Westport’s Restaurant Scene: What Will Winter Bring?

This week, Merri Mueller posed a great question on Facebook’s Westport Front Porch group: Where to dine outdoors in Westport? It’s getting cooler, she said — but she is not yet comfortable going indoors.

Suggestions poured in:

Pene e Bene. Rive Bistro. Pearl at Longshore. The Boathouse at Saugatuck Rowing Club. Little Barn. Harvest. Manna Toast. Walrus Alley. Tarantino. The Cottage. Rizzuto’s (where you can request heaters — and they’ll close your private tent flaps).

I’m sure there are more. I’m also sure that “06880” readers will add them in the Comments section below.

Rizzuto’s has always offered outdoor dining. There are more tables now.

But Merri’s query — and the responses — sparked an idea for more crowdsourcing here.

What else can Westport restaurant owners do for their customers, over the next few months?

The coronavirus will not go away. The holidays will be here before we know it. The weather will be much colder.

The speed, creativity and hospitality with which so many restaurants pivoted this spring and summer was impressive. With new delivery services, curbside pick-up, takeout and outdoor tables, they turned what could have been a disaster into an almost robust dining scene.

The next few months will be crucial for their bottom lines. With winter looming, it won’t be easy.

“06880” is here to help. Let’s hear readers’ creative ideas of what they’d like to see — outdoors and inside — at our many restaurants (and any other place that sells food).

You can be specific (mentioning one or two spots) or general.

So chew on this. Then click “Comments” below.

Church Lane, this summer. How can restaurants adapt this winter?

21 responses to “Westport’s Restaurant Scene: What Will Winter Bring?

  1. Closing Church Lane was amazing, and showed us all how much we actually love outdoor dining…To the winter…as a town our PZ and restaurants need to be “creative” with heaters, tents, and creative take out options to keep families interested. Let’s face it, this will be our first “Covid Winter” and there are so many unknowns still with this virus. As a community, we have worked so well together to “mask up” and treat this virus with respect. I wish we had a concrete answer for all businesses going into winter who have been devastated by this virus.

    • I don’t understand the health benefit of dining outdoors in an enclosed tent, vs indoors.

      • It can work if each tent is equipped with its own ventilation system.
        An exhaust fan on the top continuously pulling the internal air up and out of the tent.

  2. It would be great to have restaurant owners reply with their “wish lists.”

  3. Jonas Nilsson

    Agreed on “wish list” comment but part of it is finding ways to advertise … remind everyone to keep supporting our restaurants with take-out as well. Someone started the site Ourtowncrier which is great but it’s not on the top of google searches so doesn’t feature all the restaurants prominently enough unless you know how to get there.

  4. Family meal deals have been very appealing. Some places offer it, some not. Those that do seem to get more buzz on social media with patrons posting photos of their mouth watering catch purchased at a more affordable price to be able do on a regular basis.

  5. Maybe more indoor heaters so windows can be open. One things that has been constant, is that air ventilation is key. Always have a fan blowing out the one window and another blowing in. 🤷‍♀️

  6. We dine out a lot, but will not be dining indoors anytime soon. Can’t wait for a Fall/Winter dining experience more akin to Europe. Some restaurants have embraced this change realistically and others have done so begrudgingly. For example, you can tell who takes it seriously and allows reservations for outdoor specific tables, while others leave it to chance or try to have you dine indoors on arrival. It is a shame seeing some former favorites stubbornly refuse to adapt, but it has also allowed us to find some new favorites.

  7. Beth Berkowitz

    I think that they are going to have to do something about their ventilation systems and put up plexiglass barriers between tables inside and still have the tables spread out indoors unfortunately. They will need to market that they have taken these precautions so that people can feel comfortable going indoors to eat as there will be lots of people who will still want to go out to eat this winter. I’m not sure how safe it is to have a tent with a heater inside the tent. I guess the fire marshal would need to make their recommendations regarding that. I’m sure that others will have more creative ideas than mine. The big issue is ventilation since it will be indoors and lots of people sharing same space without masks. Maybe require masks between courses and when waiting for checks? However, many people will find that uncomfortable. I have to say that I’m most comfortable when the waitstaff and bus people don’t linger at the table chatting. Also, I have seen many wait staff and bus people and even kitchen staff and hosts only partially wearing their masks. Often they let the mask slide down below their noses (probably some don’t even realize it) but it makes people (customers) nervous about what else they may be lax about when we can’t see them.

