Category Archives: Restaurants

Friday Flashback #120

Last week’s demolition of the old Positano’s restaurant — remembered by real old-time Westporters as its earlier incarnation, Café de la Plage — evoked a welter of emotions.

It also revived memories of Allen’s Clam House, the other waterfront restaurant in the otherwise residential  neighborhood.

Allen’s was right around the corner, on Sherwood Mill Pond. Built in 1890 by Captain Walter Allen, customers flocked there for seafood — and views — from as far as New York.

Allen’s Clam House, in the 1940s.

It was the go-to place for generations of celebrations — proms, anniversaries, holidays, you name it.

An aerial view of Allen’s Clam House, on the Sherwood Mill Pond. (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

In 1999, the restaurant and surrounding .83-acre property was up for sale. To protect it from the developers, the town bought it for $1.2 million. Private donations — including $50,000 each from Paul Newman and Harvey Weinstein — defrayed part of the cost.

The restaurant was torn down a few years later. Today — thanks to efforts of Sherry Jagerson, and a group of dedicated volunteers — the land is known as the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve.

It’s one of Westport’s hidden-in-plain-sight gems. Of course, you can’t buy clams there any more.

But you can bring your own, and have a very fine picnic indeed.

Captain Allen and his wife Lida, in front of the clam house.

Adios, Chipotle

First there were dos.

Soon there will be cero.

Chipotle — the design-your-own burritos, tacos and bowls place in Compo Acres Shopping Center — will close next week.

An employee confirmed the news. The manager was not available for comment.

Chipotle follows Qdoba out of town. The similar fast-casual Mexican spot at the entrance to Playhouse Square closed in June.

Don’t worry. There are still over 2,400 Chipotles around the globe. And nearly 800 Qdobas.

Don’t want to travel far for Mexican fare?

Right here in Westport you’ve got your choice of Bartaco, Rio Bravo, Señor Salsa, Border Grille and Cuatro Hermanos.

And — of course — the granddaddy of them all: Viva Zapata.

It’s been around, I think, since Emiliano Zapata himself led the Mexican Revolution.

Remembering Sue Fine

Sue Fine — founder and owner of Soup’s On, the popular Main Street gathering spot — died last month in November. She was 82.

Carole Sue Coulon was born in Boston, and grew up in the Hotel Vendome. She worked there after school and during summers, learning the “people skills, guts and stamina” that helped her when she opened Soup’s On — a “country kitchen” — in 1978.

Sue’s son Peter recalls watching proudly as his mother “moved heaven and earth” to serve grateful customers wonderful dishes, made with fresh, local ingredients.

Peter Fine and his mother Sue

There was always something delicious cooking at home too, he says. Friends often came around for “the food and the fun.”

At the time he craved spaghetti and meatballs — basic food his friends’ mothers made. But as he grew up, he says, “I realized how lucky I was to have someone instill the passion of good food in me.”

His mother was “a courageous and tireless entrepreneur, and a constant body in motion. The outpouring of love and stories that have flown freely since her passing have centered on her indomitable positive spirit, style and grace, along with her trademark ever-present smile and sense of humor.”

Sue Fine

Sue and her late husband David lived in Westport and Weston, and loved New England, particularly Boston and Nantucket. They were original investors and active part ownwers in Nantucket’s famed 21 Federal restaurant. Sue created and operated 21 Federal Specialties, offering takeout food for vacationers.

She also obtained her realtor’s license, and was a resource for anyone wishing to buy or rent on the island.

Sue and David moved to Jupiter Inlet Colony, Florida in 2004.

“Sue was a tenacious believer that hard work, grit and gumption would get you far, and passed those traits on to her children,” her obituary says.

Peter — a restaurateur and real estate consultant — recently opened Milestone in Georgetown, Connecticut. Sue was a proud investor.

Peter Fine and his mother Sue, outside his new restaurant Milestone. The photo was taken last summer.

Sue’s son Bill is president and general manager of WCVB-TV, Channel 5 Boston. Her daughter Kim is a mentor and teacher at Firewood Academy in Homer, Alaska.

