Category Archives: Restaurants

Unsung Heroes #167

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Odds are your celebration will be smaller than usual. You’ll miss loved ones, friends, and the random strangers who sometimes make it to your table.

It’s our first COVID Thanksgiving, thanks to some guy in China who ate a bat last year.

But if this year looks different, much remains the same. Turkey, stuffing, pies, getting stuffed — that stuff doesn’t take a holiday, just because we’re quarantined, locked down and nasal swabbed up the wazoo.

And of course, all those turkeys, stuffingses and pies don’t magically fall from the sky. This is the time of year when caterers are kings (and queens).

Catering, 2020-style.

It hasn’t been easy. Caterers have done the pandemic pivot. They’re cooking for smaller groups. They’re finding new ways to operate, from the kitchen to delivery. Some regular customers have said “sorry — not this year.”

Perhaps you brought a prepared dinner from a gourmet outlet, like Mystic Market or Garelick & Herbs. They too have had a rough time. They’ve pared back hours, addressed customers’ concerns, dealt with suppliers who have  coronavirus issues at their own farms and factories.

If you’re having dinner out — and some restaurants are open tomorrow — you know the entire industry has taken a hit. Owners are doing whatever they can for their customers, and their creativity knows no bounds. This has been an astonishingly tough 8 months — and what’s traditionally the slowest time of year is not far away.

So this week’s Unsung Heroes are everyone who has anything to do with providing tomorrow’s dinner. If you helped put a turkey, stuffing or pie on our table: We know it wasn’t easy.

But when we sit down at Thanksgiving to give thanks, we’ll be thanking you too.

Tomorrow’s meal

Roundup: Outdoor Dining Tents, More


COVID, colder weather, the holidays, heated tents — when considering outdoor dining, Westporters have lots to think about.

The other day Rowena Weems asked Bartaco about their tent. News reports said that outdoor tents with no open panels are no different than being indoors.

Chris Messina — Bartaco’s regional director — replied:

“We purchased a heated tent with 3 motors. This circulates air more than 3 times the amount of inside. These motors pump heated fresh air at all times.

“In addition, the tent is not perfectly sealed, so ventilation is actually even better than the already great specifications we have.

“The small tents in New York City with no heated units or ventilation are worse than indoors. That’s not what we and most restaurants are investing in.

“We’ve spent a large amount of money to ensure our guests are safe and we can all get through this together.”

“Here are Bartaco’s specs:

  • Total tent area: 33,972 cubic feet.
  • Heating system CFH (cubic feet per hour of fresh, hot air): 288,000 cfh
  • Air changes per hour: 8.5

“In a normal insulated building with HVAC, there might be 3-6 changes per hour (on the high side).” 


Sure, Thanksgiving is around the corner. We’ve already had our first frost.

But the recent weather revived thoughts of summer. Well, at least for this one guy at Compo Beach on Friday.

(Photo/Sheri Valente)


Thanksgiving is Thursday. Which means it’s time for … Christmas lights!

Andrew Colabella spotted these — the first of the season? — on Edgewater Hillside.

The hell with the turkey. Get out there and decorate!

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)


And finally … on this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. There have been a number of turning points in American history. This was one of the most crucial.

 

Pearl At Longshore Closes Soon

For nearly 5 years, Pearl at Longshore has been a favored destination. Diners loved the menu, the location, the decor and the service.

Perhaps there were not enough of them. Today, owners Marc and Lois Backon write:

Dear Westport,

With Thanksgiving approaching, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the Pearl family – from the staff to investors, the town of Westport and guests who we have had the pleasure of serving since February of 2016.

This may seem a bit ironic today as we announce that on Saturday, November 28, Pearl at Longshore will be closing.

Our story and mission for Pearl was actually quite simple when we set out on the journey in 2015. We wanted to bring life back to Longshore for Westport and the surrounding community, when we saw the restaurant and patio space within the Inn at Longshore laid bare for over a year.

We wanted to resurrect this very special location and turn it into the gem of Westport for all to enjoy and be proud of. We wanted to create jobs, we wanted to create a “uniquely Pearl” environment for people to create their own special memories over delicious food, drink and entertainment.

We, and hope all who frequented Pearl — whether for special occasions with family and friends, date night, graduations, holidays, drinks at the bar after a long work week, round of golf or enjoying live music on the patio in the summer — believe we succeeded at this mission.

