Category Archives: Restaurants

Academy Awards Come To Westport

The closing of Oscar’s Delicatessen ended a great Westport tradition: the annual Oscars at Oscar’s pre-party.

But the Westport Cinema Initiative has filled the gap.

A number of local businesses have  become “polling places” for a contest. Just stop in and vote for who you think will win awards this Sunday in a variety of categories: Best Leading Actor and Actress; Best Supporting Actor and Actress; Best Director; Best Picture; Best Animated Feature; Best Documentary and Best Foreign Film.

Winners receive prizes donated by those merchants.

The contest ends this Sunday (February 26) at 4 p.m. You can vote at these locations:

  • Le Rouge by Aarti
  • iFloat
  • Francois du Pont Jewelers
  • Organachs Farm to Skin
  • Vincent Palumbo Salon
  • The Brownstone
  • Green & Tonic
  • The UPS Store
  • Downunder
  • Westport Hardware
  • Saugatuck Sweets
  • Joe’s Pizza
  • Simon Pearce
  • Body Quest
  • Soleil Toile

PS: As you enjoy the Oscars Sunday night, raise a glass in memory of Oscar’s.

Last year's pre-Oscars party at Oscar's was also deli owner Lee Papageorge's 65th birthday. His daughter Missy presented him with his very own statue. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Last year’s pre-Oscars party at Oscar’s was also deli owner Lee Papageorge’s 65th birthday. His daughter Missy presented him with his very own statue. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Saugatuck Night Lights

Lynn U. Miller had dinner last night at Parker Mansion.

If you or I were there, we would have eaten, chatted, maybe glanced out the window of the former Mansion Clam House.

Not Lynn. The wonderfully talented photographer — who knows Westport better than just about anyone — snapped this shot:

(Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)

She calls it “Saugatuck Night Life.”

I call it beautiful.

Friday Flashback #28

Before South Moon Under. Before Klaff’s. Before Muriel’s Diner, shaped like a trolley car.

Before all that — on the block between what is now Taylor Place and the Taylor parking lot, across the Post Road from what is now Starbucks and what was then the very new Westport Public Library — stood this very handsome row of buildings.

klaffs-block-in-1915

Click on or hover over to enlarge. 

According to Seth Schachter — who sent this fascinating 1915 postcard — the area was traditionally called “Hulbert’s Block” (or perhaps “Hurlbutt’s,” for the famed Weston family). This is the first time he’s seen it called “Post Office Block.”

The post office is at the far right (with a bicycle leaning against the pole). A store belonging to Wm. E. Nash is in the center.

As a bonus, here’s the back of the postcard:

friday-flashback

The sender — “Leffer” — tells Miss Jeannette Smith (in beautiful penmanship) that’s he (or she) has marked the building in which he (or she) will live with an “X.” You can see it on the far right of the postcard — just above the post office.

Meanwhile — totally coincidentally — just yesterday I received this photo from Lee  Saveliff.

It shows the entire block — this time, from the perspective of the corner of the Post Road near Main Street. Taylor Place is on the left. Club Grill later became Muriel’s Diner. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

taylor-place-and-club-grill

Lee says that her great-grandparents — Leonard and Julia Gault — owned the Club Grill building. The larger one — closer to the river and bridge, with Pat’s Diner and Achorn’s Pharmacy (!) — was owned by the Klaff family.

This shot looks to be from the 1940s or ’50s. In November of 1974, the block burned to the ground. Lee saw the flames from her home, on Imperial Avenue.

Westport’s Day Without Immigrants

An alert “06880” reader — and helpful mother — headed out to Chipotle today. A sick kid at home craved a burrito.

To her surprise, the fast-food chain was closed.

So she drove a couple of miles east, to Border Grille.

That locally owned place was also shut.

How weird, she thought: Two Mexican restaurants, neither serving lunch on a normal Thursday.

But when she got home and read the New York Times, she realized today was not a normal Thursday.

It was “A Day Without Immigrants.”

Border Grill was closed today.

Border Grill was closed today.

The national campaign encouraged foreign-born people nationwide — regardless of legal status — to not work or shop today. The goal is to show the importance of their labor and spending to the U.S. economy.

When she realized what was happening, the Westport burrito-seeker’s mood turned from annoyance to understanding.

“This is an important point to make,” she says. “Our town relies heavily on immigrants who work in our stores, restaurants, lawn services, home improvement projects, etc., etc., etc.”

The Westporter offered to take photos of the closed stores. She headed out again.

