Category Archives: Restaurants

Athena And Qdoba Close

Two seemingly popular restaurants have shut their doors.

Athena — the longtime diner just over the Southport line — posted a handwritten sign. It says simply, “Diner sold.”

Athena Diner

Qdoba — a “fast casual” Mexican chain — opened 4 years ago next to Playhouse Square. It was a favorite of many teenagers. No reason was given for the closure.

Qdoba prepared to open, in July 2014.

Friday Flashback #95

Alert “06880” reader Carol Gluckman sent along this 1980s-era t-shirt.

The owner may have loved all those stores, restaurants and more.

But unless you’re a beach, high school, institution or neighborhood — or were very lucky — today you’re just a memory.

Click “Comments” below to share your memories of any of these golden oldies.

Photo Challenge #180

When I posted last week’s photo challenge, I thought it was pretty easy. Everyone knows the Mediterranean-style windows on the old Positano — the former restaurant on Old Mill Beach — right?

Wrong!

The 2nd person to comment guessed it was the now-closed Acqua and Boca restaurants, in the back of Parker Harding Plaza. So did another person, a few minutes later.

Hey, they are similar.

But Fred Cantor, Andrew Colabella, Matt Murray, David Sampson, Tom Siebrasse, Christopher Buckley, Seth Braunstein, Ed Gerber, Ken Palumbo, Lois Hines, Jim Hood, Patricia McMahon, Amy Schneider, Karen Como, Vanessa Bradford, Martin Gitlin, Sarah Menninger Kit Lee, Tina Torraco, Beau James, Peter Ritchey and Mary Ann Batsell all posted “Positano” (or “Cafe de la Plage,” its long-lived predecessor). (Click here for the photo.)

Sadly, the building may soon be gone. And then we’ll have only memories of it, and the restaurants before it, that gave that neighborhood a bit of a European feel.

Today’s challenge shows beautiful flower boxes. We have many, all around town. But where are these?

If you know, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Susan Iseman)

 

And The Winner Of Our “ABCs Of Westport” Contest Is …

… no one.

That’s right.

Our recent contest — asking “06880” readers to identify Shelly Weifeld’s clever photos, depicting various spots in and around downtown as letters of the alphabet — drew exactly zero responses.

Was it too hard? No one interested? Did no one want a $50 gift certificate from The ‘Port?

Too bad!

Here’s the collage again. Feel free to try once more — this time, for fun.

The answers are below.

(Photo collage by Shelly Welfeld)

A: Levitt Pavilion
B: Top 2 windows of National Hall, as seen from across the river
C: Mailbox on Riverside Avenue
D: Window at Christ & Holy Trinity Church
E: “Live by the Sound” tile wall
F: Riverside Avenue parking lot, from behind
G: Quidley & Company art gallery, Wilton Road
H: Bench outside of Noya Fine Jewelry
I: Talbots, Main Street
J: Flower vase in the yard of 82 Riverside Avenue
K: Fence on Sylvan Road South
L: Light post on the Saugatuck River
M: Assumption Church window
N: Fence near downtown
O: Vacant store, Main Street
P: Handle of the railing at Paper Source
Q: Lou & Grey, Main Street
R: From “ARTS” on the wall near the Saugatuck River Bridge
S: Riverside Avenue
T: Corner by South Moon Under
U: Patagonia window
V: By the Saugatuck River Bridge, on the corner across from South Moon Under
W: Tree on the Riverwalk, near the library
X: On the brick wall near Arezzo, from across the river
Y: Bench handle outside Top This Frozen Yogurt
Z: Arezzo restaurant

See? Easy!

 

Bobby Q’s — And Blues & Views — Are Back

You can take Bobby Q’s out of Westport.

But you can’t take Bob LeRose out of our town.

The restaurateur closed his popular Main Street barbecue spot in April 2016.

Almost immediately, a 20-pound tumor was removed from his thigh. It had bothered him for 6 years.

He spent a month in the hospital, and another month relearning how to walk. Finally — after 2 years — he’s off crutches.

Meanwhile, last July he opened Bobby Q’s Cue & Co. in Norwalk. Part of the up-and-coming Waypointe District — around the corner from the former Loehmann’s Plaza, near Barcelona and Colony Pizza — it mixes the old restaurant (some of the furniture and menu items) and the new (upbeat look, evolving menu).

Bobby Q’s Cue & Co., in Norwalk.

Bobby still books bands (without, sadly, a rooftop stage). There’s an acoustic jam every Thursday, and Trivia Night on Wednesdays.

But Bobby remains closely connected to Westport too.

On Saturday, June 9 (12 noon to 8 p.m.), he’s part of Wakeman Town Farm’s Beer Garden. His low and slow BBQ will complement live music, lawn games, artisan vendors, frosty New Belgium Brewery beer, and treats from Saugatuck Sweets.

The other day at the Farm, he taught a barbecue basics class.

Of course, he’s also involved with Blues, Views & BBQ. He started the event — one of Westport’s biggest of the year — and it’s still his baby.

What’s a Blues, Views & BBQ Fest without something from Bobby Q’s?

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association will no longer sponsor the music/food/fun festival.

