Category Archives: Restaurants

Tuskegee Experiment Comes To Westport

What does the Tuskegee Experiment have to do with Westport?

On the surface, nothing.

But the infamous incident — in which the US Public Health Service and the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, spent 40 years tracking the progression of untreated syphilis in black men — popped up as the name of a cocktail at 323 restaurant.

According to a report on the Eater food blog, “It’s unclear what the cocktail — featuring ‘Myers dark rum, Malibu, pineapple juice, fresh lime, pineapple & jalapeño mash, dash tabasco’ — has to do with this disturbing period in American history.”

Westporter Eric Armour posted a photo of the specialty drink menu — including other names like Sucker Punch, The Queen Bee and The Red October — on social media. He wrote: “Umm. This is ridiculously horrible.”

Yesterday morning, Eater called the Main Street restaurant. A woman said “she removed all of the cocktail menus on Sunday following a customer complaint.”

Eater pledged to get more information on how the drink was named The Tuskegee Experiment in the first place.

I called 323 last night, and asked to speak to a manager about this story. The person answering the phone said, “We’re kind of busy right now.”

(Click here for the full Eater story. Hat tips: Bart Shuldman and William Strittmatter)

Pic Of The Day #482

Gold’s Delicatessen: as classic as Westport gets (Photo/Toby Burns)

Sarah Gross Spreads The Organic Garden Gospel

Westporters know Sarah Gross as the owner of Cabbages & Kings Catering. For over 30 years, the 1970 Staples High School graduate has won hearts (and stomachs) throughout the tri-state area with delicious (and healthy) food.

Two years ago she introduced C&K Community Kitchen. The collaborative community incubator offers affordable, certified, organic, non-GMO commercial kitchen space, rented in 8-hour shifts. 

Sarah has always known the importance of “organic.” But as she studied where her food (and ours) comes from, she realized that’s not enough. “We need to feed our soil, in order to create bionutrient rich food using sustainable regenerative practices,” she says.

She looked around for someone to help transform her own land into a bionutrient organic food forest. “I believe we were sold a bill of goods with the promotion of pristine green lawns,” she says. “The possibility of ending world hunger is sitting right in front of us.”

Through the Westchester chapter of the Bionutrient Food Asssociation, Sarah enlarged her garden, built up her soil, and is adding fruit trees and berry bushes. She’ll feed her family, and donate the rest of her bounty to friends, neighbors, food pantries and other organizations serving people who lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Sarah Gross’ garden.

She is open to sharing her garden with a restaurant or caterer needing land for nutrient-rich organic farming.

The soil in the no-till garden is fed with premium compost from a local purveyor. Worms were added to do their thing, and a drip system installed. It is covered in organic hay mulch, to build the soil for next season. It will be farmed bionutriently.

A pollinator garden on the side will be full of flowers, for bees.

A deer fence and log walls surround the property, to protect the gardens, trees and bushes.

Some of the bounty of Sarah Gross’ garden.

Meanwhile, she is speaking out against the use of harmful practices.

Sarah says that Roundup — banned in California, Canada and Europe — is “evil.” Yet, she notes, plants sold at Home Depot, Walmart and local landscape businesses are riddled with the weed killer.

As Sarah sees the decline of monarch butterflies — victims of Roundup, she says, and notices fewer hummingbirds, she makes a connection.

“With every choice we make, we are voting for thriving or our own demise.” That’s especially true, Sarah says, with food choices. It applies to restaurants as well as home gardeners.

Sarah has partnered with Vic Ziminsky of Let It Grow Landscapes and local master gardener Laura Stabell to offer organic gardening services. They plant and maintain food gardens for clients, encouraging others to make the most of their lawns by growing food that feeds themselves, wildlife and a less fortunate population.

Sarah Gross, Laura Stabel and Vic Ziminsky, in one of their gardens.

In addition, Sarah told the first selectman’s office about organic landscaping classes August 13-16 in New Haven, and November 12-15 in East Hartford. (Click here for information.) The classes are heavily discounted for Connecticut landscapers. She hopes local companies will take advantage of the opportunity — and homeowners too.