She reported back: Chipotle is now open. They said they were closed earlier because of “broiler problems.”

But Border Grill is still closed.

Did you notice any local businesses that were closed today? Do you support or oppose the “Day Without Immigrants” campaign? Click “Comments” to share.

Remembering “Wolfie”

Mike Connors — for 30 years one of Westport’s best-known bartenders, at the Black Duck, then at Bogey’s and most recently at Partner’s Cafe, both in Norwalk — died this morning.

Connors — universally called “Wolfie” — apparently suffered a heart attack.

mike-connors-2

It took a lot to take down Wolfie. He graduated from Staples High School in 1978, where he had a storied football career. He went on to play at Syracuse University, then returned home and served as an assistant coach at his alma mater.

Wolfie was the perfect bartender. He knew everyone, welcomed everyone, talked to everyone. Though he worked for the past couple of years one town over, and lived in Stratford, his big heart was always in Westport.

Details on services have not yet been announced.

Mike "Wolfie" Connors

Mike “Wolfie” Connors

Villa Del Sol Sequel: Land Swap Still Alive

This morning’s “06880,” on the travails of Villa Del Sol during the construction phase of Bedford Square, noted that “a proposed land swap — exchanging the restaurant and adjacent parking lot for a parcel across the street — has been scuttled.”

However, despite reports in local media, that land swap is still very much alive.

Second Selectman Avi Kaner said this afternoon that the town has continued negotiations with David Waldman, developer of Bedford Square. That retail/residential project — on the site of the former YMCA — stretches along Church Street, with an entrance on Elm Street.

Kaner says the town and Waldman are close to an agreement on a deal. Details are unavailable. However, the original plan would have traded 36 Elm Street — the site of Villa del Sol — for a section of the town-owned Baldwin parking lot across the street. Waldman hoped to build an 8,477-square foot building behind Lux Bond & Green, with small retail stores and 4 apartments.

Under the original plan the town would demolish the Villa del Sol building, creating additional parking, walkways and greenery.

A view looking south, with the Brooks Corner shopping center at bottom center.

A view of the original land swap looking south. Villa del Sol is the building outlined in yellow at the top. Brooks Corner shopping center is at bottom center. A new building would be built in the outlined lower yellow section.

Kaner presented a status report at a Board of Finance executive session last week, and solicited negotiating advice.

Based on that discussion, he says, it is likely that the Elm Street/Baldwin lot land exchange will be discussed and voted on in an open public session, at the finance board’s April meeting.

Any decision would be subject to approval by other town bodies. The Planning & Zoning Commission has already given the swap a positive 8-24 review.

In this artist's rendering, Here’s an artist’s rendering. The new parking lot (old 36 Elm Street) is at left; across Elm Street is the new building (white), with Serena & Lily next to it.

In this artist’s rendering, the new parking lot (old 36 Elm Street) is at left. Across Elm Street is the new building (white), with Serena & Lily next to it.

 

 

 

A Semi-Shoutout For Starbucks

Recently, Starbucks moved across the Post Road. It exchanged comfy, friendly digs with limited parking near the diner for cold, unfriendly digs with equally limited parking — but a drive-thru! — near Bank of America.

Fairly quickly, customers noticed that the coffee chain with the green logo was anything but environmentally green. The outside was a mess — though that’s been cleaned up a bit.

starbucks-garbage

The new Starbucks, a few days after opening.

Meanwhile, inside there was no way for customers to separate paper and plastic goods from everything else.

Robie Spector had spent years trying to get managers at the previous Starbucks location to recycle. Facing defensiveness and obfuscation, she stopped going there.

Robie gave the new place a try. She was distressed to see no recycling.

She tried again. Again, she got the same lack of answers and “a dash of odd vibe.”

She contacted Starbucks corporate. A district manager called back, blaming the landlord.

Robie contacted the first selectman’s office, who told her to call Public Works. They had good news: State law mandates that businesses recycle.

However, there are no inspectors. So companies do what they want, unchecked.

As they chatted, Robie and Scott Sullivan of Public Works realized that Panera by Home Goods does a great job of recycling. Robie set up a meeting with Sharon, the general manager, who was quite helpful. She emboldened Robie to keep pressing Starbucks’ district manager.

She did. Finally, Robie says, Starbucks is recycling.

starbucks-recycle

At least, it seems that way. Of course, it could all end up in the same place out back. (Thankfully though, that trash has been cleaned up.)

As Thomas Jefferson sort of said, eternal vigilance is the price of a grande iced sugar-free vanilla latte with soy milk.