There is a great opportunity and destiny ahead for Pearl. A new management group is taking over responsibilities for The Inn at Longshore, and in turn will also take over the restaurant and patio area. They will have the ability to holistically reimagine Longshore, and not be restricted by what restaurant space is today.

All that is special of Pearl remains open until the evening of the Saturday the 28th, so please come in and enjoy. We also invite all to have Thanksgiving dining at Pearl, or pick up for home dining.

Again, we are so very grateful for being able to bring Pearl into the lives of so many people and appreciate the dedicated support of the staff and of the community for the last 4 years.

(Hat tip: Janet Kinnally)

New Medical Office Proposed For Julian’s Plaza

The sign says that Saugatuck Grain & Grape is moving to 1460 Post Road. A few doors down in the same shopping plaza, Julian’s is a popular restaurant

But beer, wine, pizza and pasta may not be on the menu for long. Plans are afoot to redevelop nearly all of what is officially (but never called by anyone) “Greens Farms Plaza.”

The entire 3,654-square foot building — with the exception of the Bluepoint Wellness medical marijuana dispensary — would be converted to medical offices. That use is permitted in the existing General Business District location.

1460 Post Road East. Rio Bravo restaurant closed this summer.

The applicant — Chicago-based ROA Investments LLC — also proposes “a substantial and attractive upgrade” to the exterior. Along with a glass-enclosed entrance and enhanced landscaping, the front drive would be reconfigured.

The Architectural Review Board has voted unanimously to recommend
approval of the building design to the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Turn Your Clocks Back. It’s Restaurant Savings Time!

Earlier this month, we pushed clocks back an hour. Just what we needed: another hour in 2020!

But here’s a time-shifting effort we can all get behind.

Today, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce rolls out “Restaurant Savings Time.” Encouraging diners to eat earlier is a way to help restaurants cope with the governor’s executive order closing businesses at 9:30.

Some restaurants could lose an entire seating of patrons — particularly on weekends. So, the Chamber says, everyone should eat one hour earlier than usual.

If everyone is on board — and at their tables — every eatery would benefit.

“Have a great dinner at 6:15 instead of 7:15 is the request. I am confident Westporters will respond, ” says Chamber executive director Matthew Mandell.

“It’s all about flexibility and a desire to adapt to a new situation, while still enjoying what our town as to offer.”

Flyers and posters will go up at restaurants. The logo — designed by Miggs Burroughs (of course!) — will be posted on social media.

“Restaurant Savings Time is a great idea. Support your local restaurants and dine a littler earlier, but also be sensitive to leave time to those coming after you,” said Tarantino owner Frank Marchetti. “We will get through this together.”

The new initiative follows BYOB: Bring Your Own Blanket. That Chamber project urges diners to stay warm while dining outdoors. Click here for more information, and a list of restaurants offering outdoor dining.

“5 Weeks In Westport”: New Film From A Different Age

The past 8 months have felt like 8 millennia.

But here’s something to look forward to: “Five Weeks in Westport.”

That’s the title of a new romcom/drama/mystery narrative feature film. Shirlee Hauser and her husband Howard Friedman wrote and filmed it — predominantly in Westport — over a 3-year period.

It just screened at the Mystic Film Festival. This week it premieres at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, in that city and Hollywood. (Hollywood, Florida, that is.)

And it was all done with a budget under $5,000.

Shirlee and Howard’s Westport roots are deep. They moved here in 1995 with their young son Josh.

After Howard retired from advertising — he created and directed TV commercials — he felt bored. With a small $700 camera bought on Craigslist, he filmed short pieces around town — things he felt beautiful or touching.

One was the YouTube classic, “The High Tide Club.”

That was not his first film. In the mid-1970s Howard had written and directed a small independent project, “Sweet Talk.” It won him a Best New Director awrd, and found its way onto cable TV.

But that was it — until “Five Weeks in Westport.”

The plot: When mysterious international film director Ross Griffin arrives in Westport to stage a play based on real events, the lives of retired New York actors Mary Evans and her husband Gus Jacobs — along with close friends Grace and Murray — are upended. Revelations from the past unfold.

The cast includes Westporter Leigh Katz, who had extensive stage experience; Westport Community Theater favorite David Victor; Fairfield’s Kitty Robertson, a veteran of film and TV (and Gault spokesperson); soap/film/TV actor Will Jeffries; Peter Wood, who is leading man-attractive and provided a needed motorcycle, plus up-and-comers Sunny Makwana, Chris Finch, Erin Shaughnessy and Nancy Sinacori.