“Our choices about how we tend to our property — what we spray on our trees and put on our lawns — affect not only our own land, but the atmosphere and water aquifers of all those around us,” Sarah says.

“Now we have the opportunity to make viable different choices — individually, and as a community.”

When The Cribari Bridge Closes …

Starting Monday, contractors will make emergency nighttime repairs to the William F. Cribari Bridge over the Saugatuck River.

That means closures and detours, from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The tentative schedule calls for 6 weeks of work — weather permitting.

That’s bad news for commuters. And for businesses that depend on bridge traffic for customers: restaurants, bars and Saugatuck Sweets, for example.

So the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce is spreading the word: “The Bridge May be Closed, But Saugatuck is Open!” Miggs Burroughs has donated artwork to help folks realize that despite detours, you can still eat, drink and enjoy all the places that make Saugatuck fun.

Speaking of Saugatuck and the Chamber: The next “Tuesday @ the Train” event is this coming week (August 6, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.). Luciano Park is the spot for music, food, beer, wine and games. All commuters, their families, even the many Westporters who work at home and need a break are welcome!

And speaking of construction that impacts local businesses: I haven’t heard a peep of protest from the shops in Sconset Square. But they must be impacted hugely by the long-running Aquarion project that’s tearing up — and often closing — Myrtle Avenue.

So here’s another reminder: Sconset Square is not closed. Just park on the Post Road, Church Lane, or anywhere else downtown, and walk over for Le Penguin, Bungalow, Bespoke Designs, and all the other places at this popular, but now hard-to-park-at, shopping center.

There’s more than one way to get to Sconset Square. This view is from Church Lane.

Restaurant Churn? Not These!

A recent “06880” photo of the Compo Beach palm tree got an alert — and hungry — reader thinking about lobster rolls.

That reminded her of clam chowder, which made her think of Westfair Fish & Chips. She’s been a fan ever since she was a student at Staples High School, back in the mid-1980s.

The small, unassuming takeout-or-eat-in spot behind the strip mall opposite Stop & Shop has been a Westport favorite for over 30 years. And that got the “06880” reader wondering about other restaurants that have stood the test of time.

Three decades is a great achievement for many things: a career, a marriage. But it’s particularly remarkable in the constant churn that is Westport’s restaurant scene.

She and I came up with a list of places we think have been here for at least 3 decades. They include:

Gold’s. The anchor of Compo Shopping Center since it opened in the late 1950s, and the anchor 6 decades later for anyone who loves a quintessential deli.

Viva Zapata. Probably the oldest continually operating restaurant in town, especially when you consider its predecessor, at the entrance to what is now Playhouse Square.

Westport Pizzeria. Opened in 1968 on Main Street, where it stood proud and unchanging for over 45 years, “Westport Pizza” moved around the corner to the Post Road in 2014. Its special recipe thankfully remains the same.

The Black Duck. A star turn on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” has not changed this waterfront favorite one bit.

(Photo/Chou Chou Merrill)

Dunville’s. Around the corner from the Duck on Saugatuck Avenue, another down-home place that’s the same now as when its present owners grew up here.

Sherwood Diner. Or, simply, “the diner.” It’s no longer open 24/7, but is still the go-to spot for Staples High School seniors, senior citizens, every other human being in Westport, and anyone wandering in off nearby I-95.

(Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Sakura. As steady as she goes. It — and the gorgeous cherry blossom tree outside, which gives the restaurant its name — has been a fixture opposite McDonald’s since the fast-food franchise was Roy Rogers. And before that, Big Top.

Fortuna’s. With limited seating, this is not really a restaurant. But stop quibbling. Its winning formula has filled the stomach of Staples students, Post Road workers and everyone else since the Ford administration.

Coffee An‘. If it’s good enough for Bill Clinton, it’s good enough for the rest of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a president or a peon. The donuts are the same — unbelievable — for all.

Little Kitchen. When it opened on Main Street, it really was a “little kitchen.” Now it’s bigger, and the granddaddy of all Asian fusion places in town.

Da Pietro’s. One of Westport’s best — and smallest — restaurants, earning praise and love since 1987.

(Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Tavern on Main. This cozy 2nd-floor Main Street spot has not been here as long as its predecessor, Chez Pierre — but it’s getting close.

