblood. If the State of Connecticut gets its way and replaces the iconic Saugatuck Swing Bridge with its 40 million dollar concrete deathstar you can kiss the club and the Boathouse goodbye.

    I really hope that new Saugatuck Master Plan Committee will summon the courage to take a preservation friendly leadership position on this as the community has already come out in droves telling DOT to get lost.

  10. Rowing provides a social community, rowing encompasses many basic philosophies of life such as discipline, teamwork, the process needed to gain success, accomplishment.
    Is the Rowing Club really at risk? If so, where could it move to?

    • The rowing club is indeed at risk.

      But around here we don’t just run up the white flag when some clueless state agency stumbles in looking for a place to waste money and spread misery. We fight back – whether it’s a nuclear power plant or a stealth I-95 bypass (which this would be).

      At the last public hearing regarding the matter of the bridge, the CT Department of Transportation was buried under a mountain of withering public criticism. The people have clearly spoken: we want the bridge properly restored and cared for, not pimped out with faddish nonsense designed to appeal to this group or that, not altered to allow speeding tractor trailers and not replaced with an industrial scale span that would be the traffic equivalent of a fire hose in your living room.

      • Werner Liepolt

        The rowing club would not likely survive a prolonged bridge construction period.
        As it is perhaps the preeminent youth and masters rowing organization in the nation this would be a tragedy.