Sue is also survived by 7 grandchildren, and her dog Buster.

She will be buried with her husband privately at sea, off the coast of their beloved Nantucket, this summer.

Donations may be made in Sue Fine’s name to The Home for Little Wanderers — an organization she first supported as a child — which provides services for at-risk children in Eastern Massachusetts. Click here, or mail to 10 Guest Street, Boston, MA 02135.

Techno Claus Comes To Town. Wait — He Already Lives Here!

One of the highlights of the holiday season — far better than fruitcake, much less stressful than holiday parties — is Techno Claus.

That’s “CBS Sunday Morning”‘s annual present to viewers. “Santa” — who for some reason has a New York-ish accent — offers viewers a whimsically rhyming musical look into some of the season’s more intriguing high-ish tech items.

It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out that Techno Claus is really David Pogue.

His clever patter and fun piano playing are no surprise. The nationally known tech writer/journalist/author/TV star majored in music at Yale, then spent his first 10 years after graduation working in New York, with a theatrical agency, and as a conductor and arranger on Broadway.

Pogue is also a longtime Westporter. Yesterday’s gift to viewers had a decidedly local flavor.

Nearly all of the scenes were filmed at his house: inside, in front and out back.

The only other locale was Granola Bar. That was for a segment on a reusable straw. Okay, it’s not exactly high tech — but it is important.

Click below to see Pogue’s Santa’s take on a speaker with scents; a spy camera for pets (it dispenses treats too); a keyboard for phones, and a wallet with tracker.

Ho ho ho!

Photo Challenge #206

Pay phones are going the way of CBs and 8-track tapes.

But if you need one, there are still a few places in Westport to go.

One is the library. Another is Sherwood Diner.

A third — and the one pictured in last week’s Photo Challenge — is McDonald’s. (Click here to see.)

I don’t know if it was the same phone that was there in the restaurant’s original incarnation: Big Top.

But I do know this: The burgers sure have gone downhill since then.

Congratulations to Bill Boyd — a Staples High School Class of 1966 grad, who must remember the Big Top — for being the first with the correct answer.

He was followed by Jonathan McClure, who was not ashamed to admit he knew the answer because he occasionally eats at McDonald’s.

This week’s Photo Challenge is below. If you know where in Westport you’d find it, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

 

Pics Of The Day #597

The old Positano’s — and before that, Cafe de la Plage, other restaurants and (way back in the day) grocery stores — was demolished today. Soon, a 4-bedroom home will take its place.

The view from just off Hillspoint Road … (Photo/Chris Tait)

… and from Old Mill Beach. (Photo/Robin Tauck)

Former Positano’s Finally Goes Down

Last month — when “06880” reported that Peter Nisenson flood-proofed, refurbished and saved 201 Main Street, the “little red house” on the Saugatuck River that had been slated for demolition — readers rejoiced.

Now Nisenson and his PEN Building Company are about to start work on another property. It’s a new structure — but it sits on one of the most visible corners in Westport.

For decades, 233 Hillspoint Road has been the site of commercial ventures, in the heart of the Old Mill residential neighborhood. First a grocery store, the 2-story building later housed restaurants, including Cafe de la Plage and Positano’s.

This morning, it became Westport’s latest teardown.

The view from Old Mill Beach, as the former Positano’s and Cafe de la Plage was demolished this morning. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Over the next year, Nisenson will build a new home there. He and the owner have spent a couple of years planning how best to utilize the awkward-shaped lot — while maintaining the neighborhood character, and views admired by all Westporters.

“It’s a very public property,” Nisenson notes. “It was important to create something that blends in.”

The new house will be pushed back from the road. A dense buffer zone with native plants will provide privacy in back for the owners. But it’s on a public beach. The property ends where the sand begins — so Old Mill will remain the same as it’s always been.

The sidewalk in front will remain too.