So he’s partnered with the Levitt Pavilion and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, ensuring that on Labor Day weekend the sounds of blues and the smells of barbecue will continue to draw thousands downtown.

“I’m diving back in all aspects, 100 percent,” Bobby promises.

Mark September 1 and 2 on your calendar. In the meantime, try Bobby Q’s Cue & Co.

The best barbecue in town is now just one town away.

ABCs Of Westport Contest: Get Those Entries In!

The collage is beautiful.

But some “06880” readers may have been intimidated by the challenge.

(Photo collage by Shelly Welfeld)

Last week, we invited you to guess where in downtown Westport Shelly Welfeld found all the images she photographed to formed the “letters” in this work.

The first correct complete answer wins a $50 gift certificate, generously donated by The ‘Port restaurant. But we don’t expect anyone to get all 26 — maybe not even half. So if no one gets all 26, the person with the most correct answer wins.

The contest deadline is extended to noon on Wednesday, May 30. Email your entries to dwoog@optonline.net.

Come on! Don’t be intimidated. This is your chance to win a great meal at The ‘Port.

Which of course is located in National Hall — one of the photos in the collage.

See — you’re already on your way!

 

Farmers’ Market Serves Up Top Chef Battle

The Westport Farmers’ Market is 12 years old — and wildly popular.

Every Thursday from May through November throngs fill the Imperial Avenue parking lot, on a hunt for fresh produce, meat and fish, baked goods, even pizza, tacos and dog food.

But the Market always looks to add spice to its spices, herbs and more.

So — even though the Westport Farmers’ Market is a community celebration, not a competition — they’re introducing a Chef of the Market contest.

Starting this Thursday — and running once a month through the fall — 12 well-known names battle it out through an opening round, semifinals and finals. The winner will be, I guess, the chief chef.

The brainchild of board member — and no-slouch-himself chef Bill Taibe — works like this.

On the 3rd Thursday of each month, 3 chefs go head-to-head-to-head.

At 10 a.m., they get $20. They have 45 minutes to shop for ingredients, cook, and present their appetizer-size dish to the judges. PS: Electricity is not allowed.

In keeping with the fun theme, judges are randomly selected from any shopper who wants to participate.

In 2015, chefs prepared a recipe at the Westport Farmers’ Market. This year, they’ll compete against others. (Photo/Oliver Parini)

The first round runs through August. The winner of each group moves on to the semifinals, the 3rd Thursday in September.

Finals are set for “Fork it Over,” the Westport Farmers’ Market annual October fundraiser.

All chefs donate one $50 gift certificate from their restaurant. The winner gets every gift card — so he can enjoy his competitors’ meals yet not pay for them — along with other prizes.

The early chefs — particularly those tomorrow — have it tough. They can’t choose from flavorful snap peas, strawberries or squash. However, Taibe is sure they’ll do imaginative, tasty things with this month’s bounty, like radishes and kale.

Fresh produce is one of the Westport Farmer’s Market’s most popular attractions. Chefs competing in this year’s competition know exactly how to prepare it. But can they shop for it — and finish their dish — in just 45 minutes?

All 12 chefs gathered at the Market last week, to pick their dates out of a hat.

There was already smack talk — including between the chefs at Taibe’s own Whelk, Kawa Ni and Jesup Hall, all of whom are competing. Other Westport chefs represent The Cottage, OKO, Match Lobster Burger and Amis.

There’s chatter on social media too.

Starting Thursday, the rest of us can see where it all leads.

Let the Chef of the Market games begin!

Chef competitors include: May 24, Geoff Lazlo, Ben Freemole, Christian Wilki; (June 21) Matt Storch, Jeff Taibe, Adam Roytman; (July 19), Jonas/Brad, Anthony Kostelis, Anthony Rinaldi; (August 16) Nick Martschenko, Dan Sabia, Carlos Baez.

CLASP Serves Up A Tasteful Event

Many Westporters know Chris.

He arrived at CLASP 30 years ago. At 20 years old, with a developmental disability, he was shy and lacked confidence.

CLASP — the Westport-based organization that provides life skills training, homes and employment, so adults with autism and other developmental challenges become contributing, respected community members — helped Chris gain social skills, overcome shyness, and become one of the first residents of the Kings Highway group home. (There are now a dozen more — and an apartment program.)

Chris got a job at Food Emporium, collecting carts. When Whole Foods replaced that store, he made the transition. He’s been promoted several times. Today, he helps in all departments.

Shoppers know him. They look for him, and stop to chat.

Chris enjoys himself at a CLASP event.

In 1995 Chris moved into his own apartment. He learned to swim. Competing in Special Olympics, he won many medals.

Today he lives a very independent life. He works, swims, eats out, and stays current on political issues.

Being on his own was always his dream. With hard work, determination — and the support of CLASP — he made it come true.

CLASP is a low-key — and highly effective — organization. Though their work costs plenty of money, they seldom ask area residents for funds.

Once a year though, they do. In a very “tasteful” manner.