Friday Flashback #25

A few weeks ago, alert “06880” readers were identified the 1920s-era Flambeau Tea Room.

Now how about the Westover Inn?

westover-inn

The front view of this postcard — courtesy of Seth Schachter — looks like it really could be in Westport.

Or anywhere else in New England.

I’ve never heard of it. Seth hasn’t either.

But — according to the back of the postcard — it was right there on the Post Road.

westover-inn-back-of-card

There’s one clue as to its vintage: the phone number. Those were the days when you needed only 5 digits to make a call.

Sometime in the 1950s, Bell introduced the “CA 7” (for CApital) prefix to Westport.

If you have any memories of the Westover Inn, click “Comments.”

And if you know where it was located, we’d really like to know.

Jeera Thai: The Downtown Secret Is Out

It takes courage to open a (non-Italian) restaurant in Westport. In a small space.

In January.

But plenty of Westporters are glad that Darapon Wongchame — you can call her Dara, or Pook — did.

A year ago this month, the Thai native welcomed diners to Jeera Thai. Located next to Finalmente — opposite the old post office/aka the enormous and now shuttered Post 154 — it proves that a wonderful, authentic restaurant can succeed in a tiny space.

Jeera Thai, nestled in a small space off the Post Road.

Jeera Thai, nestled in a small space off the Post Road.

Pook does not have a lot of money to advertise (though she donates generously to every fundraiser that asks for a gift card or ad, and bought a booth at last summer’s Downtown Arts Festival). Success has come largely through word of mouth.

Because the mouths that Jeera Thai feeds love every savory bite.

Boards list the specials in Thai and English.

Boards list the specials in Thai and English.

Pook was born near the Mekong River. She came to the US in 1992, and helped her family with their restaurants in New Haven and Guilford. (Her mother — “a great cook” — taught her well.)

She laughs that she came to Westport for the shopping. But she found the people here “very nice, friendly, kind and helpful.” When she spotted the space available next to Finalmente, she did not hesitate.

Pook likes the location, on the busy Post Road in the heart of downtown. She trusted her instinct that her menu — truly authentic  Thai food, not watered down for the American palate — would resonate with Westporters.

It has. “People here have open minds,” Pook says. “They travel a lot. If food is not cooked right, they know.”

Her customers are “smart eaters. They don’t just swallow things down.” Many are pleased that her dishes can be vegan, and gluten-free.

Pook uses “correct” herbs. She pays a bit more to import brands from Thailand. Other ingredients come from New York, where there is a robust Thai dining scene.

Clockwise from top: Su Kho Thai, a very spicy noodle soup; curry puffs (chicken with cucumber sauce); Bangkok Stir Fry, another spicy and wonderful dish.

Clockwise from top: Su Kho Thai, a very spicy noodle soup; curry puffs (chicken, potato, onion with cucumber sauce); red jasmine rice; Bangkok Stir Fry, another wonderfully spicy dish; ginger tea.

Much of her business is takeout. She also delivers via UberEATS. (It’s expensive for her, but she wants to make customers happy.)

There is seating for 30. Pook has no liquor license, but diners can bring their own drinks.

In just a year, Jeera Thai has become an integral part of Westport’s dining scene. Pook’s customers have made her feel welcome — and she loves them back.

Meanwhile, she has adapted well to our town. Like any local, whenever she craves a certain food, she heads right over to her neighbor: Westport Pizzeria.

(For more information on Jeera Thai — including the menu — click here.)

Pook Wongchame (right) with 2 of her staff (from left): Yada Nakarnchintranath and Nena Vong.

Pook Wongchame (right) with 2 of her staff (from left): Yada Nakarnchintranath and Nena Vong.

Photo Challenge #107

Last week’s photo challenge was like Goldilocks.

It was not too easy. Not too hard. It was just right.

There was a great balance between right answers, and wrong.

The wrong guesses went in every direction. Seth Schachter’s waterfall photo showed not Lees Pond. Not Nash’s Pond. Not Devil’s Den.

It was Bulkley Pond. That’s by Sasco Mill, on the Westport/Southport border. It’s right behind Shake Shack. And — sssshhh!  — there’s a cute little parking area, for your enjoyment.

Andrew Colabella, Billy Scalzi, Joyce Losen and Katie Augustyn knew exactly where that hidden-in-plain-sight site was. Click here for the photo, and all the comments.

This week’s photo challenge is a lot uglier. But — like the 3 Bears — it takes all kinds to make up Westport.

If you know where in Westport to find this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)