The former restaurant has been vacant for nearly 4 years. Neighbors — and everyone else who loves the beach area — hope that Nisenson’s new project will be as well received as his Little Red House.

323 Closes

323 — the Main Street restaurant opposite Coffee An’ — closed suddenly today.

Employees arriving for work were given no notice. Neither were musicians who had been booked for upcoming gigs.

323 was known for live music. Last month, Aztec Two-Step played there.

Last summer, 323 made headlines when the bar featured a drink called the Tuskegee Experiment. There was no connection at all between the cocktail, and the shameful 40-year period in American history when US Public Health officials tracked the progression of untreated syphilis in black men.

A representative of the landlord said, “There is lots of interest in this property. Something will open here soon.”

In 2013, this sign said that 323 restaurant was coming soon. Five years later, it closed.

(Hat tip: Ellen Naftalin)

Honoring Noel duPont At Sconset Square Stroll

In 1955, Francois duPont opened a jewelry store. Twenty years later, he took it to Main Street.

In 1980, Francois’ son Noel took over the business. It was one of Westport’s go-to places for beautiful items, handsome watches, and of course that quick replacement watch strap or battery.

Noel duPont

A few years ago, Noel moved around the corner to Sconset Square. “He lit up the square with his smile, and his weekly visits to each shop to check in,” says neighbor Tracey Heinemann. He was a constant and beloved presence — always accompanied by his Yorkie-poo Ollie.

Two weeks ago, Noel duPont died suddenly at home. He was 59 years old.

The Staples High School graduate had attended Berklee College of Music. A gifted drummer, he was passionate about the music of his idol, Frank Zappa. He also loved skiing, swimming and hiking in Maine.

He leaves behind his wife of 20 years, Julia, and sons Maxwell and Lucas.

A celebration of Noel’s life is set for Saturday, January 5 (Tavern on Main, 1 to 4 p.m.).

As is sometimes the case, a business cannot survive the death of its owner. Julia is liquidating Francois duPont Jewelers. This weekend and next, all jewelry is 50% off.

It’s a bittersweet time for Noel’s fellow merchants in Sconset Square. They’re busy preparing for next Thursday’s Holiday Stroll. From 5 to 8 p.m. on December 6, the popular shopping center on Myrtle Avenue — nestled between the Post Road, Christ & Holy Trinity and Church Lane — will be filled with holiday singers. The Little Red Waffle Truck will sell food. There are prizes too.

Each store has something special. Swoon offers festive English treats, and shows off seasonal floral deocrations. Bungalow serves aperitifs, along with tarot card readings. Bespoke Designs features champagne and savory snacks. Kerry Rosenthal has festive nibbles and toddies. Roots Salon gives discounts on artwork, and a chance to win a free service.

At Le Penguin there’s happy hour prices, complimentary bar bites, and singer Antoine Blech.

Francois duPont Jewelers, in Sconset Square.

Of course, Francois duPont Jewelers will be open too — for one of its last days.

Amid all the merriment, his many friends will be thinking of the popular, ever-smiling, aptly named Noel duPont.

Pop (Up) Goes The Library Shop

The Westport Library’s Transformation Project roars along. It’s on schedule to be finished in June.

Of course, the library is still open. But to make sure that holiday shoppers don’t miss a chance to buy goodies from its store, the library has opened a pop-up shop.

It’s in Bedford Square — across from the Spotted Horse restaurant, and most recently the site of the CronArt gallery.

The space is filled with greeting cards, reading glasses, cards and notepads, socks and scarves, booties and onesies, toys, games, building sets, novelties, bags and pouches, jewelry, umbrellas, tech gadgets, decorative lighting, maker kits and more.

A few of the many items available at the Westport Library pop-up store …

Some items are handmade. Some are quirky. There’s something for everyone, of any age.

This being the library shop — even off-site — there are even books for sale. Fiction, mystery, coffee table, children’s books — you’ll find them all. The selection changes weekly.

The pop-up shop is open through the end of the year: weekdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, 12-5 p.m. All proceeds benefit the Westport Library.

… and some of the books.