CLASP Homes’ A Taste of Westport brings 2 dozen restaurants to the Westport Inn. Westport’s own Amis, Garelick & Herbs, Harvest, Matsu Sushi, Pane e Bene, Pearl, Rive Bistro, Romanacci and Tarantino offer tastings. There’s dessert from Le Rouge, beverages from Black Bear Wine & Spirits and Greens Farms Spirit Shop, plus music by the great cover band Green Eyed Lady.

A silent auction includes tickets to the Jimmy Fallon Show, the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Yankees tickets, and a night at the Met opera.

Westport is filled with worthy fundraisers. If you’ve never been to this one, take a taste. You’ll clasp it to your heart forever.

(A Taste of Westport is this Thursday, May 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Westport Inn. Tickets are $75 by clicking here, $85 at the door. For more information, call Robin Hammond: 203-226-7895, ext. 144. Hat tip: Roy Fuchs)

 

L’Chaim, Chabad!

In early 2012, “06880” reported that the former Three Bears would turn into a Chabad Lubavitch synagogue. It would be used for prayer services, educational programs and other meetings.

The 9,180-square foot property sat on 2.73 acres, at the corner of Wilton Road and Newtown Turnpike. It was a historic site.

Three Bears Inn, in its heyday. (Photo courtesy of Westport Historical Society)

That’s where the Three Bears — with 6 fireplaces — operated from 1900 until 2009. It reopened for about 5 seconds as Tiburon restaurant, but the property was soon abandoned. Weeds sprouted on the once-stately site — parts of which still stood from its days as a stagecoach stop, 200 years earlier.

The story noted that complaints had been made by a neighbor about work being done without permits, and bright security lights infringing on neighbors.

Other concerns included traffic, wetland impacts, and exterior alterations to a historic building.

The interior of the Three Bears, from its glory days. (Postcard/Cardcow.com)

That story ran when I still permitted anonymous comments. It drew the most responses ever: 217. (The record still stands.)

They ranged far and wide. Readers waded in on Chabad’s mission, good works, and religious tolerance/intolerance in general; zoning issues like the permit process, residential neighborhoods, traffic, historic structures — even the pros and cons of anonymous comments.

What a difference 6 years makes.

As Chabad of Westport prepares for its grand opening celebration May 3 — including a ribbon-cutting ceremony with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — the neighborhood has changed hardly at all.

The Chabad of Westport exterior, on Newtown Turnpike.

The exterior of the Three Bears has been preserved. Some of the interior wood beams and other features remain too. More than 10,000 square feet have been added, but it’s in the back, barely visible to anyone. It’s all done in traditional New England style, with a barn-type feel.

Even the parking lot has been redesigned, eliminating a dangerous entrance near Wilton Road.

The renovated space — designed by Robert Storm Architecture, and carried out by Able Construction — includes seating for 300, in a light-filled multi-function synagogue; 8 classrooms for Hebrew school; event spaces, with a special area for teenagers; a large library, and a state-of-the-art commercial kosher kitchen.

The synagogue in the back includes plenty of light.

Eight apartments above can be used by visiting lecturers, and Orthodox observers attending events on the Sabbath who are too far away to walk home. (The apartments — completely renovated — were once leased to 3 Bears dishwashers.)

A large mural gives energy to the teenagers’ space.

The building process has reinforced for local Chabad leaders the importance of its site. Over the centuries, the property has been not only a restaurant, inn and stagecoach stop, but also (possibly) a house of ill repute, says congregant Denise Torve.

To honor its history, Rabbi Yehuda Kantor and Torve are seeking artifacts to display, and memories to showcase. Photos and recollections can be sent to DeniseTorve@aol.com.

An old sign hangs proudly in the new library.

Chabad has come a long way from the days when members met in the basement of the rabbi’s home, and rented the Westport Woman’s Club for High Holy Days services.

Of course, zoning issues continue to provoke intense Westport controversy. Only the location changes.

(Chabad of Westport’s grand opening celebration is set for Thursday, May 3, 6 p.m. at 79 Newtown Turnpike. It includes a ribbon cutting, mezuzah affixing, ushering in of the Torahs, buffet dinner, music and dancing. The entire community is invited.)

Photo Challenge #173

What a difference a comma makes.

Vanessa Bradford’s answer to last week’s photo challenge was: “Mansion Clam House dummy.”*

No, she was not referring to me. She was correctly identifying the subject of Peter Barlow’s photo: the jolly fisherman who for decades sat on the back roof of that popular Saugatuck restaurant. (Now it’s Parker Mansion — and the mannequin is gone.)

She was not the only one who quickly remembered the yellow-slicker clad guy. Others were Fred Cantor, Audrey Hertzel, Molly Alger, Michael Mombello, Andrew Colabella, Dan Herman, Jeff Giannone, Shirlee Gordon, Seth Braunstein, Fred Rubin, Elayne Landau, Diane Silfen, Jana Moorman, Michael Calise, Jacques Voris, Susan Feliciano, Bobbie Herman, Jamie Roth, Ken Palumbo and Amelie Babkie. (Click here for the photo.)

This week’s photo challenge might be harder. Then again, “06880” readers have their eyes open all over town. As always, if you know where in Westport you’d see this scene, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

*The most famous example of the importance of commas: “Lets eat Grandma.”