I couldn’t find out for sure when a few other long-lived (though probably less than 3 decades) restaurants opened. But these too have stood the test of time: Tengda. Tarantino’s. Finalmente. Via Sforza. Planet Pizza. Tutti’s. Positano’s (at 2 different locations).

Special mention goes to 2 fantastic delis that offer a wide variety of hot and cold food, and serve as community centers: Elvira’s  and Christie’s Country Store. 

Plus, of course, Joey’s by the Shore. It’s not a restaurant or a deli. But the beach concession occupies its own special. much-loved niche. And if it hasn’t been here for 30 years, it’s at least 29.

Finally, 2 other downtown delis have been around for decades. They’ve changed names, and — particularly with one — substantially updated the interior.

But Rye Ridge (formerly Oscar’s) and Winfield Street Coffee (previously Art’s, and definitely not on Winfield Street but right over the bridge) keep doing what their predecessors have done.

And what every other place in this story does: provide excellent food and continuity to generations of Westporters.

(Have I missed any longtime restaurants or delis? Click “Comments” — and my apologies!)

Paul Newman Lives — At The Farmers’ Market

Westporters of a certain age remember Paul Newman as one of the most famous movie idols of the 20th century — and our neighbor.

The man. The legend. The US postage stamp.

Younger Westporters — and their counterparts all around the country — know him as a salad dressing, popcorn and lemonade guy.

Lost in all that is the fact in 2006 that Paul Newman — who, don’t forget, was also a race car driver, and the founder of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — teamed up with Michel Nischan to start The Dressing Room.

That superbly named restaurant next to the Westport Country Playhouse was Fairfield County’s first farm-to-table restaurant. And — thanks to the star power of its 2 owners — it helped kick-start a whole new way for local residents to look at food.

Here’s something else many folks don’t know (or forgot): The Playhouse parking lot was the original site of the Westport Farmers’ Market. The location was convenient and open. Both Newman and Nischan helped plant the seed, and watched it grow.

This September marks the 10th anniversary of Paul Newman’s death. To honor this remarkable man — one who during his 50 years gave tons of time, energy and money back to the town — the Farmers’ Market has created a special project with Newman’s Own. (The charitable foundation is one more of his legacies.)

Paul Newman often shopped at the Westport Farmer’s Market. He was a particular fan of the locally produced honey.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at this Thursday’s Farmers’ Market — and also on Thursday, August 16 — everyone is invited to share their memories of Paul Newman.

Newman’s Own will bring a life-sized cutout of their founder to the Market (now bigger than ever, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot). Video equipment will be on hand to record stories and tributes.

Clips may be shared by Newman’s Own Foundation, in a video and on social media.

Can’t make it to the market? Submissions can be emailed: social@newmansownfoundation.org.

There must be a million Paul Newman stories in Westport. Let’s start those cameras rolling.

One More Place To Party At The Beach

You can’t reserve tables in the Compo Beach pavilion.

But — starting immediately — you can reserve that cool little space (formerly storage) recently carved out between the brick pavilion and Joey’s.

In a low-key announcement, Parks and Rec says they’re “excited to offer a new PARTY RENTAL space.”

(Note: they never say exactly where it is — beyond “on east beach and conveniently located next to Joey’s by the Shore.” I’m assuming it’s here:

Staples High School sophomores in the party space next to Joey’s last night. They did not have to rent it.

The email continues:

This picnic area holds a maximum of 60 people, and can be rented out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. until sunset, or even all day to meet your party needs! This is a great location for your children’s parties or family gatherings! Joey’s will be happy to assist in your catering needs!

There are a few rules:

You must apply no later than 72 hours before the event. Applications are first-come, first-served. The permit fee is $50 (plus a refundable $100 security/clean-up deposit).

Guests without parking stickers must pay the regular daily fees. Businesses and non-profits can rent the space Mondays through Thursdays, and are allowed up to 15 parking waivers.

No alcohol, glass, candles or tiki torches. No amplified music either.

Oh, yeah: “Food and catering trucks are not allowed. Catered food must be purchased from Joey’s by the  Shore.”