Shirlee and Howard co-directed. Their son Josh came from Massachusetts to do sound and hold the boom. Staples High School junior Sydney Winthrop helped too.

The directors’ home doubled as 2 separate houses. Jessica Bram’s living room was used for a scene requiring a baby grand piano.

The first exterior shot took place on a hot summer morning outside of Oscar’s Delicatessen. Owner Lee Papageorge gave permission, adding he’d be sorry to miss it. Shirlee and Howard had no idea that within a week, Lee would die of lung cancer.

Three other restaurants in the film have since closed or changed hands too: Tavern on Main, Christie’s Country Store, and Joey’s by the Shore.

Scenes were also filmed at Barnes & Noble (soon to move), Pane e Bene, Compo and Burying Hill Beaches, Westport Community Theater and the downtown Fine Arts Festival.

Scenes from “Five Weeks in Westport.”

The process was helped by advice from Marshall Brickman, who co-wrote and/or directed films like “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan” and “Sleeper, and helped create “Jersey Boys” on Broadway.

When Shirlee and Howard learned that post-production would cost $40,000, they decided to do it themselves. He took on the arduous task of sound mixing and color correction.

The couple’s first look at the final product came at the Mystic Festival. “It played looked and sounded just fine,” Shirlee reports.

The audience reacted just right too — laughing and falling silent appropriately — and finished with a burst of applause.

The Mystic and Fort Lauderdale film festivals are among the few that, during COVID, have in-theater showings (with masks, and audiences capped at 50% capacity). They also make their films available virtually.

Howard Friedman and Shirlee Hauser.

“We don’t anticipate winning any Academy Awards,” Shirlee says. “But the entire experience has made us both very grateful.”

They feel gratitude toward their cast; for “living in such a generous town that allowed us, without hesitation, to film where we wanted,” and for the visually lovely scenes they captured.

As the pandemic rages, “Five Weeks in Westport” is also a bit of a time capsule: a reminder of a town that existed just a couple of years ago.

Or — as it feels now — once upon a time.

For a “virtual screening” via the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, click here. It’s available through November 22. Click below for a sample reel (top) and the trailer (below).

Roundup: Schools Dashboard, Stew’s Tree, More


Want to know how our schools are doing, COVID-wise?

The Westport Public Schools’ web page has overviews, schedules, plans, FAQs — all broken down by elementary, middle and high school levels — along with a “dashboard.”

It shows the number of individuals (staff and students) with positive confirmed cases, who are currently isolating. The most recent number was 37.

There’s also the number of staff and students currently quarantining, because of suspected exposure. That number: 854.

Click here for the page. Then bookmark it, for future reference.


First Christmas tree of the season? Spotted yesterday at Stew Leonard’s:


Señor Salsa said “adios” in January.

Now, nearly a year later, the Post Road West spot is being replaced by … a Mexican restaurant.

Oh, wait. That’s the same story I posted back in May.

I guess it all depends on what the meaning of “Coming Soon” is.


And finally … today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Elton John’s 5th album. How do I know this obscure fact? Well, the title was 11/17/70 …

Roundup: Basso Restaurant, Hotel Marcel, Santa Claus, More


First it was the Fine Arts III movie theater. Then it was Matsu Sushi restaurant.

Now 33 Jesup Road is poised to become Basso Restaurant and Wine Bar.

After 13 years in Norwalk, Chef Renato Donzetti is moving here. He and his crew will double their current space, and have access to outside dining.

Donzetti says he will “introduce contemporary, inventive menu items to the already beloved Mediterranean repertoire.”

French, Portuguese and Greek specialties will be added, along with artisinal Neapolitan pizza made in a wood-fired oven.

He expects to open later this month, after renovations that include exposed brick walls, recycled wood and leather furniture, and artwork that pays homage to Donzetti’s Mediterranean background. (Hat tip: Jeff Jacobs)


I really like the men and women who work at CVS. Though overworked and (I am sure) underpaid, they are always polite, eager to help, and friendly.

And they do it all despite having to put up with what they know is corporate imbecility.

The other day, I made an appointment online for a flu shot. 10 this morning worked perfectly. And sure enough, at 9:30 a.m. I got a text reminder. It included instructions on how to check in online.

“Welcome, DAN!” the next screen said. “When you arrive at the store, tap the button to let our pharmacy know you’re here.”

“I’m here at the store,” I tapped.