  8. Christine Meiers Schatz

    Here’s my suggestion for at-home cooking tutorials: A restaurant could sell a package that includes the following:

    (1) An online video explaining how to make an appetizer and entree;

    (2) A kit of the food needed to make the entree along with a dessert, or a lower priced kit with just the shopping list; and

    (3) A list of wines to pair with each course, which would be made in partnership with a local wine shop where each wine can be purchased as a package, possibly even for a slight discount

    Even before COVID-19 we didn’t eat out or get take out very often, but I would purchase something like this regularly if it was fairly priced!

  9. Beth Berkowitz

    The suggestion of packaging a meal to pick up and make yourself would be awesome especially if all the ingredients were included in the package along with a tutorial for making it. It would certainly help those of us that are bored making and eating the same things constantly and to not have to shop for all the ingredients separately or hope I had everything I needed already in the house before starting to make the dinner would be ideal. Pricing will be important though, as many people don’t go out to eat that often because it could end up costing too much, but being able to cook it at home with enough for leftovers or making a batch for 4 people when there are only two of you would be great if you could freeze half for a meal another time when you only have time to heat it up.

  10. As my husband and I are in the “over 65 group,” we haven’t dined out since the pandemic began. But we do a lot of takeout. Right now, I’m wondering about Thanksgiving. It will be just the two of us this year, and I really don’t want to cook even a small turkey. Will restaurants be offering takeout Thanksgiving dinners? Christine and Beth’s suggestions above would work very well, too.

  11. If you’re ordering out from a restaurant, recognize that delivery services ie uber eats/door dash etc. deprive restaurants their profit on your orders. They charge restaurants upwards of 30% of their bill (then charge you, the customer, on top of that!). Protect your restaurants’ profit and either pick up the food yourself (unless restaurant has their own delivery staff)

  12. My husband and I have been cooking and eating meals together with our daughter and son-in-law long-distance. We plan a meal together and shop for the ingredients, then set up a Zoom call to cook together and eat together. Maybe restaurants could offer Zoom cooking lessons that way for groups of a few families at a time. It could be families that know each other, or ones that don’t. The restaurant can have the ingredients packaged for pick up the day of the group cooking class.

  13. I hate the idea of masked servers waiting on me while I sit there eating and relaxing and breathing all over them. I wish there were a way to have servers fulfill other tasks (delivery? taking phone orders, so we could ask questions and make special requests?) for the same wage/tips they get serving.

  14. Barcelona in Norwalk has a wonderful eat-in app whereby you place orders as you desire – charcuterie, sangria, tapas, crepas…you get the idea. Quick drop off by servers & with credit card in app there is no waiting for the check. Software is brilliant!

  15. Beth Berkowitz

    I’m thinking there is software for restaurants to use to keep their employees safer from their customers too. You can give everyone a QR code that wants to dine in their establishment and then have each table set up with a wry code so when they use their phone to check in at the table the menu comes up and people can order that way and then the wait staff only has to come over to deliver the orders and the check is online too and you can have contactless check outs and then the bus people only have to swing by to pick up empty dishes between courses and after people leave limiting their exposure too. If patrons are required to keep their masks on until their food arrives it also will protect everyone else as well better.

  16. As usual, 06880 delivers! An amazing forum for an amazing community!
    So many restaurants have adapted brilliantly as mentioned and they continue to improve as we continue to navigate this pandemic…As always,
    tipping generously on indoor/outdoor/takeout will be helpful but perhaps everyone needs to tack on a Covid19 5% fee to their total invoice to help mitigate the extra costs of equipment, PPE, buildouts and the like. We are implementing this at Dream Spa & Salon as a measure to help sustain during this challenging time and our hope is that the general public will understand and support all of these small businesses who are also ON THE FRONT LINES! So many of us are in the business of selling time and once that time passes, there is no revenue to cover the overhead etc…people need to continue to be mindful of that and respect those who provide essential services and products in the 06880 and beyond!

  17. How about supporting grocery stores and actually cooking at home !!!

  18. What about providing (clean) blankets with outdoor seating? I’ve seen heat lamps already. Those plus blankets might make it doable?

  19. April Rose Link

    Any news on Fortunas Deli?