Joey Romeo can handle all your catering needs.

Does that mean you can’t bring any food in? Picnics? Pizza from Romanacci? What exactly is “catered” food?

It shouldn’t matter. Joey’s is great, easy to work with, and can provide whatever you need.

This is the second specially defined party space at Compo. For years, anyone could rent the clubhouse at Ned Dimes Marina for $275 (though most Westporters don’t know that).

So enjoy your next party at the new space “conveniently located next to Joey’s.”

And if you’ve got a better name for the spot, click “Comments” below.

(Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)

Finding A Pearl In Plastic Straw Debate

Pearl at Longshore has joined the movement to lessen the use of plastic straws.

The popular waterfront restaurant has gone a step beyond changing its practice, too. The other day Andrew Colabella — the RTM member who is introducing a townwide plastic straw ordinance — talked to the staff about the importance of the effort.

He described the negative effects of plastic on the human body, land and — particularly appropriately for Pearl’s location — water.

Andrew Colabella addresses the Pearl staff at everyone’s favorite spot: the patio.

“Pearl has always been committed to community and the environment,” the restaurant says.

Straws will no longer be offered with beverages unless asked for. All straws, stirrers and cocktail picks have been replaced with similar items in bamboo and paper.

Pearl understands that people suffering from Parkinson’s and other neurological and muscular disorders need plastic straws. They will still be available for those diners.

Restaurant owners hope that after Colabella’s presentation, their front-line employees — servers and bartenders — can raise awareness, answer questions and alleviate concerns of customers.

No more plastic straws at Pearl.

Remembering Billy Hess

Billy Hess — the popular and longtime Joey’s by the Shore employee, who ran the Longshore concession stand — died yesterday. Last year, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Last year, Joey’s owner Joey Romeo told “06880”:

Billy has been the heart and soul of Joey’s for 30 years. Known for his selfless demeanor and permanent smile, he loves Westport and serving our customers.

In addition to an unparalleled work ethic, he’s the unofficial “Mr. Fix-It” of Compo and Longshore. Whether changing a flat tire, retrieving a kite from a tree or repairing a broken beach chair, he’s always there and eager to help — whether he knows you or not.  He’s the first to volunteer and the last to take credit.

Billy is survived by his wife Gina, and 3 daughters.

He also leaves behind countless friends: customers he served with passion and dedication, and workers he mentored with love and care.

Billy Hess with his wife Gina and daughters.

Art, Food And Fun — Just Another Day At The Beach

Drew Friedman’s $500,000 is the gift that keeps on giving.

The downtown landowner and co-founder of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association died in February 2016, at 86. His very generous bequest set up the Drew Friedman Foundation.

It’s already distributed money to Homes With Hope, CLASP, the Westport Arts Center and Westport Historical Society. It has funded art classes and activities for under-served students and young adults. This spring, an art exhibit at the Westport Woman’s Club showcased their work — and included presentations of scholarships to arts colleges.

The newest Drew Friedman Foundation initiative is a series of small art events at Old Mill Beach. The goal is to bring art opportunities and education to community members who are often overlooked.

The first one took place Wednesday afternoon. Clients from Project Return and Homes with Hope — the group home for teenage girls and young women, and Westport’s supportive housing organization respectively — enjoyed a day at the beach.

Making art at Old Mill Beach.

They learned about watercolor painting and shell decoration, with Westport artist Katherine Ross.

Fruma Markowitz showed them how to make contact photo prints with found objects and their own bodies. “The results were amazing,” says Drew Friedman Foundation art advisor Miggs Burroughs.

Some of the finished works.

The day ended with a lavish dinner at Nick Visconti’s Sherwood Mill Pond home. He was Friedman’s longtime business partner (and — importantly, for the food — former owner of Onion Alley. He cooked every dish himself.).

Project Return program director Tessa Gilmore-Barnes says that on the way home, one of the ladies felt “deep contentment.” Though shy at first, she relaxed and loved everything: the art, food, people and setting.

More events are planned, with these and other organizations.

Art is alive and well all over Westport — thanks in part to the late, and very generous, Drew Friedman.

Dinner is served, thanks to Nick Visconti.