The pharmacist seemed surprised to see me. “We’re out of flu shots,” she apologized.

“But I made an appointment online!” I said. “They told me to come in. Why couldn’t they have told me you ran out?”

“I’m sorry,” she apologized again. “They don’t have that capability.”

“That’s pretty stupid,” I said, stupidly stating the obvious.

“I know,” she agreed.

My blood pressure was dangerously high. I should have asked for some medicine.

Then again, it was probably out of stock.


Every I-95 driver knows the former Armstrong Rubber Company headquarters in New Haven. That’s Marcel Breuer’s 1960s-era concrete box on the left as you head north, just before the I-91 merge.

The former Armstrong Rubber Company headquarters. (Photo/John Muggenborg for New York Times)

It’s been vacant for a while. But it’s being converted into what the New York Times says “could be the most energy-efficient hotel in the country.”

Hotel Marcel’s developer and architect — Westport-based Bruce Becker — is building it to meet net-zero energy standards. It will generate as much energy as it uses.

“It’s probably the most challenging project I’ve ever undertaken, particularly since we’re doing it during a pandemic,” Becker told the Times.

“But I’ve been intrigued with the building at least since I was a graduate student at Yale in the late ’80s, and I thought it could be fascinating.”

One more Westport connection: Saugatuck’s LANDTECH is the project’s site/civil engineer.

Click here for the full story. (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)


A while back, Katie Larson’s daughter asked what would happen if Santa Claus fell asleep on Christmas Eve. Cute!

Just as cute: The 1995 Weston High School graduate (Katie — not her daughter) has just published a children’s book. “The Night Santa Fell Asleep” is now available in paperback. Click here to order. (Hat tip: Erin Regan)


And finally … Booker T. Washington died 105 years ago today. The educator, author, orator and adviser to US presidents was 59 years old.

Friday Flashback #218

Opening a new restaurant in Westport is never easy.

Opening in the midst of a pandemic is especially tough.

But Hudson Malone did it. The steakhouse-and-more is drawing raves with its menu, Westport-themed decor, and comfortable, COVID-conscious ambience.

Hudson Malone took over the former 323 restaurant — named for its Main Street address, across Canal Street from Coffee An’.

That’s been the site of many restaurants. Before 323, it was Bogey’s. And before that, Oliver’s. And before that …

… well, that’s this Friday’s flashback. If you can name all of Hudson Malone’s predecessors — or even any of the others — click “Comments” below.

BONUS QUESTIONS: How about all of the restaurants that once occupied Shake Shack? Or the Sotheby’s real estate office at the Post Road East/Myrtle Road intersection, which for many years housed many eateries? Dig in!

(Hat tip: Steve Crowley)

Remembering Barbara Saltus

Longtime Westport resident and former owner of the Mansion Clam House restaurant Barbara Saltus died peacefully on Tuesday in Marble Falls Texas, after a short illness. She was surrounded by family and her Yorkshire terriers Beau and Annie, who watched over her until the end.

Born Barbara Henry in Fairfield, she married Don Saltus in 1956. They purchased the historic Bennett House on South Compo Road, and settled in Westport.

Barbara Saltus

After her 5 children were grown, Barbara resumed her education. She graduated from Sacred Heart University with a degree in teaching, and later received her master’s degree. She worked as a special needs educator in Darien and Wilton.

In 1987 Barbara left teaching. and with family members purchased the landmark Mansion Clam House. While operating the business end of the restaurant, she took on the task of restoring the family’s 1758 Bennett house.

Her restored historic home was the quintessential New England homestead: a magical place where she entertained her children, their spouses, grandchildren and friends.

Anyone lucky enough to attend one of her holiday parties or Sunday brunches appreciated her attention to detail. Barbara kept her large family and friends wonderfully amused and well fed.

Outside in the backyard her grandchildren climbed the large beechwood tree, and swung on the family swing, and enjoyed their childhoods.

Despite her busy schedule Barbara found time to travel, exploring the US and Europe with her husband and grandchildren. The teacher in her was always expanding their minds and providing a sense of exploration.

In 2000 she retired from running The Mansion Clam House and moved to the seaside village of Stonington Borough, where she opened a hat and gift shop called Junie Moon on Water Street.

Barbara’s son Matt calls her “the warmest, funniest and most caring person you could ever meet.”

Barbara is survived by her daughter, Bobbi; her sons Duke, Brett and Matt, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband Don and eldest son Jocko.